Categories
Day trip

A day trip from Strasbourg: hiking in Le Hohwald

Starting from the village of Le Hohwald, enjoy a nice hike through forests and hillside landscapes. This round-trip hike is about 9 km long, taking around 2,5 to 3 hours along marked and well-maintained trails. 

Starting point: Le Hohwald. You will find several free, small parking lots around the village (by the post office, across from the Grand Hôtel, and another one a little further down the main road). 

Start the hike by walking up rue Herrenhaus, just beyond the public toilets. This climb is a little steep, but it will not get more difficult than this first climb. 

Something we enjoy about hiking is the “treasure hunt” aspect of it, meaning you have to spot the painted markings posted along the path in order to follow the itinerary. During the first leg of the hike, follow the red rectangles all the way to la cascade de l’Andlau (the Andlau waterfall).

The trail snakes its way through the forest, with its many species of trees, and passes moss-covered stones, stumps, and fallen tree trunks. You cross little wooden bridges over babbling brooks. In autumn, the track is carpeted with the hues of golden-brown leaves.

You can climb down to the waterfall from the track via a steep path. The (short) trip is more than worth it however, especially in the summertime, if you’d like a refreshing break. The waterfall has about a twenty-meter drop and is surrounded by lush greenery.

Once you are done admiring the falls, climb back up to the main trail and follow the red crosses.

Shortly after the waterfalls, towards la Chaume des Veaux, the woods make way for an open hillside landscape, where the trail is level with the treetops on the other side of the valley.

Walk along rolling fields of grass with peacefully grazing cows. The bench overlooking the ridge line of the Vosges mountains is the perfect place to stop for a picnic.

The final leg of the hike runs through another wooded area, which is quite different from the first. Alternating between several different kinds of forest and open spaces makes for a varied experience and guarantees that you’ll never be bored. 

After the red crosses, halfway through the second stretch of forest, start following the blue crosses to head back to Le Hohwald. The ringing of cowbells in the distance is a surefire sign that you’re approaching the village. 

As you exit the forest, take a right and follow the sidewalk all the way back down to your parking lot. 

This hike is such a lovely, calming, revitalizing experience. This might be because you spend a long time under the trees, enjoying the refreshing effects of “forest bathing”, which the Japanese call Shinrin-yoku.

To make sure you’re at ease on the trails, we recommend wearing a comfortable pair of hiking shoes.  This walk is accessible all year, even with children, as long as you bring the appropriate clothing, footwear, and equipment for the season, and adapt to the weather conditions.

Categories
Travel

A postcard from our trip to Paris 

“The Capital of fashion and culture”, “City of Lights”, “the city of love”… Paris has many nicknames.

The French capital has always been a source of inspiration for artists, whether they are authors, painters, photographers, or directors.  Jean-Pierre Jeunet for instance, spun his urban poetry from the neighborhood of Montmartre and made Paris one of the main characters in his movie Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain, better known to English-speaking audiences as Amélie

In a way, it was this pleasant, kindly, cozy atmosphere we went looking for, or at least tried to reproduce, during our recent trip to Paris.  However, we were also conscious of the fact that the city could bring on a case of “Paris Shokogun” (also known as Paris Syndrome), which is the feeling of disenchantment experienced by certain Japanese tourists when they first visit the city.  To our great pleasure, the city worked its magic (almost perfectly). 

There’s nothing quite like (re)discovering a city on foot to take in its atmosphere. We took the time to explore and walk the streets of the capital, as we love to do in Strasbourg, whenever we go on a Strafari.

Here is the postcard from our trip to Paris, with photos from our favorite spots and neighborhoods :

The covered passages
The Palais-Royal Garden and the Colonnes de Buren
The Louvre, the Tuileries Garden and place de la Concorde
Pont Alexandre III and the Seine
Place Vendôme
The Eiffel Tower
Montmartre and the Sacré Cœur
The Luxembourg Gardens
Musée d’Orsay
Rooftops and department stores
The Marais
Continue your trip with a weekend in Strasbourg…

The covered passages

To get a taste of 19th-century Parisian charm, we recommend exploring the covered passages, which are pedestrian shopping arcades located near the grands boulevards and place de la Bourse. You can easily walk from one passage to the next, starting with Passage Verdeau (1847) with its antiques shops and old boutiques. Next, Passage Jouffroy (1836) stands out thanks to its marble flooring and arched glass roof. Most notably, this passage is home to the Musée Grévin. Passage des Panoramas (1799) is Paris’ very first covered passage. We decide to play a game: imagining our perfect meal by combining in our minds the suggested day’s specials on the different boards in front of the restaurants in the arcade. 

