It’s like a fairy tale. That’s my first thought. The sort of picturesque buildings and streets you’d see on a postcard… except it’s building after building and street and street of photo-worthy spots.
It’s called the Petite France quarter of Strasbourg, in northeast France. It’s like stepping into a different world. I spent a few days exploring and relaxing here. Here’s what it’s like and a few spots to check out.
The easiest way is by train, of course. France’s TGV high-speed rail network is one of the best in the world. Just a few hours from Paris, Strasbourg’s main station is just a few minutes’ walk to the Petite France neighborhood. In the other direction, it’s just a few hours from Frankfort, though the trains are quite as simple. It’s worth checking Rome2Rio or SNCF.
You could drive, I suppose, but parking is going to be an issue. Best to try to find a hotel with parking.
Where to stay
I think it’s worth splurging to stay inside the Petite France area. Strasbourg itself is quite nice, but more modern European. If you want to get absorbed into this fairy tale place, best to stay in it.
What to see
My best advice is to wander around. It’s not a big area and with the river there, it’s hard to get truly lost. If you’re like me, photography is a big part of travel. Several of the photos in this article were taken within a few feet of each other, including the one at the top, the cool Tiny Planet you see right above, and the one below this paragraph. This is the Google Maps location, but because it’s not a road it’s not pinpointed.
It’s the southern end of the boat lock in this image. Can’t miss it.
Another great spot is the Cathedral.
The inside is gorgeous, of course, and it’s worth paying the few Euros to climb to the top.
I did it on a hot day and while the stone keeps the stairwells fairly cool, definitely bring some water. The views from up top are excellent.
Earlier in the day is probably better, as the setting sun obscures most of the old town. Depends on your photography prowess, of course.
At night there’s a light show on the Barrage Vauban covered bridge/dam at edge of the quarter. You’ll hear it from all over when it’s playing. It’s quite well done, actually.
One thing I didn’t do is one of the boat tours. Be careful with these. I’m sure it can be cool, but may of the boats had windows so old they were nearly opaque. The open-top boats are probably better, but if it’s a hot sunny day… well I hope you have a hat.
What to eat
As much as I love food, I’m not a food writer. It’s France, though, so you’re more often to hit than miss. Two standouts come to mind. L’Eveil des Sens, which is just a few minutes from that photo spot, was one of the best meals I had during that trip to France. The standout was Noirmoutier potatoes, which I didn’t believe could be, but were definitely better than other potatoes I’ve had.
Another excellent meal was at Maison des Tanneurs, which is the building you see in the middle of the photo at the top. The building is over 400 hundred years old, though it’s been a restaurant “only” 70.
It was also just the experience, as the interior is just as beautiful as the exterior.
The view out isn’t bad either.
Oh, and the ice cream shop next door to L’Eveil des Sens, called simply Ice Cream, offered up delicious dessert.
I stayed in Strasbourg for 4 days. I absolutely loved it, but this was probably more than most people need. Two days and a night or two would probably be enough for most people to explore and get the vibe of the place. Maybe a day longer to do it at a relaxing speed.
Definitely worth a visit. Absolutely wonderful.