Strasbourg and its Grand Ile in one day, France

Monday, September 17, 2012

After some days around Karlsruhe, on the 27th of July the next destination would have been the close city of Strasbourg in the Alsace region, object of several wars between France and Germany and nowdefinitely part of France.

However, besides what happened in the history, several towns around Strasbourg keep its German names. Once arrived in Strasbourg you realize that the main language used is French and the name of the streets are bilingual ( French / German).

Honestly I knew there was the European Parlament there (I'm a supporter of European Union), but the main reason of this visit was the Grand Ile, the historic centre of Strasbourg that is part of the list of Unesco sites.

Diaries of an explorer

Ready to explore it?

Parked the car in Place Kleber, I found immediately a touristic centre where I bought a map of the city for 1 euro, in order to find the landmarks of the Grand Ile.

The reason why the Grande Ile ( or Big Island) has been added to the list of Unesco sites is the following: it "has an outstanding complex of monuments within a fairly small area. The cathedral, the four ancient churches and the Palais Rohan form a district that is characteristic of a medieval town". Font - World Heritage List site

So the first destination was the big Cathedral of Notre Dame, an incredible example of Gothic architecture, built between the 13th and the 15th Century, with its 142 meters tower that dominates the entire city.

It was really hard to find a place where to take a decent picture with this huge cathedral, but in the end it was really worth. This is what you see when you are in front of the main entrance and you look up:

The ticket to visit the cathedral is about 4 Euros and if you want with 5 Euros you can buy a separate ticket to go at 66 meters high to have a great panoramic view.

Inside, you realize about the spaces of the cathedral, superb stained glass windows ( 13th - 14th Century),
statues, the pillar of angels
and its main attraction, the Astronomic Clock.

The connection with the one seen in Prague was immediate with little 12;30 the Death tolls the bell and the disciples come to Jesus

while the cock was singing three times.

The visit to the cathedral did not come to an end, as I decided to enjoy the panoramic view of Strasbourg. There are no lifts and it's better if you are a bit trained to reach the belvedere area. I tried to recognize the Petit France, but the view of the historic centre was really nice.

If you feel dizzy, please note that there are many opened windows so it would be not safe for you to reach this "terrace".

After the visit to the cathedral the same religious site was surrounded by houses similar to the ones seen in Switzerland and Germany in the nice Place de la Cathedrale. The house that really was different from the other ones was the Maison Kamerzell, considered the most beautiful house of Strasbourg and owned during the centuries by the richest merchant families of the city.

The other side of the Place of Cathedrale was closed because of restorations of the pavement between the cathedral and the Palais of Rohan, built following the Paris palace style during the 18th Century, that became residence of Napoleon Bonaparte. Now it hosts the Museum of Decorative Arts, the Archaeological Museum and the Museum of Beaux-Arts

Once crossed the Palais of Rohan, you find the river and the possibility to have a boat trip along the river (trips start every 15-30 minutes), but for reasons of time I could not enojy that trip. This was a pity as the houses along the Ile river are really nice and make Strasbourg a pitoresque place.

Following the Quai St Thomas I got to the St. Thomas Church, built between the 12th and the 15th Century that shows one of the most important Baroque sculptures of France.

A couples of hundreds of meter beyond this church there's the district called the Petit France, a pitoresque district that has the form of a fork (but this can be seen just flying over the city). The Petit France was inhabitated by fishers and other artesans and has some watermills that to regulate the water flow.

The western border of Petit France is delimited by "Les Ponts Couverts", built in the Middle Ages and part of the medieval fortification.

From the covered bridges you can reach the Barrage Vauban, that replaced the old medieval fortifications represented by the Ponts Couverts with a system that permitted to block the water flow in case of sieges. Unfortunately it was under restoration so I could not visit it or cross it.

Coming back through the Petite France you can enjoy sights like this

and the most beautiful house of the district, the Maison of Tanneurs.

Following some little streets, where the local craftsmen had their workshop, you get to the big Place Kleber and then I went to the St Pierre le Jeune church, really impressive, for its colours and frescoworks

So i was really impressed by Strasbourg and when I came back to my car to head to Zurich, I reached the European Parliament, but honestly I found less monumental such as the European Union in Brussels.

Travel tips:

  • Strasbourg really is worth a visit: besides chosing it because of the Grand Ile the city has many beautiful landmarks, such as one of the biggest Gothic cathedrals, the Petit France and enchanting water spots and can be inserted in the top travel destinations list. 
  • Excluding the museums you can visit it in 4-5 hours
  • I would also add the boat trip as things to do there.
Where to sleep:
  • Budget accomodation: Hotel Vendome, located in front of the centrail railway station and at 1,2 km from the Cathedral, lounge bar, breakfast not included (8 Euros per person per night), prices around 60 Euros per double room per night. 
  • In case of a group of people (max 8 people) you can opt for the Appartement d'exception Le Kleber, located at just 300 meters from the Cathedral, that can contain up to 8 people.
  • Mid-range accomodation: Hotel Les Haras, located in the beautiful Petite France and in a 18th Century building, courtesy bath set, breakfast included, 145 Euros per double room per night.
  • Luxury accomodation: Hotel Regent Petit France and Spa, located in the beautiful Petit France and in a reconverted mill, with wellness area, hammam, champagne bar, breakfast included, prices around 199 Euros per night per double room.

After taking the pic to the parliament, I left the city to go to Zurich: i was lucky as some minutes later it started raining. 

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