Situated on the Rhine River in France, just across the border from Germany, the city of Strasbourg is a hub of politics and culture, making a great place to start or end your Rhine River cruise. At the crossroads of Germany and France in the territory formerly known as Alsace, this cosmopolitan city features four bridges that both literally and metaphorically unite a region once engulfed in war.
Once the tallest building in the world and still the tallest medieval structure ever built that survives today, the Strasbourg Cathedral dates back to the 12th century. From its north tower, built in the mid-15th century, visitors can see far into the wooded distance.
La Petite France
The aptly named neighborhood of La Petite France has survived for centuries, since the 1500s and 1600s, when it served as the district where millers, tanners, and fishermen would practice their trades out of the recognizable and picturesque black and white half-timbered houses, which have been well preserved today. Travelers here walk the cobblestone streets as if through the pages of a fairytale and enjoy local delicacies prepared with age-old recipes.
In stark contrast to the old town monuments and structures that date back more than a thousand years, the European Parliament is a stunning contemporary building that serves as the seat of the European government, featuring a 750-seat debating chamber and several streets inside the building.
If you’re expecting a covered bridge, then you’re a few hundred years late - these three fortified bridges were originally built in the 1300s as part of the city’s defense system and can be identified by their impressive square towers. When Barrage Vauban was built several centuries later, these bridges were no longer necessary for defense of the city and the roofs were eventually removed.
This Lutheran church, built in the 1520s, hosted Mozart himself in 1778, who played the organ, and is also home to the sarcophagus of 10th century Bishop Adeloch. A keen visitor might notice the unique architectural style, which is the only local example of a German hall church.
See how Alsacien wine is produced, among other exhibits demonstrating daily life, customs, and traditions of the distinct regional culture.
Palais des Rohan
Home to three museums, this baroque palace modeled after Parisian mansions of the 18th century dates back to the 1720s - a design of Robert de Cotte and built for Cardinal Armand-Gaston de Rohan-Soubise, the Prince Bishop of Strasbourg. The museums feature archaeology, decorative art, and fine art.
A masterpiece of military engineering designed by 17th century French engineer Vauban, the Barrage Vauban served as a fortified bridge and weir on the River Ill, allowing the city to close the gates and flood southern territories in times of siege. It was last used defensively in 1870 during the Franco-Prussian War. Now, visitors can walk down the corridor that stretches its length and look out over the river to the Cathedral.
At the turn of the 19th century, when Strasbourg was under German control, the city tripled in size, and the Neustadt was the heart of new construction for the town, contrasting distinctly with the old town by incorporating a grid system and uniform construction designed with efficiency in mind.
Parc de l’Orangerie
Originally named for the 140 orange trees that were confiscated from Château de Bouxwiller during the revolution, only three of these trees are still alive. Still the park offers beautiful tree-covered walking paths, a mini-zoo and farm, a stork reintroduction center, and even a boating lake.
Musée Historique de Strasbourg
On the banks of the River Ill is this history museum, which lives in a former slaughterhouse and features exhibits from the middle ages through the 18th century, including maps, sculptures, weapons, and more, plus an impressively scaled relief of Strasbourg itself dating back to 1727.