We’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating: Strasbourg is a hidden gem of a city!
Nestled into the Eastern edge of France just a short drive from the German border, Strasbourg has traditionally been known as le carrefour de l’Europe (the crossroads of Europe). With a rich and fascinating past, tremendous political importance, a charming old town, and delightful gastronomy, Strasbourg is an underrated city to say the least. What’s more, you can get a feel for French and German culture without the financial stress of Paris or overwhelming size of Berlin. So why not stop here for a day during your Euro travels?
I recently spent a day in Strasbourg while in transit between Paris and Germany. With a huge train station serving both France and Germany, it seems I was not the only one in town for a layover. Luckily, you can easily leave your luggage at the consigne (luggage storage) for €4 a day. After you shed those burdensome suitcases, you can enjoy all that Strasbourg has to offer, the cheapo way.
Just a five minute walk from the train station lies La Petite France, Strasbourg’s adorable old town with a medieval feel and a winding canal. If you’re like me, you’ll immediately want to sit and have a coffee and perhaps a light breakfast after your train ride. Grab a seat at La Tinta Cafe, a charming little spot on the canal with a literature theme. They have tartines and patisseries to satisfy your hunger. But don’t stuff yourself at breakfast—Strasbourg is all about the deliciously savory and filling meals to be enjoyed later in the afternoon.
Take a stroll along the canal to digest and take in the beautiful scenery which is a strangely lovely mixture of French and German influence.
After your light meal and walk, you’ll find yourself in the center of the city, where you can’t miss the stunning Cathedral that dates back to 1439. It will simply take your breath away. In my humble opinion, it trumps the Notre Dame of Paris by miles—it has all the ostentatious beauty and impressive history, without the annoying lines or tourist groups.
Take a peak inside for free, and if it’s hot outside, you might want to linger for awhile as the stone exterior makes for quite a cool interior.
Hungry again? It’s about time you tried Flammkuchen (tarte flambée in French, though you will usually see it written in German). This is a wildly delicious dish that is very typical of the Alsace region. The basic Flammkuchen consists of thin, rectangular dough upon which a creamy, buttery mixture is spread and topped with caramelized onions and bits of bacon.
You can find this sort of dish anywhere at varying prices, but I recommend heading to Le Flam’s, where you can get all-you-can-eat Flammkuchen for only €12, or a single Flammkuchen for €5.60. Wow!
Like most French cities, Strasbourg has an amazing amount of green space. The Jardin de l’Orangerie is a particularly beautiful spot to go for a walk or relax. It shares a designer with Versailles, so you can imagine how gorgeous and intricate it is. In the summertime, you can even row boats on the lake. Got kids? There’s even a mini-zoo.
To get there from the center of Strasbourg, you can either navigate your way through the cheap and efficient tram system, or grab a bike from the rental system, VélHop for the bargain price of €1/hr, or €5/day.
With my train departing at 7 PM, I had time for one last drink to reflect on a wonderful day spent wandering around Strasbourg. If you’ve got a train to catch, you’ll probably want to head back towards the station. Why not stop back in Petite France for a traditional Alsace beer? I recommend La Corde à Linge, a modern and inviting restaurant with a grand terrace in a courtyard overlooking the canal. Here, you can grab a pint for around €5, or, like me, sip some Ricard for only €3.80.
After a well-spent day in Strasbourg, you’ll be ready and invigorated to continue your trip in France, Germany, or wherever you may be heading. Having spent less than €25 to discover the best Alsace has to offer, your wallet will thank you!