Unusual Strasbourg

Strasbourg is brimming with tales and legends, hidden gems, unusual discoveries, and unexpected architectural details. To help you explore a different side to the city, here is our selection of tips (sorted by neighborhood):

• The Cathedral quarter
• La Petite France
• Neustadt
• The city center
• The European quarter and Orangerie

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The Cathedral quarter

• The Cathedral in an artillery shell’s line of fire (12 place de la Cathédrale): a shell from the bombing of the city in 1870 is embedded in the façade of the Hôtel Cathédrale.

• Remarkable hidden statues in the Cathedral: while visiting the inside of the Cathedral, try to spot the statue of the Reverend Geiler’s dog (on the pulpit), the sculpture of the man carrying the weight of the Cathedral on his back (at the base of the northern column of the transept), or of a farmer turned to stone, leaning against the railing while gazing at the Astronomical clock (in the south transept, higher up, to the left of the eastern wall.

• Old shop signs: rue des Orfèvres, place de la Cathédrale, rue du Chaudron.

• The courtyard of 24 rue des Orfèvres opens out onto buildings dating from the 14th to the 17th century, as well as the bookshop la librairie de l’Armateur, which specializes in rare, antique, and modern books.

The “Devil’s Wind” (place de la Cathédrale): this local legend will tell you why you can almost always feel a breeze blowing around the Cathedral. Read more about it here

• The belly-measuring column, or “Büchmesser” (10 place de la Cathédrale): this pink sandstone column was once used to gauge the bellies of the bourgeoisie. Read all about it here

• The shop window of Antiquités Richard (quai au Sable): a veritable cabinet of curiosities.

Petite France

The swing bridge: The swing bridge: the pont du Faisan footbridge swings around every time a sightseeing boat comes through the lock, to let it pass through the canal.

• Strasbourg’s old ice house (5 rue des Moulins): from 1897 to 1990, la Petite France was home to a factory that produced ice blocks for restaurant owners, brewers, and private individuals. Made redundant by the advent of home refrigerators, the factory was remodeled into a luxury hotel. The machinery of the old ice house, such as the massive cogwheels, is still visible today in the basement of the hotel Régent-Petite France. Open for visitors with a reservation only during the European Heritage Days.

• An incredible tree that’s over 350 years old (2 quai de la Bruche): it is said that this London planetree, which spreads its large branches out on the banks of the river Ill, was planted in 1667. The trunk has an impressive circumference, measuring 4.5 meters at its widest! At almost 350 years old, this venerable plane tree is one of Strasbourg’s oldest trees.

Statues from the Cathedral inside the Vauban dam (place du Quartier Blanc): the Musée de l’Œuvre Notre-Dame keeps statues from the Cathedral that have been replaced inside the Vauban dam. Despite being a little damaged, they are part of the cultural heritage of the city.

• The gutter-eating lion (on the quay just downstairs from pont Saint-Martin): on the red façade of Saint-Thomas’s school, a pink sandstone sculpture of an open-mawed lion looks like it’s eating the gutter.

• A quirky little house (quai du Woerthel) or rather two half-houses, among the more traditional houses of la Petite France.

Neustadt quarter

• The Egyptian House (10 rue du Général Rapp): this building displays an Art Nouveau twist on an idealized Egyptian esthetic. Read more about it here

• The face of Kaiser Wilhelm II can be found on the wrought-iron gates on either side of the Palais du Rhin (place de la République). The Palais du Rhin was formerly the German imperial palace, ordered by Wilhelm I, and inaugurated by his grandson Wilhelm II.

The hall of the Palais Universitaire: free entry during the university’s opening hours.

The geometric staircase of the BNU (6 place de la République): the staircase of the National University Library can be seen from the reception at the center of the building if you look towards the skylight.

The Botanical Garden (28 rue Goethe): Strasbourg Botanical garden was founded in the early 17th century, before it was moved to the Neustadt campus in 1884. Today, it is home to over 6 000 plant species. Read all about it here

The Janus fountain (square Markos Botzaris): this fountain was designed in 1988 by cartoonist and illustrator Tomi Ungerer. Learn more here

City center

• Rue Sainte-Madeleine: a charming little street that locals have decorated with colors and plants.

