By far the most charming neighbourhood in Strasbourg is its historic district. Known as La Petite France, it has an abundance of quaint, half-timbered houses overlooking the locks and weirs of the Ill river, which runs through the city.
One iconic building is the Maison des Tanneurs, a former tannery built in 1572. It is now a restaurant serving traditional Alsatian cuisine and is renowned for its choucroute, a local version of sauerkraut.
Though damaged during air raids in August 1944, the cathedral stands defiantly in the city centre and is visible from the nearby Vosges mountains. The gothic structure contains an 18-metre astronomical clock, one of the oldest in the world. The current clock dates from 1842, but it is the third on the same spot (the first was built in the 14th century). In 1570 France’s first Christmas market was held in front of the cathedral. Today the festive market takes place at 10 locations across the city from the end of November to Christmas Eve.
Strasbourg lies at the northern end of Alsace’s stunning wine route. The region is noted for its dry Rieslings as well as Gewürztraminers and Pinot Gris. While most of the local wine is white, Alsatian Pinot Noir is making a name for itself.
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Located on France’s eastern border with Germany, Strasbourg has always been strategically important in Europe. In 1871 the city was annexed to the newly established German Empire, but returned to France in 1918. While most European institutions are based in Brussels, the French government ensured that the official seat of the European Parliament is Strasbourg. The city is connected by high-speed train (TGV) to Brussels and Paris.
From April, a new bridge across the Rhine has carried tram passengers to the neighbouring German town of Kehl. A well-funded tram system makes travel in Strasbourg a pleasure.
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