What you need to know
Population: 915,000 (2014)
While it may be possible to find people who will engage in a conversation with you in German, the lingua franca of Strasbourg (and all of Alsace) is French. It is possible to hear German spoken on the streets, especially around the Cathedral. Alsatian (the historic Germanic language of Alsace) is a declining language, spoken mostly by the region’s older residents or in rural areas but efforts are underway to revive it.
Strasbourg is in the Bas Rhin department of the Alsace region
On the frontier with Germany, the river Rhine and Strasbourg has changed hands many times through history.
The charming city has a very traditional coloured half-timber architecture, a distinct cuisine and some fine wines.
The European parliament and The Consel of Europe, The European court of Human-Rights, have helped raise the city to the almost status of being the European capital.
Strasbourg is the capital and largest city of the Alsace-Champagne-Ardenne-Lorraine (ACAL) region in eastern France and is the official seat of the European Parliament. Located close to the border with Germany, it is the capital of the Bas-Rhin department. In 2013, the city proper had 275,718 inhabitants, the Eurometropole de Strasbourg (Greater Strasbourg) had 475,934 inhabitants, and the Arrondissement of Strasbourg had 482,384 inhabitants. Strasbourg’s metropolitan area has a population of 768,868 in 2012 (not counting the section across the border in Germany) making it is the ninth largest metro area in France and home to 13% of the ACAL region’s inhabitants. The transnational Eurodistrict Strasbourg-Ortenau had a population of 915,000 inhabitants in 2014.
Strasbourg is the seat of several European institutions, such as the Council of Europe (with its European Court of Human Rights, its European Directorate for the Quality of Medicines and its European Audiovisual Observatory) and the Eurocorps, as well as the European Parliament and the European Ombudsman of the European Union. The city is also the seat of the Central Commission for Navigation on the Rhine and the International Institute of Human Rights.
Strasbourg’s historic city centre, the Grande Île (Grand Island), was classified a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1988, the first time such an honour was placed on an entire city centre. Strasbourg is immersed in the Franco-German culture and although violently disputed throughout history, has been a bridge of unity between France and Germany for centuries, especially through the University of Strasbourg, currently the second largest in France, and the coexistence of Catholic and Protestant culture. The largest Islamic place of worship in France, the Strasbourg Grand Mosque, was inaugurated by French Interior Minister Manuel Valls on 27 September 2012.
Economically, Strasbourg is an important centre of manufacturing and engineering, as well as a hub of road, rail, and river transportation. The port of Strasbourg is the second largest on the Rhine after Duisburg, Germany.
Strasbourg is situated on the eastern border of France with Germany. This border is formed by the River Rhine, which also forms the eastern border of the modern city, facing across the river to the German town Kehl. The historic core of Strasbourg however lies on the Grande Île in the River Ill, which here flows parallel to, and roughly 4 kilometers (2.5 mi) from, the Rhine. The natural courses of the two rivers eventually join some distance downstream of Strasbourg, although several artificial waterways now connect them within the city.
The city lies in the Upper Rhine Plain, at between 132 meters (433 ft) and 151 meters (495 ft) above sea level, with the upland areas of the Vosges Mountains some 20 km (12 mi) to the west and the Black Forest 25 km (16 mi) to the east. This section of the Rhine valley is a major axis of north-south travel, with river traffic on the Rhine itself, and major roads and railways paralleling it on both banks.
The city is some 400 kilometers (250 mi) east of Paris. The mouth of the Rhine lies approximately 450 kilometers (280 mi) to the north, or 650 kilometers (400 mi) as the river flows, whilst the head of navigation in Basel is some 100 kilometers (62 mi) to the south, or 150 kilometers (93 mi) by river.
