strasbourg waterway at sunset

Strasbourg in autumn is a delight. (Photo: Getty Images)

Tips + Trends

Perfectly Alsatian: Explore the Best of Strasbourg in Every Season

Passed between France and Germany for centuries since 1681, when it was conquered by Louis XIV, Strasbourg is officially French these days. But the storybook city near the French and German borders (and bookended by the mighty Rhine River to the east) is neither here nor there when it comes to where to place it culturally.

Rather, Strasbourg — the capital of France’s Grand-Est region — is Alsatian.

Here, at the heart of Alsace — a terroir soaked in winemaking history and gastronomy — you’re just as likely to nibble a croissant at a charming corner bakery in Strasbourg’s lively La Petite-France quartier as to find yourself tucking into a far more Germanic-tasting treat (like the specialty called Kugelhopf, with its bundt-cake-like form).

The city has a large student population and brims with youthful vibes. And as it’s cut through by the Ill River, Strasbourg takes on a fairy-tale ambience at every turn — iconic timbered buildings with steeply pitched roofs and window pots cascading with flowers overlook the café-lined, cobbled streets.

The seat of the European Parliament, the city is also both utterly modern and captivatingly historic.

Strasbourg’s historic old center, as well as parts of its New City, or La Neustadt (See what they did there, with that Franco-German language mix?), are designated UNESCO World Heritage sites.

There are world-class museums (the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Palais Rohan spotlights European masters), botanical gardens and, come winter, one of Europe’s best and biggest Christmas markets to dive into here, too.

Read on for a season-by-season guide to a sojourn to remember in Strasbourg.

As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.


strasbourg christmas market
Shop for holiday treats at the annual Christmas Market. (Photo: Getty Images)

Germany might be crowned king when it comes to the sheer scale and variety of Europe’s grand Christmas Markets. But Strasbourg’s entry — the Christkindelsmärik — is the oldest in France (the tradition here dates to the 12th century) and one of the largest and most festive in all of Europe.

By late-November through December, the square around the city’s spectacular Gothic Cathedral of Notre Dame and countless other streets and plazas (including the beautiful pedestrian zone around Place Kléber) mushroom with hundreds of tiny wooden chalets from which vendors proffer handmade toys, gingerbread hearts frosted with messages, vin chaud (mulled wine) and more.

It’s the ultimate holiday atmosphere — both an alfresco setting to do some holiday shopping and one to warm your belly and spirit while toasting with the locals.


spring flowers along waterway in strasbourg
Warm up during spring with lovely floral scenes. (Photo: Getty Images)

Spring in Alsace is a thing of beauty. And by April and May, Strasbourg’s many parks and gardens are awash in the colors of flower petals and newly erupted spring shoots for all to see.

Still, the city’s main university has the most beautiful garden of all. The Jardin Botanique de l’Université de Strasbourg is home to more than 6,000 species of plants, among them a giant sequoia and bald cypress trees considered rare sights in Europe. Plus, entry is free.

Café terraces also spill open with the incoming warmer spring temperature. They make for ideal places to sit and people watch while sipping the favorite Alsatian aperitif, Amer Bière — a refreshing cocktail starring bitter-orange liqueur topped with lager.


vineyard along alsace wine trail
Sip and savor along the Alsace Wine Trail in summer. (Photo: Getty Images)

During the summer months around Strasbourg, it’s wine time, and a tour of the region’s vineyards and scenic backroads is a must.

A jaunt south from the city along the 105-mile Alsace Wine Route toward pretty Colmar takes you through a string of similarly picturesque villages (including Riquewihr and Andlau) that play host to annual summertime festivals and parades.

Among the many historic wineries where you can consider popping in to try the region’s famous gewürztraminer and riesling wines are Jean-Baptiste Adam, helmed by a 14th-generation winemaker, and Domaine Paul Blanck, which has five grands crus to its name and is set in the impossibly scenic eighth-century village of Kientzheim.


The winecentric theme rolls into autumn around Strasbourg, too, as area vineyards prepare for the vendange (grape harvest) during the months of September and October, when the vines set the hillsides aflame in hues of gold and rusty red.

If you’re visiting for wine tasting at this time, ask to sample the vin nouveau (the new wine, an Alsatian tradition) that makes its debut toward late fall.

‘Tis also the season to cozy up at restaurants serving hearty and heartwarming Alsatian specialties, like choucroute (sauerkraut) and tarte flambée / Flammekueche — a flatbread pizza often topped with bacon and onions. La Fignette is one of several Strasbourg restaurants that do a beloved version of it, but you’ll find it on offer all over Alsace.

When you’re ready to relax — and at any time of the year, for that matter — round out the city and region’s winecentric vibe with a vinotherapy treatment at the spa at Maison Rouge Strasbourg Hotel & Spa, Autograph Collection, Strasbourg’s finest wellness address.

Massages, facials and scrubs incorporate grape seeds, grape marc (a nutrient-rich winemaking residue) and organic soils with oxygenating and antioxidant qualities to soothing effect — all delivered with a true sense of Alsatian place.