Strasbourg is the capital and principal city of the Alsace region in eastern France and is the official seat of the European Parliament. Located close to the border with Germany, it is the capital of the Bas-Rhin departement. The city and the region of Alsace are historically German-speaking, explaining the city's Germanic name. In 2006, the city proper had 272,975 inhabitants and its urban community 467,375 inhabitants. With 638,670 inhabitants in 2006, Strasbourg's metropolitan area (aire urbaine) (only the part of the metropolitan area on French territory) is the ninth largest in France. The transnational Eurodistrict Strasbourg-Ortenau had a population of 884,988 inhabitants in 2008.
Strasbourg is the seat of several European institutions, such as the Council of Europe (with its European Court of Human Rights, its European Directorate for the Quality of Medicines and its European Audiovisual Observatory) and the Eurocorps, as well as the European Parliament and the European Ombudsman of the European Union. The city is the seat of the Central Commission for Navigation on the Rhine.
Strasbourg's historic city centre, the Grande lle (Grand Island), was classified a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1988, the first time such an honour was placed on an entire city centre. Strasbourg is fused into the Franco-German culture and although violently disputed throughout history, has been a bridge of unity between France and Germany for centuries, especially through the University of Strasbourg, currently the largest in France, and the coexistence of Catholic and Protestant culture.
Economically, Strasbourg is an important centre of manufacturing and engineering, as well as of road, rail, and river communications. The port of Strasbourg is the second largest on the Rhine after Duisburg, Germany. In terms of city rankings, Strasbourg has been ranked third in France and 18th globally for innovation.
Architecture:The city is chiefly known for its sandstone Gothic Cathedral with its famous astronomical clock, and for its medieval cityscape of Rhineland black and white timber-framed buildings, particularly in the Petite-France district or Gerberviertel ("tanners' district") alongside the Ill and in the streets and squares surrounding the cathedral, where the renowned Maison Kammerzell stands out.
Notable medieval streets include Rue Merciere, Rue des Dentelles, Rue du Bain aux Plantes, Rue des Juifs, Rue des Freres, Rue des Tonneliers, Rue du Maroquin, Rue des Charpentiers, Rue des Serruriers, Grand' Rue, Quai des Bateliers, Quai Saint-Nicolas and Quai Saint-Thomas. Notable medieval squares include Place de la Cathedrale, Place du Marche Gayot, Place Saint-Etienne, Place du Marche aux Cochons de Lait and Place Benjamin Zix.
In addition to the cathedral, Strasbourg houses several other medieval churches that have survived the many wars and destructions that have plagued the city: the Romanesque Eglise Saint-Etienne, partly destroyed in 1944 by Anglo-American bombing raids, the part Romanesque, part Gothic, very large Eglise Saint-Thomas with its Silbermann organ on which Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Albert Schweitzer played, the Gothic Eglise Saint-Pierre-le-Jeune Protestant with its crypt dating back to the seventh century and its cloister partly from the eleventh century, the Gothic Eglise Saint-Guillaume with its fine early-Renaissance stained glass and furniture, the Gothic Eglise Saint-Jean, the part Gothic, part Art Nouveau Eglise Sainte-Madeleine, etc. The Neo-Gothic church Saint-Pierre-le-Vieux Catholique (there is also an adjacent church Saint-Pierre-le-Vieux Protestant) serves as a shrine for several 15th-century wood worked and painted altars coming from other, now destroyed churches and installed there for public display. Among the numerous secular medieval buildings, the monumental Ancienne Douane (old custom-house) stands out.
The German Renaissance has bequeathed the city some noteworthy buildings (especially the current Chambre de Commerce et d'Industrie, former town hall, on Place Gutenberg), as did the French Baroque and Classicism with several hotels particuliers (i.e. palaces), among which the Palais Rohan (now housing three museums) is the most spectacular. Other buildings of its kind are the Hotel du Prefet, the Hotel des Deux-Ponts and the city-hall H?tel de Ville etc. The largest baroque building of Strasbourg though is the 1720s main building of the Hopital civil. As for French Neo-classicism, it is the Opera House on Place Broglie that most prestigiously represents this style.
Strasbourg also offers high-class eclecticist buildings in its very extended German district, being the main memory of Wilhelmian architecture since most of the major cities in Germany proper suffered intensive damage during World War II. Streets, boulevards and avenues are homogeneous, surprisingly high (up to seven stories) and broad examples of German urban lay-out and of this architectural style that summons and mixes up five centuries of European architecture as well as Neo-Egyptian, Neo-Greek and Neo-Babylonian styles. The former imperial palace Palais du Rhin, the most political and thus heavily criticized of all German Strasbourg buildings epitomizes the grand scale and stylistic sturdiness of this period. But the two most handsome and ornate buildings of these times are the Ecole internationale des Pontonniers (the former Hohere Madchenschule, girls college) with its towers, turrets and multiple round and square angles and the Ecole des Arts decoratifs with its lavishly ornate facade of painted bricks, woodwork and majolica.
