World Facts Index > France > Strasbourg
Not far from the cathedral, the Place du Marché-Gayot offers trendy bars and student-occupied sidewalk tables. The adjacent Place Saint-Etienne gives onto a number of charming narrow streets leading to the Place Broglie, a long tree-lined square on which is found the Opéra with its stately columns and muses sculpted by Ohmacht. To the right, the Hôtel du Préfet is worth a gander as well. During the month of December, the Place Broglie is the scene of a lively Christmas market. The area is also home to the Grandes Arcades, a traditional shopping street which leads to the Place Kléber, itself bordered on the north side by the 18th-century Aubette . The Place Kléber is always humming with activity and hosts twice-weekly an open-air market where one may find many unpronouncable local products (flamenküche, bibeleskäs, etc.).
Whence the name of Petite France (Little France)? In the 16th century, the district was home to a hospital specialising in venereal diseases; the Alsatians blamed France for the proliferation of such maladies, attributing them in part to soldiers returning from the wars in Italy, and thus nicknamed the quarter "Zum Französel" or, in French, "Petite France".
Off the Place de la République one can follow the Avenue de la Marseillaise and discover a number of buildings of interest. On the Place du Général Eisenhower, at the confluence of the Ill and the Aar, sits the neo-Gothic church of Saint-Paul. From here one can see 19th-century German architect Otto Warth's Palais Universitaire (Palace of the University), which for over a century has housed the University of Strasbourg's history and archaeology faculties. After visiting the interior of this structure, one may explore the botanical garden and directly behind it, the Strasbourg Planetarium.
Orangerie, Quartier des XV
Just down the street are the Palais de la Musique et des Congrès (Music and Convention Centre), the Maison de la Télévision (Television Centre), and the Wacken area, whose own convention centre hosts events like the Foire Européenne (European Fair), the Foire Saint-Jean (Saint John's Fair), and the Egast.
The Finkwiller district, bordered by the faculty of medicine, the Strasbourg public hospital, the departmental government building and the Petite France neighbourhood, is also home to the churches of Saint-Nicolas and Saint-Louis, as well as a host of good restaurants including La Choucrouterie (The Sauerkrautery), La Coccinelle (The Ladybug), and La Cuiller à Pot (The Ladle), and lively bars like the Tapas Café which will be particularly appreciated by night owls.
History of StrasbourgStrasbourg, the modern capital of Europe, also boasts a rich and varied past that has made an indelible mark on the local culture and architecture. People in the avant-garde Strasbourg of today may get around using an economical, attractive and environmentally-friendly light rail system; they may live in the city of the Conseil de l'Europe and the Palais des Droits de l'Homme (Palace of Human Rights); but they are also surrounded at all times by a local history that begins in Antiquity and has ever since been shaped by the city's position at the crossroads of Europe.
Strasbourg was born in the year 12 B.C., and grew out of both the Roman military camp Argentoratum and Strateburgum, the neighbouring fishing and hunting village from which the city takes its name. This Strateburgum, "City of Roads," was truly the crossroads of Europe, a traveller's stopover but also the frequent target of invaders from the east. Accordingly, historic Strasbourg is where the first known text in (Old) French'the famous Serment de Strasbourg, pronounced in 842 by Louis le Débonnaire's two sons and their men, was written.
Much later, when Strasbourg had become a free Imperial city, it was the scene of numerous important scientific, religious, and artistic events. The current Place Gutenberg celebrates the inventor of movable type, who developed his invention right here before taking it to Mayence. During the 16th and 17th centuries, Strasbourg was a major stage for Calvin's Reformation. In 1725, Louis XV was married to Marie Leszgynska in the Cathédrale Notre Dame, which was built between 1015 and 1365. The rich artistic history of Strasbourg includes concerts by Mozart and Goethe's long stay here; around the same time, many Parisian-influenced hôtels particuliers (private mansions) were built in central Strasbourg, as was the monumental Palais Rohan .
The city has always been torn between Germany and France. Even today, Strasbourg is subject to the double influence, by turns beneficial and oppressive, of the two giants on whose border it lies. Ironically, it is here that the French national anthem got its start: on April 24, 1792, during a farewell dinner honoring volunteers in the Rhine army, mayor Frédéric de Dietrich asked Rouget de Lisle to compose a song to rally the troops; the result was the "Marseillaise". Nevertheless, this border town has often fallen under German control. Among the monuments of Strasbourg are some landmarks in German Neoclassicism, including the Palais du Rhin (Palace of the Rhine), the Théâtre National de Strasbourg (Strasbourg National Theatre), and the Bibliothèque Nationale Universitaire (National University Library), all situated near the Place de la République. These important edifices were all damaged in the World Wars, but in the years since the buildings, and Germano-Alsatian relations as well, have been fully restored.
Today Strasbourg is at the centre of European politics as it shares with Luxembourg and Brussels the privilege of hosting major European Union institutions. The European Council, which was created on May 5, 1949 and which is made up of representatives from 41 member nations, sits in session in a contemporary complex next to the Parc de l'Orangerie.
A city of importance in all eras, Strasbourg impresses today by the harmonic coexistence of its vibrant modernism and its historical heritage. Roman, Germanic, and French cultures have made their marks here, and throughout the city's history all have contributed to the specificity that is Alsatian culture.
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