Situated on the border between France and Germany, Strasbourg is everything you imagine European culture to be—manifested. Part of this is due to its storied history: Strasbourg has been a crossroads of European culture since the Roman Empire.
Today, both French and German influences can be spied every which way you look. Opulent palaces, towering cathedrals, river walks, sleepy town squares, French cafes and quaint neighborhoods fill the sights you might find on a stroll through this enchanting town in the modern day. While the neighborhood of Petite France is by far the most picturesque, and the Place Kleber the liveliest square worth a peruse, Strasbourg’s culture runs deeper than some scenic strolls.
For a few places you can’t miss when visiting, check out the suggestions below.
At the center of any visit to Strasbourg is its cathedral, and not just because of its location in the historic Old Town. The site of the current cathedral sits on top of a former Roman sanctuary, dating back to the Argentoratum period, as well as previous iterations of cathedrals throughout time. The construction of the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg began sometime in 1015, but the iconic spire was not finally completed until 1439. A range of architectural influences of the eras are thus simultaneously present in the building, allowing you to seemingly time travel as you admire the structure. The choir and south portal may be Romanesque, but the west front is a masterpiece of the Gothic style, while the Saint-Lawrence portal on the northern transept is post-Gothic and early-Renaissance.
Between the converging styles, the structure also harbors a litany of time-worn oddities worth admiring. The Strasbourg Astronomical Clock has existed in some iteration here since the 14th century, and is a marvel of engineering ingenuity—nowhere else can you track the movements of the heavens so easily without a computer. The many stained-glass windows harbor a multitude of striking scenes, and a game of “I Spy Demons in the Windows” is a surprisingly fun way to appreciate the art. Finally, when admiring the tower, take the time to notice the graffiti adorning the stone’s surface. Carved by previous visitors, some of the signatures date all the way back to the 1600s.
For a deeper dive into modern day Strasbourg culture, consider a visit to the European Parliament. While the EU Parliament is split amongst the sites of Brussels and Strasbourg, the official home is the latter. A mega-structure mostly made of glass, it is a far cry from the notable medieval structures of the city, adding a certain gravitas to the daily bureaucracy on display. Whether you’re touring the Hemicycle or following along to a session’s discussion, there’s something strangely enthralling about witnessing the inner workings of modern democracy—making it a unique draw to Strasbourg’s cultural offerings.
While all of Strasbourg offers delectable wines of the Alsace region, any devout oenophile will want to pay a visit to the Strasbourg Hospital. Counterintuitive when there are so many vineyards stretching across the countryside, but the truth is stranger than fiction and worth a visit.
Wine was once a common occurrence in medicine, making wine cellars underneath hospitals a common occurrence as well. While those days are long gone, this certain cellar has remained through both a fire and the multiple world wars. Throughout time, wooden barrels have lined the subterranean room, storing wines of all ages. This includes the oldest-known barrel of wine in the world, with the barrel dating back to 1472 and tasted only three times in history. The cellar today triples as both a continually working cellar, museum and store—you can buy wine that is produced in the cellar, just not the one that’s over five centuries old.
Eager to get started embarking on a deep dive into the cultural sites of Strasbourg? Talk with one of our travel agents. Not only will their expertise and knowledge help in plotting out your perfect vacation, but their professional relationships with leading cruise lines like Crystal Cruises makes it a breezy reality.