The baroque organ of Saint-Thomas church.Notable streets of the German district include: Avenue de la Foret Noire, Avenue des Vosges, Avenue d'Alsace, Avenue de la Marseillaise, Avenue de la Liberte, Boulevard de la Victoire, Rue Sellenick, Rue du General de Castelnau, Rue du Marechal Foch, and Rue du Marechal Joffre. Notable squares of the German district include: Place de la Republique, Place de l'Universite, Place Brant, and Place Arnold
Impressive examples of Prussian military architecture of the 1880s can be found along the newly reopened Rue du Rempart, displaying large scale fortifications among which the aptly named Kriegstor (war gate).
As for modern and contemporary architecture, Strasbourg possesses some fine Art Nouveau buildings (the huge Palais des Fetes, some houses and villas on Avenue de la Robertsau and Rue Sleidan), good examples of post-World War II functional architecture (the Cite Rotterdam, for which Le Corbusier did not succeed in the architectural contest) and, in the very extended Quartier Europeen, some spectacular administrative buildings of sometimes utterly large size, among which the European Court of Human Rights building by Richard Rogers is arguably the finest. Other noticeable contemporary buildings are the new Music school Cite de la Musique et de la Danse, the Musee d'Art moderne et contemporain and the Hotel du Departement facing it, as well as, in the outskirts, the tramway-station Hoenheim-Nord designed by Zaha Hadid.
The city has many bridges, including the medieval, four-towered Ponts Couverts.
Next to it is a part of the 17th-century Vauban fortifications, the Barrage Vauban. Other bridges are the ornate 19th-century Pont de la Fonderie (1893, stone) and Pont d'Auvergne (1892, iron), as well as architect Marc Mimram's futuristic Passerelle over the Rhine, opened in 2004.
The largest square at the centre of the city of Strasbourg is the Place Kleber. Located in the heart of the city's commercial area, it was named after general Jean-Baptiste Kleber, born in Strasbourg in 1753 and slaughtered in 1800 in Cairo. In the square is a statue of Kleber, under which is a vault containing his remains. On the north side of the square is the Aubette (Orderly Room), built by Jacques Francois Blondel, architect of the king, in 1765-1772.
Parks: Strasbourg features a number of prominent parks, of which several are of cultural and historical interest: the Parc de l'Orangerie, laid out as a French garden by Andre le Notre and remodeled as an English garden on behalf of Josephine de Beauharnais, now displaying noteworthy French gardens, a neo-classical castle and a small zoo; the Parc de la Citadelle, built around impressive remains of the 17th-century fortress erected close to the Rhine by Vauban; the Parc de Pourtales, laid out in English style around a baroque castle (heavily restored in the 19th century) that now houses a small three star hotel, and featuring an open-air museum of international contemporary sculpture.The Jardin botanique de l'Universite de Strasbourg (botanical garden) was created under the German administration next to the Observatory of Strasbourg, built in 1881, and still owns some greenhouses of those times. The Parc des Contades, although the oldest park of the city, was completely remodeled after World War II. The futuristic Parc des Poteries is an example of European park-conception in the late 1990s. The Jardin des deux Rives, spread over Strasbourg and Kehl on both sides of the Rhine, is the most recent (2004) and most extended (60 hectare) park of the
Fine Art museums:Unlike most other cities, Strasbourg's collections of European art are divided into several museums according not only to type and area, but also to epoch. Old master paintings from the Germanic Rhenish territories and until 1681 are displayed in the Musee de l'CEuvre Notre-Dame, old master paintings from all the rest of Europe (including the Dutch Rhenish territories) and until 1871 as well as old master paintings from the Germanic Rhenish territories between 1681 and 1871 are displayed in the Musee des Beaux-Arts. Old master graphic arts until 1871 is displayed in the Cabinet des estampes et dessins. Decorative arts until 1681 ("German period") are displayed in the Musee de l'CEuvre Notre-Dame, decorative arts from 1681 to 1871 ("French period") are displayed in the Musee des Arts decoratifs. International art (painting, sculpture, graphic arts) and decorative art since 1871 is displayed in the Musee d'art moderne et contemporain. The latter museum also displays the city's photographic library.
Links:Stasbourg City Website
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