Strasbourg is divided into the following districts:
- Bourse, Esplanade, Krutenau
- Centre République
- Centre Gare
- Conseil des XV, Rotterdam
- Cronenbourg, Hautepierre, Poteries, Hohberg
- Koenigshoffen, Montagne-Verte, Elsau
- Neudorf, Schluthfeld, Port du Rhin, Musau
- Neuhof, Stockfeld, Ganzau
- Robertsau, Wacken
In spite of its position far inland, Strasbourg’s climate is classified as Oceanic (Köppen climate classification Cfb), with warm, relatively sunny summers and cold, overcast winters. Precipitation is elevated from mid-spring to the end of summer, but remains largely constant throughout the year, totaling 631.4 mm (24.9 in) annually. On average, snow falls 30 days per year.
The highest temperature ever recorded was 38.5 °C (101.3 °F) in August 2003, during the 2003 European heat wave. The lowest temperature ever recorded was −23.4 °C (−10.1 °F) in December 1938.
Strasbourg’s location in the Rhine valley, sheltered from the dominant winds by the Vosges and Black Forest mountains, results in poor natural ventilation, making Strasbourg one of the most atmospherically polluted cities of France. Nonetheless, the progressive disappearance of heavy industry on both banks of the Rhine, as well as effective measures of traffic regulation in and around the city have reduced air pollution.
Train services operate from the Strasbourg train Station, the city’s main station in the city Centre, eastward to Offenburg and Karlsruhe in Germany, westward to Metz and Paris, and southward to Basel. Strasbourg’s links with the rest of France have improved due to its recent connection to the TGV network, with the first phase of the TGV Est (Paris–Strasbourg) in 2007, the TGV Rhin-Rhône (Strasbourg-Lyon) in 2012, and the second phase of the TGV Est (currently planned to open in 2016).
Strasbourg also has its own airport, serving major domestic destinations as well as international destinations in Europe and northern Africa. The airport is linked to the Strasbourg Train Station by a frequent train service.
City transportation in Strasbourg includes the futurist-looking Strasbourg tramway that opened in 1994 and is operated by the regional transit company Compagnie des Transports Strasbourgeois (CTS), consisting of 6 lines with a total length of 55.8 km (34.7 mi). The CTS also operates a comprehensive bus network throughout the city that is integrated with the trams. With more than 500 km (311 mi) of bicycle paths, biking in the city is convenient and the CTS operates a cheap bike-sharing scheme named Vélhop’. The CTS, and its predecessors, also operated a previous generation of tram system between 1878 and 1960, complemented by trolleybus routes between 1939 and 1962.
Being a city on the Ill and close to the Rhine, Strasbourg has always been an important centre of fluvial navigation, as is attested by archeological findings. In 1682 the Canal de la Bruche was added to the river navigations, initially to provide transport for sandstone from quarries in the Vosges for use in the fortification of the city. That canal has since closed, but the subsequent Canal du Rhone au Rhine, Canal de la Marne au Rhin and Grand Canal d’Alsace are still in use, as is the important activity of the Port autonome de Strasbourg. Water tourism inside the city proper attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists yearly.
The tram system that now criss-crosses the historic City Centre complements walking and biking in it. The Centre has been transformed into a pedestrian priority zone that enables and invites walking and biking by making these active modes of transport comfortable, safe and enjoyable. These attributes are accomplished by applying the principle of “filtered permeability” to the existing irregular network of streets. It means that the network adaptations favour active transportation and, selectively, “filter out” the car by reducing the number of streets that run through the Centre. While certain streets are discontinuous for cars, they connect to a network of pedestrian and bike paths which permeate the entire Centre. In addition, these paths go through public squares and open spaces increasing the enjoyment of the trip. This logic of filtering a mode of transport is fully expressed in a comprehensive model for laying out neighborhoods and districts – the Fused Grid.
At present the A35 autoroute, which parallels the Rhine between Karlsruhe and Basel, and the A4 autoroute, which links Paris with Strasbourg, penetrate close to the Centre of the city. The Grand contournement ouest (GCO) project, programmed since 1999, plans to construct a 24 km (15 mi) long highway connection between the junctions of the A4 and the A35 autoroutes in the north and of the A35 and A352 autoroutes in the south. This routes well to the west of the city and is meant to divest a significant portion of motorized traffic from the unité urbaine.
