An Unforgettable One Day in Strasbourg: Free, Self-Guided Walking Tour

half timbered buildings reflected in canal seen in one dat in strasbourg walking tour

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Make the most of one day in Strasbourg with this free, self-guided walking tour

Updated post: 25/10/2020 | October 2020

Seeking out the best that a city can offer in a day can be challenging, and this can be particularly tricky if that city is as architecturally and historically rich as Strasbourg.

To help you make the most of your day there, follow this self-guided free Strasbourg walking tour.

To whet your appetite, here’s a video of what to expect to see on your walking tour of Strasbourg:

 

 

Where is Strasbourg?

Strasbourg, the capital city of the Alsace region in Eastern France, lies two miles from the German border on the other side of the Rhine.

map of France showing strasbourg

As the crow flies, Strasbourg is just over 100 km from Stuttgart, 190 km from Bern and 400 km from Paris.

 

Why should you visit Strasbourg?

In the league of French cities to visit, it is often overlooked in favour of the more glamorous Paris, sunnier Nice or the foodie’s delight, Lyon.

This is a pity because, for my money, Strasbourg is one of the prettiest cities in France.

Its historic city centre, the Grande Île, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Steeped in history, between 1681 and 1914 its ownership see-sawed between Germany and France, the legacy of which can be seen in its architecture and food.

With great train connections to major cities such as Stuttgart, Paris and Basel, Colmar is super simple to visit on a day trip. And as many of the city’s main attractions are in a compact area, it is easy to navigate on foot.

 

What is the best time of year to visit Strasbourg?

Strasbourg is a year-round destination and the best time to visit will depend on what you would like to do there.

  • With warm and sunny days, summer is a good time to visit Strasbourg. The city hosts its famous Light Show in July and August.
  • Autumn brings cooler temperatures but fewer crowds. When I visited in September, the weather was perfect.
  • Winter in Strasbourg can be cold and frosty but visitor numbers peak again with the arrival of the Christmas markets.
In 2020, Strasbourg’s Christmas markets will run from 27th November to 30th December. Spread across 11 sites in the city,  its Christmas markets are amongst the best in Europe.

Sadly, due to worsening health conditions, in 2020 this will take place without the traditional chalets. However, Christmas magic will still be there courtesy of the illuminations, carolling, exhibits and concerts, and, the massive Christmas Tree.

  • You have a greater chance of seeing rain if you visit Strasbourg in spring. However, the city is quieter and the flowers will be in full bloom.
half timbered buildings reflected in canal in strasbourg
Strasbourg in late summer

The best things to do in one day in Strasbourg

As the historic heart of the city is spread over a small area and the list of must-do sights modest, it is easy to explore in one day. To help you get your bearings, and to make the most of your one day in Strasbourg, follow my self-guided, free walking tour of Strasbourg.

 

A self-guided & free Strasbourg walking tour

  • Walking distance: 3 km
  • Actual walking time: 42 minutes

Allowing yourself time at each of these sites, and a break for lunch, this Strasbourg walking tour should take around four hours.

 

Interactive Strasbourg walking tour map

strasbourg-walking-tour-map
Strasbourg walking tour map (click on image for interactive map)

 

Strasbourg Cathedral

From the train station, it’s an easy 15-minutes’ walk to the Cathedral, the first stop on our Strasbourg walking tour.

facade of Strasbourg Cathedral
Strasbourg Cathedral

After its Parisian namesake, Strasbourg’s Notre Dame is the most visited cathedral in France. Standing on the site of a Roman temple, the Notre Dame is unabashed Gothic splendour. With its 142-meter tower rising like an exclamation mark over the city, for four centuries it was considered to be the tallest building in the world.

As Hitler had his beady eye on its magnificent stained glass windows, they were placed in salt mines during WW2. The rose window above the main entrance is particularly striking.

When you visit the cathedral, don’t leave without paying your respects to the sculpture of the dog in the pulpit. It is said that when the Geiler of Kayserberg preached from this pulpit, he was always accompanied by his faithful friend. As his sermons were often long and earnest, his dog would often have forty winks.

stone sculpture of sleeping dog

 

So now we have his dog, sleeping for eternity. Legend has it that if you rub his nose, good luck and blessings will come your way.

Tips for visiting Strasbourg Cathedral

  • Entry to Strasbourg Cathedral is free.
  • If you are feeling energetic and have €5 to spare, you can climb the 332 steps of a spiral staircase to a viewing platform for views over the city and beyond.
  • The famed astronomical clock whirrs into action Mon-Sat at 12.30 pm. The cost of a ticket is €3. Alternatively, you can see it for free immediately after 11 am Sunday Mass.
  • Before moving on, step into Rue Merciere, the best spot for taking a photo of the cathedral.

When you are ready, head towards the river and then follow it towards Petite France.

 

La Petite France

Located at the western end of the Grand Île,  La Petite France is a delight to wander around.

