Strasbourg - The Pearl of Alsace

The city of Strasbourg is located in Eastern France  at the border with Germany. It is the most important city of the Alsace region and occupies a central position in the Western Europe, which is why it was chosen to shelter a big number of international and EU institutions such as: the Council of Europe, European Parliament, European Court of Human Rights, Ombudsman, European Science Foundation, Europol, etc. Thus, if for the people from Alsace, Strasbourg becomes an emblem of the bellicose history of France and Germany, for the rest of Europeans the city represents the point 0 of the United Europe.

The city was built on the left bank of the Rhine and Ill rivers (many tributaries crossing different neighborhoods of the city) and it’s it is located on one of the largest fresh water reserves in Europe. This is why it has an increased risk of flooding some neighborhoods such as: Montagne Verte or Robertsau.

The architecture of Strasbourg is medieval, being marked by the city's history, having both French and German influences. The historic center is dominated by houses with colombages (German influence), especially in La Petite France and Finkwiller districts or around the Notre-Dame de Strasbourg cathedral, most of them built between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries. During the reign of Louis XIV (1638 -1715) the city changed its architectural codes adopting the French architecture by building private hotels like: Cour de Honau, Hôtel de Deux-Ponts, Episcopal Palace, l'Hôtel the Klinglin. Nowadays, the city’s appearance is an aristocratic one, its architecture revealing the richness of the old free Imperial city. 

It cannot be denied that the touristic potential of the city is worthy of consideration, Strasbourg ranking in the top ten of the most visited places in France.

The most visited tourist attraction of Strasbourg is the Notre-Dame cathedral, known as one of the most beautiful Gothic cathedrals in Europe. With a height of 142 meters, the cathedral's platform offers a great view of the beautiful old town of Strasbourg. The cathedral hosts an astronomical clock from the Renaissance period, product of collaboration between artists, mathematicians and technicians, measuring 18 meters and being one of the largest in the world.

Another attraction of the city is La Petite France (Little France), a historic district of Strasbourg, located on the Grande Ile, which was included in the World Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO since 1988. Typical Alsatian, this neighborhood was built in the late fifteenth century for people suffering from syphilis and it was totally destroyed during the Second World War. After the war, the city initiated a policy of the district’s reconstruction, intensified especially after 1970. Houses with colombages and beautiful flowers at the windows create an authentic Alsatian atmosphere, and on winter the garlands which adorn the small neighborhood streets transform this district into a fairy tale one.

Also, Strasbourg shelters the seat of the European Parliament (EP) which represents the European Union's legislative, founded in 1979. 

The EP is near the European Court of Human Rights, a building with a very interesting architecture having two cylinders on one side and other of the entry, representing the balance of justice, whose construction began in 1991 and was completed in 1994.

Regarding the green spaces, they are well represented in the city's urban architecture, Strasbourg owns 324 acres of parks and gardens, of which the most famous is the Park of the Orangerie (Parc de l'Orangerie) located in front of the Council of Europe. Its botanical garden was created initially in 1619 and converted to a cemetery in 1870 after the siege by the Germans.  It was inaugurated in its current form in 1884 for students of the Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy of Strasbourg. Today the botanical garden hosts 6.000 species in an area of 3.5 hectares.

The city is a veritable human mosaic, multiculturalism being one of the defining elements of Strasbourg. On the other hand, the native people from Alsace which have a well-defined identity over the centuries, they are so proud of their origins often claiming that they are "first Alsatian and then French people."

Thus, the combination between the traditional typical Alsatian elements and the multicultural elements, as well as the combination between the history of a bellicose past and a future under the sign of European Unity, has found the most beautiful physical expression in Strasbourg, which no incidentally was chosen to become a symbol of the European community.

Edited by Laura Davidel
Photo credits:  J. Dorkel / Cus  P. Bogner / Cus