How to spend two days in Strasbourg, a proud French city that looks like Germany


How does this French town look like it fell out of a Grimms’ fairy tale? Blame a long and often, well, gruesome history of war and conquest.

For centuries Strasbourg was indeed Germanic, first as part of the Holy Roman Empire and then as a “free city” and commercial center. It wasn’t until 1681, when Louis XIV annexed Alsace, that Strasbourg got its first taste of Frenchness.

For the next two hundred years Strasbourg was essentially French. Napoleon’s reforms brought economic growth and the city prospered. Then in 1870, the Franco-Prussian War drove the French out and the Germans were back in charge.

A fierce battle began. The city changed nationalities four times between 1871 and 1945 – most brutally during World War II, when the occupying Nazis, who considered French Alsatians to be Germans, forced Strasbourg residents to fight in the German army against their French countrymen.

This is just one reason why it’s good to think before exclaiming, “Wow, I feel like I’m in Germany!” Host your bed and breakfast.

Now that that’s settled, let’s begin the tour.

Image above: 1838 engraving of Strasbourg

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