A destination steeped in history and culture the inspiring city of Strasbourg is a mass of wonderful contradictions. Precariously perched between France and Germany Strasbourg has collected traits of both countries to create a wonderful fusion of style, cuisine and culture. As the home to France’s second largest student population Strasbourg is never far away from the action, as well as an excellent selection of cultural and musical events on offer throughout the year.
Clustered around a medieval cathedral and UNESCO-listed downtown core, Strasbourg is one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. The five-star Sofitel Strasbourg Grande Ile (4 place Saint Pierre Le Jeune) leads the city centre’s luxury hotel scene with its giant beds, haute cuisine restaurant and funky, modern vibe – although rural Château de L’Ile (4 quai Heydt) is a better choice if you’re keen to escape the urban crush. Housed in a historic building abutting the cathedral, Hotel Regent Contades (8 avenue de la Liberté) offers central rooms at reasonable prices, and for budget travellers the Première Classe Strasbourg Ouest (6 rue Cerf Ber) specialises in cut-price comfort.
The Bond Street of Strasbourg is Rue des Hallebardes, where elegant designer shops compete for the title of most creative window display. Crystal specialist Baccarat (44 rue des Hallebardes) offers the single biggest reason to visit this part of town – the stunning crystal jewellery, lighting and glassware sold here is worth a look even if you can’t afford the steep prices. Shopping centres Place des Halles (24 place des Halles) and Rivetoile (3 place Dauphine) are easier on the wallet, while the regular farmer’s market at Place du Marché aux Poissons is where the locals pick up their fruit, veg and honey.
Choucroute, slow-cooked pork and flammekueche (flambéed onion tart) are the main Alsatian specialities, and all are readily available at Strasbourg’s street markets and corner cafés. If you’re keen to sample traditional Alsatian cooking, book a table at Au Dauphin (13 place de la Cathédrale) – the choucroute garnie, served with up to seven types of meat, may be heavy on the arteries but it’s certainly worth the indulgence. Au Renard Prêchant (34 rue de Zurich), a temple of hearty cuisine housed in an old 16th-century chapel, is a fabulously cosy spot to spend cold winter evenings. For something completely different, nip into Japanese restaurant Moozé (1 rue de la Demi-Lune) where diners eat from colour-coded plates sent round on a giant conveyor belt.
Le Printemps des Bretelles
This claims to be the biggest festival in France dedicated purely to accordion music. The line-up of events is remarkably diverse, with live acts within the genres of jazz, classical music, rock, dance and cabaret.
La Nuit des Cathédrales
A total of 19 towns across Europe participate in this evening of culture and discovery, designed to show off the Continent’s most spectacular cathedrals. In Strasbourg, the evening programme encompasses music, dance, improvisation and theatrical performances.
Strasbulles, Festival Européen de la Bande-Dessinée
This European Comics Festival highlights highbrow comic artists whose work is seen as politically or artistically important. It attracts participants and voyeurs from around the world.
Strasbourg Jazz Festival
One of France’s biggest and most groundbreaking jazz festivals, this event encourages up-and-coming talent as well as showcasing a range of international artists. Jazz fans should also check out the new Wolfi Jazz festival, held against the backdrop of the Fort Kléber in June.
With more than 90 events focussing on a range of diverse themes, this two-week festival brightens up the winter months in Strasbourg. Expect to see concerts, exhibitions, film screenings and theatre taking place throughout the city.