Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Strasbourg Old Town Running Route

Click here for route map
Length: 4.4 km (2.7 miles), terrain flat

Strasbourg running routes:
Strasbourg Old Town run
Strasbourg European Quarter route

For more running routes, see Route List. 

Photos courtesy of the creative folks at Flickr CreativeCommons! Thanks!

Strasbourg (Straßburg) is beautiful, interesting and has a split personality. The streetlife is definitely French, the old buildings are definitely German, the streetsigns are bilingual. Even most of the people living here bridge two worlds, two cultures: most have French first names and German family names.

Strasbourg, La Petite France at night, photo by Photos de Daniel
And the local culture is as rich as the mixture would suggest. Strasbourg is full of beautiful alleyways, imposing theaters, an awe-inspiring cathedral, picturesque waterways, and with the Petite France neighborhood, one of the most charming medieval spots in all of Europe. Some streets and buildings come from the middle ages, some from the time of revolutionary France, some from the reign of the German kaisers, and some are modern products of the last 100 years.

You're lucky if you're spending some time in Strasbourg. You can take this route, which will lead you through the main sights in the old town, looping through Place Kleber, the cathedral, along the canal-like Ill River, to Petite France, down the old main street, Rue Grand, and back to the start again.

The old town sits on a large island in the Ill River, surrounded on every side by water, which flows into the Rhine a few kilometers downstream.
The Strasbourg Old Town Route
So, off we go... We'll start at Place Homme de Fer, with its ring-shaped glass roof over the busy tram station. This is one of the city's main crossroads for public transport, and easily reached from all parts of town.

Turn to the south, towards La Maison Rouge and run into the much bigger Place Kleber, the city's biggest square. Flanking the north side, to your left, is the 250-year-old Aubette building, now a hotel. A statue dedicated to General Kleber, a French Revolution hero, stands in the center. A diagonal line in the pavement leads you in the right direction.

Place Kleber: follow that diagonal line! Photo by mksfca
Run through the square, diagonally towards the NafNaf store (southeast corner of the square). When you get there, at the large pedestrian street, Rue des Grandes Arcades, turn right and run southwards.

After a block, you'll see how the street got its name. All the shops on the left side have an arcade at street level, where shoppers can walk in comfort when it rains. In the middle ages, that was a common precursor to the modern shopping center.

Soon, you will run through the next square, Place Gutenberg. Gutenberg, inventor of the modern printing press, lived in Strasbourg for 10 years.

At the far end of the square, at the beautiful half-timbered house with the Bollinger shop, turn left on Rue Merciere. You will be running right at the amazing facade of the cathedral, the Münster.

Approaching the cathedral, photo by kleintjef
Run past the nice shops full of local artisan products and straight into the cathedral square. The Münster was once the tallest building in the world, until the Cologne cathedral was built.

I always love stopping here and taking-in all the amazing statuary over the entrances. When you're better dressed, you'll need to come back and stroll through the gothic church itself. The little street leading off to the right is full of restaurants, and one of the town's main areas to go out in the evening.

View past Kammerzell to Münster, photo by rick mn
When you're ready, turn left and run straight past the dark old half-timbered house on the corner of the square. It houses Strasbourg's most famous restaurant, the Kammerzell, with traditional Alsacian dinners. The wooden carvings on the timber-work is fascinating.

Run past the house, and then turn right at the next street, Rue des Hallebardes. Keep running straight northeast for about six blocks.

Rue des Hallabardes, photo by Drumaboy
At narrow Rue de Pucelles, turn right. You will soon come to a pleasant square, Place St.-Etienne, with its fountain, trees and old half-timbered houses.

Cross the little plaza and then turn left on Rue de la Courtine. Run the two blocks to the River Ill straight ahead. Across the bridge, you'll see the beautiful kaiser-era high-school.

But we'll stay on the island. Turn right here and run on the sidewalk along the water, on Quai St.-Etienne. It will curve to the right and follow the shore going southwest.

Along the Ill, photo by MekTouB
At the third bridge, you'll come to Palais Rohan, the old bishop's palace.

One bridge later, you will run past the old customs house.

Looking back to the Customs House on left, photo by kleintjef
And then two bridges after that, at Rue Martin Luther, you can see the first water-mills of Petite France in the river ahead. We will turn right and leave the riverside to approach this cultural treasure from the land side.

Run past the massive red sandstone St. Thomas church, then turn left on Rue de la Monnaie (Mint street). You'll first run by the music school on the left, painted red.

The main street then curves to the right, but keep running straight along the narrow Rue des Dentelles. You'll run past a lot of restaurants until it opens up onto a square on the riverside. Suddenly, you're here, at Petite France, named after the French prisoners of war once kept here in a long-ago war.

Tanners house. Cross that bridge to the left! Photo by Veejay Hast
Today this ensemble of half-timbered waterfront houses is one of the most beautiful old neighborhoods in the world. They were mostly workshops that needed the river water back in medieval times. Almost every house is a restaurant today. The house on the right with the double-level porch is the 500-year-old Gerwersstub, or Maison des Tanneurs (leather tanners' house).

In Petite France, photo by noukorama
Run past it on Rue Bain aux Plantes to the next left-hand turn, Rue des Moulins. This street is a series of bridges connecting the islands anchoring all the old watermills.

Keep running as the street curves to the left and bridges the main river at the back side of the red music school we ran past before. There is a great view of the scene from the bridge.

View from turn-around point on bridge. Photo by noukorama
Now we'll turn around and double back 120 meters, past the Regent Petite France hotel, till you see the Quai des Moulins street sign. Turn left at the sign, going through the gate in the millhouse on the left. Run through the park on that island.

At the end of the park, turn right at the impressive row of stone watchtowers.

Watchtowers at Petite France, photo by mksfca
Cross the bridge and turn right again at the Au Petit Bois Vert restaurant, going down the steps to the waterfront path, and running along the water past a few houses until the path turns to the left and runs into Rue Adolphe Seyboth.

Turn left on Seyboth and run north until you get to Grand Rue, where you turn right and run eastwards into the town center again. This was once Strasbourg's main shopping street, and is still full of stores and restaurants.

Run until you reach Rue du Fosse des Tanneurs, where you turn left. Run the last few blocks straight back to the starting place at Place Homme de Fer.