The Strasbourg Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (frequently referred to as MAMCS) is one of the only museums in France to curate their collection exhibit in a manner that is representative of western European art from 1870 to present day.
The 13 000 m2modern museum building is nestled between the river Ill and the historic district of la Petite France. As its architect Adrien Fainsilber pointed out: “Interaction with the water, light and the historic old town greatly influenced the layout for the museum itself, as well as the surrounding area.” One of the building’s distinctive features is its massive skylighted central nave, which was designed as an “inside street”. It provides the museum with an architectural spine and allows visitors with a clear and open itinerary.
When the MAMCS first opened in 1998, the ground floor was dedicated to modern art and temporary exhibits, while the four large rooms upstairs were dedicated to contemporary art.
In 2018, in honor of the museum’s 20-year anniversary, the layout of the permanent exhibits was entirely reimagined with a curation entitled “Joyeuses frictions” (Joyful frictions). This new approach was constructed around the most noteworthy artists of the museum’s collection: Doré, Monet, Signac, Pissarro, Sisley, Rodin, Arp, Kandinsky, Kupka, Picasso, Séchas, Brauner…
Modern and contemporary art are now exhibited side by side on both floors. The full spectrum of different techniques (painting, sculpture, sketches, etchings, photography, installations, video) are shown side by side, organized by theme in around ten different sections. Designated spaces, like the Studio, have been created within the exhibits, encouraging visitors to interact with the artwork. There are three to four temporary exhibits every year. Make sure you check out the 1000 m2 mural on the façade around the entrance: “From the Air We Share” by art collective FAILE.
In addition to the exhibition spaces, the MAMCS also has an auditorium, a bookshop, a library, and a café. Don’t miss the terrace of the Art Café, which offers a unique panoramic view of the Vauban Dam, la Petite France, and Strasbourg Cathedral.
Oslo is the capital of Norway, but more importantly, it’s also Stéphanie’s birth town.
As a dynamic, creative, inspired city, Oslo is great to visit any time of year. Facing the fjord and surrounded by forest-clad hills, it’s the ideal destination for nature lovers.
Oslo is a city in motion – it’s undergone massive changes and evolved enormously in the last few years. Entire neighborhoods – such as Bjørvika, around the Opera house – have been created. There are plenty of parks, gardens, and tree-lined avenues, making it a uniquely green city, where nature is easily accessible all over town.
Oslo isn’t a cold city, neither literally, nor figuratively. On the contrary, it’s welcoming and conducive to interesting architectural, artistic, cultural, and personal discoveries.
In the summer, the locals flock to the seaside to lounge on the beach, unwind in a floating sauna, or take a dip in the sea. In the winter, the shorter days are better suited for visiting a museum or an exhibit, or finding a nice café, bar, or restaurant where you can enjoy the koselig (pronounced “kooshlee”) atmosphere. The notion of koselig can be defined as a warm, pleasant, cozy feeling. It could be created by soft and comfortable interior that makes you want to wrap yourself up in a blanket, an intimate get-together with friends in the summer, or a lovely hot drink in the winter.
We’ve selected 4 Oslo neighborhoods that we particularly enjoy. The idea is to take in the general atmosphere of an area, rather than point out very specific (more or less touristy) sights.
The construction of the Opera house by the Oslo fjord was the first step in transforming the old harbor district of Bjørvika into a vibrant new neighborhood.
Designed by Norwegian architecture company Snøhetta, the Opera, with its white marble roof, seems almost to emerge from the cool waters of the fjord. Don’t miss the atrium inside the building (a harmonious composition of wood, metal, and glass), and particularly the roof of the Opera house, to enjoy the splendid view of the Oslo fjord
Take a stroll along Langkaia dock (to the east, across from the Opera) to observe the unique architecture of the building in detail. The dock will lead you to SALT, an open-air cultural space combining, art, music, street food, architecture, and saunas.
The Deichman Public Library (to the north, across from the Opera) was conceived as a modern-day multimedia library and as a shared, living space. It contains a vast collection of works organized by genre over 5 floors. The building’s many couches and chairs make it the perfect place to study or relax. Mini movie rooms are set up for private showings, and there are fun activities for kids. There’s even a dedicated space for 3D printing! The café terrace above the library entrance also offers an ideal view of the Opera house. The Deichman Library was recently named the world’s best new public library by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions.