Strasbourg International Airport (SXB) is located south-west of the city at Entzheim, with domestic as well as international flights. Air France is the principal operator. There are several flights a day to and from Paris. A train is running to the town center (€4, including a tram connection, valid for 90 min). If you only need to get to the central station and are able to pay by card, buy your ticket not from the machines in the arrivals hall but on the train platform directly where the ticket will cost you €2.50 – note the machine is in French). The travel time is 9 minutes and the frequency is every 15-30 minutes leaving from platform A.
Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg Airport (EAP) is one-hour twenty minutes by train, from the main Strasbourg train station. Low-cost companies such as EasyJet propose flights from and to several other European countries.
Karlsruhe/Baden-Baden Airport (FKB)  is located about 60km away in Germany. Ryanair  operates from Karlsruhe following a court ruling that declared its subsidy arrangements at Strasbourg Airport a contravention of European legislation. The best way to get to Strasbourg is to get a bus from the airport to Baden-Baden Hauptbahnhof (Main Station) from here trains run to Strasbourg, normally with one change. From station to station the journey is about 45m-1hr. Here is a timetable for direct bus from the Airport running to Strasbourg, this is tied into meet Ryanair flights from London.
Frankfurt International Airport (FRA) is about three hours away from Strasbourg, and is one of the nearest inter-continental airports to Strasbourg. Lufthansa operates a shuttle bus between Strasbourg and Frankfurt, Germany (but an indirect connection by train can be cheaper if booked online in advance, connecting in either Karlsruhe or Offenburg).
Strasbourg railway station, known for the sky dome
Strasbourg is well served by regional, national and international train services, predominantly by SNCF (French Railways), but also by Deutsche Bahn (German Railways).
With the opening of the new TGV Est Européen on 9 June 2007, journey times from Strasbourg to many destinations, including Paris, have been significantly reduced. TGV trains have replaced most existing slower services (previously served by Corail or Corail Téoz).
Major destinations include the following major towns and cities with multiple daily departures. Journey times are approximate, some require TGV trains.
Paris 2hrs 20m
Lyon 3hrs 40m
Metz 1hr 15m
Nancy 1hr 15m
Marseille 5hr 30m
Besancon 1hr 40m
Luxembourg 2hrs 15 m
Basel/Bâle 1hr 10m
Stuttgart 1hr 20m
Munich 3hrs 40m
Zurich 2hrs 5m
Saarbrücken 1hr 30m by direct local train
A number of overnight trains with sleeper and couchette accommodations also serve:
Marseille 9hrs and Nice 12hrs 15m
Montpellier 10hrs 10m and Portbou 13hrs 10m
From summer 2007, the TGV Est Européen created new direct services to:
Paris Charles-de-Gaulle Airport 2hrs 25m
Lille 3hrs 20m (for same-station connections via Eurostar to London)
Rennes 5hrs 15m
Nantes 5hrs 10m
Bordeaux 6hrs 45m
The railway station, impressively renovated with a new glass cocoon frontage, is located a short walk west of the town center on Place de la Gare. There are connections to the tram system and buses, with many taxis waiting outside (to the left of the station forecourt).
For details of all services, and to make reservations, contact SNCF. For regional travel, contact SNCF TER Alsace who co-ordinate the efficient and well served regional train network. When planning trips east of Strasbourg into Germany or countries beyond, you could save money by comparing the fares offered by Deutsche Bahn to those of the SNCF.
From Saarbrücken, Saar-Elsass ticket can be purchased for 35€ on weekends that enables round-trip for up to 5 travellers. More details are:
You can reach Strasbourg by various highways:
From the west (Paris, Benelux) taking the A4 highway (E25). About 4 hours from Paris and 2 hours 15 minutes from Luxembourg.
