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Glimpse of

A glimpse of Strasbourg #3: Cathedral

Strasbourg’s Notre-Dame Cathedral is the main symbol of the city. It always pulls us in with its own kind of magnetism. Stopping by the Cathedral square and place du Château is always a part of the ritual for our walks around town, as if we had a subconscious need to visit a dear old friend.

We often like to sit down for a while in place du Château and gaze at this masterpiece of Gothic art. Almost every time, we spot a statue, low relief, or architectural detail we hadn’t noticed before. When the weather is nice, the sunlight and shadows dancing on the pink sandstone from the Vosges mountains gives the façade a distinctive hue.

Imagining thousands of craftsmen and architects working for 250 years to build this monument of over 100 000 tons of stone, without the techniques and technologies we have access to today, is beyond impressive. This immense work of art is the expression of skills passed down for centuries. The Cathedral has followed the city through countless generations, witnessing numerous wars and conflicts. It’s also inspired tales and legends, like the story of the Devil’s Wind.

Gazing at the Cathedral sometimes brings back childhood memories for Jérôme – when he would sit in class on the top floor of his school, and daydream while he admired the amazing view of the Cathedral. He could never get enough of looking at it, noticing how the stone façade would change colors with the seasons and the weather.

The Cathedral’s location in the very heart of Strasbourg, and its single, intricate stone spire reaching 142 meters, make it one of the city’s tallest, most majestic structures, as well as a landmark visible from several different spots. Its uniqueness gives it an even greater power of attraction for visitors and locals alike. It is truly Strasbourg’s most iconic building: Paris has the Eiffel Tower, and Strasbourg has its Cathedral. It is no coincidence that Notre-Dame de Strasbourg has been the most visited landmark in Alsace ever since it was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1988, along with the rest of the Grande Île.

And if this Grand Lady holds a special place in our hearts, it is also because we got married there, on a beautiful day in September 2018…

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Top 5 things to see in Strasbourg

Looking for a dynamic and enjoyable city to spend a weekend with your family, a group of friends, travelling solo or for a romantic getaway? Strasbourg is just the place for you!


Strasbourg is a very comfortably sized city. It’s neither too big, nor too small, and all the main sights are easily accessible by foot or by bike. The Grande Île (the historic city center, surrounded by the river Ill) and the Neustadt quarter are both UNESCO World Heritage sites. Located only a few kilometers from the German border (which you can cross by tram), Strasbourg is an international city – home to a number of European Institutions.


Don’t miss any of the major sights during your first visit – here are Strasbourg’s 5 must-see spots:

• Strasbourg Cathedral
La Petite France
• Neustadt
The European Quarter and the parc de l’Orangerie
• The Banks of the Ill

Check out our full guide!

Strasbourg Cathedral. This single-spired Gothic masterpiece of sandstone lacework was the tallest building in Christendom until the 19th century. Enjoy the view of the ornate façade from rue Mercière, place de la Cathédrale and place du Château, visit the inside to see the rose window, the remarkable statues and the astronomical clock, or get an overview by climbing the stairs up to the observation deck. Find out more here

La Petite France. This picturesque neighborhood in Strasbourg’s old town is located on the banks of the Ill and was known as a bustling milling and tanning district as early as the Middle Ages. Amble along the charming, paved streets, between half-timbered houses. Don’t miss the Ponts Couverts, the Vauban Dam (and the terrace at the top), as well as the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art. Find out more here

Neustadt. The old German imperial quarter has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since July 2017. On avenue de la Liberté, which runs from Palais Universitaire to place de la République, you will find an array of different architectural styles. The Palais du Rhin, Strasbourg National Theater (TNS) and Strasbourg National University Library (BNU) are iconic Neustadt buildings. Find out more here

The European Quarter and the parc de l’Orangerie. Strasbourg is home to several European institutions, such as the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, and the European Court of Human Rights. The peculiar architecture of the European Parliament, which symbolizes the construction of Europe in progress, is a stand-out structure in the neighborhood. With its 26 hectares, the Orangerie is Strasbourg’s oldest park. Find out more here

The Banks of the Ill (the river running around Strasbourg) are perfect for a walk along the water. The quai des Bateliers, which is entirely pedestrian, is particularly suited for a nice stroll. If the weather is nice, why not follow the river all around the city center? You can also explore the city by sightseeing-boat. Find out more here

Check out our full weekend guide!

We’ve prepared a complete guide, ideal for a first-time weekend visit. It has everything you need: concise information (just enough, not too much), useful links, our favorite spots and a ready-made itinerary on Google Maps.

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Glimpse of

A glimpse of Strasbourg #2: Vauban Dam

Due to the restrictive measures put in place to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, the terrace at the top of the Vauban Dam was closed for many months. Seeing it finally open again fills us with hope. How wonderful to be back up there, especially when the weather is so lovely! 

The Vauban Dam was built around 1680 as a part of Strasbourg’s defense strategy, following the designs of the Marquis de Vauban, who served as military engineer under Louis XIV. In the event of an attack, the dam made it possible to raise the level of the river Ill, thereby flooding the southern part of the city and rendering it inaccessible to the enemy. 

To this day, the Vauban Dam still spans the Ill across from the four medieval towers of Ponts Couverts in la Petite France. The platform at the top offers a panoramic, 360°-view of the city – with the Ponts Couverts, la Petite France and Strasbourg Cathedral on one side, and the Strasbourg Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MAMCS) on the other. 

On this particular day, we stayed up there for ages, taking in every detail of the city stretching out before us. Taking much-needed time to enjoy the moment. 

After these long months of waiting, the panoramic terrace opening to the public again seemed to signal a new start, and life slowly getting back to normal. Not quite like before, but differently. It gave us a sense of relief, of getting our freedom back, like the past months’ frustration was finally going to fade away. A cautious, careful freedom, but with hope that we will soon be able to put all of this behind us. Making plans for the future seemed possible again. 

Going up to the terrace of the Vauban Dam gave us a new outlook on reality, a different perspective from what we’d been used to in the last year. 

Before going back down to the real world, we looked over to the nearby Strasbourg University Hospital, thinking of the healthcare workers and all the other people who have contributed to the fight against the pandemic. Thank you!

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unusual Strasbourg

Unusual Strasbourg: the Büchmesser

Located at the corner of rue Mercière and place de la Cathédrale, the belly-measuring column, or “Büchmesser” in Alsatian, was built in 1567 and restored in 2016.

This pink sandstone column is a Strasbourg icon and the vestige of a tradition dating back to the 14th century. 

The bourgeois members of the City Council would use it to gauge their portliness every year for the Schwoertag, which was the day they would swear their allegiance to the Constitution. After being sworn in, they would visit the various guilds in town and attend a feast. Afterwards, if they were unable to slip sideways through the space between the column and the wall of the building, it was time for them to go on a diet. 

Try it yourself, by slipping wetween the belly-measuring column and the wall. The space is 35 centimeters wide! 

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Top 10 best views of the Strasbourg Cathedral

Walking around Strasbourg will allow you to see the Cathedral, a masterpiece of Gothic architecture, from different angles.

Here is our selection of the 10 best vantage points from which to view the Strasbourg Cathedral: 

10. Pont d’Auvergne 

9. Place de la République 

8. Avenue de la Paix-Simone Veil 

7. Rue du Vieil Hôpital 

6. Place des Tripiers  

5. The platform of the Vauban Dam 

4. Ponts Couverts 

3. Quai des Bateliers and passerelle de l’Abreuvoir 

2. Place du Château and the courtyard of the Palais Rohan

1. Rue Mercière