Between the Opera and the new Munch Museum, a floating footbridge allows pedestrians to walk to the tip of Sørenga – a new neighborhood that’s been built on the water, where young Oslo-dwellers and families alike meet up to enjoy beautiful summer days.
A collection of buildings called the Barcode Project and the façade of the Munch Museum make up Oslo’s new skyline.
The view from Akrobaten footbridge, which spans the railway, perfectly illustrates the barcode effect of the architecture. Thanks to the multitude of cafés, bars, and restaurants located on the ground floor of the buildings, it’s become a very lively area.
Along the waterfront, several saunas, beaches, and pontoons attract those who want to bathe, relax, and enjoy the fjord.
Aker Brygge, Tjuvholmen and Akershus Fortress
The pedestrian docks at Aker Brygge offer a completely open view of the fjord, Akershus Fortress, and City Hall. The docks are lined with shops and restaurants that are particularly popular with tourists. Aker Brygge is also the point of departure for the little yellow ferries going out to the Bygdøy peninsula, or for fjord cruises.
For future reference: the new National Museum, which will open in 2022, is located by Aker Brygge.
Extend your stroll along the boardwalk at Aker Brygge by continuing out to the Tjuvholmen peninsula, where you will find the Astrup-Fearnley Museum of Modern Art (designed by architect Renzo Piano), a sculpture park (with pieces by artists such as Louise Bourgeois and Anish Kapoor). The clean-cut architecture of the museum and the surrounding buildings give Tjuvholmen its unique character.
Akershus Fortress was built around a medieval castle inthe 17th century. This massive, steep citadel with paved pathways is home to several museums (The Armed Forces Museum, The Norwegian Resistance Museum, and Akershus medieval castle) and offers a splendid view of Oslo harbor.
Grünerløkka and Vulkan
Exploring Grünerløkka on foot is the best way to soak up the vibe of this bustling neighborhood. “Løkka” (pronounced “luh-ka”), as it’s affectionately called, is dotted with vintage and design shops, secondhand stores, koselig little cafés and restaurants, concert venues and bars, large squares, and lush parks. The area is popular with students, young families, and pensioners alike.
At the edge of Grünerløkka, in the Sagene area, a walk along the Akerselva river will reveal a string of converted brick factory buildings, waterfalls, and green spaces.
The new Vulkan neighborhood is also located by the bank of Akerselva, with Mathallen, a food court and indoor market concept, as its main attraction. Various shops and stalls sell culinary products and dishes from all over the world (Norway, Mexico, Japan, France, Hungary, China, Italy…) that you can then enjoy outside or in the common seating area in the middle of the market.
Our tip: near Mathallen, you can explore the little side streets and alleys around legendary café-bar Blå, where you’ll discover a unique, handmade outdoor chandelier, as well as many street-art pieces.
The old tree houses in Telthusbakken and Damstredet can be reached on foot from Vulkan, where they’re hanging on to the hillside in the St. Hanshaugen (St. John’s Hill) district, near Gamle Aker Kirke (Oslo’s oldest church, built in 1100) and Vår Frelsers Gravlund cemetery (where a great many famous Norwegians are buried, such as playwright Henrik Ibsen and painter Edvard Munch).
Telthusbakken and Damstredet are both quiet and very instagrammable streets with 19th-century houses.
Telthusbakken is lined with colorful, wooden houses on one side, and with community gardens on the other. At the top of Telthusbakken, it’s worth stopping a while to enjoy the view of the east side of Oslo.
The quaint old houses that line both sides of Damstredet all have lush little gardens. The great Norwegian poet Henrik Wergeland lived in the pink house by the top of Damstredet for a few years.
Frogner, the Vigeland park and the Royal Palace
Frogner is the capital’s calm and affluent embassy neighborhood, nestled between the Royal Palace and the Vigeland park.
