Strasbourg is invariably described as quaint, a rather overused word that in this case is perfectly apropos. Whether you see it via a canal boat or on foot with an insightful local expert, this historic town with its cobbled lanes, half-timbered homes, giant stork nests and impossible-to-resist pastry shops will win your heart.
Kehl, directly across the river from Strasbourg, will be your ship’s base while you explore the Alsatian capital, which is known as the “Crossroads of Europe” for its strategic location halfway between Paris and Prague. You may choose to see Strasbourg via its historic canals (the way Strasbourg has been seen by its visitors through the centuries), which would give you an enlightening and relaxing overview of this historically important city. Or you may experience the historic core as the locals do, with an exclusive walking tour. If you’re feeling adventurous, take advantage of Uniworld’s bicycles or Nordic walking sticks and explore the banks of the river.
Choice of Exclusive “Do as the Locals Do” Strasbourg walking tour or Strasbourg by canal
Exclusive “Do as the Locals Do” Strasbourg walking tour
Begin in the German Quarter with a stroll through the spacious green spaces of Republic Square, which is surrounded by stately neoclassical structures—among them is the Palace of the Rhine, built at great expense as a residence for the Kaiser, should he happen to visit Strasbourg—and cross over the water to Broglie Square on Grande Île. Twice a week Broglie Square is the scene of a lively outdoor market, but there’s no shortage of activity on the other days of the week in this area, where impromptu concerts and street performances take place. Wend your way with your guide through the maze of bustling pedestrian streets lined with historic buildings— many of them housing tempting shops—toward the cathedral, whose single spire can be seen throughout the region. Stop for coffee and perhaps a pastry at a patisserie near the cathedral. Your local expert will tell you about the daily lives of the people in the area and introduce you to the delights of Alsatian cuisine before you go off to explore on your own and try out some of Alsace’s famous dishes.
Strasbourg by canal
Controlled over the centuries by either France or Germany, Strasbourg—cross-cultural and bilingual—offers a delightful combination of old and new as well as French and German characteristics. Hop aboard a glass-enclosed water taxi for a great view of both aspects, sailing past the striking contemporary architecture in the European Quarter (so named because pan-European institutions, such as the European Parliament, have offices here) and into the historic center of the city. You’ll pass under the famous covered footbridges linked by three medieval towers as you enter the serene waterways of the Ill. Here the river splits into canals lined with the stunning 15th and 16th-century black-and-white timbered houses of Petite France, a picturesque neighborhood of cobblestone streets and flower-filled window boxes.The water taxi will drop you off on Grande Île, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which you may explore at your leisure. The cathedral, just a short walk away, is not to be missed: The craftsmen who built Chartres Cathedral worked on it, and the rose window may be Chartres’s equal. Don’t miss the astronomical clock or the truly remarkable statuary and carvings. Climb the spiral staircase to the belfry for an amazing view of the city, or visit the sumptuous apartments in the Palais Rohan to get a sense of how mighty prince-bishops of the church once lived.