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Strasbourg: Intensely Alsace-y

Strasbourg was our first foray into France. It’s part of Alsace, on the eastern edge of France, bordering Germany. Consequently the local culture bridges the two as well. Menus, signs, and people communicate in French and German, along with English in most places (granted we stuck to old town/tourist central).

It’s quite famous for its half-timber buildings.

This is where Disney’s Belle must be from.
So picturesque!

Likely the most famous attraction, outside wandering the beautifully preserved neighborhoods, is the Strasbourg Cathedral de Notre-Dame. It was shrouded in fog for most of the time we were there.

Inside the cathedral is beautiful astrological clock. Each hour marks the stages of life; a figure first of a child, then boy, man, and then elder progressively strike its bell every 15. But the main show is at 12:30pm: a midday procession of Christ and the Apostles along with a golden rooster crows three times.

The church recommends arriving at 11:30 to see the midday show. This is the line to see the astronomical clock at 11:40am.

At noon, the church plays a video with voiceover in French, German, and English telling the history of the clock. Unfortunately the quality of the sound system and the video made it hard for me to learn much from the video. We did get lots of time to enjoy looking at the magnificent timepiece, which was nice because the midday show was shorter than I thought. Since the clock is running, and of course the planets don’t move that fast, the other areas of the clock looked pretty stationary.

Left: Full view of the astronomical clock. Right: Personifications of the sun (left) and moon (right) of the 24-hour dial.
Closer view of the chariot/planets underneath the 12-hour clock face. Venus is currently directly under; she follows Jupiter.

See the midday astronomical clock action (apologies for any shakiness):

Midday means lunch!

Spätzle, a thick egg noodle, with a buttery mushroom sauce.

The spätzle was filling, but even with all the butter in the sauce this particular spätzle dish felt dry. Perhaps we should have gotten the cheesy version from a Christmas Market stand, but the view and ambiance in Le Petite France was lovely too.

Le Petite France has the most picturesque streets of all (see cover photo!) especially with the canals and waterways. It’s also been the historic quarters of both tanners and barrel makers.

These grape vines were planted in 2000 to pay homage to the link between Strasbourg and it’s vineyards. The giant barrel was donated by Strasbourg winemakers.

Later we enjoyed a Kougelhopf which were everywhere to be found. Kougelhopf comes in sweet or savory. Sweet is like a brioche, with raisins and topped with slivers of almond. The savory had a strong onion scent/flavor with chunks of lardon. We preferred the sweet version.

See the Kougelhopf in these Norman Rockwell-esque postcards depicting Alsace culture/symbols.

As an aside, I couldn’t help but notice how much foie gras was around! It seems that they give credit to a Strasbourg chef for inventing pâté de foie gras, though they do acknowledge Roman and Jewish Egyptian influence in this delicacy.

Entire stores dedicated themselves to foie gras, bakeries carried foie gras pies, and Christmas Market stands sold it in a myriad of preparations.

As a second food-related aside, we found a store that had nougat and spiced bread in the largest proportions we’d ever seen! They had all sorts of flavors of each and gave samples. They were pretty busy so we only tried a ginger spiced bread. It was tasty, but quite dry. The nougat looks uh-mazing.


Temperatures were hovering around freezing during our whole visit. This wasn’t the lowest we’ve experienced but it definitely felt like it. I think it was the humidity in the air carrying the cold deeper than usual into our bones. We stumbled into a church looking for a spot to heat up as one can only have so much mulled wine (did I just say that?).

One of the many murals on the walls of St-Pierre-le-Jeune Protestant Church.

Interestingly, there’s a mural in the back depicting all the countries of Europe (at the time) making a pilgrimage to see Christ. Though I prefer my norm of separation of church and state, it seemed so fitting that Strasbourg is also the official seat of the European Parliament! We didn’t visit it, but we did see plenty of EU flags.

That’s Strasbourg in a day or so, although I’ve got another post specific to our Christmas experience here: Strasbourg is the Capitale de Nöel after all!


  1. grandma grandma

    grandma love the pictures and the clock interesting

  2. red red

    Enjoyed text and photos! Love the wintery views. Thank you!!

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