In 2012, a quest to find my family roots landed me in Strasbourg. Me? A full-on Grizzle? The guy with the odd name that makes people think of Grizzly bears or grizzled old men. What could my surname possibly have to do with Strasbourg? Quite a lot it turns out.
This story, however, is not about my family roots but rather about the city I discovered during my quest, and more importantly, how you can best spend your time in Strasbourg, before, after or even during your river cruise. Strasbourg ranks among those unique cities that function as both a port of call and a point of embarkation/disembarkation for Rhine river cruises. Strasbourg also has something that most its peers do not have: a series of canals and a robust offering of multi-day canal journeys.
Originally a Celtic village, this precious city has everything to complete your European experience.
Strasbourg, France is knowing for its mouthwatering cuisine and fine wine in world-class restaurants. You can also have a boat ride down the picturesque canals while admiring the adorable German and French-influenced houses. There are also many incredible churches and countless examples of mind-blowing architecture to witness.
From the food to the culture, there is something for everyone in Strasbourg, France.
The only question is, how can you see it all in under 48 hours? If you are on a tight travel itinerary, you want to see it all, but don’t want to waste time on unnecessary sightseeing.
That’s why we decided to create this detailed guide on how to explore Strasbourg, France in under 48 hours. Keep on reading to learn more.
History of Strasbourg, France
Strasbourg loosely translates into “town at the crossroads,” from the German Straße/Strasse (street) combined with the French word bourg (village). This town at the crossroads was originally a Celtic village before becoming a Garrison town named Argentoratum under the Romans. In the 5th century, the Franks ruled and called their city Strateburgum, which is where it got its present name.
The city sits among the Ill River, which separates and surrounds the Grand Île (big island). This is also where all of the iconic French buildings and old-town are situated and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988.
Strasbourg, France is the location where the Serment de Strasbourg was created. This was an oath of alliance between Charles II and Louis II in 842 and is the oldest written document in old French.
Visit the Strasbourg Cathedral
The Cathédrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg was erected in the early 11th century and is one of the tallest churches in the world. This red Vosges sandstone church is over 142 meters tall and its stunning design is a variety of different architectural styles.
Originally, this building was Romanesque style, then came the Gothic elements, and stunning stained glass introduced around the 12th century. The St. Pancrace’s altar was added during the 16th century and its famous astronomical clock by the 17th century.
It is located in the center of Strasbourg on the Grande Île. Give yourself at least a few hours to explore this incredibly mesmerizing architecture. Then head for a glass of wine to one of the many fine restaurants nearby.
Explore the La Petite France
La Petite France (the little France), also known as Quartier des Tanneurs, is a historic village and UNESCO world heritage site. Located on the west side of the Grande Île, this neighborhood is not to be missed.
As you stroll around the picturesque streets, alive with vibrant flowers and picture-perfect buildings, you will feel as if you are in a real-life postcard.
The perfectly-restored medieval architecture contains cobblestone lanes, wood-beamed buildings, covered bridges, and an abundance of colorful flowers. This is a location that must be experienced as no descriptive words can match up to the feeling of being there yourself.
Originally, this neighborhood was inhabited by the fishermen, tanners, and millers, and now is a protected site that welcomes tourists all year long.
Experience the Strasbourg Christmas Market
If you are lucky enough to be in Strasbourg, France from the end of November until the end of December, you are in for a treat. This Christmas market is among the oldest Christmas Markets in all of Europe.
At nighttime, this market feels like a magical wonderland with the illuminated lighting, scents of freshly baked goods, and mulled wine filling the air. Explore the stalls while you snack on homemade gingerbread and take in the sights of handmade crafts and decorations.
Drink Some Alsation Wines and Brews
The Alsace region of France is world-famous for its beer and wine, and if you are a wine-lover, you will already know about their Gewurztraminers, Pinot Gris, and Dry Rieslings.
Originally, the beers were brewed in the Monasteries up until 1268, when they became popular amongst independent breweries. Now it is nearly everywhere in the Alsation region these days, so you won’t miss a spot with some refreshing brews.
Head to The XX in Rue des Planches, or Le Grincheux in Rue du Vieux Marché aux Vins for some wine tasting. Or to Kohler-Rehm or Lanterne in Rue de la Lanterne for some brews.
Savor the Alsation Cuisine
The Alsation region has nearly the same amount of starred restaurants as Paris and Île-de-France. This unique cuisine is the perfect blend of traditional German food with French influences and is something that everyone must experience.
Since Strasbourg is the capital of the Alsace region, it contains numerous different options for bakeries, breweries, brasseries, and fine dining. While eating, you can enjoy a glass of fine Alsation wine or German beer.
Try choucroute garnie, which is a heavy meal of shredded cabbage fermented in a salt brine, alongside potatoes, smoked sausages, and thick pieces of bacon. Make sure you also experience the Bouchées à la Reine, which is a perfectly-baked puff pastry filled with vegetables, meat, and a delicious cream sauce.
How to Get to Strasbourg
There is a shuttle train that can take you directly to the city center from Strasbourg airport in under 8 minutes. A taxi will take you anywhere between 20 to 25 minutes.
You can also arrive at the Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG), or the Frankfurt international airport (FRA). Arriving at CDG, the train will take you approximately 2 hours and 14 minutes to arrive in Strasbourg. If arriving in FRA, the train takes around 3 hours and 12 minutes.
Where to Stay in Strasbourg
Strasbourg has incredible options for accommodation, especially when it comes to boutique hotels.
Located right in the heart of the medieval district, check out Hotel Rohan, which is ideally located right near the cathedral.
Or you can check in to Regent Petite France, located in the picturesque La Petite France area. This hotel is situated right on the river, among the quaint timbered houses with a real French feel.
A Port Call In Strasbourg
Today, Scenic Crystal docked in Kehl, Germany. Across the river was France and the beautiful city of Strasbourg.
Included tours gave guests the option of touring Strasbourg or heading out into the Alsatian countryside to the town of Barr for a vineyard visit and wine tasting.
Three of Scenic’s four motor coaches went to Strasbourg, the more popular choice, while one headed to Barr.
Our charming guide provided an overview of Strasbourg, explaining what it was like to live in a city that had frequently changed hands between being French and German.
Strasbourg’s historic city center, the Grande Île (Grand Island), was classified a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1988. We spent two hours walking in the historic city center.
If you’re curious about how my name connects to this lovely French city on the Rhine, though, check out my story: Searching For Family Ties In Strasbourg: The Story Of A Serendipitous Encounter, Helpful Hilton Staff & A Beautiful Cat