If you are an Instagram regular or travel magazine afficionado, you may have seen images of towns in France that look like ‘Beauty and the Beast” took place there. Strasbourg and Colmar are two of these towns and on my recent Europe trip, they were among my favorite stops. I will tell you everything you need to know to visit Strasbourg and Colmar! I will spend half this post on food and wine. You’re welcome.
Strasbourg is in the Alsace region of France on the German border. Since the 1600’s the city had passed between German and French control with Germany returning the city to France in 1944 after WW2. Strasbourg is official seat of the European Parliament and the capital of the Grand Est region of France. Sounds pretty important, huh? Strasbourg’s historic city centre, the Grade Ile (Grand Island), was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1988.
Currency: Euro. ATMS are everywhere
Strasbourg is connected to Paris by the TGV (train de grande vitesse – high-speed train). The two cities are only 2 hours and 20 minutes apart. These trains also have “Le Wifi”.
More info here: www.sncf.com
Strasbourg is also easily accessed by train from any of the surrounding countries. It’s approximately 4 hours from Brussels, Belgium, 2 hours from Luxembourg City, Luxembourg and 2 hours from Basel, Switzerland and just over 2 hours from Frankfurt, Germany.
As most of western Europe, there is great public transportation. The CTS runs six super-efficient tram lines, A through F. The main tram hub is Homme de Fer. You can get all the timetables and routes here. www.cts-strasbourg.eu
The Bus system doesn’t run through the center (The Grand Ile)
Tickets, valid on both buses and trams, are sold by bus drivers and ticket machines at tram stops and cost €1.70 (€3.30 return). Tickets are valid for 24 hours from the time of stamping. You can also buy tickets at tourist offices.
The Bus and Train run until about 1130pm to 1230am.
This is an island surrounded by rivers and the historical old part of the city. As I mentioned above it is the first time a UNESCO site was in a city center.
This is a historic quarter of the city, located at the western end of the Grand Ile. At Petite France, the river Ill (a tributary of the Rhine) splits into several channels, flowing through the Middle Age dominion of tanners, millers, and fishermen.
Why is it called Petite France? Well, interesting that you ask. At one point the city was in Germany. This island in the center was where the Hospice des Vérolés (Hospice of the syphilitic) was built, to cure persons with syphilis, called Franzosenkrankheit (“French disease”) at the time in German. So there you have it. You had to ask!!
This impressive Gothic Cathedral can be seen from far away, even from the other side of the Rhine in Germany. Construction began in 1176 and took over 2 centuries to complete. It was the world’s tallest building from 1647 to 1874, at 466 feet (142 meters)
It contains a tower with 368 steps to climb for an amazing view. There are lines in the high season, so go early or give yourself enough time for these lines.
Inside Notre Dame Cathedral is an 18-meter astronomical clock, one of the largest in the world
This is the former residence of the cardinals and prince-bishops of the House of Rohan, an old French noble family. It is considered a masterpiece of the French Baroque style. Currently, it houses three museums, the Museum of Fine Arts, The Museum of Decorative Arts and the Archaeological Museum.
The historic wine cellar of Strasbourg Hospital dates back to 1395. Here you can see a wine press dating from the beginning of the 17th century and a barrel that is still filled with the wine from the year 1472! I’d give anything to taste that!! Why is there a wine cellar in a hospital, you may ask? Apparently, wines or the vineyards were donated during centuries by the patients as a form of payment for a quality medical service. Wine and health have always had quite an interesting relationship, huh?
Getting real here folks. Don’t go here armed with a list of things to do. That’s why I’m not even going to say much more (other than food to eat). You will see what you need to see simply by walking around the old city and getting lost. To me, this is the best way to visit Strasbourg.
If you don’t spend time in cafes, did you really go to France? I think not! Here are a few I happened upon and really liked but you really can’t go wrong at any of them!!
Odyssey Cafe. This cute cafe has free wifi and you can choose to sit in the outdoor area or the cozy indoor area. The waitresses were really friendly and explained the types of regional wines to me. I Each glass was 3 to 4 euro which I thought was a great deal. I tried the Riesling and the Sylvaner, which are the least sweet wine of the region. FYI the sweetest is Gewurtztraminer followed by Pinot Gris. Wine knowledge is life, my friends.
Le Barbu (Rue Sainte-Barbe) Great cafe to get away from crowds and have coffee or Moroccan mint green tea and a delicious homemade quiche with honestly the best quiche crust I’ve ever had (and I’ve had many). The tarte aux pommes looked incredible as well.
Tea House (Salon de The) I had a particularly nice Tarte L’Oignon at this cafe near the Notre Dame Cathedral
Le Kouglehopf Outdoor restaurant near a canal with nice selection of local specialties
This is a smaller and even more fairytale-esque town, just 70km south of Strasbourg. You can take the local train, the TER Alsace. It costs 25 euro roundtrip and takes about 30 minutes.
Colmar’s old town has cobblestone streets lined with early Renaissance buildings and medieval buildings. The Gothic 13th-century, Eglise Saint-Martin church stands on central Place de la Cathédrale. The city is also on the Alsace Wine Route.
Any area of any town that has canals in the world is apparently named after Venice and Colmar is no exception.
Check out the winery at Cave Wolfberger. Maybe take a canal boat. ride. But mostly you’re going to walk around oohing and ahhing over the adorable architecture and take zillions of photos.
This classic Alsacienne dish is like a very thin pizza or maybe think of it as a crunchy crepe…the classic has cheese and lardon (ham-bacon type substance) but salmon and onion often available.
Basically a savory creamy piece of pie full of caramelized onions, sometimes with cheese or lardon. Probably best enjoyed when not in a romantic situation!
These delectable dumplings are common in Germany as well. I especially like them with this creamy cheesy mushroom sauce. Not for the faint of heart!
This quaint biscuit (cookie) shop is in both towns. How lucky can you get! I couldn’t get enough of these crunchy buttery pieces of perfection. A small tin is 10 euro and you can choose which cookies you have in your tin. My only regret is not getting more!!
You can’t go to France and not try cheese. You just can’t! In Strasbourg, I found a particularly nice cheese shop called La Cloche Au Fromage, where they explained many of the types available. You can get just a small amount of many, find a bakery, some wine, and have a little feast.
This region of France is a little slice of heaven.If you have time in the regions you can visit some beautiful tiny villages called Riquewihr or Eguishem. Everything here is sprinkled with fairy dust. Aesthetic beauty, history, food, wine…you can get your fill of all of it when you visit Strasbourg!
Did I miss something awesome to do here? Let me know in the comments!
Where is your favorite fairy-tale destination?