Difference between revisions of "Strasbourg"
Revision as of 19:58, 30 April 2007
Strasbourg (German: Straßburg)  is the capital of the Alsace region of France and is most widely known for hosting a number of important European institutions. It is also famous for its beautiful historical centre - the Grande Île - which was the first city centre to be classified entirely as a World Heritage site by UNESCO.
Strasbourg is is one of the 9 largest cities in France with nearly half a million inhabitants in a metopolitan area spanning across the river into the German city of Kehl, on the eastern bank of the Rhine.
The city itself is the seat of the Council of Europe, the European Court of Human Rights, the European Ombudsman, the Eurocorps, the European Audiovisual Observatory and, most famously, the European Parliament, which also holds sessions in Brussels.
While it may be possible to find older people who will engage in a conversation with you in German (or Alsacienne as the locals refer to it) the lingua franca of Strasbourg (and all of Alsace) is indeed French. You will rarely hear German spoken on the street (except perhaps by German tourists). Fret not if your French is sub par as almost everywhere in Strasbourg in restaurants and hotels English is commonplace. If you speak German AND English and not French most Strasbourgers will almost certainly prefer to converse in English with you. That being said, as with anywhere in the world you visit, knowing a few basics in French will certainly give you a much more pleasant stay.
Strasbourg International Airport (SXB)  is located south-west of the city at Entzheim, with domestic as well as international flights. Air France  is the principle operator. There are several flights a day to and from Paris. A shuttle bus (€5.10 single, €9.50 round trip) takes travellers to Baggersee tram and bus station, which is on the A-line tram line to the town center. A tram-train line running directly from the airport to the town center is planned to open in 2008.
Karlsruhe/Baden-Baden Airport (FKB)  is located about 60km away in Germany. Ryanair  operates from Karlsrühe following a court ruling that declared its subsidy arrangements at Strasbourg Airport a contravention of European legislation. Bus and train connections are available to Strasbourg.
Frankfurt International Airport (FRA)  is about three hours away from Strasbourg, and is one of the nearest inter-contintental airports to Strasbourg. Lufthansa  operates a bus shuttle between Strasbourg and Frankfurt, Germany (but an indirect connection by train can be cheaper if booked online  in advance).
Strasbourg is well served by regional, national and international train services, predominantly by SNCF (French Railways), but also by Deutsche Bahn (German Railways).
With the opening of the new TGV Est Européen  on 9 June 2007, journey times from Strasbourg to many destinations, including Paris, will be significantly reduced. TGV trains will replace all existing slower services (currently served by Corail or Corail Téoz), and the Orient Express to Vienna will start its overnight journey in Strasbourg instead of Paris.
Major destinations include the following major towns and cities with multiple daily departures. Journey times are approximate and journey times in (brackets) indicate the predicted journey time after 9 June 2007.
A number of overnight trains with sleeper and couchette accomodations also serve:
From summer 2007, the TGV Est Européen will create new direct services to:
The railway station is located a short walk west of the town center on Place de la Gare. There are connections to the tram system and buses, with many taxis waiting outside (to the left of the station forecourt).
For details of all services, and to make reservations, contact SNCF . For regional travel, contact SNCF TER Alsace  who co-ordinate the efficient and well served regional train network. When planning trips east of Strasbourg into Germany or countries beyond, you could save money by comparing the fares offered by Deutsche Bahn  to those of the SNCF .
You can reach Strasbourg by various highways:
Driving into Strasbourg's old city is relatively easily although there are a few streets off limits to cars. There are many large garages surrounding the old city if your hotel does not have its own parking facility.
Strasbourg is most easily explored on foot, and the historic city centre can easily be explored in a day or two. For to be able to cover more ground, you should consider hiring a bike or using the public transport network.
Strasbourg is ideal for cycling - the city center is flat and there are plenty of bike lanes and bike paths. You can rent bikes at:
Bikes are allowed on trams except during peak hours.
More information on cycling in Strasbourg: http://www.strasbourg.fr/strasbourgfr/fr/sedeplacer/avelo/
By bus and tram
Buses and trams in Strasbourg are operated by the Compagnie des Transports Strasbourgeois (CTS) . A few dozen numbered bus lines and four tram lines (named A to D) serve the city. A single ticketing system covers both bus and tram. Tickets are sold in 'tabacs' (newsagents), tourist offices, CTS boutiques or from vending machines at tram stops. Tickets should be validated before use, either in the machines on tram station platforms or in the machine by the driver when you board the bus.
