Known as the cultural capital of Alsace, Strasbourg is already one of the most unique cities to visit in France thanks to its unusual mix of French and German history, architecture, and cuisine.
Whilst most people know Strasbourg for its Christmas market, which is the oldest in France, there is more to this city than its Christmas festivities. Strasbourg’s rich history has left it with many secret spots that are just waiting to be discovered. The city’s strong cultural heritage means art, museums, and gastronomy all flourish, offering visitors a selection of unique addresses to explore and enjoy. Here are twelve of the best.
Visit a wine cellar under a hospital
A hospital might seem like an unusual place to house a wine cellar, but that’s exactly what you can find underneath the Hôpital Civil de Strasbourg. The Cave Historique des Hospices de Strasbourg, (the Historic Cellar of the Strasbourg Hospices) dates back to 1395, when at the time patients would often pay for their medical treatment in kind with their land and vineyards. This meant that by the end of the Middle Ages, the hospital owned many wine-making areas, which came in particularly useful considering that wine was frequently used for both religious and medicinal purposes. Around 60 oak barrels now sit under the hospital, filled with a selection of vintage Alsatian wines which, after maturing, will be bottled and sold in the cellar’s shop. The cellar is also believed to have the oldest barrel in the world, marked with the date 1472. It’s free to visit and you can book a guided tour, but the wine is only available to taste on the special portes-ouvertes (open door) days; email the cellar in advance to find out when they are.
1 Place de L’Hôpital, 67000 Strasbourg
Go see the Astronomical Clock
Standing tall in the heart of Strasbourg is the city’s magnificent cathedral, which is an impressive example of Gothic architecture and an unmissable sight on any trip to the city. Although the cathedral is widely admired for its statuary and stained glass windows, it also boasts a few more unusual features, notably its Astronomical Clock. Built back in 1574, the clock is considered to be a masterpiece of the Renaissance period, showcasing not only the skilled work of Swiss clock makers but also mathematicians, sculptors, painters, and automaton designers, who were all involved in building the clock and its animated figures. When the clock strikes half past noon each day these figures come to life, and visitors can watch as the creepy figure of Death, who holds a scythe in one hand whilst ringing a bell with another, announces that it’s is time for each of the apostles to pass before the figure of Christ, who sits high above the clock face.
Place de la Cathédrale, 67000 Strasbourg
Climb up to the Cathedral’s platform
Once you’re done marvelling at the Astronomical Clock, you should also make the journey up the cathedral’s 330 steps to the cathedral’s platform and guardhouse for the best view of Strasbourg. In the past the platform has been used as a lookout point, and more unusually, as a popular picnic spot for locals in summer, who would make trek up the winding staircase to enjoy a day basking in the sun. Now it’s just open to tourists looking to learn more about the Strasbourg inside the platform’s guard house, and to take in the sweeping views. When the weather is clear, you can even see as far as the Vosges mountains (where Strasbourg’s famous Munster cheese is made) and the Black Forest in Germany.
Place de la Cathédrale, 67000 Strasbourg
Take a peek at Crow Courtyard
You’ll have to keep your eyes open to spot Crow Courtyard, which can found be hidden away behind a small archway. This pretty courtyard dates back to the 16th century and, thanks to being a listed monument, shows off Strasbourg’s charming style perfectly with its Renaissance half-timber buildings, tiled roofs, and wooden loggia decked with flowers. If you want to stay in this historical part of the city then the former Zum Rappen hotel, which opened back in 1528, is now home to one of Strasbourg’s most prestigious abodes and one of the oldest hotels in Europe, Hôtel Cour du Corbeau.
1 Quai des Bateliers, 67000 Strasbourg
Visit the Voodoo Museum
Visiting the Château Vodou, or Voodoo Museum, is definitely something different to do in Strasbourg, as it’s the only museum of its kind in the world. Located in an impressive 1878 water tower, which is pretty unusual in itself, the museum showcases the largest private collection of voodoo objects in the world. Artefacts from Ghana, Benin, Togo and Nigeria have all previously been used for religious worship, witchcraft, and other ceremonies, as well as for medicinal purposes such as promoting fertility.
4 Rue de Koenigshoffen, 67000 Strasbourg
Go to the Egyptian House
Strasbourg’s architecture is very distinctive, and so the Egyptian House really stands out amongst the city’s cute chocolate box houses. The building, which dates back to 1905, takes its name from its Egyptian-inspired façade, which combines an Orientalism design with Art Nouveau, which was a huge trend at the time in Europe. To find it, head in the German quarter of Neustadt, where the building sits amongst a row of ordinary residential houses.