• The medieval battlements (place Sainte-Madeleine): some of the last vestiges of the third extension of the fortification of Strasbourg, from 1228.

Rue du Jeu-des-Enfants: when this street was pedestrianized a few years ago, locals decorated it with plant beds and splashes of color. Read more about it here

• La Cour du Corbeau (6-8 rue des Couples): this 16th-century building was renovated between 2007 and 2009.

The statue of the “Iron man” or “Homme de fer” (2 place de l’Homme de fer): place de l’Homme de fer owes its current name to the life-size statue of a sergeant from the city patrol wearing a suit of armor, which used to serve as a shop sign for an 18th-century swordsmith.

• Saint-Pierre-le-Jeune Protestant church (place Saint-Pierre-le-Jeune): this Protestant church, with its long history, is made up of Romanesque, Gothic and Gothic Revival elements. Don’t miss the nave’s Gothic Revival murals, the Gothic archway in the rood screen, the Baroque choir, and the Romanesque cloister. Saint-Pierre-le-Jeune is open to visitors, except during church services. Free entry.

The oldest wine in the world (1 place de l’Hôpital): the 1200 m² vaulted cellar of Strasbourg Hospice is a testament to the importance of wine in the history of Strasbourg Hospital. Its gallery of barrels holds over fifty oak casks that are still in use, as well as several historic barrels dating back to the 16th, 18th, and 19th centuries. One of them still contains wine from 1472, making it the oldest barreled wine in the world.

The frescoed façade of a renovated Renaissance house (9 rue Sainte-Hélène).

• The DNA rooster that crows at noon (17 rue de la Nuée Bleue): every day at noon, the rooster perched above the clock outside the offices of les DNA (Strasbourg’s daily newspaper) crows three times. Across the street, a hen sitting on her nest clucks back, before laying golden eggs. It’s like a touch of farmyard atmosphere in the middle of town!

The courtyard of number 120 Grand’rue leads to a 16th-century townhouse. A lovely little discovery whenever the carriage door next to Quai des Brumes bookshop is open.

A massive bear (5 rue du Noyer): since 2015, a giant bear has been watching over passers-by in rue du Noyer. Sitting in a nook high up on the façade of an apartment complex, this bear is 5 meters tall, wide, and long. It’s made from polystyrene held up by a metal framework and covered in resin. The artists are two alumni from of the École Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs de Strasbourg: Antoine Halbwachs (engraver and sculptor) and Christophe Wehrung (painter and sculptor). The piece is a nod to the street’s former name; it was called “Bear alley” (Bärengesselin) in the 18th century, and then “rue du Petit Ours” (Little Bear street) between 1816 and 1823

• The façade of the École Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs (1 rue de l’Académie): this Art Nouveau façade illustrates the array of subjects taught at the school of Decorative Arts. 

• Goethe’s house (36 rue du Vieux-Marché-aux-Poissons): Johann Wolfgang von Goethe lived on rue du Vieux-Marché-aux-Poissons in 1770 and 1771.

European quarter and Orangerie

• All Saints Orthodox church (16 rue du Général Conrad): a pastel-hued gem between the Parc de l’Orangerie and the Rhine.

• Original sections of the Berlin Wall (allée des Droits de l’Homme): four original panels from the Berlin Wall are displayed outside the European Court of Human Rights. The panels were painted by Thierry Noir in 1984, who was the first artist to paint the Wall, even though it was still illegal at the time. 

• Stork street: storks love Strasbourg. There are dozens of stork’s nests along boulevard du Président Edwards, right next to the parc de l’Orangerie. There are especially many happy couples in the brooding season, in March and April.

The Hemicycle of the European Parliament (7 place Adrien Zeller): you can actually visit the Hemicycle of the European Parliament (no need to book in advance). The tour lasts about an hour. 

• Square du Tivoli-Tomi Ungerer (avenue Schutzenberger, across from the Palais de la Musique et des Congrès): when the cherry trees are blooming, this peaceful park offers a dreamy escape to Japan during sakura season. 

• Pont de la Protestation: this bridge was named after the protest made by the French parliament in Bordeaux against the annexation of Alsace-Lorraine by Germany during WWII. It is recognizable by its Ionian colonnade.