And Why Strasbourg Should Be the Next French City You Visit
Paris. You either love it or hate it, right? It’s one of the most beautiful, culture-filled capitals in Europe. Home to the Mona Lisa, the Notre Dame (welp), and as many baguettes as you can shake a, well, baguette at. Honestly, I didn’t love Paris.
Having only experienced the French capital (and not having a great experience) I wasn’t sure what to expect from Strasbourg.
I was going to be spending one day in Strasbourg with a friend at the tail end of our trip to Luxembourg, and unlike me, I had done little planning. (Me! The self-professed queen of trip planning!). Sure, my Google Maps had a few starred places saved, but I hadn’t planned out every single detail of how we were going to spend our day.
Maybe I should be a little more laidback with planning (unlikely), because our day in Strasbourg turned out to be epic. While you could easily spend a little longer in this charming French city, a day is enough to discover Strasbourg and just why Strasbourg should be the next French city you visit.
Intrigued? Dive straight into this guide to discover what to do in Strasbourg if you only have a day.
One Day in Strasbourg
Your day in Strasbourg begins with the most important (and pastry laden) meal of the day. Let me tell you friend, you’re in for a treat.
Disclaimer; this was our second breakfast. (I mean we are from New Zealand, the land of second breakfasts). We had already grabbed a baguette on our way to the Notre Dame Cathedral when the display in Barthelemy caught our eyes. This is France we’re talking about, but the display of tarts, cakes and breads in Barthelemy was one of the prettiest I’ve seen.
Grab a tarte au citron (or two, I won’t judge) and take a moment for that sugar high to kick in. You’ve got a big day of exploring ahead.
Morning: Notre Dame Cathedral and Astronomical Clock
After a breakfast that will have you dreaming of lemon tarts for months to come, it’s time to head to Strasbourg’s top tourist attraction. While this Notre Dame Cathedral isn’t as famous as it’s Parisian cousin, it is incredibly beautiful (and, ahem, still standing).
The building that Victor Hugo described as a ‘light and delicate marvel’ is over 1000 years old. Construction of the original cathedral was first initiated in 1015. When that burnt down the cathedral was replaced with a modern, Gothic design that took a century to complete.
One of the highlights of the Notre Dame Cathedral is the Astronomical Clock. This incredible clock is a marvel of ingenuity put together by a team of mathematicians, technicians and artists, and is the third of its kind to stand in the spot.
The Notre Dame Cathedral is free and is open from 7am-11:20am, then again from 12:40pm-7pm.
Midday: La Petite France
Next up you’re headed to the highlight of any day in Strasbourg; La Petite France.
I had described La Petite France to my friend as the syphilis place. I mean it’s not totally inaccurate; the name Petite France comes from the “hospice of the syphilitic” which was built in the late fifteenth century on the island.
Despite it’s slightly, erm, incongruous name, La Petite France is charming, and a visit here will have you questioning why it’s taken you this long to get to Strasbourg. Famous for its canal systems and half-timbered buildings, the opportunity for gram-worthy shots in La Petite France is endless. Take your time wandering around and make sure to check out one of the most famous houses, Maison des Tanneurs, which dates back to 1572.
After you’ve finished admiring La Petite France head to Barrage Vauban. A bridge/dam that was built in the 17th century, today Barrage Vauban houses a collection of modern art. Make sure to climb up to the rooftop terrace for panoramic views of Petite-France and the Ponts Couverts.
Barrage Vauban is free to visit.
Lunch: L’atelier 116
Phew! It’s been a big morning. If you were able to drag yourself away from La Petite France it’s time for lunch. For real, the food was a highlight of our day in Strasbourg.
L’atelier 116 makes for a great lunch stop. This popular bakery will likely have a queue out the door, but trust me; it’s worth it. The sandwiches were great, the pastry cabinet awfully tempting, and it’s a great place to relax. Just for a minute though – there’s still more to see.
Afternoon: Strasbourg Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art
Next up on your 1-day Strasbourg itinerary you’re headed to something a little less historic; the Strasbourg Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MAMSC).
Located a short walk from La Petite France, the museum is worth going for the building alone. An impressive glass-fronted building, MAMSC is adorned with giant black and white murals that you just can’t help nabbing a pic in front of.
Inside, the museum is home to a fun collection of works by artists such as Kandinsky, Monet, Rodin and Picasso. MAMSC is one of the largest modern art museums in France (owning nearly 18,000 artworks), and is well worth a visit.
Tickets to MAMSC are €7 and the museum is closed on Mondays.
Afternoon: Take a pic of St. Paul’s Cathedral
After MAMSC we’re headed to the other side of the city centre. If it’s a nice day you could walk. It’s only 30 minutes, and Strasbourg is the kind of place easily explored on foot. If not, catch the F tram from Faubourg National to Gallia.
We’re headed to the Botanic Gardens, but make sure to stop on the way to admire St Paul’s Church. While we didn’t head inside I easily spent 10 minutes taking pictures. Stand on the Pont d’Auvergne for incredible views of the church over the water. Seriously, who knew Strasbourg was so pretty?
Late Afternoon: Botanical Gardens of Strasbourg University
Your day in Strasbourg is nearly over, so it’s time for a brief siesta before you indulge in a traditional Strasbourgian dinner. Grab another tarte au citron and head to the Botanical Gardens of Strasbourg University. It’s time to connect with nature, ya’ll.
Located in the heart of the “Imperial” quarter of Strasbourg the Botanical Garden is home to nearly 6000 plant species. We visited in Autumn, and not gonna lie, it’s probably not the best time to visit a garden (for obvious reasons). The grounds were awash in a beautiful carpet of orange leaves, but the flowers were, er, a little dormant. Whenever you visit, make sure to check out the two-storey tropical greenhouse.
The Botanical Gardens are free to visit.
Dinner: Chez Yvonne
Hope you saved room for dinner.
As well as having typically delicious French pastries, Strasbourg is famous as a culinary destination for its Alsace cuisine. Its unique position at the crossroads of Germany and France means the food is a tempting mix of both countries. Think French-infused flavour, German portions.
Some typical Alsatian dishes to keep an eye out for include tarte flambée (a very thin pizza topped with creme fraiche, onions and bacon), choucroute garnie (sauerkraut served with sausages, meat and potatoes) and kugelhopf (a bread-like cake, which I knew thanks to The Great British Bake Off).
If you only have a day in Strasbourg the best way to make the most of your time and get a taste of the local culture is to check out a winstub for dinner. Cozy pubs beloved for their comfort food, any good winstub will have you wishing you bought your stretchy pants. We ate at Chez Yvonne, a charming winstub with friendly service. The food was great (though not very vegetarian-friendly).
Strasbourg is one of those places you just can’t help falling a little bit in love with. From the insanely charming La Petite France and Gothic cathedrals to the impeccable French cuisine, Strasbourg is, in a nutshell, what I had imagined France to be. A day in Strasbourg is enough, sure, but I can guarantee you’ll be planning your trip back.