10 rue du Général Rapp, 67000 Strasbourg
Dine in a 14th century wine cellar
One of the most unique restaurants in Strasbourg is Restaurant Au Gurtlerhoft, which offers guests the experience of dining under the stone arches of a 14th century former wine cellar. The dish to order here is the flammekueche, or tarte flambée in French, which is one of the region’s simplest but most delicious dishes and pairs perfectly with a local Alsatian wine or beer. If you’re in a group, then the “Menu Tartes Flambées à volonté” means you can eat as much as you want, and is a great idea if you want to try the restaurant’s different flammekueche toppings, from the classic sour cream, lardons and onions, to extra mushrooms, sauerkraut and local Munster cheese.
13 Place de la Cathédrale, 67000 Strasbourg
Have a goûter at Au Fond du Jardin
Simply put, a goûter is the French version of British tea time, and whilst it is not as grand as afternoon tea, it is still a delicious way to spend an afternoon. It includes a French pastry or dessert with a steaming cup of tea, coffee, or hot chocolate. Perhaps the most unique place to indulge in Strasbourg is Au Fond du Jardin, which immerses you in the world of Frederique Robert and Laurent Renaud and their enthusiasm for the Victorian tea time. Together the pair have designed an intimate vintage tea room inspired by Britain but serving the classic French cakes, madeleines. Frederique creates his own unique recipes for the tea time treat, which he has made for the likes of Yves Saint Laurent and more recently, for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding. You almost always have to reserve a table, but if you don’t manage to get a spot inside you can pick up some madeleines at the shop to enjoy at home.
6 Rue de la Râpe, 67000 Strasbourg
Dine at Maïence
When visiting France, a good tip for gastronomes is to look out for the words Meilleur Ouvrier de France above restaurants, bakeries, cheesemongers and so on, as this is a sign of high quality and delicious food. Meaning Best Craftsman or Craftswoman of France, this prestigious title is awarded to only the very best artisan in his or her field. Whilst you’ll normally come across more than one Meilleur Ouvrier de France, or MOF for short, on most city breaks in France, Maïence goes one step further by bringing together five in one restaurant. Here you can enjoy a fine-dining menu which combines the talents of a Michelin-star chef, a baker, a cheesemonger, a sommelier, and a pastry chef who all hold the MOF title, and in a sleek, contemporary setting which has been imagined by French design house Rinck.
7 Rue du Vieux-Marché-aux-Poissons, 67000 Strasbourg
Have a drink in a secret bar
For such a small city, Strasbourg has a surprising number of “secret bars” hidden behind its unassuming doors, and you could spend a whole night on a treasure hunt to the find them. One of the most impressive is the prohibition-style drinking den which can be found behind the pizzeria, Aedaen Place. This huge, high-ceilinged room is a complete contrast to the small restaurant and brings more than a touch of glamour to your evening with its velvet-clad furniture, glittering chandeliers, and dapper team of bartenders. To find it, walk through the pizzeria to the toilets, where you’ll see a large mirror hanging over a piece of furniture; just pull the drawer to open a secret door which will lead you straight into the bar for some excellent craft cocktails. Refreshingly, there’s a no-photo policy, which also means no Instagramming about your new find, so you’ll have to keep the secret to yourself.
4-6 Rue des Aveugles, 67000 Strasbourg
Explore the city’s street art scene
Strasbourg is famous for its traditional architecture, rich history, and classic Alsatian food, so you might be surprised to learn it is also a hub for contemporary street artists. Together the likes of SupaCat (who unsurprisingly paints cats around the city), Stork (who favours mosaics to create his artworks, but not uniquely of storks), and Dan23 (whose bright and vivid depictions of animals and nature are instantly recognisable) have given a new look to the city, which you can explore with the Strasbourg Street Art Map website. There are three walking tours available, around the train station and the Krutenau and Schiltigheim neighbourhoods, or if you’re heading to Strasbourg in September, you might be lucky enough to also catch the COLORS – Contemporary Urban Art Festival.
Visit the Glacières
The Régent Petite France Hôtel & Spa might now one of Strasbourg’s most luxurious hotels, but in a former life this 17th-century mill was home to the Glacières de Strasbourg, which produced blocks of ice for the region’s shops, breweries and homes. After the refrigerator was invented and became a more common everyday appliance, production of the ice blocks started to decrease, although surprisingly it didn’t fully stop until as recently as 1989. The hotel opened three years later in 1992, and the owner thankfully decided to keep and preserve this key part of Strasbourg’s history. You can now visit the Glacières and its huge cast-iron ice-making machinery, but only once a year, on the European Heritage Days in September. If you’re staying at the hotel, however, then you’ll be able to take a peek at the machinery through the glass windows.
5 rue des Moulins, 67000 Strasbourg