Strasbourg, France, a 2,000-year-old city on the Rhine River in Alsace-Lorraine, offers an intriguing blend of cultures. It is the legislative and democratic capital of the European Union as well as being the home to a number of other international institutions.
The town is famous for its beautiful, unfinished Gothic cathedral, its charming town center, called Petite France, and its timbered houses dating from the 16th and 17th centuries.
Locals speak the dialect of Alsatian, a blend of French and German that has given names to many streets in the city. Strasbourg's strategic location on the Rhine has made it a contested spot throughout history, trading possession between Germany and France. Much of the heritage of Strasbourg and the province at large derives from its time as a part of Germany.
Any excursion in Strasbourg, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1988, will revolve around the iconic cathedral, which dominates the city center.
The riverfront pedestrian area of La Petite France, with its timbered houses, shops and cafes, is located within easy walking distance of the cathedral square. This area is where craftspeople plied their trades from the Middle Ages and continue to do so today. In the summer, scarlet geraniums spill out of window boxes, and in the winter sparkling lights decorate the streets.
Another historic quarter is Grande Ile, in the shadow of the towering cathedral. It is an island bordered by the River Ill and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The picturesque alleys are full of old timber-framed houses in an array of sherbet colors.
Visitors can see the sights in Strasbourg a number of ways, but for anyone with average mobility, this is a city easily explored on foot.
Because of the city's size, even day trippers can take in the main sights in a day. The best way to go sightseeing is with the three-day Strasbourg Pass, which offers free and discounted admission to attractions throughout the city.
The region is famed for its white wines, including Riesling, Silvaner and Edelzwicker. Many restaurants in tourist areas, especially around the cathedral, dole out medium quality food at high prices—seek out the traditional winstubs, which serve excellent local fare. Don't leave without tasting a flammenkueche or tarte flambee, a pizzalike base with cream, onions and bacon (traditionally). You'll find wine in pitchers on the table there instead of bottles, harkening back to the advent of these restaurants as meeting places for winemakers.
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