Strasbourg residents love their storks, which are not only the town mascot, but also the subject of a local conservation success story. Alsace's stork population hovered on the brink of extinction in 1976, until the Center for Reintroduction of Storks was established to raise mating pairs and release them into the wild. Look to the town rooftops to spot their enormous nests, perched atop chimneys and specially constructed platforms.
Strasbourg's architectural amalgam is so unique that UNESCO bestowed World Heritage status on its dichotomous cityscape. Explore the striking transition between the crooked lanes of the French medieval center and the broad boulevards of the German-designed Neustadt for a tangible introduction to the city's history of alternating nationalities.
During the 2009 NATO summit, Barack Obama, Angela Merkel, and other heads of state took a symbolic walk between Strasbourg and Kehl, Germany via the Passerelle des Deux Rives, a pedestrian bridge built in 2004 as an emblem of European unity. Follow in their footsteps for a taste of life on the German side of the Rhine—no passport required.
Best Day Trip
To experience the epitome of Alsatian storybook charm—and some world-class wines—set out on a road trip down the Routes des Vins d'Alsace. The scenic route begins in Marlenheim, just 13 miles west of Strasbourg, and winds through more than 100 breathtaking miles of vineyard-draped hills and colorful half-timbered villages.
Off The Beaten Path
Local residents Marc and Marie-Luce Arbogast are serious voodoo enthusiasts, having amassed more than 1,000 ritualistic items—including dolls, masks, and garments—over decades of visiting Africa. Theirs is the largest private collection of West African voodoo objects in the world, and more than 200 artifacts are on display at Château Musée Vodou. Housed in a 19th-century water tower, the museum is well worth a trip outside the historic center.
Most Iconic Attraction
The Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg is an engineering marvel of the 15th century, holding the title of world's tallest building for more than 200 years. The Gothic church towers over the Strasbourg skyline to this day and continues to captivate with its rose sandstone and stunning stained glass. Wait for the mid-day crowds to thin, and then amble over at sunset to see the formidable west façade cast fiery hues.
The Alsace region enjoys a reputation for wine, but it also takes drinking cues from neighboring Germany, offering plenty in the way of beer. You'll find an array of libations during a night spent hopping between the beer bars and winstubs (traditional Alsatian wine taverns) around Strasbourg's cathedral and in the Krutenau district.
When royalty came to town during France's pre-revolutionary days, it was only fitting they stay at Palais Rohan, often referred to as a "miniature Versailles." The 18th-century baroque stunner has hosted the likes of Louis XV, Marie-Antoinette, and Charles X. These days, museums of archaeology and the fine and decorative arts have a sumptuous home within the palace interiors.
Neighborhood to Explore
Start at the cathedral, pick a side street, and wander whichever way the cobblestone tempts you; you could spend hours discovering the nooks and crannies of Strasbourg's Grand-Île. Pop into local shops, pause for a drink at a sidewalk café, or stroll the picturesque canals in search of the perfect photo op.
French picnics and people-watching go hand in hand. Pick up provisions from the city's largest market along the Boulevard de la Marne (every Tuesday and Saturday morning) and head to nearby Parc de l'Orangerie, frequented by local families. Nibble on cheese and charcuterie, and if your visit falls during the summer months rent a boat for a row across the pond.