The Vigeland park is one of Oslo’s most popular spotsfor locals and tourists alike. More than 200 sculptures made by artist Gustav Vigeland between 1920 et 1943 can be found all over this massive park, which was created on farmland in the early 20th century. Most of the sculptures are nudes representing the different ages of life, the most famous of which are the Monolith, the great central fountain, and “Sinnataggen” (Angry Boy). The park also has playgrounds, tennis courts, two museums (the Vigeland Museum and Oslo City Museum), cafés, a stadium, and a public pool. A large number of benches and greens make it the perfect place for a picnic.
The Royal Palace, which was built in the neo-classical style and finished in 1849, has been the main residence of the Norwegian royal family since the country gained its independence in 1905. It’s easily recognizable by its yellow façade and its ornate balcony with six Ionian columns. While the Palace square is one of Oslo’s must-see sights, the Royal Palace is only open to the public in the summer months. It is possible to watch the changing of the guards (every day at 13:30).
A majestic statue of King Karl-Johan of Sweden-Norway (born Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte in the French town of Pau) towers over the Palace square.
The Palace is located at the west end of de Karl Johans Gate (Oslo’s main shopping street), and is surrounded by the large, beautiful park of Slottsparken.
• Bygdøy is a large peninsula with bucolic and woodland views, elegant villas, marinas, seaside walks and several museums (such as the Fram Museum, dedicated to polar explorers, and the open-air Norwegian Folk Museum, which contains a collection of traditional Norwegian houses, as well as a magnificent stave church).
• The hills around Oslo, particularly Holmenkollen, with its famous ski jump
The Egyptian House, located in the Neustadt quarter (10 rue du Général Rapp), was designed by young, self-taught architect Franz Scheyder in the early 20th century. The building’s style is a blend of Art Nouveau and an idealized interpretation of ancient Egyptian esthetics. This unusual apartment building is easily recognizable by its large central fresco, and by its wrought-iron balconies wth stylized bat motifs.
Looking for a dynamicand enjoyable cityto 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. 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 morehere
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 morehere
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.
The Museum of Fine Arts is located on the upper level of the Palais Rohan, which also houses the Museum of Decorative Arts and the Museum of Archaeology. Designed like a grand Parisian manor – or “hôtel particulier” – the Palais Rohan was built for Cardinal de Rohan-Roubise, Prince-Bishop of Strasbourg, between 1732 and 1742. After the French Revolution, the Palace served as an imperial and subsequently royal residence, before becoming a museum after 1870.
The Museum of Fine Arts presents an overview of European painting spanning from the Middle Ages to 1870. The museum’s twenty rooms thereby allow you to wander through five centuries of European art, such as the Italo-Byzantine style, the Italian Renaissance, Nordic landscapes, still lifes and vanitases, Dutch 17th-century landscapes, and 19th-century portraits. The collection features pieces by notable artists like Giotto, Titian, El Greco, Botticelli, Raphael, Rubens, Goya, van Dyck, Delacroix, Chassériau, Corot and even Courbet.
The Palace’s refined architecture serves as a magnificent backdrop for the museum’s collection. The brightly colored walls and neat lighting showcase the artworks, highlighting their hues and bringing out their contrasts. The golden parquet floor, which creaks charmingly with every step, immerses visitors further in a time long since passed. Beyond the magnificent paintings, the windows looking out over the palace courtyard and Strasbourg Cathedral are eye-catching as well.
Like other visitors must have been before us, we were particularly struck by the allure of La Belle Strasbourgeoise(The Beautiful Strasbourg Woman) by Nicolas de Largillière. This portrait from 1703 is one of the museum’s main attractions and is easily recognizable thanks to the impressive bicorn hat worn by the subject. The painting reveals itself gradually at the end of a long, ornate corridor lined with cobalt blue walls, gilded details, and Corinthian columns. Our experience with this 18th-century piece was a perfect example of Roger de Pile’s quote from 1708: “A true painting must draw in its viewer…and the surprised viewer must respond, as if entering into a conversation.”
The Museum of Fine Arts 📍 2 place du Château, Strasbourg
The Jardin des Deux-Rives stretches across 150 hectares and consists of two half-gardens on either side of the Rhine, linked by an elegant cable-stayed footbridge. This cross-border landscaped park, which was inaugurated in 2004, is a symbol of French-German friendship.
