La Petite France, Strasbourg
Strasbourg has been on my bucket list for a couple of years now, ever since I learned about their ever so popular Christmas markets! But there are so much more to Strasbourg than just Christmas markets, like the picturesque La Petite France for example! Needless to say, this was my favourite part of Strasbourg and it has attracted millions of visitors every year worldwide! Beautiful half-timbered pastel-coloured houses lined perfectly along the Rhine River; charming narrow and windy cobblestoned streets waiting to be explored; countless bridges laid picturesquely over the river and canals; and indulging in mouth watering French-German cuisines are some of the things that has put Strasbourg on the world travellers radar.
Strasbourg sits within the Alsace region of France near the German border. The city has the best of both worlds as they switched between French and German rulers throughout history – identity crisis perhaps?! 🙂 Today, Strasbourg stands proudly French but retains some of their German heritage as evidenced by German street names.
The easiest way to get to Strasbourg is by the train from Paris. A merely hop over on the Eurostar from London’s Kings Cross St Pancras station to Paris Gare de Nord. Since we travelled after work, we spent the night in Paris and trained to Strasbourg the next morning. However, it’s only a 4 hour journey, so you can definitely do both legs in the same day. But make sure you leave plenty of time to transit in Paris as you do need to change to Gare de l’Est station.
After a short walk from the station, we arrived at the town centre. We had to go through the security though where our bags were checked – possibly due to it being Christmas? It was a bit inconvenient but I was happy for this added security.
Where we stayed
We stayed at BOMA Hotel which is an African inspired hotel with minimalist interior. The hotel was fitted with modern contemporary facilities yet I felt like I was transformed back in time with its wooden furniture, stools and pouffe deliberately placed around the room and common areas to give it an African safari feel. I later found out that ‘boma’ is an African word meaning an enclosure of wooden fences used to protect their people and animals from wild beasts or attackers. Now the decor made sense! Most importantly, the hotel is perfectly located in the heart of Strasbourg. We were within walking distance to everywhere so we couldn’t be happier staying here.
La Petite France
We spent a lot of time around La Petite France because I just couldn’t get over how pretty it is! This is the main attraction of Strasbourg. It is the most picturesque part of city and the best preserved historical centre. It used to be home to the tanners, millers and fishermen during the Middle Ages. Now it forms part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Grand Ile and attracts millions of visitors every year from all walks of life.
The only way to explore this place is by foot. Take your time to appreciate the half-timbered houses and soak up the fresh crisp French winter air.
It was really cold to be there in December but the festive vibes and gluhwein (mulled wine) makes up for it! It was filled with enough visitors to be lively and local musicians were out basking on the streets yet not super crowded with tourists had it been in the warmer months.
I was in photography heaven. Every corner was a perfect photo moment! You don’t need to a good photographer to capture beautiful photos here… trust me!!
Just look at these pastel coloured houses… enough said really!
Barrage Vauban and Ponts Couverts
Another main attraction that mustn’t be missed is the Barrage Vauban, a dam built by Sebastian Le Prestre de Vauban in the 17th century stretched across the River III. This dam was built to prevent la Petite France from being attacked via the river serving as an added fortress to the four massive watch towers guarding by soldiers.
The watch Towers are connected by bridge across River III which is known as Ponts Couverts (or covered bridge). In the 19th century, a second layer was added to the dam offering a rooftop terrace with a panoramic view of La Petite France today whist the first level is used as an art exhibition. Unfortunately we didn’t see any exhibition during our visit but view on the terrace was absolutely breathtaking!!
Even Mr Sunshine graced us his presence for this photo and literally disappeared straight after!
Mrs Cloud took over…
Bridges bridges and more bridges
While we are on the topic of bridges, there are so many beautiful bridges around Strasbourg, particularly in la Petite France. These are some of my favourite bridges. Sorry I can’t recall where their name nor their location but honestly you can’t miss them.
Private-ish Stroll along the Rhine River
If you want this view all to yourself, then I highly recommend getting down and close to the riverbank. We saw some stairs leading down to the river, so we took it and walked along the path all the way to the fringe of Strasbourg city. It views were gorgeous! It was even more amazing as we got to enjoy it all to ourselves… just the two of us… hand-in-hand and stopping every so often to capture these picturesque moments.
Came back the next day and do it all over again!!
Do a little hop and twirl along the way…
Or if you prefer to spend it with other tourists, there is always a boat tour along the Rhine River… 😛
Admiring the architecture
There are so many beautiful buildings in Strasbourg and la Petite France! So get your cameras ready, put on a pair of comfy shoes and just walk. If you are like me, you’d want to stop every at building to take a picture!!
Explore the Christmas Markets
The other good thing about visiting during December is their over-the-top Christmas decorations and extensive number of Christmas Markets scattered around the city. You can read more about Christmas in Strasbourg post here.
Like all winter, the days are much shorter than the warmer months and is France is no exception. In fact, there days are slightly shorter than London. Their sunrise during December is generally between 8:30 to 9am and by 4pm, the daylight gradually gets replaced by fairy lights and street lights. It is very pretty here in December particularly their over-the-top Christmas decorations.
You won’t be hungry in Strasbourg – I think I ate half my body weight in 3 days!! There are many cafes and restaurants all over the city and la Petite France. Even on Christmas Day, there were a good selection of restaurants open! Reservation is recommended though. Must try is a traditional Alsacian dish, the Baeckoffe which is a stew of three meats (beef, port and lamb) with potatoes, carrots and cabbages. A real hearty feast this one. As well as the jarred de port (pork knuckle) – check out the Christmas in Strasbourg post to find out where to find the best pork knuckle in town! Then wash it down with a glass (or in Alan’s case a bottle) of Gewürztraminer, vandage tardives (late harvest) wine. Absolutely divine! We hunted down a liquor store to stock up for home! For our Christmas Day dinner, Alan reserved a table at a 1 Michelin starred restaurant, Au Crocodile. I could not think of a better way to spend Christmas! The food was amazing and beautifully presented but I think it deserves it’s own post. So stay tuned!
Well there you have it. That’s Strasbourg and La Petite France!