Do you remember the Disney film „The Beauty and the Beast“? When Belle is literally dancing through her French hometown and singing about it? I felt a little like her when I visited Strasbourg.
A view from above
To be honest: I did not dive very deeply into Strasbourg’s history, when I travelled there. And I did not really want to either. When I arrived there, I walked over cobblestoned alleys, through tiny paths and along old half-timber houses with wooden pillars instead of brick walls. I felt like travelling back in time, like being part of a scenic film or advertisement. Everything seemed just perfect there.
I have seen many beautiful villages and cities throughout my travels, but I was fascinated by the aura of Strasbourg. The city with allmost 300,000 inhabitants presents itself with all its charms and celebrates the past, the present and the future. Considered to be Europe’s capital with the official seat of the European Parliament, it combines various cultures, architectural styles and influences – above all of course German and French.
When I arrived in Strasbourg it was already night. Even so the dark alleys were so lovely that there was not even one moment I was not eager to see everything in the dark and in daylight as well. And I was not disappointed in any way. When I looked outside my room’s windows in the area Petite France, I was speechless. I was “Belle” from “The Beauty and the Beast” and almost started singing over the rooftops. Very seldom it happens that I don’t find words to explain what I saw, but in this case it is very hard to find the words for what I felt. I felt the immediate urge to move to Strasbourg, buy a half-timber house with a big window and a desk to write surrounded by this beautiful view.
Down in the streets, it was no different. You don’t need a tourguide or specific map to find your way. Just walk and let the city guide you. Wherever it takes you, there is a building, a little place or canal that warmly invites you to become part of this cosmopolitan spirit.
Cobblestones under my feet
We started our sightseeing tour right in the centre of Petite France headed for Centre Ville. This was the area of the tanners, which can be seen in the buildings, as some of them, still have the openings on top of them for the air to circulate properly. Little channels lead through Petite France and you can also do a tour by boat to see the buildings from the waterside. When walking along the l’Ill, you will get right to the city centre where you can visit the Cathédrale Notre-Dame, the Palair Rohan, the Place de la Cathédrale and the Place du Marché Gayot. Everything is really close and just a couple of minutes walking from one place to another.
The Cathédrale Notre-Dame is very impressive, as these cathedrals are everywhere, to be fair. You can also climb the 329 (we counted them 😉 – it’s true) steps to the tower to take another breathtaking view of the city and the channels. The Place de la Cathédrale is packed with tourists and little shops with expensive souvenirs, but still you can see beautiful old houses lining up like on a catwalk.
Apparently, the most beautiful half-timber house of Strasbourg is the Maison Kammerzell from the 15th and 16th century. Today it’s a restaurant and a hotel with views of the cathedral. It does really look like taken out of a fairytale with wooden sculptures and frescoes, spiral staircases and stories that are told in its architecture.
Special food along the river Ill
You can find sweets and Elsace specialties everywhere you go. Apart from all time classics like Crêpes or Gaufres (waffles), Quiche Lorraine or Tarte Flambée, you can also find Nougat in uncountable variations or Macarons in the colours of the rainbow. I am always really picky regarding food, and I am not as experimental with food as I am with places around the world, I sticked to the classics … but they were really delicious! We stopped at a café at the river, which was actually a boat. And since we weren’t using a guide or a guide book, we only saw afterwards that it is highly recommended to have a coffee at the blue boat called Le Rafiot.
If you want to explore the city also outside of cobbled streets and alleys, just follow the river up to the European Parliament. The huge glass construction is easily recognisable and it has a couple of parks around, where you can enjoy the weather, if it’s nice to you 🙂
The urge to sing
Still, when writing this article, it is somehow hard to find something tangible to write about, what you can see and visit, and recommendations for food and other stuff to do. Why is that? I have no idea! When spending time in Strasbourg, I was not really curious about its rich history, even though it has a lot of interesting stories to tell. I was not desperate to know how the half-timber houses were built and how they survived through the centuries. I was just happy to inhale the city’s aura, spirit or whatever you call it. I cannot stop thinking about Belle in the Disney movie, spinning around herself, singing with a book in her hand (even if she wanted to leave her hometown in the lyrics of her song …). I cannot stop seeing the most beautiful view from our apartment in Petite France and feeling something very special there. Sometimes, it’s hard to find words for what you have experienced while travelling. I hope you forgive me to not be more precise in my recommendations. But go there – see for yourself, what kind of magic I am talking about…
By the way … Strasbourg is just about 45 minutes from the German amusement park Europapark. If you want to spend a weekend in this area, I would highly recommend you to take a ride on the Silverstar rollercoaster and the magical world of Arthur … if you want to have an idyllic city and a fun day in the park, you can definitely go there in one weekend 🙂