After exploring the Black Forest, we stayed two nights in Strasbourg, France. Strasbourg sits right next to the border between France and Germany, in the Alsace region.
Just days before we arrived in Strasbourg, French police arrested a couple of terror suspects that were allegedly planning a big attack in Paris (just call me Katie Couric), so the entire city was on high alert. Law enforcement officers carrying assault rifles patrolled the streets in groups of three. They were EVERYWHERE, and they were even checking bags before you were allowed to walk onto the Grande Île (island in the middle of the city). During the whole time we were there, I couldn’t tell if their presence made me feel better or worse about the whole thing. I think better…
At any rate, we loved this city and the interesting clash of cultures. The Alsace region is home to a power struggle between French and German cultures, and this makes Strasbourg very unique. Because of its strategic location, the European Parliament meets in Strasbourg. It was fun to discover signs of both French and German influence as we explored.
The Christmas markets were over the top here. In fact, Strasbourg hosted the very first Christmas market ever, in 1570. Dripping, twinkling lights line every street on the Grande Île, and vendors sell homemade ornaments and mulled wine (vin chaud in French)
ALSO: the Airbnb we stayed in here was our favorite Airbnb we’ve ever stayed in. You HAVE to stay here if you ever go to Strasbourg. This perfectly cozy and trendy flat is on the Grand Ile, just steps around the corner from the Strasbourg Cathedral. It was beautiful, and I wish I lived in it.
Here are a few suggestions of how to spend your time in Strasbourg:
Explore the Petite France District.
This historic area was definitely our favorite spot to explore in Strasbourg. We strolled for hours. Order a café crème and a croissant and sit outside at literally any of the cafes lining the Instagram-worthy streets. Check out the quirky houses on Rue du Bain. Then, head over to the Barrage Vauban (sandstone bridge built in the 1600s) at sunset for a stunning view.
Go to the top of the Strasbourg Cathedral.
The Strasbourg Cathedral is by far one of the most impressive cathedrals I’ve ever seen. For 227 years until 1874, this unique Gothic cathedral was the tallest building in the world. If you have time, go to the top of the North Tower that was built in 1439 for views expanding to the Black Forest. If you are there in December, check out the live nativity scene right outside.
Enjoy a traditional Alsatian Meal.
It took us about five minutes to find that Alsatian food is INSANELY GOOD. After living off of bratwurst and beer in Germany and then off of soup and side salads in Switzerland, the prices and quality of the food in Strasbourg were refreshing. Classic France, one-upping everyone in the culinary arts. We had one of the best meals of the whole trip in the underground cellar at Gurtlerhoft. Ty ordered the pork knuckle, roasted in beer with fried potatoes, and I got the chicken with riesling sauce and homemade noodles. Also, check out L’Argentoratum. We had an amazing meal here, too. The Alsace region is famous for its riesling and pinot gris, so order a glass and get cultured, baby.
But most importantly, take a day trip to Colmar.
Colmar, just a 45-minute train or drive from Strasbourg, was SO dreamy. We hate to beat the fairytale theme of this trip into the ground, but Colmar was straight out of one. In fact, this perfect little town inspired the scenery in the original Beauty and the Beast. Colmar is probably the cutest place in the world. Vibrantly-colored, timber-lined houses lean precariously over cobblestone streets and picturesque wooden bridges.
We drove over one evening to explore the Christmas markets, and we fell in love. If we had known about it, we would’ve chosen Colmar instead of Strasbourg as our base in the Alsace region. I can imagine this place being so heavenly during the spring or summer; apparently flowers line every street and bridge (sigh). I suppose my retirement is settled now.