Summary of fares:
If using the buses and/or trams a lot, Europass tickets are available from all automatic ticket machines and are valid on all local tram and bus services (including those that cross the border to Kehl) for either 24 hours or seven days.
Strasbourg is a popular tourist destination primarily thanks to the beautifully preserved and pedestrian friendly city centre, which can be explored on foot or bicycle in a few days. Don't forget that Strasbourg's appeal now brings tourists to the city throughout the year, with large tour groups especially frequent during the summer months and during the annual winter market. Staying for a few days will allow you to see the Strasbourg when it's calmest, first thing in the morning and during the evening.
The main Tourist Office  is located on Place de la Cathedrale, with a smaller office in the concourse level of the railway station. Both are open 09h00 to 19h00.
The tourist office sells a variety of self-guided walking tours through the town (Middle Ages, Renaissance, Modern and Contemporary) for €1 each, and also arranges bike tours through the Faubourgs (the suburbs of Neudorf and Neuhof). Maps, brochures and last minute accomodation are also available.
Water-bus tours are available near the Palais des Rohans (south of the cathedral). Those tours (about 45 min.) run around the town center and the European district.
Petite France is the name given to the small area between the rivers, just south of the Grande Île. It's home to some of Strasbourg's prettiest and most photogenic streets and buildings, with half timbered townhouses leaning out over the narrow cobbled streets. Petite France resembles Colmar (a city an hour south), with picturesque canal and half-timber houses.
Elsewhere in Strasbourg
The Christmas market. Many places, but the most important and beautiful are place Broglie and place de la cathédrale, although they are crowded... The best place to drink hot wine (vin chaud) and to eat Christmas cookies (Brédalas).
From time to time, the city organizes a general market in vast parts of the center, where many street vendors offer various products and the shops join in with special discounts. Then, the city center on the island is partly closed for parking or driving and the trams don't go on the Rue des Francs Burgeois. The 29th July 2006 (a saturday) was such a day, information about regular market dates is hard to find on the net. If you manage to track down the date of this market, write it here and don't miss it.
There is a marché aux Puces (flea market) on rue de Vieil-Hopital on Wednesday and Saturdays. The Place des Halles, 24 place des Halles is a shopping center with about 110 shops and restaurants. Is is north of the center, walking distance. Open Mon-Fri 09:00 to 20:00, since June 2006 also Saturdays until 20:00.
Galeries Lafayettes and Printemps have shops, Galeries Lafayettes at rue du 22 Novembre, Primtemps is at 1-5 rue de la Haute Montée. Rue Hellebardes and Gutemberg offer designer clothes and Man's Clothes. Bruno Saint Hilaire has designer clothes for man and has a shop in 8 Rue Gutemberg. A low budget clothing shop is in 6 Rue de la Lanterne, offering second hand clothes. In the rue de Juifs are some gadget shops.
Alsacian specialities are numerous and can be eaten in many traditional restaurants, in the city or in the neighbourhood. Particularly you oughtn't visit Alsace without having the sauerkraut (choucroute in French). Chaucroute seems to have a standard price throughout Alsace of 14 Euros. Don't be too dismayed by this seemingly high price as what is braught to you is heaping plate of Sauerkraut (big enough for 2 people) as well as sausages and other meats. This is usually translated as "garnished sauerkraut" on English menus, when in doubt ask your server. Other specialities include the Alsacian pork-butcher's meat, Flamenküche or flams (tartes flambées in French) which is a sort of wafer thin pizza made with onion-cream sauce, Baekehof, beef and pork stew cooked, with potatoes and carrots, usually served for two or more persons and Fleischnackas, mixed beef meat presented like spirals and served with salads.
There are many hotels around the station, especially in the place de la Gare and in the rue du Maire Kuss, but this area does not offer consistent quality for accomodations. Most international hotel chains are represented with the usual 2 or 3 star hotels, many of which host the large tour groups who come on weekend breaks. If your budget allows, try staying on the Grande Île (city centre). Most of Strasbourg's hotels are fully booked during the Christmas Market period (December) and when the EU parliament is in session for a few days every month, usually for the period around the tenth. Book ahead if in doubt, as last minute accomodation can be difficult to find during these periods.
Local mobile phone services are provided by Orange, SFR and Bouygues Télécoms. Payphone kiosks are plentiful and international calling cards can be purchased in post offices and 'tabacs' (corner shops). Most of the internet cafés listed below are also equipped for making online telephony calls (Skype etc).
Strasbourg is one of the safest large cities in France and the tourist has little to fear. Of course the standard precautions apply and watch out for pick-pockets in the area of the Cathedral (and even inside according to the signs) during high tourist season.