• On the French side, in Strasbourg, you enter the park by walking along the riding school, or by taking the Sentier des planètes (path of the planets) in the middle. Spanning 281 meters, the solar system has been scaled down 16 billion times, to give you an idea of the distance between the Sun and the different planets of the solar system
As you explore the park, you’ll also find: – a water wall (in a semicircle, on either side of the central axis) – themed and pop-up gardens where you can daydream for a while – a large lawn where flower shows, and cultural events are organized in the summertime (concerts with the Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra de Strasbourg or open-aircinema nights) – a sculpture path (with works by Sylvie Blocher, Andrea Blum, Tadashi Kawamata, Philippe Lepeut and Akio Suzuki) that continues on the German side of the Rhine – picnictables – playgrounds – a boules pitch.
• Cross the Passerelle Mimram footbridge (only for pedestrians and cyclists) which spans the Rhine. This cable-stayed footbridge designed by architect Marc Mimram was imagined as a hyphen, a connection between France and Germany. Its two decks converge to form a central platform, above the middle of the Rhine. Stop for a while and enjoy the view or watch a riverboat pass by.
• On the German side, in Kehl, a peaceful, paved promenade, shady and well maintained (der blaue Weg), winds along the riverbank.
Everyone can enjoy the park however they like: – if you’re the contemplative type: the walking path is dotted with benches at regular intervals – if you’re more sporty: there are several kinds of gym apparatus – for plant lovers: explore the Biblical Garden – ufologists: climb into a flying saucer (UFO is an exhibit space) – art lovers:admire the sculptures, like Begegnung by Josef Fromm (which notably symbolizes the friendship between France and Germany) and the Roses Frontalières (Border Roses) by Thomas Rother (honoring members of the French resistance who were murdered mere hours after Strasbourg was freed in 1944).
If you move a little further away from the river to find higher ground and climb the Silver Fir Tower (Weisstannenturm). At 44 meters high, this tower offers a splendid view of the Rhine, Strasbourg Cathedral, and on clear days – all the way to the Black Forest and the Vosges mountains.
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!
From the 3rd to the 13th of June, the second-ever Industrie Magnifique (“magnificent industry”) celebrates art meeting industry in public spaces in Strasbourg.
70 artists from all over the world, sponsored by 35 benefactor companies, will present 30 original and monumental pieces they’ve created especially for the occasion. For 10 days, 20 public squares in Strasbourg are transformed into open-air art galleries.
This event is this the result of a project that is completely unique, with 3 players – artists, companies and local authorities – working together towards a common goal. For every collaboration, an artist will first meet with a company to create an original, monumental piece of art. Next, the artist-company duo will work with local authorities to exhibit the piece in a public square. Finally, the resulting pieces are presented at a major public event in the center of town: l’Industrie Magnifique.
Our favorite pieces:
• The spectacular installation “MUSEUM OF THE MOON” (Luke Jerram): a hyper-realistic moon, measuring 7 meters across, floating at the center of the nave in Strasbourg Cathedral. (The piece inside the Cathedral is a part of the “Cosmos District” by art collective L’Ososphère, located in place du Château.)
• The monumental sculpture “TERRE DE CIEL” (land/earth of sky) by Patrick Bartardoz: this three-dimensional Tower of Babel, over 7 meters tall, made from bricks, roof tiles, terracotta, metal and glass tiles, can be found in place Broglie.
• The poetic “PORTÉE AUX NUES” (praised to the skies) by Bénédicte Bach: a dreamy sky full of clouds, made from different textures of white leather, suspended above rue des Hallebardes, with the Cathedral as a backdrop.
• The unique and quirky “LIBÈRE TON ÉNERGIE !” (free your energy) by David David, place des Tripiers: this piece uses the artist’s signature character “La Tête dans L’art” (head in the arts), who is isolated from the hustle and bustle of society thanks to the paint bucket he wears on his head.
From the 3rd to the 13th of June 2021
30 pieces made by 70 artists, 20 squares in the center of Strasbourg
Access to the squares where the exhibition takes places is free.
The crooked houses between n°22 and n°26 seem to lean against each other, as though they had their own definition of balance.
Between n°23 and n°24, you can see a tiny little garden hidden away in a corner, halfway up the wall. If you don’t take the time to contemplate the organized chaos of the facades, you might miss it. The greenery almost appears to be dancing, winding between lanterns and pots hung higgledy-piggledy around a window. Every now and then, a bird will settle for a few moments on the fine shrubbery.
