After first visiting the French Alsace last year, we were well-aware of the wonders of the region. When we had the chance to visit the area again this autumn, we were excited to start planning. There are a lot of cool towns and quaint villages along the Rhine River. This time we settled on Strasbourg. Here’s everything we learned and can pass on to you. Read more for what to do in Strasbourg with a focus on the best things to do, restaurants to visit and hotels to stay at in this fairy tale city.
How to Get to Strasbourg
Getting to Strasbourg is fairly simple. Basel is the easiest airport to fly into, although there is a small airport about 10km from Strasbourg. There were no flights there from Copenhagen, so we chose Basel. Skyscanner led us to the cheapest flight, we almost always use them for flights within Europe.
Once you’re through Basel Airport, be careful to exit on the French side. There’s an exit that puts you in Switzerland which requires going through immigration. If you’re arriving from most of Europe, the French exit means you can head right to the bus and continue your journey.
Follow the signs to the bus – you want to board the 11 bus and take it to the train station, Gare de Saint Louis. There you can purchase a ticket to Strasbourg and continue your journey by train.
The train ride to Strasbourg is an hour and nine minutes. Riding the train is great, it takes you through beautiful countryside and the cabins are clean and comfortable.
Robe Trotting Tip: buy your tickets in advance on the SNCF website. They can be purchased online for as low as 10€ – ours were 29€. Sometimes we learn tips the hard way.
Even though it’s located in inland, continental Europe, Strasbourg has milder oceanic weather. The summers are generally sunny and warm with cooler and overcast winters. We visited in mid-September and had warm, sunny days with cooler evenings. A light jacket was all we needed to keep warm during our visit.
Who Should Visit Strasbourg?
Anyone would love to visit the Alsace. This region of France is stunning and Strasbourg is the largest, and capital city of the Grand Est region. It’s family-friendly and the perfect romantic weekend destination. The city is easy to navigate, even for travelers with mobility issues. There are even a few gay bars, so the city is wonderful for LGBT travelers.
You should also check out our first trip to the Alsace. Click the link to read about when we visited Colmar and 2 other beautiful Alsatian villages.
Selecting a Hotel in Strasbourg
Strasbourg’s historic center is located on a great natural island where two veins of the River Ill split and reunite. The best location to find a hotel in Strasbourg is the center island. It’s crisscrossed by cobblestone streets lined with half-timber houses. The city center feels like you’re walking around in a medieval fairy tale village.
We searched “hotel Strasbourg center” and found a number of excellent 4-star and 5-star options for reasonable prices. We stayed at The Maison Rouge, a lovely 4-star hotel. It’s been recently renovated and it’s located in the middle of everything. The room was a little smaller than we would have liked but in a historic building, this is normal. Clairin’s products were provided in the bathroom, which made up for the cozy quarters.
Selecting a Restaurant in Strasbourg
Finding a few good meals is one of the best parts of travel. In the Alsace, cultural influences come from both Germany and France. This is also true of the local cuisine so we knew Strasbourg would offer some culinary gems.
No matter where you eat in Strasbourg, you must have a traditional Alsatian meal at least once. We did our research and found S’Kaechele, the perfect Alsatian kitchen with the coziest dining room.
The ambiance was incredible with half-timber walls and decorative items that reflect the unique culture – a combination of French and German.
When it was time to order, we were given a tablet with the menu. This was helpful as it included pictures and English translations. We had a garlic mushroom dish as a starter. For mains, we had a pork dish and spaetzle. Dessert was a dish that I can only describe as an Alsatian ice cream sandwich.
It was all delicious with great wine pairings and very reasonable prices. At S’Kaechele we were served delicious traditional food and wine by friendly staff in a gorgeous atmosphere. The value was undeniable and we highly recommend paying them a visit. However, make sure to email for a reservation and note that they are not open on Saturdays or Sundays.
La Cuiller à Pot
With one Alsatian meal planned, we decided that French cooking would make sense for our second dinner in Strasbourg. La Cuiller à Pot was highly rated, had an intriguing menu and mid-range prices. The gourmet meal was off the charts and defied our expectations.
The dining room is well decorated with a modern motif inside a historic building. Our servers were extremely helpful and translated the menu for us. They aren’t able to prepare an English menu because the chef creates a unique menu each day.
