Strasbourg travel guide for tennis fans

Gingerbread half-timber houses, majestic cathedral, tasty wines and good food, white storks ... welcome to Strasbourg, home of the only WTA tournament in France. Strasbourg is the perfect city to combine city sightseeing and tennis watching. And you could also combine a few days in Strasbourg with a stay in Paris for Roland Garros. Discover the beautiful city of Strasbourg, and as always feel free to leave us a comment below.

The city

Getting there

Strasbourg international airport is only 15km from the city, in Entzheim. The airport is served by major carriers like Air France, KLM and Iberia. Flights link Strasbourg to London, Madrid, Amsterdam and Brusells among others. Shuttle train connects to Strasbourg station up to 4 per hour in only 10 minutes.
Strasbourg is also served by three other airports: Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg Airport, Karlsruhe/Baden-Baden Airport and Frankfurt International Airport. Basel and Karlsruhe serve budget airlines like Ryan Air and Easyjet. Frankfurt, 200 km from Strasbourg, is the nearest inter-continental airport, the main airport of Germany and the fourth busiest in Europe. All three airports are linked by bus or trains to Strasbourg.

Strasbourg is well served by SNCF (French railways) but also by Deutsche Bahn (German railways). 14 high-speed TGVs per day leave Paris' Gare de l'Est for Strasbourg, making the journey in only 1h45. Check out seat61.com and loco2.com to compare routes and times and buy tickets.
The main railway station, Strasbourg-Ville, impressively renovated with a new glass cocoon frontage, is just a 10-minute walk from the city centre. There are connections to the tram and buses network.

Several bus operators (Eurolines, Flixbus, Ouibus) also offer long distance connections to Strasbourg.

If you plan to get to Strasbourg by car, you'll have to buy a Crit'air vignette. Check out this page to know more about the Air Quality Certificate.

Getting around

Strasbourg is best explored on foot, but to get you across town, you can use the efficient public transport system which includes 34 bus lines and six tramlines (named A to F). Tickets are sold by newsagents, tourist offices or from vending machines at tram stops. The same tickets are valid for all buses and trams.
A single journey ticket costs €1.80. A 1-day unlimited pass (Pass journée) allows unlimited travel on the bus-tram network for 24 hours and costs only €4.50.
If you travel by car, you can use the P+R car park, and for €4.10, you can park your car one day and get a roundtrip for the tram and bus for all the occupants of the car (up to 7 people).

With over 560km of cycling trails Strasbourg is the most bike-friendly city in France. The city operates its own bike sharing program called Vélhop. Pay by card and receive a code to unlock your bike. From €6/full-day and €18/week, deposit: €150/bike. Check out this page for more info.

City at a glance

- Strasbourg is located 400km east of Paris, on the west bank of river Rhine, at the eastern border of France with Germany.
- The Roman camp of Argentoratum was first mentioned in 12 BC; the city of Strasbourg which grew from it celebrated its 2,000th anniversary in 1988.
- The city is the capital of one of the most scenic regions in France, l'Alsace.
- Johannes Gutenberg developed the first printing press with moveable type here in 1450.
- Strasbourg became a French city in 1681, after the conquest of Alsace by the armies of Louis XIV. The city was annexed by Germany from 1871 to 1918 and then again from 1940 to 1944.
- France's stirring national anthem, la Marseillaise, was written in Strasbourg in 1792.
- Strasbourg's historic city centre, the Grande Île (Grand Island), was classified a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1988.
- Strasbourg shares one distinction with New York and Geneva: they are the only cities in the world home to international institutions without being national capitals.
- With a population of 280,000 inhabitants Strasbourg is the eighth biggest city in France.

See

Once a mere fishing village, Strasbourg has grown into an attractive hybrid city: part medieval with its flamboyant Gothic cathedral, lovely half-timbered houses and cobbled streets, part modern powerhouse, with its glassy buildings, home of several European institutions.

The best of Old Strasbourg is concentrated in an area that extends from the Cathedral to the picturesque Petite France.
Called by Victor Hugo “a prodigy of the gigantic and the delicate”, the Cathedral is Strasbourg's jewel in the crown. It is one of the most important monuments dating from the Middle Ages. Built between 1176 and 1439, it remained the highest building in Christendom up till the end of the 19th Century and its magnificent filigree spine is visible throughout the city. The cathedral holds many people’s attention, but take time to discover the cathedral's surroundings.
Left of the cathedral is the shopping district. Rues des Hallebardes, des Orfèvres, du Dôme and des Juifs are mostly made of shops. The Place Gutenberg, with a statue of the famous invertor at his centre, is also worth a peek for its Renaissance-style Chambre du Commerce.

