Strasbourg stands out among European cities for the sheer number of outstanding buildings it possesses. It is therefore unsurprising that among the most popular stops for passengers on Rhine cruises is in this fascinating and historic city. Among the highlights are:
The enormous Cathedral of Our Lady of Strasbourg towers over the city and is Strasbourg’s most famous building. At over 140 metres in height, it was the tallest building in the world for more than two centuries from the mid-17th century until the 1870s, when it was surpassed by St Nikolai’s Church in Hamburg. Constructed largely in the late Gothic style, with some Romanesque elements, the cathedral remains an awe-inspiring sight, visible from the Black Forest over 30 kilometres away. Its most famous internal feature is the 18-metre astronomical clock in the south transept, capable of remarkably complex calculations.
This small district, located on the Grande Île in the heart of Strasbourg’s old quarter, is noteworthy for its collection of excellently preserved medieval houses, most of which retain their original half-timbered appearance. There are also a number of fine sandstone edifices, in particular the three Covered Bridges and the 14th-century towers which guard them, remnants of the city’s medieval defences. Although nowadays this is a very attractive part of the city, four centuries ago it was a less romantic place, being the home of tanneries, mills and even a syphilis hospital.
Often overlooked by visitors to Strasbourg on account of its location to the northeast of the rest of the old town, this is nevertheless an area full of architectural interest. The square itself is more of a rectangle, a legacy of its use for tournaments in the Middle Ages. The square’s Regency-style City Hall, built in 1730 by the Duke of Broglie, after whom the square is named, is particularly finely preserved. The northern side of the square is dominated by the city’s Opera House, whose most notable feature is the enormous, columned sandstone peristyle. Unusually, only six Muses are shown, rather than the traditional nine.
European Court of Human Rights
Strasbourg also boasts some impressive modern buildings, of which the European Court of Human Rights building in the city’s aptly-named European Quarter is among the finest. Designed by the acclaimed British architect Richard Rogers, it is built in a determinedly modernistic style from glass and steel, with great use made of natural light in order to reduce the Court’s energy consumption. A small section of the Berlin Wall is displayed in front of the building, but in general the Court avoids any attempt to appear as a historic landmark; instead, it aims to come across as an organic part of its home city.
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