I’m sure you’ve already seen hundreds of pictures of those cute little European villages with colorful half-timbered houses on Instagram and in glossy travel magazines.
You know, the houses that look like they were taken straight out of a fairy tale.
Maybe you’ve already been to some of those villages. Or maybe you’d love to, but you worry you might get bored if you spend your vacation somewhere small and slightly remote. Maybe you’re more of a shopaholic and a partylover, and the city life is what it’s all about.
As much as you’d love to feel like Belle (or Gaston, if you’re a guy reading this) from Beauty and the Beast while strolling along the little streets of an idyllic village, you just can’t escape the fact that you need something more than that. Is it possible to have a bit of Disney-magic and the urban city-life all at once?
Of course it is!
In the Alsace region in northeastern France, you’ll find plenty of those charming little villages and small towns (examples; Colmar and Eguisheim) – and a city just as gorgeous.
The capital of the Alsace region, home of the European Parliament:
Welcome to Strasbourg.
Back in July, I visited Strasbourg with my mother and one of her friends. Traveling with my mom can be a bit of a challenge sometimes, as she’s someone who could easily spend a full day shopping and an entire evening in a cozy wine bar.
Me, on the other hand, I prefer visiting historical sites and taking pictures of places, people and nature. During our stay in Strasbourg, we both had to make a few compromises, and things didn’t always go smooth as butter (which is often the case when traveling with others) but at the end of the day, everyone ended up being quite satisfied with the trip.
We arrived by train and stayed at the modern hotel Apart’hotel Strasbourg Wilson which is conveniently located close to the central train station, and has an indoor swimming pool. Breakfast was not included in the rate, but I didn’t mind paying the additional fee so I could enjoy the varied breakfast buffet. The rooms come with a fully equipped kitchen, which gives you the freedom to prepare your own breakfast in bed – in case you’d rather not spend that extra money, or you prefer having your breakfast in bed!
We filled our bellies with local specialties, such as the crispy and delicious flammkuchen/tarte flambée (photo above) at Le Kuhn, a veggie-version of the traditionally very meaty Baeckeoffe at Le Baeckeoffe , we stopped by a bakery for some kugelhopf and spent a couple of hours enjoying some refreshing Pinot Gris white wine and sandwiches at L’Épicerie. If Pinot Gris is too sweet for you, maybe a glass of dry Riesling is more up your alley?
I didn’t get enough time (or space in my belly) to taste the famous Alsatian choucroute, so I’ll have to save that for next time. Sausages, salted meats and sauerkraut isn’t exactly something you’d eat on a warm day in mid-July anyway, is it?
While my mother and her friend were busy checking out postcards, fridge magnets and other items from the souvenir shop, I took my time to photograph the beautiful cathedral. The Strasbourg Cathedral is the sixth tallest church in the world, and is considered to be among the finest examples of late Gothic architecture. The cathedral houses one of Strasbourg’s popular tourist attractions; an 18-meter Astronomical Clock!
We walked past street musicians and painters. Souvenir shops and jewelry stores. Small boutiques and well-known chains. Restaurants and bakeries.
Snacking on French pastries and enjoying the sunshine, slow and steady, we made our way to the picturesque neighborhood, the one that looks all your fairy tale dreams.
Hello, La Petite France!
Curiosity brought us to a nice little artisan market. As tempted as we were to buy something, we managed to move on and continue exploring the neighborhood without any additional bags in our hands.
La Petite France contains the historical city center, which is surrounded by water, with the River Ill and various canals cutting right through it. The neighborhood was once home to fishermen, millers and tanners who worked in this part of town.
Visit La Petite France by foot – or embark on a nice little boat trip and let your feet relax while you enjoy the beautiful view.
My trip to Strasbourg, and my first encounter with Alsace (I’ve since been to Colmar as well) left me wanting more. So much more. I know I’ll have to return to Strasbourg to see all the things I missed out on. And damn sure I’ll be there for at least some of the amazing events that take place in the city!
Ahem. Anyone wanna come with me to the Christmas market?
These are the events you shouldn’t miss in Strasbourg
- 10.-24. November: Jazzdor Festival (Jazz Music Festival). Celebrate the 32nd edition of the Jazzdor Festival. Around 15 venues will be hosting the event, so check out the program, book your ticket and jazz it up in Strasbourg!
- 24. November – 30. December: The famous Christmas Market. The oldest Christmas market in France, the Christkindelsmärik has been a tradition in Strasbourg since 1570. I don’t know about you, but I sure need my dose of Christmas markets to really get into the Christmas spirit!
- 1.-4. February: Sacred Music Festival – The music festival devoted to celebration of cultural differences and different religious beliefs. Build friendships and break down barriers, through music!
- 21. June: Music Day (Fête de la Musique). This is an event that takes place absolutely everywhere in France. In every city, every small town, every village. The streets of the city become your dance floor and DJ’s, bands and artists will entertain you all day and all night long. Fingers crossed for good weather!
- 14. July: Bastille Day (La fête Nationale). The most important event in France is definitely one worth experiencing. The national day is nationally celebrated by watching the military parades, followed by the biggest highlight of the year; the spectacular fireworks display!
(Photo above: this is a Kugelhopf)
(Photo above: This is a veggie-version of the Baeckeoffe)
(Photo above: Blending in at L’Épicerie)