Strasbourg France – What to do in Strasbourg

24 HOURS IN STRASBOURG FRANCE

We began our frugal tour in Strasbourg, France driving in from Freiburg, Germany. Since we live in the northern part of Italy, it is rather easy to plan trips around parts of Europe by car. It is something we (and many other people) have always done and is a good way to explore the world around us, wherever that may be. We found an underground parking garage directly in the center of town that came up on one side of Gutenbergplatz.

GENERAL INFORMATION ON STRASBOURG

Strasbourg, France is a city of approximately two hundred and seventy-six thousand in the city proper and a metropolitan and outlying county area where over another two million people live. It is the official seat of the EU Parliament, the Council of Europe, the European Court of Human Rights, The European Audiovisual Observatory, The European Directorate for the Quality of Medicines, the Central Commission for Navigation on the Rhine, the International Institute of Human Rights, the Eurocorps and is one of the main capitals of the European Union. The entire area is situated very close to the border of Germany and the historic center, where we were and also known as The Grand Island, was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988.

Here we found the perfect mix of both French and German cultures and as it is today, it has been for centuries. You will find both Catholic and Protestant religious buildings and icons as well as the Strasbourg Grand Mosque which is the largest Islamic place of worship in the country of France.

The name of the city has changed throughout its history which dates back to 12 BC, making this city over two thousand years old. In its historic past it was known for the mining of silver and gold from the rivers that either boarder or run through its beautiful areas. In the historic area of The Grand Island you can still see the mills running powered by the flowing river waters, something that attracted many to this area for centuries as they used the waters to power the mills which ground the wheat and other farmed products from the areas.

OUR TAKE ON STRASBOURG

We were absolutely stunned by the beauty of this town as we strolled along its decorative cobblestone streets. The buildings and shops are all very colourful and adorned with carvings, statues, paintings and decorative gold metal work. While walking there you can imagine what it was like to be there centuries ago and that even in this modern day, it probably has not changed all that much.

Gutenbergplatz (Gutenberg Place in English) is named after Johannes Gutenberg, who is one of the first printing industry pioneers in the area, and holds tribute to him with a statue of him in the middle of the square. Around the square are busy streets lined with shops, cafes and restaurants. The square itself is a pedestrian zone where young and old alike can play, relax in the area or ride on the beautiful coloured carousel. The parking garage I mentioned earlier, has an entry/exit next to the carousel and a good tip is that down the stairs, where you would pay the machines for parking, you will find public toilets.

Kleberplatz (Kleber Place in English) is just a short walk from Gutenbergplatz going away from the Cathedral and is in the middle of a huge pedestrian only area. There are so many different shops to look in that, you could easily spend an entire day in this area. While we are more into experiencing the people and the ambience of places, we just browse from outside, only venturing in if there is something that one of us needs in our travels. Other than that, you can find a variety of restaurants and cafes serving all different types of food with a good number of them being priced very fair.

AMERICAN FAVORITES IN STRASBOURG

You can also find a few American food and drink giants in the area like, McDonalds, Starbucks and if you look into the ice cream shops, you might even see what we did…Ben & Gerry’s. Adrian got to have two firsts in this area. His first Starbucks Chai Latte and his first taste of Ben & Gerry’s Cookie Dough Ice Cream both of which, he absolutely loved. Also in this area, a tip is that if you need a bathroom, you get a code for the door to the Starbucks bathroom on your receipt if you order there, otherwise, ask the manager.

THINGS TO LOOK FOR

Kleberplatz is also an area where there is an outdoor market for used items such as books, musical instruments, artwork, antiques, small furniture items and knick-knacks. Through the middle of this area is a very large, beautiful and soothing water garden with a set of fountains. During the extreme heat of this summer, the children and young people were using this area to cool off by running through it or soaking their feet. Throughout the area you will find benches to sit on where you can watch people, sip on your drink, bask in the sun or just enjoy the atmosphere.

DO NOT MISS THE CATHEDRAL!

The Notre Dame Strasbourg Cathedral is about a ten minute walk from Kleberplatz on the other side of Gutenbergplatz and is really stunning. This particular Cathedral has a very interesting history as it is built on an area of successive religious buildings dating back to the city’s beginnings. The first churches in the area were built and then added to and then torn down and rebuilt. Over the course of the city’s existence many of the later one’s caught fire by accident or were burned in wars over the territory. The Cathedral that stands today was built over the course of a couple of hundred years starting in 1176 and completed in 1439. It was done in Gothic style which was very popular during that time. The stained glass windows are strikingly beautiful and the colours were emboldened with nanoparticles of gold and silver which make the colours seem to stand out. There are so many beautiful statues all over this Cathedral that it is just hard to fathom how it was all created and put together. The Cathedral did sustain damage in WWII all of which was repaired, those being totally completed in the 1990’s.

