Strasbourg is an important city located in the Bas-Rhin department, part of the beautiful Alsace region. Its population reaches 273,000 inhabitants and the surrounding urban area comprises not less than 713,000 inhabitants. The city is situated on the Ill River, which flows into the Rhin just next to it on the German border. It lies around 20km of the Vosges Mountains and only 25km of the Black Forest. One of the most beautiful cities of Europe, Strasbourg is famous for its prodigious cathedral. Indeed, due to the thickness and the richness of its patrimony, the whole centre of the city was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Founded by the Roman in the year 12 BC, Strasbourg has always occupied a strategic position in Europe. Crossroads of the north-south and the east-west axes, the city benefited of trades and favoured the circulation of ideas. The construction of the cathedral began in the 11th century but lasted two centuries and a half. The history of Strasbourg can be read in the richness of its architectural patrimony particularly well-preserved. Strasbourg is built on the Ill River and along the left bank of the Rhin. The Ill is really important for the city, because it links the Rhin by its former branches, today canalized. Many tributaries cross the different quarters of the city. Thus, Strasbourg is constituted of many “islands”.
With New York and Geneva, Strasbourg is one of the few cities to welcome international institutions without being a state capital. The choice of Strasbourg as the European capital just after World War II is not an accident but a symbol of reconciliation between nations and of the future of Europe. Indeed, Strasbourg and more particularly Alsace were in the heart of the conflict between the French and the German. By turns, it was either French or German. Nowadays, Strasbourg shelters several European institutions. Since 1949, it is the seat of the Council of Europe, with all the bodies and organisations affiliated to this institution, and since 1952, it is the seat of the European Parliament. It also comprises the European court of Human Rights and many others institutions. With the presence of several renowned national establishments, as the national theatre, the national and university library and the national opera of Rhin, Strasbourg is an important cultural centre. Furthermore, it is a major student city. Its University and schools are definitely turned to the international with more than 20% of foreign students and more than 100 nationalities represented.
Despite standing at the far east of France, Strasbourg never suffered of this remoteness. Indeed, the Alsatian capital possesses many assets such as the proximity with Germany and its frontier jobs, the presence of European institutions, its recognized university structures and many others. All this in an enchanting setting, as its whole historical centre is listed to the UNESCO. This explains why Strasbourg was the most expensive commune of France after Paris between 1989 and 1995, but since then, the other cities largely caught up. However, at this time the conjecture of new properties was not very active in the agglomeration. Hopefully, the construction has just started again. Brand new quarters will grow between the railway station and the Rhin, principally along the canals (Danube, Bruckhof and Porte de France). The most ancient quarters will get a face lift. It is the case for the quarters of Meinau (670 new dwellings are scheduled) or Neuhof, today accessible by tramway where the economical activity is now boosted. It is true that this quarter of Neuhof is known as “difficult”, but lots of money was injected and it is currently in total mutation.
With a high proportion of apartments (90%), Strasbourg remains a relative expensive city with a price of around €2,900 /sq m at the beginning of 2009, but has many quarters of strong potential. Knowing the on-going yards can be useful. They could very rapidly promote the properties in the area.
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For those who really like Alsace and its culture but prefer living in a city, Strasbourg is the right place. It has all the assets a big city can offer, in terms of activities, cultural attractions and facilities. However, this city is far from being impersonal and possesses a true soul.
Culture, art and historical heritage: Strasbourg comprises many sights that can not be ignored. Formerly, the city was nicknamed “the city of thousand churches” with its numerous convents, congregations, churches, temples and synagogues. It is thanks to its amazing cathedral Notre-Dame that it was above all famous. The edifice is distinguishable by its colour, due to the use of Grès rose (a local pink stone), and by its tower. The construction began in the 12th century and was finished the 14th century only, in a stunning gothic style. The cathedral is also famous for its astronomical clock and its beautiful rose-window of 12m of diameter. Furthermore, it shelters an impressive organ of 24m high. On the square of the cathedral, the Kammerzell House offers a trip in the past, as it is a marvellous half-timbered house dating from the 15th century.
The Petite France: this quarter of Strasbourg is built on the canal of the Ill River and dates of the 16th centuries. Formerly the quarter of tanners, millers and fishermen, it is very picturesque and comprises lots of pretty half-timbered houses or bridges covered with wooden roofs. Just close to it stands the lovely Rohan palate. Built during the 18th century, it now shelters three museums: decorative Arts, Beaux-arts and Archaeology. Beside, many other museums, buildings, parks and even the European institutions or a planetarium can be visited.
Good food: in Strasbourg, gastronomy is much more than an art of living. Tradition is the watchword, but also innovation, thanks to the great Alsatian chefs. Specialties such as sauerkraut, baeckoffe, spaetzle or tarte flambée can be tasted, notably in the numerous winstubs of the city which are a kind of typical, animated and convivial tavern.
Christmas market: Strasbourg is the capital of Christmas for many people. Its Christmas market is the most famous market of France and exists since 1570. This tradition remains strong and in December, the city arrays its Christmas lights and becomes totally magical. Small wooden chalets are set up to form the city small markets which constitute the general one. The most important one is located at the foot of the imposing cathedral. The Christkindelsmärik is held place Broglie. Then, some thematic markets as the “Alsatian flavours”, “the wise men countertop” and the “association of storekeepers of the Carré d’Or” are established on three different squares. Next to the railway station, the market of local products and craftsmanship can be found, while the most greedy will go to the Market of Bredle – various and typical Alsatian biscuits made especially for Christmas- and the kingdom of winegrowers la Couronne d’Or. Another market is dedicated to European craftsmen, while the most famous square of Strasbourg – the Place Kleber- has a giant Christmas tree and welcomes the village of sharing.
Architectural style: in terms of urbanism, Strasbourg has a wonderful centre. Indeed, the whole historical centre is now a classified site of the UNESCO. Surrounded by two branches of the Ill River, the Grande ile constitutes this historical centre. In a small area, it encompasses many buildings of quality: the cathedral, the four ancient churches and the Rohan palate which is the former residence of the princes-bishops do not seem remote. On the contrary, they take part of an ancient quarter very representative of the functions of the medieval town and of the evolution of the city from the 15th to the 18th century. Many half-timbered houses of course punctuate this quarter.
Transport: the city has very good transport links. Its airport is the 10th of France in terms of passengers, but it suffers from competition. Effectively, the large airports of Bâle - Mulhouse (137km), Stuttgart (149 km) and Frankfort (175 km) attract many passengers. The arrival of the TGV also had an impact, as a decrease of 14% of crowding was observed. Thanks to the TGV, Paris can be reached in only 2h20.
The architecture of Strasbourg is interesting, because of its French and German influences. The historical centre comprises many old half-timbered houses built between the 16th and 18th century, in particular in the touristy quarter of the Petite France, next to the cathedral but also to the civil hospital. During the reign of Louis XIV, the architectural tendency became again those from France. Thus, many rich mansions were built. Generally, the most used stone was the grès rose des Vosges - a local pink stone – notably used to build the cathedral. But this stone is crumbly, which required a particular attention.
Between 1870 and 1914, Alsace was again annexed to Germany and a German quarter was built. More or less residential, many monuments were also constructed. Thus, it comprises different architecture styles as new-renaissance, neo-gothic and neo-classic. Some Art-Nouveau buildings can also be seen in the quarters. Residential buildings usually used cut stones for the ground floor associated to red bricks for the rest of the façade. The result is that Strasbourg is now an interesting and very rich city in terms of architecture. The architecture enthusiast can only appreciate this beautiful city, which reflects its tormented history.
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