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Strasbourg's bitter start and sweet end

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Nalynn Dolan Caine ▼ | January 11, 2013
Half way between Paris and Berlin, at the center of the Western Europe, lies Strasbourg, the capital of the second richest region of France, Alsace.
StrasbourgHalf way between Paris and Berlin, at the center of the Western Europe, lies Strasbourg, the capital of the second richest region of France, Alsace.

Strasbourg tramStrasbourg fought and won many battles through centuries against German tribes, Alemanni and Franks who tried to dominate European trade routes. Just to get a picture of those turbulent times: the street known today as Avenue du Général de Gaulle was Avenue Napoléon a century ago. In 1871, it became Kaiser Wilhelmstrasse, then switched to Boulevard de la République in 1918. In 1940 it became Adolf Hitler Strasse, and ended up as Avenue du Général de Gaulle in 1945. Today, it is neither fully French nor German, it is the site of the Council of Europe, and a home of the European Parliament.

Notre Dame CathedralTwo hours from Paris and its Notre Dame there is The Notre Dame Cathedral of Strasbourg, the gothic monument and the highest medieval building in Europe. The cathedral with just one tower is situated in centre of the city on the river Rhine which is the border between France and Germany. The astronomical Renaissance clock has the famous Glockenspiel where angels hit the bell and turn over an hour-glass. Take 332 steps to the top and you will see stork nests on almost every roof, vineyards and a breathless view all the way down to France, Switzerland and Germany - the Europe on the palm of your hand.

Wine barrelAt the very city centre, a light walk away from the cathedral, there are the Museum of Fine Arts, the Museum of Decorative Arts and the Archeological Museum (free entry on Sundays!) Although they are not far away, it's hard to get to them because there are numerous taverns and restaurants on your way (150 in Strasbourg and the surrounding area). From bars like Les Berthom with the best Belgian beers and Terres a Vin with a selection of more than 1,500 wines, to Restaurant Chez Yvonne from the Michelin Guide, to number of less-known but great eat-and-drink places, temptations are all around.

Little FranceDon't miss to visit Planetarium which offers a thrilling chance to travel through time and space and take a walk to the south-west. There you will encounter Little France, an island which is in fact a big park with beautiful half-timbered houses from the 16th and 17th century, quiet canals, the narrow cobbled streets, tiny stores as well as few restaurants. Visit the Vauban Dam that offers an attractive panoramic terrace from where you can admire the layout of the town and its network of canals. If that isn't enough, there are boat tours.

Strasbourg streetIn the middle of easy-living streets there are many international institutions such as the European Parliament. The old city center, listed as World Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO, is the main shopping area. Rue des Grandes Arcades, a three minutes walk from the Notre Dame, is the street of choice if you want to buy the newest clothes or just a souvenir. Every street starting from Rue des Grandes Arcades is full of small shops, and a bit more to the east there's "le carre d'or," the area with luxury gold, fashion and perfume stores. Before you leave, visit Chocolate museum. It is closed on Mondays so make your plans carefully and enjoy a chocolate surprise waiting for you at the end of the visit.