Dating from the Middle Ages, this was once the city’s industrial heart, home to its millers, tanners and fishermen. It is here that you will find the largest concentration of Strasbourg’s candy-coloured, half-timbered buildings, dating from the 16th and 17th Centuries.

half timbered buildings reflected in canal either side of stone bridge in strasbourg
La Petite France, Strasbourg

Strasbourg restaurant recommendation: Lunch

Take a break for lunch at Le Baeckeoffe d’Alsace for a tasty Tarte Flambée, a cheeky beer and service with a smile.

Once fed and watered, head towards the Ponts Couvert.

 

Ponts Couverts

The Ponts Couverts is a set of four towers and three bridges dating from the mid-13th Century.

Originally built as a defence for Strasbourg, they were eventually superseded by the Barrage Vaudan over 400 years later.

stone bridge reflected in water
Ponts Couvert, Strasbourg

Their name comes from the wooden roof that originally covered the bridge to protect the defender stationed there. Although the roof was torn down at the end of the 18th Century, the name remains.

Bonus tip!

The Quai de la Petite France is one of the best places to capture that perfect Insta-worthy image back over La Petite France.

 

Barrage Vaudan

A stone’s throw from the Ponts Couverts, the Barrage Vaudan is the next stop on our Strasbourg walking tour.

This is a bridge, weir and defence built in the 17th Century. To be honest, it is an unremarkable building and today houses artworks. But climb the 60 steps to its terrace for terrific views of La Petite France and the Ponts Couverts.

From the Barrage Vaudan, it’s a 10-minute walk back to the railway station.

 

Strasbourg’s street art

On your way back to the station, keep an eye out for street art on the city’s walls and buildings.

mural of twp men on either side of a window
Street art, Strasbourg

If you are interested in exploring this in more depth, take a look at this Strasbourg street art interactive map.

 

If you have more than one day in Strasbourg …

If you have more than one day in Strasbourg, consider these options:

  • A boat tour on the Rhine Canal. This 70-minute tour with commentary will set you back €13.50. I was tempted to do this but the boats are completed covered in tinted glass which would have made photo-taking tricky.
  • A 40-minute road train trip taking in the highlights of Strasbourg. Yours for €7.

 

The Strasbourg Pass

The Strasbourg Pass provides free or half-price access to eight key sites and activities in the city, including a free visit to a museum of your choice, the boat-tour on the Rhine Canal and the astronomical clock.

It is valid for three days and costs €22 for adults (2020 price).

 

Alasation food in Strasbourg

A perfect partnership of French and German cuisine, here’s a few things that you can expect to find on the menus of Strasbourg’s restaurants.

Tarte Flambée – So-called  “Alsace Pizza”, a wafer-thin flatbread topped with cream ham and cheese.

Bæckeoffe – A slow-cooked casserole of sliced potato, onions, mutton, beef and pork.

Choucroure Garnie – Wine-braised sauerkraut, cured pork, and sausages, flavoured with juniper berries, garlic and cloves.

 

Alsace wine

One of my favourite wine regions for some years, the Alsace produces mostly white wines: Reisling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris and Muscat. However, I also tried an Alsace Pinot Noir, which was excellent.

In my opinion, Alsace wines are criminally underrated, and one of the best things that you can do in Strasbourg is to sample a few different grape varieties.

 

How to get to Strasbourg

  • I visited Strasbourg as part of an Interrail trip through Switzerland and France.
  • Its train station is conveniently located on the edge of its historic centre. Strasbourg has excellent train connections to both French and other European cities. Thanks to a direct high-speed train link, it is possible to visit Strasbourg as a day trip from Paris (from 1h 48 mins).

 

 

Typical travel times to Strasbourg by train from major cities

Paris, France: 1 hour 48 minutes

Stuttgart, Germany: 1 hour 18 minutes

Basel, Switzerland: 1 hour 18 minutes

Luxembourg, Luxembourg: 1 hour 34 minutes

  • Strasbourg has a small international airport, 10 km west of the city centre.
  • You can also easily include Strasbourg  as part of a road trip through Europe
  • Strasbourg is also a popular stop on Rhine cruises.

I used the neighbouring city of Colmar as a base, and also visited Basel in Switzerland to walk The Rehberger Weg.

Colmar is an enchanting city and super easy to explore on a day trip from Strasbourg. Read more about this in Colmar in One Day: A Perfect Itinerary.

For a more unusual day trip, take the train from Colmar to Basel and walk along an art trail between Switzerland and Germany. Learn how to do this in Rehberger Weg: An Art Trail Between Switzerland & Germany

 

How to get around Strasbourg

As Strasbourg‘s main attractions are close to each other, walking is your best option. Strasbourg’s train station is around 15 minutes’ walk from the city centre.

 

DISCOVER MORE PLACES TO VISIT IN FRANCE

 

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