Sights of the Southern Rhine


An attractive old town, where Germany meets France

The area has changed hands several times between France and Germany and is a mix of both German and French architecture. It is now the seat of the Council of Europe, the European Parliament and the European Court of Rights. It is also a popular tourist destination with its beautifully preserved historic centre that is free of traffic. This is a city you have to walk, unless you take the tourist train or a canal boat cruise.

Entry to the medieval city was guarded by four massive towers connected by bridges over the River Ill. The towers were covered by wooden canopies to protect the soldiers. Although these were removed in the C18th, the bridge is still known as the Ponts Couverts, or Covered Bridge.
Ponts Couverts, Strasbourg

To the west of them is the Vauban Dam. This was built in 1686 by the military engineer Vauban, who considered the city defences to be inadequate. Building a dam across the river made it possible to flood the land to the south of the city, so making it impassable to enemy attack. An enclosed corridor links the two banks of the river.  An extra level was added to the structure in 1865 and is now a panoramic terrace, with good views of Petite France.

Vauban Dam, Strasbourg

The core of the city is the World Heritage site of Grand Ile, bordered by the River Ill and the Canal du Faux-Rempart. It is linked to the rest of the city by twenty one bridges and footbridges.

Grande Ile, Strasbourg

Grande Ile, Strasbourg

To the west is Petite France, a network of canals and bridges which was originally the tannery district. The houses are recognised by their open galleries below the roof which were used for drying the skins.

Petite France, Strasbourg

Petite France, Strasbourg

Petite France, Strasbourg

Leading from the canals is a network of narrow streets lined with C18th town houses and other public buildings.
Grande Ile, Strasbourg

Petite France, Strasbourg

Probably the most photographed is the C15th timber frame Maison Kammerzell near the cathedral, with its ornate carvings and leaded windows.
Maison Kammerzell, Strasbourg

The cathedral has been described as one of the most beautiful Gothic cathedrals in Europe. Most of it was built in the C13th although parts of the original C12th building survive at the east end.  When the tower was built it was the tallest building in the world. it is still the sixth tallest church in the world.

Strasbourg Cathedral  Strasbourg Cathedral
The very ornate west front has three doorways decorated with hundreds of statues. The stained glass windows contain brightly coloured medieval glass. The astronomical clock is one of the largest in the world and dates from 1571 although the mechanism had to be replaced in the C19th.

Strasbourg Cathedral  Strasbourg
                Cathedral astronomical clock

Opposite the Cathedral is the C18th Palais Rohan built for Cardinal Armand-Gaston de Rohan-Soubise, Prince-Bishop of Strasbourg and designed to upstage the great Parisian mansions. It now houses three museums, archaeology, decorative and fine arts.
Palais Rohan, Strasbourg

We only had three hours in Strasbourg and hardly scratched the surface. As well as Palais Rohan, there is the museum in Maison de l’Oeuvre Notre Dame with Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance sculpture, including many originals from the cathedral as well as C15th paintings and stained glass. The Alsatian Museum is the folk museum set in C16 & C17th buildings and covers folk lore and rural life. The History Museum in an old slaughterhouse covers the history of Strasbourg from its beginnings as a Roman military camp.

There are the Botanic Gardens and also the Jardin des Deux Rives along the banks of the Rhine and linked to the German town of Kehl by a new footbridge.

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