We were touring all day and only had pretzels and beer for lunch. When we sat down for dinner, we were ready to eat! After our order was taken, we were brought a small zucchini confit to cleanse the palate. The amuse-bouche was delightful and prepared us for mushroom crème brûlée and seared tuna starters. Our main courses were incredible. I had the lamb leg over parmesan risotto and Mike chose the Arctic char. The presentation alone was impressive and the tastes matched the brilliance of the plating. For dessert we had chocolate fondant served al la mode. It was a perfect way to end this memorable meal.
Things to do in Strasbourg
If you’re wondering about what to do in Strasbourg, here’s what you were waiting for. There are so many things to do in Strasbourg and we covered a lot in our weekend away. One highlight was touring the famous Strasbourg Cathedral including the astronomical clock and climbing to the top of the bell tower. The second must-do tour in Strasbourg is a boat tour of the River Ill. If you have a limited time in Strasbourg – prioritize these two attractions.
Strasbourg City Pass
When it comes to Strasbourg tours, the Strasbourg City Pass is the best way to see it all. The City Pass saves you money and gives you the best of the city in up to 3 days.
If you purchase the pass online before your trip, it’s only 19.50€ in advance. You will save 4€ per person, even if you only do the boat tour, cathedral climb, and astronomical clock visit.
Your pass includes entry to climb up to the Cathedral platform and a tour of the Cathedral and astronomical clock. It also includes tickets for a riverboat ride and entry to one museum of your choice. More on those attractions to come.
Among other discounts, you also receive 50% off tickets on the mini-train tour around the city, entrance to a second museum and the Vaisseau science museum.
You can book the Strasbourg City Pass online for a discounted price HERE.
Robe Trotting Tip: There is also a Free Walking Tour that we tried. It’s pretty good, and you get your money’s worth. Sure, there are other tours that include wine or snacks, but this was a decent walking tour. It covered much of the city’s history and current role in the EU. If you are fewer than 8 travelers, you do not need to book in advance, just check their schedule here and show up.
You can’t visit this city and not tour the inside of The Cathèdrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg. Construction began in the late 12th century. It’s the 6th largest church in the world and was once the tallest building in the world. They gained that honor when the spire of the tallest church in the world burned down in 1647. We were assured that they had nothing to do with the fire. It held the distinction until the Hamburg Cathedral was completed in 1874.
Now, you can enter the Cathedral for free, but the really cool part is climbing to the top. That’s an 8€ fee, but worth every cent for the stunning views. The city looks incredible from the top and you have amazing views out the windows of the tower as you ascend.
The Astronomical Clock is located inside of the cathedral. Impressive in its own right, the Astronomical Clock is worth seeing while you’re inside. The fee to view the clock is 2€, but it’s also included in the Strasbourg City Pass.
The current clock is the third one of its type to inhabit this location. It dates back to 1838 and, at 18 meters tall, it is one of the world’s largest astronomical clocks.
Robe Trotting Tip: Get to the Astronomical Clock by 12:00. Each day at solar noon the crow cries 3 times and the clock displays a procession of Jesus and the twelve apostles. You should aim to enter the cathedral by 11:30 to ensure you make it.
Robe Trotting BONUS Tip: If you miss the procession of the disciples, there is a pub called the 12 Apostles a block away from the Cathedral. It’s not the same, but there’s beer.
Riverboat Tour on the Ill River
Getting to see Strasbourg from the River Ill was the overall highlight of this trip. The 90-minute tour offers non-stop Strasbourg sightseeing. You’ll float past attraction after attraction and even get to travel through the medieval lock system. The boat tour comes with a multi-lingual audio-guide. Best of all, the driver is excellent at knowing when to stop the motor for pictures.
Strasbourg Wrap Up
There’s our recap of an awesome weekend in Strasbourg. Use our advice on Strasbourg for where to stay, restaurants to dine at and what sightseeing to take in.
Keep in mind that the best way to see the city for less money is with the Strasbourg City Pass, which you can purchase HERE. It will save you at least 4€ per person for the highlights: Cathedral climb, boat tour, and Astronomical Clock admission. Throw in the free museum entrance and 20-50% off other attractions and tours in the city – it’s a money-saving MUST.
We love visiting the Alsace and expected a great weekend in Strasbourg, but this trip exceeded our expectations. We were blown away by the beauty of the half-timber houses, especially in the La Petite France district. The city is easy to navigate and offers plenty to see, do, eat and drink.
We’re already plotting another trip to the region for their Christmas Markets. From what we’re told, they are fantastic. I can only imagine how magical the city will be during the holiday season. Subscribe by email to follow along.
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