The Astronomical Clock in the Cathedral is an absolutely stunning piece of work. It is eighteen meters in height and one of the largest of its kind in the entire world. This particular clock computes when Easter will be following the complex Gregorian rule, it is pretty accurate even today indicating leap years, the equinoxes and a variety of other astronomical information. If you visit, the clock is really quite a wonder. There are animated characters that move at different hours of the day. An angel sounds a bell while another angel turns an hourglass, other characters that represent the phases of one’s life parade in front of a Death character and on the last level the Apostles cross in front of Jesus. The clock shows normal time, solar time, the days of the week are represented by mythological Gods, the months, the years, the phases of the moons and planets and the signs of the zodiac. The clock was under maintenance while we were there but, we will keep track of that completion and go back to see it without all of the scaffolds and coverings.

LAST BUT NOT LEAST…

There are many beautiful parks in the area that should be seen and enjoyed, the Parc de l’Orangerie, the Parc Château de Pourtales and the Jardin Botanique de l’Universite de Strasbourg are three worth mentioning. Every one of them are breathtaking and nothing could be more romantic than a stroll through or a surprise picnic in any of these areas. Many more parks exist and can be found with a little research or a few questions to the locals or your hotel clerk.

There are many, many, many fine art museums in Strasbourg and it would take a connoisseur weeks to get through them all. While I love museums, I am guessing that I will have to be retired before I have enough time to see and appreciate all of the pieces here. That said, you will find entry fees to these areas are either free or very fairly priced. Checking out these kinds of places is definitely something that can be done frugally.

FANTASTICALLY FRUGAL & FREEDOM

We travel quite often throughout any given year. We save money where we can in our daily lives and make sure that we do not waste time, money, food or items. We make sure we use what we have. We do not buy things merely out of a want or a whim, there has to be a need for something. In that way, we are free to, at any given moment, pack a bag and go experience a new place. We do not waste our money while travelling either. I know there are those who go somewhere and drop lots of money on expensive clothing or bags or shoes and the like, we are not those people. We do not need a bag from here or sunglasses from there. We are taking memories back with us and those memories are priceless.

More about Strasbourg

Freiburg Germany – What to do and what to see on a budget

BEING FRUGAL IN FREIBURG GERMANY

Not long ago, my family and I took a trip to Freiburg, Germany. We travel all over Europe for our jobs and this is a city we have always wanted to see so, we made time for a quick stop. While we are in a frugal mindset we decided that during our trips we would be as frugal as possible and we would take advantage of everything in the area that is free or nearly free. We stayed in a budget friendly hotel which, was ok for the price. The hotel bed could have been much better but, the breakfast was quite fantastic and plentiful. The area where we stayed was outside of the center and more in an industrial area with lots of businesses, it was very safe and quiet at night.

There are many places to visit and see in and around Freiburg but, as always, we started in the center of town. The town itself was founded in 1120 by Konrad and Duke Berthold III of Zähringen. Back then it was a “free market town” and that is where it gets its name. Directly in the center is a daily market in Münsterplatz, where you can find everything from flowers and gardening supplies to food, clothing, handmade toys and fresh fish. While walking the historic cobblestone streets in this area you can truly get a feel of what it was like before modern times. The colorful shops and homes here have not changed much over the years and are beautifully decorated with paintings and other adornments. As we made our way through this town I was just stunned by its beauty and the friendly nature of its people.

THE FREIBURG MÜNSTER

Also in the center of this town you will likely notice its beautiful Cathedral which, was built partially on the foundations of the original church that had been there from the first starting of Freiburg in 1120. The last Duke of Zahringen started building the Cathedral around the year 1200 and was completed in the Middle Ages, around 1330. As construction started it was in Romanesque style, then thirty years later Gothic style became the norm. As such, the remaining construction was all completed in the Gothic style and it has remained as it was finished until today. It was a miracle that this Cathedral was not destroyed in the bombing raids of 1944, where all houses on the North and West sides of the Market were destroyed. Interestingly enough, this Cathedral is not owned by the Roman Catholic Church. It was then owned by the people of Freiburg who changed the situation by creating, the Münsterbauverein Association who now owns and maintains the building and its interior.

This Cathedral is really something to see. Its architecture is breathtaking and the stained glass windows are spectacular. We meandered around it first, filming from just the outside. We then paid our respects inside and lit a few candles before continuing on our day. This is a wonderful place for praying, contemplation and quiet in the middle of the city. It is a wonder and should be seen, no matter what religion you follow.

