Canal in Petite France area
One visits many memorable cities whilst on a Rhine River cruise, but my personal favourite is Strasbourg in France. Its name does not sound French but like many border cities, it has a very ‘To and Fro” past. Our guide on a boat tour of the city remarked that his grandmother’s citizenry changed three times during her lifetime: France, Germany and then back to France. This is very typical of many areas in Europe but a bit of an alien concept to a North American visitor.
Strasbourg is a truly beautiful city. Yes, you can say that about many cities but I recall tree- lined streets with stately buildings, areas with surprising modern and unique architecture in its public buildings, and then the old, old buildings of weathered brick and stone, and the half timbered black and pastel ones of La Petite France. Surprises are around every corner. I urge you to take a guided boat tour of the city’s canals (with locks!) to see the older areas and the covered bridges; it is an included excursion on many river cruises so if you are on one of these vacations, you are in luck.
Covered Bridges with Hans von Altenheim Tower and Henry Tower
Strasbourg’s historic city centre, called Grande Ile, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Further out you will see the buildings housing the European Parliament. The city is the centre for many institutions such as the European Court of Human Rights, the International Institute of Human Rights, the Commission for Navigation on the Rhine, the European Ombudsman and many more. It is a centre for learning as well through the University of Strasbourg.
The European Parliament
Interestingly, though it is classified as a major Rhine “port”, Strasbourg is not technically situated on the Rhine but on the River Ill which flows into the Rhine. Chances are, even on a river cruise, you will not “cruise” into this city.
Notre Dame Stained Glass
While there, besides a river/canal tour, do just take a wander about its historic centre. There are many museums worth visiting and like many European cities, a famous cathedral, Notre Dame, to explore. This one, a sandstone Gothic masterpiece, was completed in the 13th century with the tower dating from the mid 1400’s. Its stained glass windows are magnificent. It also has a huge (60 foot plus) astronomical clock for which it is famous: it strikes noon with a display of various wooden figures including Jesus and the Apostles.
Illustration of a street market in Strasbourg
Perhaps you will be lucky as I was and stumble across a giant street market where vendors have tempting displays of crafted items laid out on blankets on the cobbled stone, or booths displaying antiques and collectibles. You will be tempted to give your high school French a go and haggle! Or relax and watch the crowds go by from a street side café. Sip your coffee or cappuccino, savour a delicious pastry or sweet, and absorb the atmosphere of this wonderful city.
You will be enchanted by Strasbourg and its old world delights.
Pastry Shop window
Want to visit Strasbourg on a Rhine River cruise? Cruise Holidays of Topeka has a 10 day tour including 2 days in Paris and an 8 day river cruise on the Viking longship Odin in April 2015. See all the details here, book your spot, and next April you could be sitting in a little café in Strasbourg!
Blog post written by D. MacIntyre of compassmedia.us for The Topeka Traveller. The author was enchanted by Strasbourg on a river cruise. Photos from her own visit, and courtesy of Bigstock