For my day trip to Strasbourg, I decided to take France’s high-speed train, the TGV from Paris. My assigned seat was next to an older gentlemen smartly dressed carrying a briefcase. We engaged in a short conversation with him asking me “Do you work for the European Union?” I said, “No, I’m just visiting Strasbourg for the day.” It may be strange to you to hear a question like that (may even creepy), but if you know Strasbourg well enough, it would not be strange to you. Soon after the train left Paris, the man moved to another seat.
Strasbourg is the capital of Europe because it is where the several offices of the European Union is located, particularly the Palais L’Europe which houses the European Council. It also plays host to the European Parliament and the European Court of Human Rights and many others. People also like to call Strasbourg the capital of Christmas in Europe because of its famous Christmas Market that starts in late November until the beginning of January.
But I’m not interested in visiting Strasbourg because of the European Union. I’m interested in how Strasbourg can be a good reason to spend a day outside Paris as a day trip. Let me tell you why.
Strasbourg is the capital of the Alsace region of France located at the northeastern part of the country sharing its borders with Germany. It is famous for many reasons including the site of the Franco-Prussian war in 1871 making this region practically half-German. If you look closely, the street signs are in two language – French and German. It was not until the end of World War I in 1918 when the Alsace region was returned back to France and had been within its borders ever since.
Strasbourg is about two hours by high speed train from Paris. Once you reach the central train station, you want to hit the tram (A or D) heading towards either the Illkirch Graffenstaders (Tram A) or Aristide Briand (Tram D). Why? Because you want to head to the old city center where the famous Cathedral of Strasbourg is located. From both trams, get off at the Langstrass Grand Rue and walk a couple of blocks east to reach the cathedral. Did I mention that there is an astronomical clock inside the cathedral? So be sure to check them out. The tourist information office is located just across the square from the cathedral as is the post office.
From the town square behind the cathedral you can hit the Rohan Palais housing three of the city’s three museums – The Museum of Decorative Arts, The Museum of Fine Arts, and the Archaeological Museum. From the square, you can also checkout to Maison Kammerzell one of the oldest buildings in the city, and the docks of Batorama, the river cruise company in Strasbourg. By the docks stand the Museum of the City History of Strasbourg which is housed at the old Slaughterhouse by the river.
My favorite part of Strasbourg is the Petit France. Walk about three blocks west from the city center pass the tram stop where some of the oldest buildings in the city is located. The building here reminds one of the half-timbered buildings you see in Germany. This part of town is very walkable so don’t bother renting a car. People in this part of town walks and walks and walks. Beware of cobblestone street, so wear comfortable shoes. But despite all these, I didn’t mind. I like going to places like this because it reminds me that I’m not home. This is why we travels, to discover places like this outside my home town.
When going to Strasbourg make sure to visit the tourist information office and get a map. You can do a walking tour on your own using the map from this office and explore the town yourself. The fare for the tram from the train station is cheap and you can buy them in each stop. Also, consider taking the river cruise in Strasbourg from Batorama. It can certainly give you a different perspective of the city from its century’s old past to its European political present. The cruise it about an hour long and quite inexpensive, about €13.50 per person. You can buy the tickets from their office next to the tourist information office by the cathedral. There are also several restaurants in this part of town so there are many types of cuisines to choose from. If you so choose, you can also visit the neighboring city of Colmar, it’s the next stop on the high-speed train from Paris.
Overall, my trip to Strasbourg turned out to be good. It was one of those day trips from Paris that I would recommend. The train from Paris leaves from Gare de L’Est as all trains heading east of Paris would depart from. I certainly enjoyed my day trip to Strasbourg and the next time I go there, I’m going to check out the Christmas Market.