From the south (Switzerland, Lyon), taking the A35 highway (E25). About 5 hours from Lyon
From the north and east (Germany), taking the A5 highway (E35).
Driving into Strasbourg’s old city is relatively easy although there are a few streets off limits to cars. There are many large garages surrounding the old city if your hotel does not have its own parking facility. Some carparks are more expensive than other, especially for longer stays.
Eurolines provides bus services to the city. Services call at the new bus stop situated at the entrance of the center, few meters from the Etoile-Bourse tram stop.
Strasbourg is most easily explored on foot, and the historic city centre can easily be explored in a day or two. To be able to cover more ground, you should consider hiring a bike or using the public transport network.
Strasbourg is ideal for cycling – the city center is flat and there are plenty of bike lanes and bike paths. You can rent bikes at:
The automatic or manned bike sharing stations vélhop’
Rue du Maire Kuss, in front of the train station
Rue des Bouchers, on the south bank of the Ill river, near the rue d’Austerlitz and the Porte de l’Hôpital tramway station.
Bikes are allowed on trams except during peak hours.
More information on cycling in Strasbourg:
By bus and tram
Buses and trams in Strasbourg are operated by the Compagnie des Transports Strasbourgeois (CTS). A few dozen numbered bus lines and six tram lines (named A to F) serve the city. A single ticketing system covers both bus and tram. Tickets are sold in ‘tabacs’ (newsagents), tourist offices, CTS boutiques or from vending machines at tram stops. Tickets should be validated before use, either in the machines on tram station platforms or in the machine by the driver when you board the bus.
Summary of fares (as of Sept 2015):
Aller Simple (one way) € 1.70
10 x Aller Simple € 14.00
24H Individual (24hr ticket for one person) € 4.30
Trio (one day ticket for up to three people) € 6.80
If using the buses and/or trams a lot, Europass tickets are available from all automatic ticket machines and are valid on all local tram and bus services (including those that cross the border to Kehl) for either 24 hours or seven days.
For visitors wanting to see Paris and one other French city – or indeed just one French city other than Paris, Strasbourg is the place.
Strasbourg is one of the great historic cities of Europe, and its history is very different from that of Paris.
In the year 840 AD, on the death of the Emperor Charlemagne’s son Louis the Pious, the great Frankish “Holy Roman” Empire was split into three parts. West Francia in the west became the heartland of modern France. East Francia in the east became Germany; and between them lay Middle Francia – an area today made up of small states, Luxembourg Belgium, the Netherlands,and Switzerland. Between Luxembourg and Switzerland middle Francia included the duchies of Alsace, Lorraine and Burgundy, which are today part of France. But this was not always the case.
Alsace, and with it Strasbourg, only became French in the 17th century. Alsace was French from 1648 to 1871, but during this time it remained German- speaking. From 1871 until 1919, and again from 1940 to 1944, Alsace was annexed by Germany.
While today the people of Alsace all speak French, the historic Germanic culture of the city of Strasbourg is tangible, and indeed part of the city’s identity. Many signs are written up in both French and Alsatian (a dialect of German), or sometimes just in Alsatian; and signs on many historic buildings are written up using the classically German Gothic script.
As for wining and dining, Strasbourg’s gourmet traditions are quite distinctive, and more German than French. Flammekueche is something between a quiche lorraine and a pizza, and choucroute, sauerkraut in English or German, is a major speciality. Another popular dish is baeckoffe, an oven-baked meat and potato dish. Alsace and Strasbourg are also famous for their pain d’épices, a kind of spicebread or gingerbread, particularly in the runup to Christmas.
For a classic Strasbourg dining experience, visitors have a large number of Alsacian restaurants and Winstubs; the latter are typical Alsace restaurants, mostly furnished with wooden chairs and tables, decorated in Alsace style, and often housed in old half-timbered buildings. They are Alsace’s equivalent of an old fashioned English pub, where people go as much to drink – in this case local Alsace wine – as to eat.
The Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg is gorgeous, with its red sandstone and tall spire.
The center of Strasbourg—where most things of touristic interest will be found—is an island, theGrand Île, circled by the River Ill. The whole city center has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The most visible feature of Strasbourg is its beautiful and unusual Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg. Made of red sandstone, its delicate structure rises high above the town, and the spire is visible for miles. The interior is just as lovely, with extensive stained glass. More…
In walking distance from the cathedral are several excellent museums—the Alsatian Museum, theHistorical Museum, the Museum of the Oeuvre Notre-Dame, and the Palais Rohan, which houses three museums. More…
A great way to get oriented to Strasbourg is to take a boat tour on the River Ill. You’ll circle the Grand Île and even go up to the Rhine, site of theEuropean Parliament. En route you can admireLa Petite France and other parts of the city.More…
La Petite France is a picturesque area of Strasbourg, surrounded by canals and with lots of half-timbered houses. It’s a great placee to stroll and admire the architecture and natural setting, and it’s home to many restaurants. More…
As you wander around the Grand Île, you’ll come across a variety of interesting plazas, most of which have restaurants and cafés. The Place Gutenberg features a statue of this favorite adopted son, who did much of the work on his printing press in Strasbourg.
Place Kleber features the historic Aubettebuilding, with its many shops and boutiques. And of course the Place de la Cathédrale is in the center of it all. To the north, the Place Broglie is home to the Opéra, and the small Place Gayot is full of restaurants and bars, largely frequented by locals.
Just across the river is the Place du Corbeau, site of one of Strasbourg’s oldest houses (now ahotel).
From the Droits de l’Homme tram stop, you can walk about 5 minutes to the lovely Orangerie Park, a great place to walk, relax and seestorks, the symbol of Alsace, as well as other animals in the small zoo. More…
On top of all that there is to see and do,Strasbourg is simply a charming city. It’s architecture is distinctive and lovely, with sloping rooftops dotted with small windows. Many bridges cross the River Ill, making it easy to move around the city, and in summer they are decked with flowers. It’s a wonderful place to walk, exploring small streets and interesting views.
Strasbourg is also a big biking city, and you’ll see lots of people cycling on the miles of cycle paths. Like many French cities, Strasbourg has a couple of bike rental options, including Vél’hopand Esprit Cycles.
You can easily visit Strasbourg on a day or overnight trip from Paris. The TGV takes about two and a half hours, and particularly during the summer when the days are long, you’ll have plenty of time to explore this fascinating small city and enjoy Alsatian Cuisine.
If you have more time, consider going south fromStrasbourg to explore the Alsace wine region, visiting such charming villages as Eguisheim orRibeauvillé, or going to the interesting and beautiful small city of Colmar.
Strasbourg is the second most popular tourist city in France, after Paris; and there are three main attractions. Firstly the cathedral, the second most visited French cathedral after Notre Dame de Paris; secondly the picture-book historic quarter of Petite France, with its half-timbered mediaeval houses and its quays overlooking branches of the river Ill (that is the river ” ill “); and thirdly the Strasbourg Christmas market. The Christmas market, or Christkindelsmärik, the market of the child Jesus, is the oldest and biggest historic Christmas market in Europe, and fills the squares and old streets round the cathedral for the whole of December.
Near Petite France is the Barrage Vauban, a 17th century covered bridge and walkway across the river.
map old strasbourgOld Strasbourg, showing location of main sites. The map is about 1800 metres across. Tram routes in brown But there is plenty more to see and do in Strasbourg too.
One of the great things about Strasbourg as a city-break destination, is that you can do so much on foot. The old city is quite small. Just next to the cathedral, in and around the Palais Rohan, is a cluster of museums, the most impressive of which is the Strasbourg art gallery, or Musée des Beaux Arts. One of the best provincial art galleries in France, the gallery has a small but rich and representative collection of European art from the Renaissance onwards, including works by Giotto, Botticelli, Raphael, Rubens, El Greco, Van Dyck, Corot, Courbet and many more. The Palais Rohan, a fine eighteenth-century palace, also houses the Museum of Decorative Arts, and the Strasbourg Archeological Museum; and just across the street is the Strasbourg historical museum.