Let your eyes wander and take in the details of the sculpted woodwork on the townhouse.
Every now and then, you can hear music streaming out of a window on the second floor next door – a percussionist playing his instruments by the open window. Curious passers-by stop on the street to listen as he plays: the chimes, the xylophone, the cymbals…
The façades are undergoing renovations soon. Let’s hope this place will retain it’s magic once the work is done.
Before embarking on a “street art safari” in Strasbourg, we generally begin by agreeing on a search perimeter of a certain number of blocks. Then we comb the streets, looking for a collage, a graffiti piece, a mural, or a painted power box – as if we were looking to spot wild animals on a photo safari in Africa. Whenever we find street art we haven’t seen before, we like to take the time to really examine the piece and figure out what it’s all about, before taking a snapshot of it – as a keepsake.
We love the wildly creative aspect of street art, as well as the accessibility of it, thanks to its presence in public spaces. This form of artistic expression is so much more than just a splash of color or a backdrop for the urban cityscape.
Here are 15 of our favorite street art pieces in Strasbourg
Now that the magnolias have blossomed, the wisterias are starting to bloom – signalling the arrival of spring and eventually the early days of summer. Here and there, buildings are clad in creeping, brightly-colored floral terraces, natural spiral staircases, cascades of sparkling lilac or white… Garden archways don their spring attire and bask in the sunlight.Every year, these fragrant climbing clusters enchant photographers, lovers of beauty and flower enthusiasts alike. They also attract bees and bumblebees, who indulge in their nectar.
Here are some of our favorite shots of Strasbourg’s wisterias in bloom:
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!
• Place de la République: there are several magnolia trees at both the north and south end of the park in the middle of the square. This is definitely one of Strasbourg’s most beautiful and popular spots to see the blossoming magnolias.
• Quai Koch, below pont Royal. Down by the riverside, you’ll find an ideal view of Saint Paul’s church.
• Place Brant, by the bus stop, in front of café Brant. This majestic magnolia tree is the centerpiece of place Brant. The view towards the Palais Universitaire is particularly beautiful.
• Place Broglie, in the garden of Palais du Gouverneur militaire
• Parc de Contades, at the northeast corner of the park, not far from the passerelle des Arquebusiers. A lovely spot where you can enjoy the calm atmosphere of the parc.
• Parc de l’Orangerie, around Pavillon Joséphine
• Lycée des Pontonniers, visible from pont Saint-Etienne and the banks of the river Ill below
• At the back of Saint-Pierre-le-Jeune Catholic church, at the corner of rue Saint-Arbogast and rue du Général de Castelnau
• Outside 5 rue Fischart (the former Departmental Archives)
• The corner of quai Lézay-Marnésia and rue des Récollets, in a garden you can see from the street
• On the University’s Campus de l’Esplanade, between the Faculty of Languages and the Institute of Biological Chemistry
• Place de l’Étoile, by the main entrance to City Hall
Recently we were going through the photos we’d taken during our trip to the Netherlands in 2020, and we realized we wanted to share some of our favorite discoveries from the handful of towns we visited:
Now that it’s winter break here and we have no new travel plans on the horizon with the current situation, we’ve been reminiscing about our recent trips. 2020 was supposed to bring us to the Silk Road in Uzbekistan, where we would finally explore legendary cities like Samarkand and Bukhara, like we’ve dreamed of doing for many years. We’ve had to give up on that dream, if only for the time being …
Instead, we chose a destination that was much closer, for about a week-long trip: the Netherlands. After the lockdown in France in the spring of 2020, our goal was simply to get some fresh air and get away for a while. We needed a change of scenery, to take the time to be outside, walk around, and enjoy a little freedom (with all the necessary safety measures).
From Strasbourg, you can get to Amsterdam by plane (a direct flight with Air France-KLM takes 1 hr and 25 mins), by train (6 or 7 hrs via Paris) or by car (6.5 hrs). You could try other modes of transport (magic carpet, unicorn, bike, scooter …), but we’re not too sure about the travel times.