Galerie Colbert (1823), which is more centered on culture, has the distinctive feature of not containing a single shop.  It does however have a beautiful rotunda, crowned with a glass dome. 

The neighboring Galerie Vivienne (1823), which is bathed in light thanks to its glass skylight and has colorful mosaic flooring, is one of Paris’ most iconic passages. Looking for our next read among the leather-bound volumed with gilt lettering in the charming bookshop Librairie Jousseaume makes us feel like we’ve traveled back to the 19th century.

Stéphanie begins to daydream, imagining herself living in a beautiful home above a Parisian passage, where she can watch people stroll by under the glass below. She fully expects a man in a three-piece suit and top hat, accompanied by a woman in a full-skirted walking dress with delicate lace ruffles, to appear at any moment.

The Palais Royal Garden and the Colonnes de Buren

Created by the famous Cardinal de Richelieu in 1633, the Palais Royal was home to the royal families of France until the Palace of Versailles was completed. 

While searching for a bench where we can sit and enjoy our Parisien sandwich (the classic ham and butter, of course) in the garden, we realize there are philosophical quotes written on the back of several benches. We go from one bench to the next, choosing the most suitable one for our meal: “You eat your memories with the spoon of oblivion.” Or rather our vanilla éclair with a recycled spoon…

Once we’ve eaten, we move on to the 260 octagonal black-and-white striped columns or different sized, made by French artist Daniel Buren. The magical atmosphere in the courtyard encourages everyone to make of the columns what they like. Children climb them like mountains, use them as stepping stones over an imaginary river, or transform them into giant slalom poles. Older generations tend to use the columns to take a seat, share a conversation, enjoy the sunshine, or as a background for their selfies.  We must admit, we hadn’t played leapfrog in a very long time. “All grown-ups were once children,” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry once said. The Colonnes de Buren are a perfect illustration of that.

As we’re leaving the esplanade, we spot a young bride and groom with their photographer, looking for the perfect spot to immortalize their special day. The groom, elegantly dressed in black and white, stands stick straight as he poses, almost blending in with the monochrome columns.

The Louvre, the Tuileries Garden and place de la Concorde

The cour Napoléon offers a striking architectural contrast between the historical palace, which is home to one of the world’s most famous museums, and the pyramid (composed of 603 glass rhombuses and 70 glass triangles), which was designed in the 1980s by Chinese American architect Ieoh Ming Pei.

Just a stone’s throw away, the Tuileries Garden is an invitation to take a relaxing stroll along the park’s ornamental pools. It was redesigned by Louis XIV’s landscape architect André Le Nôtre, who created its current jardin à la française look.  The central walkway follows a perspective leading first to place de la Concorde, and then the Arc de Triomphe.  

On the side closest to the Seine, the terrasse du Bord de l’eau is a lovely part of the garden. This tree-lined raised terrace offers a different view of the Louvre palace on one end, and the place de la Concorde on the other. As you move away from the Louvre, the Seine appears to the left, and you can admire the garden below on the right.

Located at the East end of the Champs-Elysées and lined with high-end hotels, place de la Concorde is the largest square in Paris. Its main features are the Luxor Obelisk (which dates back to ancient Egypt) and the two monumental fountains (the Fountain of the Seas and the Fountain of the Rivers).

Pont Alexandre III and the Seine

The Pont Alexandre III, which spans the Seine between the Invalides and the Grand and Petit Palais, was inaugurated during the 1900 World’s Fair. It is recognizable by its massive decorative columns mounted with gilded bronze Pegasi. The bridge was named after Czar Alexander III, who formed the Franco-Russian alliance with French president Sadi Carnot (1891-1893).

From the middle of the bridge, over the head of a statue of a river nymph, we can enjoy the view of the Eiffel Tower, veiled in a halo of autumn haze.  In an instant however, the sun peeks out and the fog lifts. 

Place Vendôme

Place Vendôme is the center for fine jewelry in Paris.  Towering in the middle of the square, the Vendôme column was erected by Napoleon I in commemoration of the battle of Austerlitz. It was cast in bronze from cannons taken from the Russian and Austrian armies.

While Jérôme tries to get some good shots of the column standing out against the blue sky, Stéphanie takes a walk along the jewelers’ shop windows, and falls in love with a pair of gold and blue sapphire earrings. 

