Strasbourg is invariably described as quaint, a rather overused word that in this case is perfectly apropos. Whether you see it by bicycle, on foot with an insightful local expert or opt to delve into the town’s Jewish past, Strasbourg’s cobbled lanes, half-timbered homes, giant stork nests and impossible-to-resist pastry shops will win your heart.Postcard-perfect Strasbourg is the very definition of picturesque, with its magnificent Gothic cathedral, cobblestone lanes and half-timbered homes adorned with flower-filled window boxes. After docking in town, you’ll have a chance to discover Strasbourg’s many charms with a choice of excursions: A guided “Do as the Locals Do” walking tour of the Petit France district, stopping to try traditional Alsatian treats along the way; a “Go Active” bike tour that covers a bit more ground, including the European district; or an in-depth look at the city’s rich Jewish history, which dates back an astonishing 2,000 years. After lunch onboard, spend the afternoon at your leisure, perhaps shopping for handcrafted souvenirs bearing images of white storks—a beloved symbol of the city.
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 19th-century Palace of the Rhine, built at great expense as a residence for the Kaiser, if he ever happened 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.
Exclusive guided “Let's Go” Strasbourg by bicycle
Strasbourg loves cyclists! The city has a great network of bike routes, and more residents use bikes as their primary method of transportation than in any other city in France. You’ll soon discover that much of the old city center is car-free, which makes it an especially inviting area to explore via bicycle. Fasten your helmet and pedal with your knowledgeable guide along the charming flower-bedecked lanes of Petite France, which are lined with tall half-timbered houses that date back to the Renaissance, and cross into the European Quarter, so named because of the many pan-European institutions housed in stunning contemporary buildings there. The contrast between the quaint historic district and the glittering modern structures brings home the scope of Strasbourg’s place in Europe’s history and affairs.
Jewish Heritage, Alsace’s Jewish past
Strasbourg’s Jewish community was first noted by Benjamin of Tudela, the remarkable medieval traveler and writer who mentioned the Jewish scholars of Strasbourg in 1165. Strasbourg’s Jews, like many others in the area, were driven from the city during the Black Death but remained in the area throughout the centuries, a presence reflected in the many synagogues that still stand (not necessarily in use) and in the community’s unique dialect, Judeo-Alsatian. Explore the living history of this heritage with a stroll through Strasbourg’s old town, beginning at the cathedral, where the medieval Christian view of Judaism is made clear: a statue—Synagoga—is blindfolded, indicating that she has not seen the light of Christianity. The neighboring museum courtyard contains some medieval Jewish headstones, relocated from a lost cemetery on the Place de la Republique. As you head down Rue des Juifs, one of the oldest streets in the city, you’ll see the location of the community’s oldest house, built in 1270, and 13th-century bakery and, at the end of the lane, the synagogue; restoration work on the mikveh, around the corner, has just begun. Visit the Alsatian Museum for a look at the Judaica collection and its model prayer room, and, if you like, attend a service at the Synagogue of Peace, built in 1954 to replace the one destroyed by the Nazis and the heart of the thriving modern Jewish community.