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It’s easy to fall in love with this colorful, charming town.
Strasbourg is a French town near the border of France and Germany. There are German influences, like the colorful half timbered houses that line many streets of Germany. However, it’s possible to pop into a tiny cafe for a fresh baguette, which reminds you that you are indeed in France. The merging of French and German cultures, along with the picturesque views everywhere you look, make for a dreamy getaway. While I could easily spend days meandering the streets of Strasbourg, we only had about a day and a half there in total. Allow me to share our stories of how we spent one day in Strasbourg. Here are the top things to do in Strasbourg in a short amount of time.
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Our Journey Wasn’t Easy
Our trip to Strasbourg wasn’t an easy one. Well, it should have been easy. But, as it happens when you’re traveling, things don’t always go according to plan. We had flown into Frankfurt the day before (incidentally, on my birthday!) and fought through the jet lag to explore the city briefly. Waking up bright eyed and raring to go, Justin and I headed to the Frankfurt central station to catch our train to Strasbourg. We had one train from Frankfurt to Karlsruhe, and a second train from Karlsruhe to Strasbourg.
Between train strikes that were happening in France and a very late arrival of our German train to Frankfurt (Main) Hauptbahnhof, we missed our connecting train. We knew that this was going to happen in advance, so I went to a ticket counter and asked what to do. I was told that we could hop on any train between Frankfurt and Strasbourg in order to get there. As for the rest, we were left to sort out on our own.
Once we got on the train, I started looking up alternate routes. We ended up departing at a different stop entirely, waiting for another train that took us to a different station, and then boarding a third train to Strasbourg. Justin and I arrived a couple of hours later than we expected, but we were grateful that we were there.
Where to Stay in Strasbourg
We took an Uber from the train station to our hotel, the MGallery Cour du Corbeau. As we caught our first glimpses of the hotel, I felt my stress melt away. Justin and I were greeted immediately at the front reception desk by friendly and kind staff members that made us feel right at home. Cour du Corbeau is a stunning example of Renaissance architecture and it’s one of the oldest hotels in Europe.
Our spacious suite incorporated modern design with old world charm. The half-timbered framing from the building’s exterior carried right into our room. Exposed wooden beams marked the corridor to the bedroom where we enjoyed a restful night’s sleep. Just across the room, there was a living space with a couch, coffee table, and a TV. Ideal for both couples and families, the sofa bed offers a secondary sleeping area.
The best surprise of all was the view from our suite’s window overlooking the inner courtyard. I pulled back the curtains and opened the little window near the bed. Poking my head outside, the historic half-timbered structure and flowers lining every space of the balconies was so captivating. The enchanting qualities of Strasbourg were visible in plain sight right from our window. I felt like I was living in a fairy tale.
Needless to say, I was in love. If you’re looking for where to stay in Strasbourg, we highly recommend the MGallery Cour du Corbeau. Click here to book a room at the Cour du Corbeau, and be sure to check out the reviews of fellow travelers.
Pick Up Strasbourg Pass
Once you’re ready to hit the town, head straight to the Strasbourg Tourist Office (17 Place de la Cathédrale) and pick up your Strasbourg Pass. I recommend purchasing it online in advance and bringing your voucher right to the desk. You’ll be hooked up with your official Strasbourg city pass within seconds. You can use the pass for three days consecutively, although it’s worth it even if you’re only in the city for a shorter period of time.
The Strasbourg Pass features all of the best things to do in Strasbourg. It gives you free admission to some attractions and a reduced price at others. For instance, you can take a boat tour in Strasbourg, visit the platform of the Strasbourg Cathedral, see the astronomical clock at the Notre-Dame Cathedral, and visit one of the museums for free. Then, you can visit a second museum, as well as several other activities and tours at half price or a reduced cost.
If you’re looking for what to do in Strasbourg, the activities and tours on this city card are a great place to start. Even if you only check a couple of things off the list, the Strasbourg Pass is well worth the cost. Things aren’t exactly cheap in Strasbourg, so it’s nice to receive a deal now and again!
