Last Updated on 6th December 2019 by Sophie Nadeau
Strasbourg is a gorgeous mid-size city known for its romantic canals, medieval architecture, and towering cathedral. Wonderful to visit during any time of the year, here’s a free and self-guided Strasbourg walking tour to help you get your bearings in this European city…
Located in eastern France, this storied city is the capital of the Alsace region. Strasbourg’s position is also historically controversial—there have been multiple times throughout history when it was a German city and not a French city. The last change in status occurred in 1681, when Louis XV annexed the city to France.
It’s the rich history of the city that gives Strasbourg its charm
The people who live in Strasbourg, known as the Strasbourgois, are friendly and proud. There is a rich local tradition in food and folklore, as well as the local Alsatian language that is still spoken by some people today (though the language is at risk of dying out).
If you look closely, you’ll see that many streets still have their name posted in both languages. And if you listen carefully, you may just hear all three languages (French, German, and Alsatian) spoken all around you. With this being said, you’ll find that most people (especially those working in tourism) have a great level of English, though it’s only polite to learn a few words of the local languages. Buy a German phrasebook like this one and a French phrasebook like this one to help you get by.
Strasbourg Walking Tour: Tips, tricks, and practical advice
If you’re planning to visit Strasbourg, it’s very easy to get to from Paris. With a direct, high-speed train, the journey takes around two hours and around €40 round trip in low-tourist season (October-November, January-April). Editor’s note: I personally use this website to book train tickets.
In high season, you can expect to pay around €100 round trip if you book at least two weeks in advance. By far, the most popular time of year to visit Strasbourg is during its renowned Christmas market, which begins at the end of November and runs throughout December.
If you’re planning to visit Strasbourg, make sure to dress according to the season. Fall and spring are extremely unpredictable, so you’ll want a warm coat on hand plus an umbrella and waterproof footwear. To really look like a local, pair a cute pair of practical booties with a neutral-toned or patterned scarf. The city gets decently hot in the summer and cold in the winter (though actual snow is a rare occurrence). Finally, sturdy footwear is advised in all seasons so that you aren’t distracted while trying to navigate winding cobblestone streets.
There are all types of accommodation in Strasbourg, ranging from budget-friendly hostels to high-end boutique hotels featuring the star treatment. If you plan to visit during the high season, book well in advance to get your magical visit off to a great start. Last but not least, if you’re planning on seeing many of Strasbourg’s main paid attractions while in the city, then consider buying the Strasbourg 3-Day City Pass to save on time and money!
Walking time: 38 minutes
Distance: 3.2 km
Cathèdrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg (Strasbourg Cathedral)
The Strasbourg Cathedral is a natural starting point located on the city’s Grand Isle. The heart of the city, the “Grand Isle” is so named because it’s surrounded by canals on all sides. Rising proudly above the rooftops of this historic district, the 2000-year-old Cathedral is a homage to Gothic architecture and artisan detail. Additionally, it is free to enter during the week.
Make sure you check out the famous astronomical clock inside! For a small fee, visitors can climb 300+ stairs to its rooftop platform. On a clear day, you can see the Vosges mountains to the west and the Black Forest in Germany to the east. All in all, Strasbourg’s main ecclesiastical building is one of the best cathedrals in France.
Christian Tea Room
Family owned and a true local gem, this patisserie specializes in the French-style espresso and a local treat known as the Kugelhopf. Baked in what English speakers would recognize as a Bundt mould, the Kugelhopf is a yeast-based pastry typically eaten for breakfast or on special occasions. The traditional version is a simple sweet version with raisins and almonds and a smattering of powdered sugar on top.
Location and hours: 10 Rue Mercière, 67000 Strasbourg, 7:30 AM – 6PM, Closed on Sundays.
If you’re on Instagram and ever liked photos taken in Strasbourg, they were probably taken in Petite France. Quintessentially village-like with its roads and side streets poetically entwined, Petite France was originally the district of fishermen, tanners, and millers. Today, it features restaurants with wonderful terraces to sit and enjoy a meal or a drink, and innumerable photography opportunities.
Located at the end of the Petite France district, the Ponts Couverts are named for a time when they were indeed covered with a wooden awning. Today, they are a lovely stopping point for reflection or photos while exploring the city. A key detail to notice: three ancient towers that date from the 14th century!
Café Bretelles Petite France
As you make your way out of Petite France, why not stop for a craft coffee? Bretelles is a popular place for locals to meet with friends or even have a quick snack as a family. Boasting strong, well-balanced coffee and cosy interior décor, the coffee shop also prides itself on its locally-sourced ingredients.
Location and hours: 36 Rue du Bain-aux-Plantes, 67000, open every day 9 AM-6 PM.
If you come to this historic square on a sunny day, you could be in for a treat. In the heart of Strasbourg’s shopping district, musicians can frequently be heard singing from the base of the statue of General Jean Baptiste Kleber. Fun fact: On Wednesdays and weekends there’s usually an open-air book market, making this one of the best literary destinations in Europe!
Librairie Internationale Kleber
If you perked up when you read about an open-air book market, you’ll love this concept: an international bookstore! Located on Place Kleber, this cosy shop has books in all genres and several languages. Fair warning: It’s all too easy to while away an afternoon drifting from one shelf to the next.
Location and hours: 1 Rue des Francs-Bourgeois, 67000, open from 9:30 AM-7 PM every day except Monday (opens at 10 AM). Closed on Sunday.
In English, Carre d’Or means “Golden Square.” These narrow streets and gorgeously decorated shops and restaurants truly feel like a secret discovery or, indeed, Strasbourg hidden gem.
Carre d’Or features some of the city’s best boutique shopping and eating options. Follow the street signs and trace the square yourself: rue des Orfèvres, la place de la Cathédral, rue du Dôme, and rue du Temple Neuf. In the wintertime, these streets are some of the most lavishly decorated in the whole city.
Restaurant Au Gurtlerhoft
Finally, end close to where you began. Just a stone’s throw away from the Cathedral is a local gem cooking up delicious meals in the traditional style. As you enter, automatic doors will open silently for you to descend into the restaurant. Then, you emerge into what was once a 15th-century wine cellar and met with a friendly greeting. The ambience is romantic, a perfect way to end a magical day spent strolling the streets above you.
For dinner, I recommend ordering a tarte flambée and pairing the meal with a glass (or two!) of Riesling. Tarte flambée is essentially the Alsatian version of a flatbread. The traditional toppings are a cream base, onions, and bacon. For a cheesy bonus, you can order the “gratinée” version.
Location and hours: 13 Place de la Cathédrale, 67000 Strasbourg, open every day from 11:30 AM- 10 PM.