Stunning Strasbourg is a shopper’s delight

Stunning Strasbourg is a shopper’s delight

by Karen Bradbury
Stripes Europe

With its picturesque canals lined with brightly painted, half-timbered houses, flower boxes sprouting a profusion of geraniums, and looming Gothic cathedral, Strasbourg, France dazzles with its unique mélange of cosmopolitan character and Alsatian charm. Essential stops on a first-time visitor’s itinerary include the Petite France historical quarter, Ponts Couverts complex of towers and bridges crisscrossing the canals and the Rue Mercière, a street straight from the Middle Ages.

Once the sightseeing has been put to rest, it’s time to shift gears and pull out the portemonnaie. The shopping opportunities in Strasbourg are just as grand as the architecture that surrounds you. Here are a few places to go and things to pick up in your travels:

Wine: who says shopping and checking out tourist attractions are mutually exclusive? They’re not when you shop for the Rieslings, Sylvaners, Pinots, Gewurztraminers and other esteemed whites that earn Alsace its cred as a wine-making powerhouse at the cave, or cellar, beneath the Strasbourg City Hospital. The Cave Historique des Hospices Civils de Strasbourg sells quality wines of recent vintage produced by some 30 Alsatian winegrowers granted the opportunity to age their wines in the ancient barrels beneath the hospital. The oldest cask on hand dates back to1472, making the contents within some, if not the oldest barrel-aged wine in the world. Still not convinced? Proceeds from the wine sales go toward the hospital, so the more you buy, the healthier all will be! Address: 1 Place de l Hopital, 67091 Strasbourg.

Beer: Alsace is France’s leading brewing region, with some 60% of all the beer of France brewed in the region. Fischer, Heineken, Karlsbrau, Kronenbourg, Licorne and Meteor are some of the best-known makers based locally. Microbreweries of good repute have also sprung up, such as the highly-regarded Bières Artisanales Perle. Different beer styles are brewed with the changing of the seasons, to include a smooth and spicy beer for Christmas and a fruity beer that’s synonymous with spring. To stock up for your next degustation, head to Le Village de la Bière Strasbourg, where Alsatian, domestic and foreign brews are all on offer. Address: 22 Rue des Frères, 67000 Strasbourg.

Pottery: these functional ceramics are sold in earthy colors and dark blues, and are typically decorated with floral motifs. Common shapes include plates, mugs, casserole pans and the cake form needed for baking kougelhopf, the Alsatian version of the bundt cake. The Poterie d’Alsace, just steps away from the famous cathedral, is a family-run operation selling items made in their workshop in Soufflenheim. Address: 3 rue des Frères, 67500 Strasbourg.

Regional specialties: to bring the taste of Alsace back home, be sure to stock up on cheese, sausages, canned meats and a kougelhopf cake. To be spoiled for choice, make way to the charmingly named Mon Oncle Malker de Munster, where the choice is wide and the quality of the many artisanal products on offer top-notch. The store carries regional beer, wine and spirits as well. Address: 4 Place de la Grande Boucherie, 67000 Strasbourg.

Gingerbread: Strasbourg’s favorite baked good next to the pretzel is gingerbread, a treat that’s eaten year-round, especially around Christmas time. Pain d'Epices Mireille Oster offers mouthwatering sweets and impeccable service. Address: 14 Rue Des Dentelles, 67000 Strasbourg.

A chic new wardrobe: for shopping that makes you feel like a VIP, head to the Galeries Lafayette, a chain of upmarket department stores found throughout France. The premises here aren’t quite as posh as you’ll find in Paris, but the store carries all the brands a style and fashion-conscious shopper aspires to wear. For bargains, come during one of the two annual “soldes” seasons, government-regulated periods when shops slash prices on their wares, in June-August and January-February each year. Address: 34 rue du 22 Novembre, 67000 Strasbourg.

Street markets: whatever day of the week you happen to pull up in Strasbourg, you’ll find a street market in some part of town; for what’s on see Markets in Strasbourg. To peruse bric-a-brac in a scenic setting, time your visit for a Wednesday or Saturday, when a fun little collectibles market is in full swing. Address: Place de l’Etal Square, Place de la Grande Boucherie Square and on the corner of Rue de la Douane.

Second-hand treasures: among the city’s many second-hand stores is Emmaüs, a chain of charity stops founded shortly after World War II by Father Henri-Antoine Groues, better known as Abbé Pierre. The selfless Catholic priest devoted himself to fighting homelessness and poverty by setting up communities for the destitute. In order to prevent the beneficiaries from feeling like nothing more than beggars, a social enterprise of collecting disused goods for resale was established. Nowadays these shops exist throughout France, and the sale of another man’s treasure still helps those in greatest need. They’re great places to net a bargain on shoes, clothes, costume jewelry, kitchenalia and retro home décor. Address: 5 Chemin de la Holtzmatt, 67200 Strasbourg.

Souvenirs: need a fridge magnet, plush stork or gingerbread man, linens or whatever it is you collect in your travels? Places to pick up such tourist kitsch abound in the streets surrounding the cathedral. The city’s tourist office at 17 Place de la Cathédrale also sells memorabilia. For pretzel-themed gifts, visit Bretzel Airlines, which won’t actually fly you anywhere, but does offer a fun and funky assortment of Alsatian-inspired wares. Address: 2 Rue du Parchemin, 67000 Strasbourg.

What did you buy on your last trip to charming Strasbourg?

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