Suring our stay, we were based in Gouda (yes, like the cheese!). We explored a new city every day and travelled by train to avoid the regularly gridlocked Dutch highways. The pre-paid travel card OV-chipkaart (which you can easily top up at the train station ticket office) is very handy here. You can use it on all public transport in the Netherlands, including trains.
The Dutch government and parliament are based in The Hague, which is the administrative capital of the Netherlands. It’s not a rare sight in town to spot the Prime Minister pedal by you on his bike …
• The Parliament district and especially de Hofvijver (the Court Pond) at the foot of the houses of Parliament. The Prime Minister’s Office is located in a small tower directly overlooking the pond. Right next to the Parliament, you’ll find one of the country’s most famous art museums: het Mauritshuis.
• Not far from the houses of Parliament – het Lange Voorhout, with its antique market, and the little streets behind the exclusive Hôtel des Indes.
• The pedestrian city center, with its luxury boutiques near Paleis Noordeinde (the royal palace) and more trendy and cool shops near de Grote of Sint-Jacobskerk (the Great or St. James’ Church).
• The Passage: this neo-Renaissance-style shopping gallery is the oldest shopping center in the Netherlands, dating back to 1885.
• The façade and interior of The Sting department store
One of the Netherlands’ most modern cities – located by the Nieuwe Maas river. The architecture is almost entirely contemporary, because of the massive bombings the city endured during WWII. Rotterdam is particularly dynamic and is constantly reinventing itself.
• De Kubuswoningen (Cube houses): these purposely wonky-looking, cube-shaped houses, as well as the pencil-shaped building Het Potlood, were designed by architect Piet Blom.
• Markthal: the largest market hall in Holland. This indoor market serves a double function – both commercial (with market stalls and restaurants) and residential (with apartments on the upper floors). Inside the building, the ceiling and walls are entirely covered with a massive mural depicting fruit, vegetables and grains.
• De Erasmusbrug (Erasmus bridge): this cable-stayed bridge has become one of the city’s icons. It’s almost as tall as Strasbourg Cathedral (the bridge is 139 m and the Cathedral spire is 142 m). We recommend crossing the bridge on foot.
• The Wilhelminapier peninsula. After the bridge, take a right on the peninsula and walk along the waterfront. If the weather permits, have a seat on a bench in the sunshine and watch the boats glide by.
• For a little treat: enjoy an afternoon tea at Hotel New York (at the very end of the Wilhelminapier). This hotel used to be the main office of the Holland-America Line, which ran cargo and passenger ships between Rotterdam and New York.
The city where Vermeer lived, and birthplace of the blue and white Royal Delft pottery that carries its name.
• Het Prinsenhof (the prince’s court): the former residence of William the Silent, Prince of Orange in the 16th century, is a puzzle of ancient buildings, archways and little gardens
• Het Stadhuis: Delft’s Renaissance style city hall in the market square
• De Oostpoort: The Eastern gate (from the early 15th century) with its two Brick Gothic towers and drawbridge
• De Voldersgracht: a canal lined with flowers and picturesque houses.
This town is famous for its cheese, yet underestimated for its charming streets and canals.
• Het Stadhuis: Gouda’s city hall is known for its characteristic red and white shutters. One of the oldest city halls in the Netherlands
• The cheese market: To buy some very goud-a cheese, head to the cheese market – every Thursday morning from April to August (if the context allows for it). Don’t forget to bring cash!
• The canals, which are perhaps more unspoiled than in Amsterdam, are lined with quaint houses and shop fronts reminiscent of the 19th century (antiques shops, wine and liquor stores, bookshops …).
• The neighborhood around Sint-Janskerk (St. John’s Church). The church is the longest in the country, and famous for its stained-glass windows.
One of the few towns in the Netherlands where you can walk along the North Sea on a paved promenade or directly on the sand (and relax on the beach if the weather is nice enough). In the off season, it’s a lot calmer in Zandvoort than in Scheveningen, the seaside town next to The Hague.
The vibrant capital – a labyrinth of bricks and water.
