On the northeast border of France and Germany lies one of the most peculiar towns I have ever had the pleasure of visiting – Strasbourg. While on a day trip visiting Strasbourg and strolling its cobblestone streets on I continuously asked myself, is this France or is this Germany?
As the name suggests, Strasbourg has German roots. With only the Rhine River dividing France and Germany at Strasbourg’s doorstep, it’s no surprise that the city has been passed between the two countries several times. It was founded by the Romans, ruled by France, was apart of the German Empire, and enjoyed an independent stint. Napoleon had his fun visiting Strausburg, as did Hitler. The result is a mishmash of culture and diversity. Strasbourg is home to France’s second-largest university, the largest Islamic place of worship in the country, and a head-scratching mix of Germany, France, and beyond.
Half-Timber, all Charm
The clearest evidence (besides its name) that would suggest this used to be a German city is the architecture. Visiting Strasbourg you will find plenty of half-timber homes much as you would find in other German cities such as Frankfurt and Bamberg. The best and most scenic collection can be found on the historic island quarter of Petite France. This cute area was the highlight of my day trip visiting Strasbourg.
S’il Vous Plait
Continuing on from Petite France we passed many sites that suggested Strasbourg is indeed French. Although the architecture would have you believe otherwise we passed bakeries with the most amazing croissants, cheese shops with the stinkiest of cheeses, and smoky cafés where customers were divided equally sipping espresso, and wine. Visiting Strasbourg is definitely visiting France. Then there was the fact that everyone was speaking French, something that still seemed out of place even with passing by these stereotypical French shops.
Another highlight of my day trip visiting Strasbourg was the massive Strasbourg Cathedral. Built in 1439, this Gothic cathedral dominates the skyline with its imposing spires – so much so that it held the title of the World’s Tallest Building for 227 years. Inside you’ll find another highlight in one of the world’s largest astronomical clocks. Outside you will find (at least on my day trip visiting Strasbourg) the most amazing cellist ever. It could have been the background or the confusion of what country I was actually visiting, but this guy was chillingly good.
Germany or France?
Either way, the city is as fascinating as it is beautiful. Although my time visiting Strasbourg was a short excursion from my awesome Viking Rhine Getaway, it was enough for me to determine that it warrants a return. With cheap airline tickets available between the USA and France, a return just may be in the cards. Direct flights between San Francisco and Paris mean this little French town that thinks it’s German is closer than ever.
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Thoughts on my day trip visiting Strasbourg?
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Although my day trip visiting Strasbourg was provided by Viking River Cruises,
the experience, opinions, and mix of French and German are my own.