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Strasbourg guide
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Last updated : Nov 2009
Strasbourg Travel Guide
Strasbourg Travel Guide and Strasbourg Travel Information - TravelPuppy.com
Situated provocatively on the Franco-German border, over the centuries, Strasbourg has been passed back and forward like a ping-pong ball between these two countries.

Annexed to France in 1681, after centuries of self-rule, Strasbourg was subject to German control from 1871 until the end of World War I and again between 1940 and 1944. The result is a city and people with a strong and distinctive local identity, combining the reputed efficiency and work ethic of the Germans with the lightness and sophistication of the French.

The name Strasbourg comes from Strateburgum, ‘the city of the roads’, because of its strategic geographical position on the west bank of the Rhine. Today, it could be called ‘the city of the trams’, due to an excellent and recently expanded tram network.

Strasbourg was already a thriving commercial centre in the Middle Ages, when building began on the impressive Cathédrale Notre-Dame. Its intellectual and artistic heights were reached during the Renaissance. In 1566, the university was founded and leading figures of the Reformation settled in Strasbourg. Religious strife caused considerable upheaval during the 16th and 17th centuries, although the 1681 annexation of the city by France brought stability and enabled Strasbourg to reassert its economic strength.

Its symbolic significance as a major European city was confirmed when it was chosen as the seat of the Council of Europe in 1949, the European Court of Human Rights in 1994 and the European Parliament, the position of which was finally guaranteed in 1992. After Paris, Strasbourg is now France’s most important diplomatic town.

Strasbourg is far enough away from the capital to be truly independent on a cultural level, with its own opera, France’s only national theatre outside Paris, two international music festivals and Europe’s only bi-national TV station, Arte. Its international student population, some 50,000 strong, keeps strasbourg vibrant and intellectually alive. The City is host to the permanent campus of the International Space University (ISU) and the Ecole Nationale d’Administration (ENA), the prestigious French Grandes Ecoles that relocated to Strasbourg in 1992.

The Grande Ile (Big Island) is the heart of the city, encircled by the Ill River and Fossé du Faux-Rempart canal. The dominant landmark in Strasbourg is the Cathédrale Notre-Dame in the Vieille Ville (Old Town). It has remained unchanged since the Middle Ages.

Around the Cathedral, an impressive collection of museums is clustered. The central square is place Kléber, named after the brilliant Strasbourg-born military officer, Jean-Baptiste Kléber (1753–1800), who was singled out by Napoleon Bonaparte for high office in Egypt. Close by is place Gutenberg, named after Johannes Gutenberg, who resided in Strasbourg between 1434 and 1444, perfecting his famed printing press with moveable metal type. The main streets (rue des Grandes Arcades and the parallel rue des Francs Bourgeois) are remarkably small and pedestrian friendly.

The Petite France area in the Grande Ile’s southwestern corner, crossed by canals, is Strasbourg’s medieval quarter and classed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Its half-timbered houses and narrow streets could not be more different from the ultra-modern City of Europe to the northeast of the city.

Strasbourg enjoys the semi-continental climate of the Alsace region, with sunny, warm and dry conditions. Nevertheless, because of the traditional Christmas market, the peak tourist season extends from May right through to the end of December.