July 16, 2010

Strasbourg, one of Europe’s most attractive cities

Having family living in Alsace, I almost feel like I'm from Strasbourg. I love the city, the athmosphere and off course the good food. So I'm trying to come for a visit at least once a year, when I'm not on the roads.

Located close to the border with Germany, Strasbourg is the capital and principal city of the Alsace region in north-eastern France. The historic city centre, the Grande Île ("Grand Island"), was classified a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1988 thanks to the richness and sheer density of its heritage sites.

The must see are:
The Kammerzell house (16 Place de la Cathedrale): A genuine "jewel in the crown" of Strasbourg’s architecture, this house once provided income for several generations of merchants. During the 15th century, people would sell their goods under the carved stone arches of its ground floor. The intricately carved half-timbered frames decorating the upper floors date from 1589.

The Barrage Vauban (Place Hans-Jean-Arp): The Barrage Vauban (Vauban weir) is a weir erected in the 17th century on the river Ill west of the "Petite France" district. It was constructed from 1686 to 1700 by the French Engineer Jacques Tarade according to plans by Vauban. Several stories high, it houses sculptures in its main level and a panoramically terrace on its roof.

Petite France district: This is the most picturesque district of old Strasbourg. Fishermen, millers and tanners once lived and worked in this part of town where the streets have been built level with the waterways. The magnificent half-timbered houses date from the 16th and 17th centuries. Their sloping roofs open out onto lofts where hides were once dried.

The Cathedrale: it is a Roman Catholic cathedral. Although considerable parts of it are still in Romanesque architecture, it is widely considered to be among the finest examples of high, or late, Gothic architecture. Erwin von Steinbach is credited for major contributions from 1277 to his death in 1318. Described by Victor Hugo as a "gigantic and delicate marvel», the cathedral is visible far across the plains of Alsace. Inside, the slending nave inspires meditation. The monumental organ has an incredible buffet with automatons. Opening hours: Every day from 7 a.m. to 11.20 a.m. and from 12.35 to 7 p.m.

The astronomical clock: it is located inside the Cathedral. Major artifact of the Renaissance, it is the product of a collaboration between artists, mathematicians, watchmakers, sculptors, painters and creators of automatons. The clock dates from 1843. Its main features, besides the automata, are a perpetual calendar (including a computus), an orrery (planetary dial), a display of the real position of the Sun and the Moon, and solar and lunar eclipses. The main attraction is the procession of the life-size figures of Christ and the Apostles which occurs every day at 12:30pm.

The Cathedral platform: A climb up to the platform (332 steps) is a thrilling experience. The spiral staircase takes you to the very heart of the building, where you can discover some amazing views. The panoramic view from the top of the platform is breathtaking, overlooking the rooftops of Strasbourg and stretching out as far as the Vosges and the Black Forest in Germany when the weather is clear.

The Palais Royan: Former residence of the prince-bishops, it was built from 1732 to 1742. Now it houses three museums: the Decorative Arts Museum, the Fine Arts Museum and the Archaeological Museum.

The European institutions: New York, Geneva and Strasbourg are the only cities in the world which are home to international institutions without being national capitals. The choice of Strasbourg as the European capital following the Second World War is no accident. The city stands as a shining symbol of reconciliation between peoples and of the future of Europe.
Discovering Europe’s institutions is also a great opportunity to admire some marvelous examples of contemporary architecture.

Kronenbourg Brewery: it is a brewery founded in 1664 by Geronimus Hatt in Strasbourg as the Hatt Brewery. The name comes from the area (Cronenbourg) where the brewery relocated in 1850. The company is owned by the Carlsberg Group. The main brand is Kronenbourg 1664, a 5.5% abv pale lager which is the best selling premium lager brand in France. You will follow a picturesque route in the ancient vaulted cellars, before watching a film projection on the history and manufacture of the beer, and then end the visit by tasting different beers. Address :  68 route d'Oberhausbergen 67200 Strasbourg Cronenbourg

How to get there:
- By train: now that the TGV (high speed train) goes to Strasbourg, you can get there only in 2h20 from Paris.
- By air: Strasbourg-Entzheim International Airport is just 10 km from Strasbourg town centre via the motor-way.

Where to eat:
In Strasbourg, cooking is more than just an art of living, it is a vibrant and living culture backed up by centuries of tradition, yet constantly experimenting and innovating, driven on by the talent of the great chefs and the dynamism of the city’s restaurant owners.
Traditional Alsatian specialties such as sauerkraut, baeckeoffe, flambé tart, spaetzle and foie gras can be best enjoyed in the "winstubs", local Alsatian taverns known for their friendly atmosphere. Strasbourg is renowned for its hundreds of restaurants and brasseries offering the latest culinary trends and dishes from all around the world.

When to go:
Strasbourg can be visited all year around. Winters can be really cold with snow but don’t miss the Christmas market every year in December.

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