Right near the Franco-German border, Strasbourg (pop. 450,000) has spent much of its history being annexed by one side or another. Today, German is often heard on its streets, and winstubs sit next door to patisseries. It is also the joint center, along with Brussels, of the European Union. With its rich culture and bustling university, Strasbourg combines cosmopolitan elegance with youthful energy.
TRANSPORTATION AND PRACTICAL INFORMATION. Strasbourg is a major rail hub. Trains (03 88 22 50 50) go to: Luxembourg (2V&hr. 14 per day, ‚27); Frankfurt (3hr. 18 per day, ‚47); Paris (4hr. 16 per day, ‚38); and Zurich (3hr. 18 per day, ‚35). The tourist office, 17 pi. de la Cathedrale, makes hotel reservations for a ‚1.60 fee plus deposit. (03 88 52 28 28. Open daily 9am-7pm.) There is also a branch at pi. de la Gare, near the train station (03 88 32 51 49). Get on the Internet at Net computer, 14 quai des Pecheurs. (‚2 per hr. Open M-F lOam-lOpm, Sa and Su noon-10pm.) Postal Code: 67000.
ACCOMMODATIONS AND FOOD. Make reservations or arrive early to find reasonable accommodations. liCIARUS (Centre International d’Accueil de Strasbourg) , 7 r. Finkmatt, has large, spotless facilities. From the train station, take r. du Maire-Kuss to the canal, turn left, and follow quais St-Jean, Kleber, and Finkmatt; turn left on r. Finkmatt, and it’s on the left. (03 88 15 27 88; www.cia-rus.com. Breakfast included. Check-in 3:30pm. Check-out 9am. Curfew lam. Dorms ‚16-18; singles ‚38. MCV.) Hotel Kleber , 29 pl. Kleber, sits on the central pl. Kleber and has spacious, classy rooms. (03 88 32 09 53; www.hotel-kle-ber.com. Breakfast ‚6. Reception daily 7am-midnight. Singles ‚32-57; doubles ‚36-66; triples ‚66-73. AmExMCV.) Hotel le Grillon , 2 r. Thiergarten, is 1 block from the station toward the city center, has large rooms above a bar where guests get a free drink with Lei’s Go. ( 03 88 32 71 88; www.grillon.com Breakfast ‚7.50. Internet access free for 15min. ‚1 per 15min. thereafter. Singles ‚29, with shower ‚38-53; doubles ‚3744-59. DMCV.) Informal Winstubs serve Alsatian specialties such as choucroute gamie (spiced sauerkraut served with meats); try the La Petite France neighborhood, especially along r. des Dentelles. Explore place de la Cathedrale, rue Merciere, or rue du Vleil Hopital for restaurants, and place Marche Gayot, off r. des Freres, for lively cafes. For groceries, swing by the ATAC, 47 r. des Grandes Arcades, off pl. Kleber. (Open M-Sa 8:30am-8pm.)
SIGHTS AND ENTERTAINMENT. The tower of the ornate Gothic Cathedrale de Strasbourg climbs 142m skyward. Inside, the Horloge Astronomlque demonstrates the wizardry of 16th-century Swiss clockmakers. While you wait for the clock to strut its stuff apostles troop out of the clockface while a cock crows to greet Saint Peter daily at 12:30pm check out the Pilier des Anges (Angels’ Pillar), a masterpiece of Gothic sculpture. You can climb the tower in front of the clock like the young Goethe, who scaled its 330 steps regularly to cure his fear of heights. (Cathedral open M-Sa 7-11:40am and 12:40-7pm, Su 12:45-6pm. Tickets for the clock on sale 8:30am in cathedral and 11:45am at south entrance; ‚0.80. Tower open Apr.-Oct. M-F 9am-5:30pm; Nov.-Mar. reduced hours. ‚3, students ‚1.50.) Palais Rohan, 2 pl. du Chateau, houses three small but excellent museums: the Musee des Beaux-Arts, Musee des Arts Decoratifs, and Musee Archeologique. (All open M and W-Su 10am-6pm. ‚4 each, students ‚2.50.) Take bus #23, 30, or 72 for L’Orangerie, Strasbourg’s most spectacular park; free concerts play in the summer at the Pavilion Josephine (Su-Tu and Th-Sa 8:30pm.) Strasbourg has bars everywhere. PI. Kleber attracts a student crowd, while rue des Freres and the tiny place du Marche Gayot wake up with a mixed crowd after 10pm.
LA ROUTE DU VIN
Since the Middle Ages, the wines of Alsace have been highly prized and priced. The vineyards of Alsace flourish along a 170km corridor known as La Route du Vin (Wine Route) that begins at Strasbourg (397) and stretches south along the foothills of the Vosges, passing through 100 towns along the way to Mulhouse. Hordes of tourists are drawn each year to the beautifully preserved medieval villages along the route and to the free degustations (tastings) along the way.
Colmar (400) and Selestat (400) offer excellent bases and fascinating sights, but don’t miss smaller, less-touristed villages. The most accessible towns from Strasbourg are Molsheim, a medieval university center, and Barr, an old town with a vineyard trail that leads through the hills. The more famous towns lie to the south: The most visited sight in Alsace, the Chateau de Haut Koenigsbourg, towers over Kintzheim; and the 16th-century walled hamlet of Riquewihr, the Route’s most popular village, with many of Alsace’s best-known wine houses. To help plan your tour, pick up the EL4isace Wine Route brochure from a tourist office.