Formerly the quarter of the tanners, millers and fishermen, La Petite France is now a heaven of peace in the heart of Strasbourg. The streets are lined-up with half-timbered 16th and 17th century houses, old-fashioned shops and restaurants aplenty. La Maison des Tanneurs (below, on the right) was originally built in 1572 and was used as a tannery before being renovated and converted into a restaurant in the 1950's. The menu offers a range of traditional Alsatian dishes.

Maison des Tanneurs, Strasbourg
La Petite France, Strasbourg

At the end of a series of canals are the Ponts Couverts (covered bridges). These three bridges, distinguished by their four stone towers, were once covered by their wooden shelters. They were part of the 14th century fortifications that framed Old Strabourg. Just beyond the bridges is the Barrage Vauban (Vauban Dam). Built in the 17th century by Vauban, it was used as a bridge and a defensive structure. Climb up to the top for a panoramic views of the Ponts Couverts and Petite France, and on the MAMCS (the Modern and Contemporary Art Museum) on the other side. Below, the Barrage Vauban:

Strasbourg

The view from the Vauban dam: the covered bridges in the foreground and the Cathedral in the background:

Strasbourg cathedral

Circling back to the starting point in the Cathedral square, around the canal to the east of the centre is the 19th century German quarter and further north, the European institutions.
In 1871 Alsace and Moselle are annexed to the German Empire and Strasbourg becomes the capital of the new Reichsland Elsass-Lothringen. Built after the annexation, the Neustadt (new city in German) district tripled Strasbourg's surface area and made it a showcase for the German Empire. The Place de la République is surrounded by examples of this imperial architecture, such as the Palais du Rhin, the University Library and the National Theatre. A poignant memorial is found in the centre of the square, featuring a woman with her two sons, one who has died for France, the other for Germany.
Between the Place de la République and the Place de l'Université l'Eglise Saint Paul is another landmark of Strasbourg. Completed in 1897, it was designed for the Lutheran members of the Imperial German garrison stationed in Strasbourg (see picture below).

Strasbourg

White storks

White storks spend the winter in Africa but migrate north to breed and they used to be a frequent sight in Alsace. But until fairly recently, the stork population was thought to be headed towards extinction. The species however made a comeback due to a reintroduction programme. The stork is a symbol of Alsace, that you can buy in every gift shop in every form: plush, toy, glass... but you can also see them live in every Alsatian village. In Strasbourg, the Orangerie Park is the best chance of a stork sighting.
According to European folklore, the stork is responsible for bringing babies to new parents. The legend is very ancient, but was popularised by a 19th-century Hans Christian Andersen story called The Storks.

Storks in Alsace

Eat and drink

From foie gras to Flammekueche, chocolate to Kugelhof, wine to beer, Alsace has many culinary specialities to boast about. You shouldn't leave Alsace without having a choucroute garnie: pickled cabbage served with smoked pork, ham and sausages. Some restaurants also offer a fish version: choucroute de poissons. Other specialties include: Flammekueche (thin pastry topped with crème fraîche, onions and lardons), Baeckoffe (pork, lamb and beef marinated in white wine in a terra cotta pot with potatoes), coq au Riesling (the Alsatian version of Coq au Vin, rooster stewed with white wine). Dessert lovers should try a Kugelhopf, a crown-shaped cake strudded with almonds and raisins.

Alsace is the first beer-producing region of France, best known breweries being Kronenbourg, Fischer and Meteor. But the region is also one of France's most important wine-producing regions, where wines are designated by wine varities, like Gewürtztraminer, Riesling, Sylvaner and Pinot Gris.

La route des vins d'Alsace

Launched in 1953, the Alsace Wine Route is one of the oldest wine routes in France. It offers visitors a wide range of activities related to wine and the vineyard all year round. Originally a popular touring rally, it has become one of the jewels of Alsace: it winds 170km from the north to the south of the region, passing through 70 wine-growing villages, renowned for being some of the most beautiful villages in Alsace, like Eguisheim and Kaysersberg, and of course Colmar, the Alsatian wine capital.

Strasbourg and the Davis Cup

Arnaud Boetsch, Paul-Henri Mathieu and Pierre-Hugues Herbert. What is the common point between these players? They're Alsatians and they played at least one Davis Cup final.
In 1996, in Malmö, Sweden, Boetsch was the hero of the longest, closest and most dramatic Davis Cup final ever. This tie was supposed to be all about Stefan Edberg, who was putting an end to his career. But he twisted his ankle, losing the first rubber to Cédric Pioline. Thomas Enqvist then levelled the tie with a straight sets win over Boetsch. Guillaume Raoux and Guy Forget won the vital doubles over Jonas Bjorkman and Nicklas Kulti. And then came the wildest Sunday ever... Enqvist rallied back from 2 sets down, 2-5 in the fifth to beat Pioline 3-6 6-7 6-4 6-4 9-7 in four hours 25 minutes. Boetsch survived 3 match points to defeat Kulti 7-6 2-6 4-6 7-6 10-8 in four hours 47 minutes. Boetsch, who had brought France back from 0-2 by winning the fifth rubber in the semifinal against Italy, went down to the history books, doing something no one had ever done before: he had won a Davis Cup final in the fifth set of the fifth rubber.