A single day pass for all the Strasbourg museums costs less than separate entrance tickets to two individual museums.
The pass also includes access to Strasbourg’s other great museum, the Strasbourg museum of modern and contemporary art, or MAMCS. Very easily accessible – just a short walk from Petite France across the Barrage Vauban, this is a small but good modern art gallery, opened in 1998. Its permanent collection contains works from the Impressionists onwards, including Monet, Sisley, Renoir, Signac, Vlaminck, Picasso, Braque, Chagall, Miro, Magritte, Kandinsky and many more.
The other popular tourist attraction in Strasbourg is to take a boat trip on the river Ill. Boats leave from in front of the Palais Rohan, by the museums, and take visitors round the island in the river Ill on which the historic city of Strasbourg is built.
Strasbourg, Entrepreneurial, Innovative and International.
Strasbourg, the region’s main city and the ‘capital of Europe’, has a strong identity concerning both the urban tissue and the surrounding countryside. It blends tradition and ambition, a strong sense of place and a modern outlook.
The Strasbourg region gives you the chance to experience the cultural life of a prestigious city with a wealth of architectural jewels and wonderfully-preserved historical districts and – literally within the space of a few minutes – the opportunity to embark on the exploration of little villages that have retained their rural identity, their traditions and the vitality of their own, unique way of life.
Bordered by the Rhine to the east, this economic area is located on the German border and within easy reach of over 35 million potential consumers (within a 200 km/124 mile radius). It has a population of nearly 470,000.
A comprehensive transport network enables businesses to link up with major markets:
- Strasbourg international airport
- the A35 motorway
- the TGV Est high-speed rail link: Paris in 2 hours 20 minutes, and Lyons in 3 hours 15 minutes by 2012
- the Rhine: Europe’s busiest commercial waterway, via the Port de Strasbourg, France’s second largest river port.
As the ‘capital of Europe’ and home to various EU bodies, the city of Strasbourg plays host to the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, the European Court of Human Rights and the European Youth Centre.
Strasbourg is one of the top 3 financial centres in France; it boasts the second largest concentration of secondary sector businesses and is home to one of the largest French universities, with over 50,000 students.
Being a centre for research and innovation, the Strasbourg economic area is an active participant in five industry clusters in the fields of medical technology and innovative healthcare therapies, transportation solutions, fibrous materials, positive-energy buildings and water quality management.
As of the end of 2009, 168,275 people were employed in the private sector in the Strasbourg economic area. The local economy is dominated by the tertiary sector (81% of jobs in the private sector). Nonetheless, 851 secondary sector businesses employed a total of 21,658 staff.
Strasbourg is an ideal place to start up a business. Many national and international concerns have their head office or main plant in the area, for example:
- Flender Graffenstaden in Illkirch-Graffenstaden, manufacture of gear/transmission units
- Herta in Illkirch-Graffenstaden, preparation of meat products
- Kraft Foods in Strasbourg, production of cocoa, chocolate and confectionery products
- Lilly France in Fegersheim, production of pharmaceutical products
- Octapharma in Lingolsheim, production of pharmaceutical products
- Gaggenau Industrie in Lipsheim, manufacture of kitchen appliances
- General Motors in Strasbourg, manufacture of automobile components
- Heineken in Schiltigheim, brewery
- Lanxess Emulsion Rubber in La Wantzenau, production of synthetic rubber
- Soprema Entreprises in Strasbourg, waterproofing systems
- Transgène in Illkirch-Graffenstaden, research and development in the field of biotechnology
- UPM-Kymmene in Strasbourg, production of paper and cardboard products
- Steelcase in Schiltigheim, large-scale production of office furniture