The Eiffel Tower 

Built by Gustave Eiffel for the 1889 World’s Fair, the Eiffel Tower is Paris’ most legendary landmark by far.  It’s a veritable icon. In the daytime, all over town, people scan their surroundings hoping to spot its famous outline. At night, the tower is easily spotted thanks to its golden appearance, with a beacon at the top, sweeping its light over the horizon. Most beautiful of all is when it lights up and sparkles against the dark sky for five minutes every hour after nightfall.

We recommend two spots to get a good view of this 324-meter-tall iron lady: the Champ de Mars and Trocadéro, on the other bank of the Seine. 

The corner of rue de l’Université and avenue de la Bourdonnais is another popular spot for Instagrammers. 

When the weather is nice, take the stairs or elevators up to the middle or upper level and enjoy an incomparable view of the city. To make the most of your visit, you can even try the Eiffel tower’s different shops and restaurants. Don’t forget to book your ticket upfront.

If you want to admire the tower from a different angle, we recommend taking the metro. Line 6 runs overground as it crosses the Seine over the Bir-Hakeim bridge, creating an impressive tracking shot effect.

Montmartre and Sacré Cœur 

From the Sacré-Cœur Basilica, towering at the very top of Montmartre (the highest point in Paris), the panoramic view of the city is breathtaking. The basilica, built in the Romano-Byzantine style, is easily recognizable by its immaculate white travertine stone façade, a material which was chosen for its self-cleaning properties upon contact with water.

We stay up there for a long while, admiring the view and trying to point out the different landmarks on the skyline below us. Just as we are about to leave, the sky is set ablaze with a brilliant sunset in hues of pink and orange. Such beauty! It truly makes the effort to climb the dozens of stairs needed to reach the top of the hill, worth it.  That being said, you can also take the funicular railway to the top.

Place du Tertre, just nearby, is a hub for painters and portrait artists. 

Before them, great artists such as André de Toulouse-Lautrec, Juan Miro or even Vincent Van Gogh, lived in Montmartre. The Bateau-Lavoir is one of Paris’ most famous artist residences, where such illustrious names as Pablo Picasso, André Matisse, Amedeo Modigliani, Guillaume Apollinaire and Jean Cocteau had their ateliers.

Montmartre is also known as the cabaret district, with legendary places such as le Lapin-Agile, chez Michou, or the world-famous Moulin Rouge. The cabaret Patachou was the debut stage for the likes of Georges Brassens, Jacques Brel, and Charles Aznavour. 

We walk back down the hill via the steep side-streets and stairways of the bustling Abbesses quarter.

The Luxembourg Gardens

Stretching over 25 hectares, the Luxembourg Gardens are the gardens of the Luxembourg Palace, which is home to the French Senate. The palace was commissioned by Maria de’ Medici and inspired by the Palazzo Pitti in Florence. 

Located at the border between Saint-Germain-des-Prés and the Latin Quarter, it is greatly appreciated by the locals for their daily walks and weekend runs. The gardens offer a range of different activities for all ages and all seasons: a puppet theater, a kiosk renting out little sail boats, a merry-go-round, pony riding, tennis courts, exhibits, a bandstand, an apiary, an orchard…

Musée d’Orsay

The Musée d’Orsay moved into the former railway station Gare d’Orsay in 1986. The building had been designed for the 1900 World’s Fair, making the museum’s architecture a work of art in itself. 

The museum’s collection spans different forms of artistic expression in the Western world from 1848 to 1914: painting, architecture, sculpture, decorative arts, and photography. It is well-known throughout the world for its vast collection of impressionist works (Van Gogh, Manet, Cézanne, Monet, Renoir, Degas, Caillebotte, Pissarro, Sisley, Morisot, Signac…).

On the top floor, before entering the rooms dedicated to impressionist art, visitors eagerly pose and take pictures in front of the monumental clock, with an incredible perspective of the rooftops of Paris and the Sacré-Cœur visible through the glass dial. The scene feels like taking a deep breath before an incredible experience. 

Every time he comes to Paris, Jérôme loves to visit the Musée d’Orsay and really observe the paintings, especially impressionist pieces – with Paul Signac as a firm favorite.  The beauty of these works of art is truly enhanced by the setting of this old railway station.

Being able to take the time to contemplate a painting in its entirety, approaching it to look at certain details and savoring the feeling for a moment before moving on to the next, is a form of meditation to him.

Rooftops and department stores

On boulevard Haussmann, the department stores Galeries Lafayette and Printemps are worth a visit, and not just for shopping lovers:

Galeries Lafayette: don’t miss the massive interior cupola and the panoramic rooftop terrace, which offers a view of the surrounding rooftops and main landmarks of the city. 

