Visiting Strasbourg is a great idea for a weekend in France. The Alsatian and European capital is a city full of charm, interesting to discover culturally and close to nature too. It has been doubly classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site: first in 1988 for its historic center, the Grande-Ile, surrounded by the canals of Ill, then in 2017 for Neustadt, the “new town”, built under German occupation between 1880 and WWI.
Discovering Strasbourg with friends, with the advice and good addresses of a local, was ideal! Anna prepared a program for us on the theme of “over the water”, with a boat trip, a bike ride along the canals, a canoe trip, and even two nights aboard a barge! So come aboard with us for a river weekend in Strasbourg!
Favorite for Petite France
La Petite France is the most famous district of Strasbourg and the most photogenic with all its half-timbered houses. This is my favorite place in the Alsatian capital! I really loved it and I think I took pictures of almost all the houses. One of the most beautiful is the tanners’ house, a former 16th-century tannery, now transformed into a traditional restaurant.
The covered bridges, formed by four towers, close the district to the west. Just after, is the Vauban dam built on the river Ill. I recommend that you go up to its panoramic terrace (free access), from the top of which you have a beautiful view of the bridges, Petite France and Strasbourg Cathedral a little further.
Discover Strasbourg by boat
A good introduction to visiting Strasbourg is to take a boat trip with the Batorama company, the equivalent of Bateaux Mouches in Paris. The departure takes place at the foot of the Palais Rohan on the Grande-Ile in the city center. The boats run every day and there are covered and uncovered ones. If the weather is nice, it’s still nicer to be in the open air, except for those who are too afraid of the heat or the rays of the sun. With the comments of the headphones, we learn a lot about the city.
We did the Strasbourg, 20 centuries of history route, which lasts 1h10 (€ 13.50 for adults and € 7.80 for ages 4 to 12). It allows you to see from the Ill river the three emblematic districts of Strasbourg: the Grande-Ile first of all, with a very nice passage in the heart of Petite France and its locks. Then the boat crosses the Neustadt, the German-style imperial district, then it goes to the European Parliament, impressive with its large glass and metal facade. As the European institutions are a little out of the way from the historic center, it is a good means of transport to see them without having to go to the other end of the city.
Visit Strasbourg Cathedral
The Notre-Dame de Strasbourg cathedral is the most emblematic monument of the Alsatian capital. Over eight million tourists visit it each year, and it’s one of the first must-see places when you arrive. Built between 1220 and 1439, it is the oldest Gothic cathedral in the world, and with its height of 142m, it was for a long time the tallest building in the world (until 1874). Built-in pink sandstone from the Vosges, its facade stands out with its unique bell tower. The interior visit is free and open. There is no guided tour or audio guide, but for those who want to learn more about the cathedral, it is possible to take an interactive tour on their smartphone with an app. With your headphones, you can stroll at your own pace in and in front of the cathedral, and choose the places where you want to have information and deepen. The best time to see her is at half-past twelve.
Bike ride along the Bruche canal
Did you know? Strasbourg is one of the leading cycling towns in France, with a total of 615km of dedicated lanes. It would be a shame not to take advantage of it, especially since it’s easy and cheap to rent a bike for the day (€ 6) with the Velhop self-service network. We took some at the Velhop store at the station, then we set off along the Bruche canal, a route where we quickly find ourselves in the middle of nature (all the explanations to find the route are in the link…).
You can cycle to Soultz-Les-Bains, 25 km from Strasbourg, or 50km round trip, but you can also turn back if it’s been too long … In any case, we meet very quickly across fields in the countryside. Moreover, we even saw the storks!
Canoe (or kayak) excursion on Ill
To continue on the theme “along the water” and in the heart of nature, the three of us went on a canoe trip on the Ill, the tributary of the Rhine which crosses Strasbourg. Anna, more experienced in water sports, took a kayak solo, and I and Lucie took a canoe. Better to be a group to reduce costs. It is also possible to do it in the city center. We set off a little further, in the direction of La Wantzenau.
Unusual: sleeping on a barge in Strasbourg
Maybe I should have started with that, talking about this weekend in Strasbourg… One of our most unusual activities is that we slept on a barge! And yes, it is possible to do that in Strasbourg. There are barges at the quayside at the marina, quai des Belges, just in front of the Parc de la Citadelle.
Address book for a weekend in Strasbourg
Among the good restaurant addresses in Strasbourg, I can recommend three, which we tried during this weekend. For a chic and trendy lunch or dinner, head to the Brasserie Les Haras, located, as its name suggests, in the old Strasbourg stud farms. A five-minute walk from Petite France, it’s very well located. The kitchen is a modernized version of Alsatian cuisine, and the decor is magnificent. Moreover, we were lucky to meet Jean Dujardin there, so maybe you will have the opportunity to see beautiful people there.
Finally, meet at Chauvins Père et Fils, an original restaurant offering Alsatian-style tapas. The menu is quite varied, and you can taste a lot of different flavors, including Heimbach trout makis, Alsatian herring, fleischkiechle (meat patties) mini-burger style, or the traditional flamekueche (tarts flambées) ).
Otherwise, on the gastronomic side, you should of course not forget to taste the kouglof (or kougelhopf), a pastry of Alsatian tradition.