Strasbourg Visitor information
Strasbourg is the capital and principal city of the Alsace region in eastern France and is the official seat of the European Parliament. Located close to the border with Germany, it is the capital of the Bas-Rhin département. Strasbourg's historic city centre, the Grande Île (Grand Island), was classified a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1988, the first time such an honour was placed on an entire city centre.
The city is chiefly known for its sandstone Gothic Cathedral with its famous astronomical clock, and for its medieval cityscape of Rhineland black and white timber-framed buildings, particularly in the Petite-France district or Gerberviertel ("tanners' district") in the streets and squares surrounding the cathedral, where the renowned Maison Kammerzell stands out.
As for modern and contemporary architecture, Strasbourg possesses some fine Art Nouveau buildings. The huge Palais des Fêtes, some houses and villas on Avenue de la Robertsau and Rue Sleidan are all good examples of post-World War II functional architecture. Noticeable contemporary buildings are the new Music school Cité de la Musique et de la Danse, the Musée d'Art moderne et contemporain and the Hôtel du Département facing it, as well as, in the outskirts, the tramway-station Hoenheim-Nord designed by Zaha Hadid.
The largest square at the centre of the city of Strasbourg is the Place Kléber. Located in the heart of the city's commercial area, it was named after general Jean-Baptiste Kléber, born in Strasbourg in 1753 and assassinated in 1800 in Cairo. In the square is a statue of Kléber, under which is a vault containing his remains. On the north side of the square is the Aubette (Orderly Room), built by Jacques François Blondel, architect of the king, in 1765–1772.
Strasbourg features a number of prominent parks, of which several are of cultural and historical interest.
The Parc de l'Orangerie was laid out as a French garden by André le Nôtre and remodeled as an English garden on behalf of Joséphine de Beauharnais. It now displays noteworthy French gardens, a neo-classical castle and a small zoo. The Parc de la Citadelle was built around impressive remains of the 17th-century fortress erected close to the Rhine by Vauban. The Parc de Pourtalès was laid out in English style around a baroque castle (heavily restored in the 19th century) that now houses a small three star hotel and features an open-air museum of international contemporary sculpture. The Jardin botanique de l'Université de Strasbourg (botanical garden) was created under the German administration next to the Observatory of Strasbourg, built in 1881, and still owns some greenhouses of those times. The Parc des Contades, although the oldest park of the city, was completely remodelled after World War II. The futuristic Parc des Poteries is an example of European park-conception in the late 1990s. The Jardin des deux Rives, spread over Strasbourg and Kehl on both sides of the Rhine, is the most recent (2004) and most extended (60 hectare) park of the agglomeration.
For a city of comparatively small size, Strasbourg displays a large quantity and variety of museums. Unlike most other cities, Strasbourg's collections of European art are divided into several museums according not only to type and area, but also to epoch. Old master paintings from the Germanic Rhenish territories and until 1681 are displayed in the Musée de l'Œuvre Notre-Dame, old master paintings from all the rest of Europe (including the Dutch Rhenish territories) and until 1871 as well as old master paintings from the Germanic Rhenish territories between 1681 and 1871 are displayed in the Musée des Beaux-Arts. Old master graphic arts until 1871 are displayed in the Cabinet des Estampes et Dessins. Decorative arts until 1681 ("German period") are displayed in the Musée de l'Œuvre Notre-Dame, decorative arts from 1681 to 1871 ("French period") are displayed in the Musée des Arts décoratifs. International art (painting, sculpture, graphic arts) and decorative art since 1871 is displayed in the Musée d'Art Moderne et Contemporain. The latter museum also displays the city's photographic library.
Strasbourg has its own airport which serves major domestic destinations, as well as international destinations in Europe and northern Africa.
Train services operate from Gare de Strasbourg eastward to Offenburg and Karlsruhe in Germany, westward to Metz and Paris, and southward to Basel. Strasbourg's links with the rest of France have improved due to its recent connection to the TGV network, with the first phase of the TGV Est (Paris–Strasbourg) in 2007.
City transportation in Strasbourg is served by a futurist-looking tram system that has been operated since 1994 by the regional transit company Compagnie des Transports Strasbourgeois and as of 2010 consists of 6 lines (A, B, C, D, E and F) adding up to a total of 55.8 km (34.7 mi). A former tram system, partly following different routes, had been operating since 1878 but was ultimately dismantled in 1960.
With more than 500 km (311 mi) of bicycle paths, biking in the city is convenient. Compagnie des Transports Strasbourgeois operates a cheap bike-sharing scheme named Vélhop'.