• Our favorite: the view from the 7th-floor rooftop terrace of the Printemps department store, crowned by cut stone rotundas at every corner. This place is a gem that will take you back to Paris in its Art Nouveau heyday! The panoramic view of the Opéra Garnier, the Panthéon, the Eiffel Tower, the dome of the Invalides and the rooftops of Paris, is unique. 

Another temple of shopping and French art de vivre, la Samaritaine, reopened this summer after 16 years of renovations. Do not skip a visit to this masterpiece Art Nouveau architecture.

The glass skylight, the Eiffel-style steel structure and the 115-meter-long peacock fresco are truly remarkable.

The Marais

The Marais district makes us feel like we’re in a village in the very heart of Paris. Despite attracting many tourists, it seems to have retained a vibrant local atmosphere. 

The Marais is known for its great diversity, long history, rich architectural and cultural heritage, and its bustling environment. It is home to a harmonious combination of cafés, bars, little shops, art galleries, paved side-streets, and world-famous landmarks. 

Here’s what you shouldn’t miss in the Marais:

• City Hall (Hôtel de Ville) with its Neo-Renaissance style architecture

• The Pompidou Center: this museum contains 6 floors of spaces dedicated entirely to art and culture. Its modern and contemporary art collection is the largest in Europe. 

• The Picasso Museum is dedicated to the life and work of Spanish painter Pablo Picasso.

• Place des Vosges. This green haven surrounded by charming brick buildings is the oldest square in Paris. Such famous historical figures as Victor Hugo, Madame de Sévigné and Colette have lived here.

• The Jewish quarter and rue des Rosiers: a legendary street dotted with independent shops, falafel restaurants, and Jewish bakeries and grocer’s shops. 

• The 16th-century half-timbered houses on rue François Miron (like a piece of Alsace in Paris), and Nicolas Flamel’s house on rue de Montmorency. Built in 1407, it is the oldest house in the city. 

• The antiques shops in Village St Paul-Le Marais. If Stéphanie weren’t a translator, she would almost certainly have become an antiques dealer.

Continue your trip with a weekend in Strasbourg…

Why not extend your stay in France with a trip to Strasbourg? Strasbourg is a dynamic, European city, endowed with a rich cultural heritage (with several UNESCO World Heritage site), and has a great number of assets. The city is located only 1 hour and 50 minutes from Paris by train. By the time you’ve watched a movie or read a few chapters of the book that’s been lying on your bedside table for weeks, you’ve arrived. Discover our complete guide for your first visit to Strasbourg!

Categories
Walk around

Walk around in Strasbourg: Botanical Garden

Strasbourg Botanical Garden is a calming haven, set against a lush backdrop in the middle of the city.  It allows you to explore around 6000 species from around the world, which are pampered daily by expert botanists and gardeners. You’ll find everything from rare plants to more common species, aromatic herbs, flowers, and an arboretum containing over 2000 kinds of trees and shrubs (giant redwood, Caucasian wingnut, bald cypress…).

The garden stretches over 3,5 hectares in the Neustadt quarter. When it was first created in 1619, the garden was located in the Krutenau neighborhood (southeast of the historic university campus). It was eventually moved during the reign of German emperor Wilhelm I. The current Botanical Garden, which was inaugurated in 1884, was part of the project to build an imperial German university, after Alsace became part of the empire in 1870.

As soon as you step foot inside, you linger around the tiny waterlily pools where little frogs will jump into the water as you pass. On warmer days, some of them will relax in the sunshine.

Escape to a different world in the tropical greenhouse, where a selection of exotic species (palm trees, banyan trees, monsteras with massive leaves…) thrive in a hot and humid environment. On particularly hot days, you’ll almost feel like the air is cool as you step outside again.

This peaceful garden is the ideal place to recharge your batteries and stop the course of time. Enjoy a book in the shade of an age-old tree. Have a seat on one of the many available benches. Stroll along the path winding around the Bary greenhouse, skirting along the astronomical observatory, before twisting past a pond and through a series of little bamboo groves.

The steeple of St. Maurice’s church in the background is reflected in the smooth surface of the pond.  The sleek mirror of the water is only ever disturbed by a fish coming up to the surface every now and then.

You get the pleasant feeling of being wrapped in a lovely blanket of lush greenery, while taking in the calm and quiet atmosphere of this place, reminiscent of certain Japanese gardens.

  • Strasbourg Botanical Garden is a university garden that is generally open to the public in the afternoons, but please do check the opening hours beforehand. Admission is free.
  • For your workouts or a picnic, please choose another park in the area (Orangerie, Contades or the University gardens just across the alley).
  • The entrance to the Botanical Garden is located in allée Anton de Bary, a little pedestrian side street running between rue Goethe and rue de l’Université.

