Sometimes we get the urge to go somewhere slightly off the beaten track and our most recent trip saw us visit Strasbourg in France, which we booked on a whim after searching for random cheap flights on Skyscanner then looking up the resulting destinations on Pinterest. It might not be the usual holiday planning tactic but it was successful! Strasbourg is so pretty (anyone else getting Beauty and The Beast village vibes?).
Strasbourg is a brilliant option for a short break as it’s only an hour away from London (nervous flyer bonus points), the perfect size to explore in 48 hours, fairly quiet and un-touristy, a snap-happy traveller’s dream (as evidenced by my inability to cut down the number of photos in this post) and the locals don’t mock attempts to speak French – even when your boyfriend keeps slipping into Spanish.
Things to see & do
Petite France – a UNESCO World Heritage site and by far the prettiest part of Strasbourg (of course, therefore the only part that’s really thronging with tourists), its name has less pleasant, less obvious origins than the city’s German/French/German/French history.
Cathédrale Notre Dame – a gorgeous lace-like building, we were lucky enough to visit during the millenium celebrations and accidentally witnessed the spectacular nighttime light show. We didn’t get the fuss about the astronomical clock but make sure you climb the spiral staircase 66 metres to the open platform for views all over the city (5€).
Caves Historique des Hospices – ever fancied visiting a wine cave in the medieval basement of a hospital? Founded in 1395, it’s as creepy as it sounds and a good (free!) way to escape the heat for half an hour.
Batorama boat tour – ok, slightly cheesy but surprisingly informative. Tip: if you’re paying in cash don’t queue on Rue de Rohan, where they only accept card; you’ll need to go to the floating hut just down the nearby steps to the riverside.
River Ill – take a river or canalside stroll, particularly lovely at sunset accompanied by a bottle of local wine or deux bieres.
Brocante (flea market) – I basically had to be dragged away from the Place de la Grande Boucherie so we didn’t miss our aforementioned boat trip, but not before snapping up a set of five vintage copper pans for 25€(!) and an old French-made watch for 5€. Bonjour bargains!
The local area – Strasbourg is only 4km from the German border and not far from Switzerland either, so there’s the potential for multi-country trips and nearby activities include wine tours and cycling routes. We opted to take the train 30-minutes south and visit another French medieval town, Colmar.
Where to stay
We checked into the Hotel Regent Contades which was adequate and a pleasant 10-minute walk to the Cathédrale, but after a catalogue of small but irritating errors (including rude staff and broken brand new beauty products) we wouldn’t recommend it. (Should I change this section to ‘where not to stay?!)
Places to eat & drink
Patisserie Kubler, 29 Avenue des Vosges – home of the best éclair I’ve ever had (I went for vanilla).
231 East Street, 3 Place Saint Etienne – awesome burgers and chips with great service.
Gurtlerhoft, 13 Place de la Cathédrale – traditional Alsatian fair, nice wine and friendly waiters.
Le Baeckeoffe d’Alsace, 14 Rue des Moulins – a good pit stop for bieres and tartes flambées.
PUR etc., multiple branches – tasty healthy food and drinks (though they do good ‘bad’ stuff too, just sayin’).
Local cuisine includes tarte flambée, pork knuckles and choucroute garnie (Alsace sauerkraut with all the meat). Drinks-wise try Fischer beer, Riesling wine and Crément (essentially Alsatian champagne).