FREIBURG PARKS

Just outside of the city center, you can find the breathtaking Freiburg SeePark (Lake Park). It is situated in the middle of a large residential area with many walking paths that take you all around this large manmade lake. This area was created in 1986 for the Landesgartenschau (Lands Garden Show) and has become a diamond for those who live in the area. The lake itself covers 24 acres and the rest of the recreational area of the park covers 86 acres. There is a wonderful restaurant with an artistically covered terrace overlooking the lake with a dock nearby where people can rent small boats. There is a large rose garden area, along with an area for sports that is complete with a spectacular soccer field that has a running track all the way around it.

Directly behind and across from the restaurant area there is a large Japanese Garden (38750 square feet) that was made in partnership with the Japanese city of Matsuvama which is absolutely perfect for meditation or contemplation. While there, we got to see how the parks workers, who take care of that area, work so painstakingly to keep this special area of the park, with all of the wonderful plants and trees, in such perfect condition. There are various paths to be walked, each made differently with rocks, wood, pebbles or paver stones and made so that you would have to walk in a different way or concentrate more on the area to in order to step properly. In any event, it is not an area to be missed as it is not something that you will find everywhere in Europe.

While we were there we saw many different types of ducks and swans swimming in the waters, people from the area walking their dogs or letting their dogs swim in the lake. Many others were walking the lake with friends, jogging in the area or just sitting on the benches that are placed throughout the park and it was peaceful. Such parks, so full of beauty and peace should be taken advantage of as they help in calming the soul, allowing you to relax and enjoy the outdoors.

FREIBURG CRAFT BEER & DINNER

As with many German towns and cities Freiburg has many beer gardens. One of the best and most recommended is the Hausbrauerei Feierling. After a day of exploring the area there is nothing better than sitting down in this beer garden with a freshly brewed mug of cold beer and a large, handmade “pretzel”. Here in Germany, as with all other EU nations, what we know as pretzels are called Bretzel and you can find them everywhere but, here they really hit the spot with the beer. I am not really a beer drinker but, once in awhile I will try a few sips of the one that my husband has. In his opinion, this brewery makes an excellent beer. Seeing that he was born and raised in Germany, I will take his word for it.

While we were here splitting a Bretzel and cooling off with our drinks, we decided that their menu looked pretty good and the prices were extremely fair so we ordered a few different dishes so we could all try a bit of everything. I had the Rahmschnitzel with Spätzle; which is a handmade egg noodle that is a very typical German fair, my husband had the Inselschnitzel with Brägele and Salad and my son had Bauernwürste with Bauernbrot. All three of us were very happy with our choices and I am happy to say that all three dishes were exceptionally good in taste and quality. The end bill was just under thirty bucks. We wanted to have dessert but after that lunch, we were all too full to try anything else out at that moment.

WALKING IN FREIBURG & ICECREAM

After such a large lunch, we decided that the only way to get us back into the car comfortably was to take a nice walk through the area. The neighborhoods are all so clean and well cared for. We saw many people out working in their yards and caring for their trees, plants and flowers. The buildings were all well cared for, those that needed a bit of work already had workers putting up their equipment or already working on getting a new color on the building. After half an hour of wandering, we happened upon a local eiscafè. There are many around and all of them have excellent choices with fair prices and where we decided to stop was no different. We all had a small cup of our favorite and split a large water, the bill was less than ten bucks.

MUSEUMS & OTHER ATTRACTIONS

There are so many museums and other attractions in and around Freiburg that it could take a few days of constant movement in order to see and experience everything in and around the area. Some noteworthy things that can be mentioned are the Augustinermuseum which, houses a renowned collection ranging from the Middle Ages up to the Baroque period. This particular museum is in an Augustinian Monestary and is one of the oldest buildings in the area. Also the Museum für Neue Kunst (Modern Art Museum) has quite a fantastic collection and should not be missed by anyone that appreciates modern art. Something else in the area that can be appreciated by all is the Schlossbergbahn which opens at nine in the morning and closes at midnight. The Bahn is not always open so make sure to check online before you head over there. Also worth seeing is the lovely Black Forest. There are hundreds of miles of forest paths with adventure and educational trails. You can BBQ and there are many areas for the kids to play. Make sure to take your swimsuits as there are lakes where you can go swimming. You could literally spend a few days just hiking, swimming and getting back to nature here.

CONCLUSION

Freiburg has much to offer the frugal traveller. There are plenty of hotels in the area for the price conscious and there are many activities that either do not cost at all or have a minimal price. It is a very nice place to go for those who want to see the real Germany and get a bit off of the beaten touristic path. While they do get many tourists in high summer, spring and fall are great times to go for those who want a bit more quiet.