Strasbourg Things to Do: Boat Ride
Starting the list of Strasbourg attractions, use your Strasbourg Pass to take a boat ride along the the River III. Taking a tour by boat allows you to get acquainted with the city, both in terms of its geography and history. This 70 minute boat tour is one of the top things to do in Strasbourg France because it’s relaxing, you can see beautiful places from a different perspective, and you learn facts about the town.
Choose from 11 languages for the audio guide that comes with the tour. It starts downtown at the Batorama office. Then, you’ll visit the European Parliament building, the district of Neustadt, and Petite France. Travel through two canal locks and beneath old bridges. I recommend starting your day with a boat ride, as it’s one of the best attractions in Strasbourg.
Explore Petite France
It’s called a fairy tale town for good reason; the Petite France section of Strasbourg is like stepping into the scene of a dreamy book or movie. It’s easy to feel like Belle from Beauty and the Beast. At Petite France, the River III splits into numerous smaller channels with lots of narrow, winding streets around them. The two of us wandered around Petite France twice: once in the late afternoon, and another time in the early morning hours the following day.
While it certainly wasn’t crowded when we visited Strasbourg in June, there was a whole different aura surrounding the neighborhood in the morning. There weren’t any tourists in sight; there were only people taking their dogs out for a sunrise stroll. I watched Strasbourg wake up, and it was delightful. Sitting at the edge of a calm channel, I observed an older, shirtless man standing out on his balcony. On a neighboring balcony, an elderly woman throws open her balcony doors and tends to her laundry. The man and the woman exchange morning greetings and converse back and forth in French. I wondered if this was their morning routine.
After exploring a very quiet Petite France, we walked down Grand’Rue, one of the main streets in town with shops and restaurants. Even though it was still early, a line formed out the door at a local bakery, L’atelier 116. I asked if they had any vegan offerings, and there were a few freshly baked rolls and baguettes. I was more than happy to eat fresh baguette for breakfast. While in France, am I right?
Visit the Strasbourg Cathedral
Simply put, the Strasbourg Cathedral de Notre-Dame is one of the most stunning gothic churches in Europe. It’s not to be missed, and it’s hard to miss this massive structure at Place de la Cathédrale. Victor Hugo once referred to it as a “skillful combination of monumental size and delicateness”.
The cathedral is over 1000 years old and originally constructed on the site of a Roman temple. It has stood the test of time and many catastrophes. For instance, the first version of the cathedral, dating back to 1015, was destroyed by fire. Its reconstruction began in the 12th century, and the 142 meter spire was completed in 1439. The church suffered greatly through three wars between 1870 and 1945, but it survived.
The exterior facade features hundreds of statues and intricate carvings, and the pink sandstone changes color depending on the time of the day. The interior of the church is peaceful and quiet, showcasing stained glass windows from the 12th and 14th centuries. You’ll also find the astronomical clock inside the cathedral.
One of the best things to do in Strasbourg is climb the narrow and winding staircases to the top platform of the cathedral. This Strasbourg attraction is included in your Strasbourg Pass; otherwise, one ticket is 5 Euros. Climbing to the top is a unique experience. Even though the staircases are the opposite of spacious, you get various windows to the outside world as you make the trek. We stopped to take photos when there weren’t other visitors coming up behind us.
Naturally, the best views are from the very top. From the platform of the cathedral, you can look over the entire town on two different sides. A Strasbourg Gay Pride event was happening down below, so we watched as the parade of rainbow flags and people cheering filled the streets. I love viewing cities and architecture from up above, so I definitely recommend that you check it out.
The Astronomical Clock
The astronomical clock inside the cathedral is quite beautiful, too. The first astronomical clock in Strasbourg, built in 1352-1354, stopped working in the 16th century. The present day mechanism dates from 1842. You can watch the show at 12:30pm each day with a parade of an assortment of miniature figures (except on Sundays and public holidays).
