Strasbourg, located at the foot of the Vosges Mountains in the Rhine Valley, is a highlight of European culture and part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. With monuments of its past, canals crisscrossing the city, this city holds many wonders. The juxtaposition of the European Parliament in its modern splendor, the Council of Europe in its futuristic building, universities and fun-loving Strasbourgians creates a lively stage of urban life and many delights for culture lovers, culinary connoisseurs, lovers and everyone.
Tip 1: Strasbourg Cathedral
The cathedral, the Cathédrale Notre-Dame, is the city’s all-surpassing landmark. The construction of this stunning cathedral dates back to 1015, when Bishop Wernher had a larger place of worship built on what is now the site of the cathedral. In the course of the following 150 years, however, this was so badly destroyed by numerous fires that it was necessary to completely rebuild it from 1176, starting with the transept, first in Romanesque, then in Gothic style. The construction took many years, the cathedral was completed in 1439.
Reformation and later the French Revolution changed the image of the cathedral considerably. The cathedral also suffered extensive damage at the time of the French Revolution.
In the 19th and 20th centuries most of the damage was repaired – many statues were taken to the Musée de l`Oeuvre Notre-Dame and replaced by copies.
The 66m high, three-part west facade of red sandstone was designed by several master builders between 1277 and 1399. With its numerous buttresses, towers, niches, reliefs and especially the famous large rose window consisting of 16 pairs of flowers, the cathedral is considered a prime example of High Gothic architecture. It is topped by the 142m high tower; an originally planned parallel tower was never realized.
One of the biggest attractions of the cathedral is the 18m high astronomical clock from the 16th century.
Tip 2: Petite France
“La Petite France” (Little France), the former tanners’ and millers’ quarter located to the west of the Old Town Island, is the most picturesque part of Strasbourg’s Old Town with its narrow streets and half-timbered houses reflected in the canals.
The name of the quarter dates back to the 16th century, when a hospital stood there to treat venereal diseases contracted by the Strasbourg mercenaries of the French kings during the Italian wars. At that time, the inhabitants called the neighborhood “Zum Französel”.
Little France is crossed by four canals. Three of them bear the name of the mill that supplied them with water until about 1830. The fourth canal was used for navigation.
The heart of the district is the Place Benjamin Zix. There began the tanner’s ditch, which was filled up only in the 19th century. Most of the houses date back to the 16th and 17th centuries and generally all have the same structure: Building on a brick first floor, there are two more floors in half-timbered construction. The steep roofs are open to large attics where leather used to be dried. One of the most famous houses, the Tanner’s House, was built in 1572.
Tip 3: Palais Rohan
The Rohan Palace was built between 1732 and 1742 according to plans by Robert de Cotte, court architect to the French king, for Cardinal Armand-Gaston de Rohan-Soubise, Prince-Bishop of Strasbourg.
The Strasbourg Bishop’s Palace, designed on the model of the great Parisian townhouses, is considered in France to be one of the architectural masterpieces of the 18th century, both for its noble classical facades and for its sumptuous interior design.
This magnificent building – built, designed and furnished within ten years – has hardly been altered since its construction and is particularly distinguished by its exceptional fidelity to style. In 1889 it housed the city’s Museum of Fine Arts. Then in 1913 followed the Archaeological Museum and in 1924 the Museum of Arts and Crafts.
Tip 4: European Parliament
The choice of Strasbourg as the European capital shortly after the Second World War is not based on chance, but is the symbol of the reconciliation of peoples and the future of Europe.
The European Parliament in the European Quarter is composed of 751 deputies elected every five years by universal suffrage in the 28 countries of the European Union.
In 1957, Germany, Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands had signed the Treaties of Rome, which created the EEC (European Economic Community). At that time, the European Parliament had 142 members sent by their national parliaments. In 1992, the Maastricht Treaty established the European Union, giving the European Parliament new powers.
The European Parliament participates in Community legislation, adopts the budget and exercises a general supervisory role; it contributes to the development of political union as well as monetary union.
The architecture of the building is based on the combination of circle and ellipse. The dome of cedar struts of the plenary hall rises from the monopitch roof of the building. It is visible through the glass and metal facade, which follows the course of the waterfront.
Tip 5: Place Kléber
Kleberplatz is the central square in Strasbourg. Originally called Barfüsserplatz (because of an adjacent Franciscan monastery), then Waffenplatz in the 17th century and finally Kleberplatz since the year 1840, it takes its name from General Jean-Baptiste Kléber, a native of Strasbourg. On June 24 of this year, the monument standing in the middle of the square was inaugurated. It shows him standing upright, holding in his hand the letter in which the English Admiral Keith asked him in vain to surrender the French troops in 1800. Under the monument there is a crypt, which housed Kleber’s coffin in 1838, two years before the monument was inaugurated.
The square is bordered to the north by the Aubette, the former city guardhouse built in the neoclassical style of the 18th century by Blondel. The building houses a former leisure complex furnished in 1928 by the artists Theo van Doesburg, Jean Arp and Sophie Taeuber-Arp, and is sometimes referred to as the Sistine Chapel of contemporary art.
Kleberplatz was the central junction of the former tramway from 1886 until 1960, when it became a large parking lot before being transformed into a pedestrian zone in 1994 by architect Guy Clapot.
The square is often used for large rallies. It plays a central role not only for the people of Strasbourg, but for the entire metropolitan area.