TRANSPORTATION. Strasbourg, the northern terminus of the Wine Route, is a major rail hub, easily accessible from France, Germany, and Luxembourg. Trains from Strasbourg hit many of the towns along the northern half of the Route, including: Barr (50min. 10 per day, ‚5.50); Colmar (40min. 36 per day, ‚10); and Selestat (30min. 20 per day, ‚6.50). Trains also run to Colmar from Selestat, (15min. 20 per day, ‚3.70). Bus lines pepper the southern half of the Route, running from Colmar to Kaysersberg (20min. 1 per hr. ‚2.30), Riquewihr (30min. 10 per day, ‚3), and many other small towns on the Route. From Mulhouse, head to nearby Basel, Switzerland (20min. 7 per day, ‚6.50); go to Paris (4Mhr. 8 per day, ‚45), or return to Strasbourg (lhr. 14 per day, ‚14).
SELESTAT. Selestat (pop. 17,200), between Colmar and Strasbourg, is a charming town often overlooked by tourists on their way to larger Route cities. The Bibliotheque Humaniste, 1 r. de la Bibliotheque, founded in 1452, contains a fascinating collection of ancient documents produced during Selestat’s 15th-century humanistic boom. (Open July-Aug. M and W-F 9am-noon and 2-6pm, Sa 9am-noon and 2-5pm, Su 2-5pm; Sept.-June closed Su. ‚3.50, students ‚2.) The tourist office, 10 bd. General Leclerc, in the Commanderie St-Jean, rents bikes (‚12.50 per day). From the train station, go straight on av. de la Gare, through pi. General de Gaulle, to av. de la Liberte. Turn left onto bd. du Marechal Foch, which veers right and becomes bd. General Leclerc; the office is a few blocks down on your right.(03 88 58 87 20; www.selestat-tour-isme.com. Open July-Aug. M-F 9am-noon and l:30-6:45pm, Sa 9am-noon and 2-5pm, Su llam-3pm; Sept.-June. reduced hours M-Sa, closed Su.) The QHotel de I’lll 0, 13 r. des Bateliers, has bright rooms. (03 88 92 91 09. Breakfast ‚5. Reception daily 7am-3pm and 5-llpm. Singles ‚23; doubles ‚38; triples ‚55. MCV.) Camping Les Cigognes O is on the south edge of the vieille ville. ( 03 88 92 03 98. Reception July-Aug. 8am-noon and 3-10pm; May-June and Sept.-Oct 8am-noon and 3-7pm. Open May-Oct. July-Aug. ‚9.20 per person, ‚13 per 2 or 3 people; reduced prices Sept.-Oct. and May-June.) The cobbled rue des Chevaliers has a wide variety of restaurants. Postal Code: 67600.
COLMAR. The bubbling fountains, crooked lanes, and pastel houses of Colmar (pop. 68,000) evoke an intimate charm despite the packs of tourists. The collection of Musee Unterlinden, 1 r. d’Unterlinden, ranges from Romanesque to Renaissance, including Griinewald’s Issenheim Altarpiece. (Open May.-Oct. daily9am-6pm; Nov.-Apr. M and W-Su 9am-noon and 2-5pm. ‚7, students ‚5.) The Egllse des Dominicains, on pi. des Dominicains, has Colmar’s other major masterpiece, Schongauer’s Virgin in the Rose Bower. (Open Apr.-Dec. daily 10am-lpm and 3-6pm. ‚1.30.) To get to the tourist office, 4 r. d’Unterlinden, from the train station, turn left on av. de la Republique (which becomes r. Kleber) and follow it to the right to pi. Unterlinden. f 03 89 20 68 92; www.ot-colmEir.fr. Open July-Aug. M-Sa 9am-7pm, Su 9:30am-2pm; Sept.-June reduced hours.) To reach the Auberge de Jeunesse (HI) 0, 2 r. Pasteur, take bus #4 (dir.: Logelbach) to Pont Rouge. ( 03 89 80 57 39. Breakfast included. Sheets ‚3.50. Reception July-Aug. daily 7-10am and 5pm-midnight; Sept.-June 7-10am and 5-11pm. Lockout 10am-5pm. Curfew midnight. Open mid-Jan. to mid-Dec. Dorms ‚12; singles ‚17; doubles ‚28. Members only. MCA’.) Hotel Kempf 0,1 av. de la Republique, has large rooms right in the middle of the vielle ville. ( 03 89 41 21 72; fax 03 89 23 06 94. Breakfast ‚6. Shower ‚2.50. Open early Feb. to mid-Jan; closed two weeks June-July. Singles and doubles ‚28, with shower ‚35; triples with bath ‚55. MCA.) Take bus #1 (dir.: Horbourg-Wihr) to Plage d’lll for Camping de I’ll! O, on rte. Horbourg-Wihr. ( 03 89 41 15 94. Reception July-Aug. daily 8am-10pm; Feb.-June and Sept.-Nov. 8am-8pm. Open Feb.-Nov. Electricity ‚2.40. ‚3 per person, ‚ 1.80 per child; ‚3.30 per site.) Monoprix supermarket is on pl. Unterlinden. (Open M-F 8am-8pm, Sa 8am-8pm.) Grand Rue has a multitude of brasseries and other tasty options. Postal Code: 68000.