🔗 View opening hours (link in French)

Categories
Travel

Our favorite areas in Oslo

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.

Bjørvika
Aker Brygge, Tjuvholmen and Akershus Fortress
Grünerløkka and Vulkan
Frogner, the Vigeland park and the Royal Palace
Continue exploring…

Bjørvika

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. 

Our tip: explore the different streets in the area (such as Oscars gateFrognerveienGyldenløves gate and Inkognitogata) and admire the beautiful villas and 19th-century apartment buildings, relax in a café, or take a walk in a 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.

CONTINUE EXPLORING…

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 panoramic view of the city from Ekeberg sculpture park

• The old wooden houses of Kampen and Vålerenga

• The façade of the parliament building, Stortinget (Eidsvolls plass) 

Oslo City Hall (a carillon tune is played every first Wednesday of the month at 11 AM). It’s possible to visit the inside of the building

• The inside of Oslo Cathedral

Categories
Top

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.

Categories
Walk around

Straddling the border in the Jardin des Deux Rives

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-air cinema 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
picnic tables
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.

Categories
Top

Our 15 street art favorites in Strasbourg

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

Categories
Seasons

Wisteria hysteria 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:

Categories
Seasons

12 places to see magnolias in bloom in Strasbourg

Every spring, all over Strasbourg, the trees transform into clouds of pink and white. For just a few days, nature offers us this wonderful display of ephemeral beauty.

The blossoming magnolias are a sign that spring has sprung and that warm summer days are close at hand.

Both visitors and locals flock to admire the flowers, take pictures and selfies, or just sit down at the foot of a tree to enjoy the lovely springtime weather.

We’ve picked out 12 of the best places in Strasbourg to see magnolias in bloom – all fully visible in the public space:

🌐 Enlarge the map »

• 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 park.

• 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

Categories
Travel

Our best discoveries in the Netherlands

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: 

The Hague, Rotterdam, Delft, Gouda, Zandvoort, Amsterdam.

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 Hague

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 …

Our discoveries

• 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

Rotterdam

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.

Our discoveries

• 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.

Delft

The city where Vermeer lived, and birthplace of the blue and white Royal Delft pottery that carries its name.

Our discoveries

• 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.

Gouda 

This town is famous for its cheese, yet underestimated for its charming streets and canals.

Our discoveries

• 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.

Zandvoort

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.

Amsterdam

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.

Categories
Walk around

Walk around in Strasbourg: parc de Pourtalès

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.

Categories
Walk around

Walk around in Strasbourg: Presqu’île Malraux

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.)

Categories
Walk around

Walk around in Strasbourg: parc du Heyritz

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.

Categories
Walk around

Walk around in Strasbourg: quai des Bateliers

Quai des Bateliers runs along the Ill between pont Saint-Guillaume and pont du Corbeau.

Recently pedestrianized, quai des Bateliers is like a little green haven in the middle of the city. A space where you can breathe, take a walk along the water with your family, your friends, or your partner. The atmosphere is cool and calm, flowing with the river and the boats gliding past. 

Stop for a moment under the lush trees, relax for a while on one on the pontoons directly above the Ill, or on the large floating pontoon (by pont du Corbeau). The crooked houses between n°22 and n°26 seem to lean against each other, as though they had their own definition of balance.

The quay is lined with cafés, galleries, shops and independent bookstores. We particularly enjoy the Librairie du Tigre (n°36), which specializes in comic books. 

In the springtime, you can see wisteria cascading down a few of the façades along the opposite riverbank. 

As you walk along the quay, the Cathedral appears in the background. The view from the footbridge passerelle de l’Abreuvoir is particularly appreciated by photographers.

A little further down, the Cathedral seems to play hide and seek behind the Palais Rohan (vestige of the 18th century aristocracy’s way of life, and now home to three museums) and the Historical Museum (which presents the history of Strasbourg from the Middle Ages to the founding of the European institutions).

Quai des Bateliers ends by pont du Corbeau, where you can continue towards: 

  • rue d’Austerlitz and the neighborhood of la Krutenau to your left 
  • quai Saint-Nicolas and la Petite France if you follow the river 
  • rue du Vieux-Marché-aux-Poissons, the Historical Museum, the Cathedral and the Palais Rohan to your right.

Alternatively, you can choose to walk level with the water along the banks of the Ill, which you can access either from pont Saint-Guillaume or from the Palais Rohan.