Conversely, 12:30pm is likely the busiest time to visit the Strasbourg cathedral. If you have no interest in viewing the astronomical clock, I’d recommend going there at a different time of the day. However, depending on the time of the year, it might not be too busy there. (Naturally, as so many times before throughout Europe, the astronomical clock was under repairs when we visited. Gotta love scaffolding!)
Rent a Bicycle
Justin and I decided to rent bicycles for a few hours during our time in Strasbourg. While we mostly walked everywhere we went, we wanted to ride to farther spaces and enjoy the simple pleasures of riding a bicycle. It’s easy to rent a bike in Strasbourg. While there are many bike stations around town, we opted to rent directly from Vélhop (3 Rue d’Or).
You can rent by the hour from the stations or by the day from the stores. It’s very inexpensive to rent a bike, and we had a wonderful time exploring the city this way. It was certainly one of my favorite things to do in Strasbourg.
Ride to Park L’Orangerie
If you’re seeking green space during your one day in Strasbourg, head directly to Park L’Orangerie. There are many paths, rows of trees, and duck ponds. We even saw a library of books where you could exchange, take, or drop off your reading material. Park L’Orangerie is the perfect picnic spot, place to curl up with a book, or place to ride your bike. There were a family of swans with their babies when we visited, and they were super adorable.
Eat Delicious Vegan Food
Who knew that there were so many amazing vegan restaurants in Strasbourg? I really had no idea until we got there, but Justin and I had absolutely no issues finding plant-based meals. Actually, we didn’t have enough time to sample everything that Strasbourg had to offer! I guess that means we’ll have to return someday. Side note: I’m hoping we can return in the winter to go to the brilliant Strasbourg Christmas market!
I’ve outlined everything that we ate in my Strasbourg vegan guide. However, here is a shortlist of the best restaurants in Strasbourg.
Vélicious (43 rue Geiler) is a cozy vegan restaurant and cafe serving up organic, plant-based cuisine. Justin and I couldn’t resist ordering the vegan cheese platter (because…well, vegan cheese! Enough said!) consisting of three kinds of cheese, bread, and fig chutney. For my main dish, I asked for the Middle Eastern wrap with seitan (seitan, chickpeas, mint, lemon zest, cream) with a green salad. Justin got a Greek salad with Greek vegan cheese. Without a doubt, it’s one of the best restaurants in Strasbourg.
It’s a fast food version of Vélicious, and it’s right on the main tourist street in town (20 Grand’Rue). Justin and I both ordered the Queen Cheese burger as a combo with fries. They included vegan mayo and ketchup as dip for the fries, which was really tasty. The burger itself was super yummy. If you’re looking for fast food that’s satisfying and tastes great, stop by Vélicious Burger. The omnivores in the crowd won’t even be able to taste the difference!
Have you been to an all vegan and vegetarian pizzeria before? It’s a rarity for sure, but you need to head to Pizz’arome (15 Rue de la Croix) in Strasbourg. You buy pizza here by the slice, and the vegetarian and vegan slices are in separate sections. There are several varieties with vegan cheese and vegetable toppings. Once you place your order, he’ll heat them up for you and you’re good to dine there or take them away with you.
Harmonie Bowl & Juice
Harmonie Bowl & Juice (5 Rue St Étienne) serves up fresh and delicious meals, perfect as a brunch or lunch spot. Justin ordered the Tokyo Bowl (adzuki bean, cucumber, avocado) and I selected the K-Bowl (with tofu, kimchi, and sweet potato). We also ordered an iced tea and a watermelon juice. The food is artfully prepared and looks as good as it tastes.
Bistrot et Chocolat
Definitely head to Bistrot et Chocolat (8 Rue de la Râpe) for dessert, especially if you have a sweet tooth. Ordering an iced latte with almond milk definitely provided the jolt I needed to get through the rest of a busy sightseeing day. Justin and I split a dessert, which was a chocolate molten lava cake with mango sorbet. The cake was warm, gooey, and very tasty.
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Strasbourg, we quickly fell for you! It’s like a living and breathing fairy tale. With so many wonderful things to do in Strasbourg France, you’re guaranteed to have a blissful visit.
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