Fast forward to 2002 and another classic Davis Cup final, opposing France to Russia in Paris Bercy. Safin, then world number 3 and winner of the Bercy Masters a few weeks earlier, defeated PHM in the first rubber. The pressure was on Sébastien Grosjean in the second rubber against Kafelnikov, but he defeated him easily. Nicolas Escudé and Fabrice Santoro defeated Safin and Kafelnikov 6-3 3-6 5-7 6-3 6-4 to edge the home side ahead, but Safin evened the match at 2-2 by beating Grosjean in straight sets. And the rest is history, the final would come down to the fifth set of the fifth and last match between inexperienced 20-year-olds: Paul-Henri Mathieu and Mikhaïl Youzhny. Mathieu got off to a flying start and raced into a two-set lead. Down a break in the third, Youzhny broke back and won the set, but fell behind again 2-4 in the fourth. He somehow managed to come on top 3-6 2-6 6-3 7-5 6-4. Youzhny was a ball boy when Russia lost the 1995 final to the USA in Moscow, 7 years later he had done what no one had ever done before: come from two sets to love down to win the fifth rubber of a Davis Cup final. It was a nightmare for PHM who ended up in tears on his chair.
Paulo went on to play 5 other Davis Cup ties, with a win over Carlos Moya in the 2004 quarterfinals, and a fifth rubber victory over Thomas Johansson in 2005 in Strasbourg.

An Alsatian player who made a name for himself recently is doubles specialist Pierre-Hugues Herbert: he was part of the French team who claimed the Davis Cup in 2017 (read my recap here) and part of the team who lost to Croatia in 2018.

Another Alsatian who had a big influence on French tennis fans, and made them fall in love with tennis is Jean-Paul Loth. A popular TV commentator, he was Captain of the French team that reached the final in 1982 (loss to USA in Grenoble), and the coach of Patrick Proisy when he reached the Roland Garros final back in 1972.

Hometown hero Paul-Henri Mathieu

Born and raised in Strasbourg, Paul-Henri Mathieu claimed the junior title at Roland Garros in 2000, won 4 ATP titles and reached a career-high ranking of world number 12 in 2008. Not the most talented, not the one with the biggest trophy case but surely one of the most liked French player in the recent years - at least by French tennis fans.
A fighter with a big heart, he will be forever remembered for two superb but so cruel matches: his 2002 Davis Cup final defeat to Youzhny (see above) and his memorable marathon against Nadal at Roland Garros in 2006. In the third round round PHM lost to Rafa in a gruelling encounter which lasted 4 hours and 53 minutes, but only 4 sets and 42 games!

Internationaux de Strasbourg

Created in 1987 the tournament was originally called Strasbourg Grand Prix, and is one of the longest-running WTA tournament. Surprisingly it is also the only WTA event held in France. Traditionnally held the week before the second Grand Slam of the season, the Internationaux de Strasbourg are a great warm-up to Roland Garros. Both the surface and the balls are the same as the ones used in Paris.
Past winners include several Grand Slam champions: Lindsay Davenport (1995-96), Steffi Graf (1997), Jennifer Capriati (1999), Maria Sharapova (2010), Francesca Schiavone (2012) and Sam Stosur (2015, 2017).
Last year, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova claimed the title over Dominikova Cibulkova after a rollercoaster match: 6-7(5), 7-6(3), 7-6(6). With 3h15 of play, it became the second longest match in women's tennis history. It was Anastasia 12th career title, her third on clay. Romanians Mihaela Buzarnescu and Raluca Olaru prevailed over Nadiia Kichenok and Anastasia Rodionova in the doubles final.

Facilities:
The tournament takes place at the Tennis Club de Strasbourg, just 200m from the European Parliament. Matches are played on 3 outdoor clay courts: court Patrice Dominguez, court 1 and court 2. Late Patrice Dominguez was a French tennis player turned coach, Davis Cup captain, tournament director and TV commentator.

Ticketing:
Tickets are on sale online or at the stadium during the tournament. But ticket prices will be increased by €3 at the ticket counter during the tournament. Single tickets as well as multi-day passes are available.

Transport:
The Tennis Club de Strasbourg is really easy to access by tramway: take the tram E and stop at Parlement Européen, and by bus: take the bus line 30 and stop at Wacken, or line 50 stop at Robertsau Boecklin.

IS 2019

The 33rd edition of the Internationaux de France will take place from May 17 to May 25. French number one player Caroline Garcia has been announced as well as last year's Roland Garros finalist Sloane Stephens and Miami champion Ashleigh Barty. Also on the entry list: defending champion Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and 2011 US Open champion Sam Stosur.

Comments are closed.