We’d had the opportunity to experience several of the city’s must-see sights during previous trips (the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, the Albert Cuyp market, the flower market, Dam Square, Anne Frank’s house …). This time however, we made the most of the wonderful weather and went on a very long walk, thereby avoiding waiting in line for different tourist attractions:
• We pretended to get lost for hours in the maze of canals and side streets, taking in the buildings in Jordaan (the neighborhood around Prinsengracht, Keizersgracht, Westerkerk, and Magere Brug)
• Strolled and relaxed in Vondelpark, a massive green lung in the heart of the city
• Went shopping around Spuistraat
• Admired the colorful façades in Damrak
Shopping tip: Many shops and stalls in the Netherlands only accept Dutch debit/credit cards or cash.
Located just northeast of place Broglie (in square Markos Botzaris), the Janus Fountain, also known as The Birth of Civilization, was designed in 1988 by Alsatian illustrator Tomi Ungerer, on the occasion of Strasbourg’s 2000-year anniversary. The piece is named after Janus, the two-faced Roman god.
Tomi Ungerer pointed out that “the Rhineland [had been] at the heart of [his] work”. The two faces of the fountain represent the duality of French and Germanic culture in Strasbourg and Alsace. One of the faces is turned towards the historical city center, while the other points towards the old German imperial quarter of the Neustadt.
The aqueduct structure, composed of 5000 bricks, symbolizes the Roman origins of Strasbourg, where the military outpost of Argentoratum was once located.
From the (free) parking lot by parc de Pourtalès, there are two paths, each leading to very different spaces and atmospheres.
On one side, the beautiful scenery around Château de Pourtalès opens on a large sculpture park and the château gardens.
On the other side of the parking lot, you’ll find the forêt de la Robertsau. This place means a lot to us because it offers a break, far away from the urban environment, although the city is only a few hundred meters away. It’s also important to us because we chose to have our wedding pictures taken there
As you walk along the asphalted path (for cyclists and pedestrians only), the trees start to form a tunnel of foliage. In the spring, the ditches are full of blooming wild garlic.
The tapping sound of woodpeckers resonates throughout the forest. If you’re very lucky, you might even spot a deer! Old stone kilometer markers and bunkers from the war have been gradually covered in greenery – nature has taken over again. The sound of horses’ hooves is muffled on the dirt tracks below the raised path. Long-haired Highland cows graze in the surrounding fields. Frolicking dogs swim in the little ponds, under the watchful eye of their owners.
You can continue your walk along the dyke, past fields and farms until you reach the village of la Wantzenau.
In July 2020, the forêt de la Robertsau was made a national nature reserve.
Formerly an abandoned port site, Presqu’île Malraux/Rivetoile has turned into a bustling neighborhood, made up of apartment and office buildings, a shopping center (Rivetoile), cafés and restaurants, a multiplex movie theater and several cultural buildings (like the Cité de la Musique et de la Danse and the Médiathèque André Malraux).
We love walking along the docks from the Black Swan towers to the Cité de la Musique et de la Danse*. You can access the peninsula by starting at the towers, near Winston Churchill tram stop.
On the bridge between the movie theater and the refurbished Seegmuller warehouse, turn back to look at the outline of the three towers, which reminds us of a bar chart.
A little further on, the sky is beautifully reflected in the façade of the Médiathèque André Malraux. Continue your walk towards the two massive Paindavoine cranes (they’re illuminated at night, and you can control the lights remotely!) and the Cité de la Musique et de la Danse.
After crossing the Braque footbridge, as you stroll under the trees along quai des Alpes and quai du Général Koenig, see if you can spot a coypu swimming in the canal.
In the summertime, if the weather allows it, enjoy the beachy vibes of “les Docks d’été”.
(*If you’re coming from the city center, the walk would start at the Cité de la Musique et de la Danse.)
Parc du Heyritz is a haven of tranquility tucked between the Hôpital Civil de Strasbourg and the hustle and bustle of place de l’Étoile.
As you approach the park, a weeping willow on the right-hand side seems to form a curtain through which you enter. A floating pontoon borders the bassin de l’Hôpital and runs the entire length of the park. You can spot a wide variety of animals: fish, birds, frogs, tortoises, lizards, and coypus. In the spring, you can also watch the ducks diving between the water plants with their ducklings.
The pontoon leads to the far side of the park, where you’ll find playgrounds and gym apparatus, a reflecting pool, allotment gardens and terraced lawns where you can relax. In the summer, the park is occasionally used as an open-air cinema.