City Break in Political Hotspot Strasbourg

Angela Wood

Senior Contributor

Straddling the French-German border, Strasbourg is an important political and cultural hotspot in Europe. Home to the European Parliament where life-changing decisions are made, an insta-worthy historic quarter, Europe’s largest Christmas market and a whole host of museums and parks, Strasbourg is a great place to spend your well-earned city break, whatever the season.

Tour the European Parliament Building

The European Parliament building in Strasbourg was completed in December 1999 and features 20 floors in total covering 220,000 square metres. This canal side glass building, bedazzling the European Quarter of Strasbourg is the official seat of the European Parliament and where most votes take place. MEP’s meet in Strasbourg for 12 sessions each year and sit in a hemicycle in their member groups from left to right. On the raised platform in front, the President of the EU and staff reside, with flags of the EU and member countries behind them. You can take a guided tour to see the interior of this iconic building for yourself and soak up the buzzing atmosphere. The visit lasts around an hour, and in that time, you’ll encounter the main rooms plus an interactive exhibition which gives greater insight into the work and roles of members.

Take a Romantic Stroll through Orangerie Park

The perfect destination for romantics and outdoor enthusiasts, Orangerie Park is Strasbourg’s oldest, with a charming pavilion, gourmet restaurant and a boating lake. Colourful flower beds, fountains and sculpted privets sit aside pistachio lawns as statues dot the landscape attracting attention of passers-by. As you admire flora and fauna, tree-lined boulevards provide shade from the summer sun presenting perfect picnic spots. Over 800 storks live in the park, close to the lake and waterfalls so if you’re a keen birdwatcher you’ll be in your element. Hire a boat and row by as you photograph them in their natural habitat before venturing to the restaurant for a plate of hearty Alsatian cuisine.  

See Half-Timbered Houses of La Petite France

La Petite France is Strasbourg’s most picturesque quarter. At the western end of Grande Île, canal side streets are lined with historic half-timber buildings in an area once home to millers, tanners and fishermen. Rue des Dentelles is one of the quarters narrow streets with patisseries, fine restaurants and speciality shops where you can browse or stop for a tasty bite. Old bridges criss-cross canals, leading you to hidden lanes with antique shops and open squares. During spring and summer months the charm factor elevates as colourful floral displays decorate window boxes and trees blossom. It’s worth making a stop at Musée Historique de Strasbourg to gain insight into the quarter’s heritage. Set inside a former slaughterhouse, it showcases Strasbourg’s transformation from Roman camp to centre of European Politics. Afterwards visit Barrage Vauban. It spans the River Ill and was once used as a bridge and defensive structure. It houses a plethora of sculptures and artworks and if you climb to the viewing terrace of the bridge, you’ll gain panoramic vistas of magnificent Ponts Couverts and La Petite France! 

Enjoy a Canal Boat Cruise

One of the best ways to view Strasbourg is by water. It’s one of the only cities in France whose centre is surrounded by canals and rivers. Batorama offers boat cruises which take you on a journey from past to present, gliding past buildings constructed before the 19th century, before sailing aside the German Quarter, built when Alsace was annexed to the country between 1870 and 1918. You end your trip admiring modern architecture including the European Parliament Building, Council of Europe and European Court of Human Rights. Tours last approximately 70 minutes in total, so even if you’re short on time in the city, you still have the chance to revisit places of interest. 

Savour Food and Wine of Alsace

Alsace is famed for its food and wine, and Strasbourg is a city for foodies. Cuisine consists of rich, family-style cooking, with local chefs serving up the history of Alsace on a plate. The food is a combination of French and German - think sauerkraut, chicken marinated in Reisling and baeckeoffes (oven baked casseroles). Alsatian restaurants can be discovered inside quaint half-timber houses and historic buildings throughout the city. One such establishment, Brasserie Les Haras is set inside an old horse stables. The structure has been transformed into a modern establishment with exposed wood beams and an unusual sweeping staircase. The food here is Michelin-standard but the restaurant itself casual, so you can relax as you sample delights such as beef fillet with morels or risotto with fine herbs and vegetables. Michelin-star Restaurant 1741 opposite Rohan Palace offers an intimate dining experience with a living room atmosphere, perfect for a romantic dinner à deux. Chefs work with fresh produce, adapting local recipes to complement seasonal offerings with presentation akin to modern art. Wine connoisseurs don’t need to venture outside Strasbourg for Alsatian wine tastings. Caves Historiques des Hospices de Strasbourg founded in 1395, lives below the University Hospitals of Strasbourg. In olden days patients who couldn’t afford treatments would trade them for plots of land which later became vineyards, and today during a tour, visitors can observe the oldest barrel of white wine in the world, dating to 1472! Profits from each winery tour are given to the hospital to purchase medical equipment so it’s all for a good cause too.

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