A short guide to Strasbourg’s Parc de l’Orangerie

Updated on 2024-05-05
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It's said that the Parc de l'Orangerie is Strasbourg's favorite public park... Certainly the largest - it covers more than 26 hectares - the oldest and the most elegant. For many, it rhymes with a little digestive Sunday stroll, often with the family. It's also famous for its free-roaming storks and its springtime spectacle of magnolia and Japanese cherry blossom.

CĂ©line
CĂ©line
CĂ©line, a native Alsatian, is a gourmet with a passion for patisserie. She runs the blog L'Heure du Cream, where she shares her recipes and ideas for outings across the Rhine on Knack&Rucksack, her local tourism website for trips near and far.

Where is the Parc de l’Orangerie located?

The Parc de l’Orangerie is located in the north-east of the Alsatian capital, in the middle-class district that bears the same name, l’Orangerie. Bordered on one side by the River Ill, it is also the proud neighbor of the Council of Europe. To get there, you can take the streetcar (Line E, Droits de l’Homme stop), but don’t forget to hop on a Vel’hop – I really recommend the bike ride. From the city center, take the Mullenheim quay, then continue the tour to the Wacken district, where you’ll see the European Parliament and the headquarters of the Arte TV channel.

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If you start out on the Neudorf/Esplanade side of town, take the cycle path along the Quai des Belges and Rue du GĂ©nĂ©ral Conrad, where you’ll find a really pleasant ride. Along the way, you’ll have the opportunity to stop (and even visit) a rather unusual building. With its white façade, ice-blue petal roofs and golden bulbs, the Russian Orthodox Church (Church of All Saints) doesn’t go unnoticed. This stunning place of worship, completed in 2018, adjoins the Park. The interior is just as flamboyant: look up to admire the central dome. Combine your visit with lunch at the excellent Slavonic restaurant Dostoyevsky: a change of scenery is guaranteed, and there’s always room to spare.

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History and evolution of the Parc de l’Orangerie

The creation of the park is subject to some speculation. The Parc de l’Orangerie is said to have been designed in 1692 by AndrĂ© Le NĂ´tre, a French-style garden with regular, symmetrical paths as they were conceived at the time. Today’s AllĂ©e des Platanes and the AllĂ©e JosĂ©phine leading up to the central pavilion are examples of this type of project. But others attribute it to Marshal d’Huxelles. Originally, at least, it was a promenade made up of just a few rows of lime trees.

In 1807, the famous Pavillon JosĂ©phine was built to serve both as a party hall and, especially in winter, as a shelter for a plantation of 138 orange trees saved from destruction during the Revolution. It was named after Empress JosĂ©phine de Beauharnais (Napoleon Bonaparte’s wife), who often stayed in Strasbourg. The orange trees disappeared from the landscape in the 1968 fire and the pavilion was rebuilt identically, but now you know the origin of the park’s name. In 1830, the development continued, but with a nod to French classicism. By adopting a slightly irreverent British style, the park’s pathways become winding and untidy.

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It wasn’t until1895, with the Industrial and Crafts Exhibition, that it took on its definitive configuration, as we know it today. The German authorities (again) doubled the size of the park, adding exhibition buildings, a small amusement park, a zoo, a 13,000 m2 lake, a grotto, a waterfall and an Alsatian farm, the Hauptrestauration. This house, built in Molsheim in 1607, was bought and moved piece by piece into the park.

Its oldest part, a half-timbered house, is listed as a historic monument and now houses Le Buerehiesel (from the Alsatian word for “peasants’ cottage”), a renowned gourmet restaurant.

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Leisure activities at Parc de l’Orangerie

The Parc de l’Orangerie offers a multitude of possibilities for stretching your legs and traversing it on foot or by bike, at a leisurely pace or in short strides. It’s the park for joggers who come here for an evening jog. Solo or in a group, the Parc de l’Orangerie is the perfect setting for stretching and gentle practices such as yoga. Stretching, qi-gong, zumba, running: during the summer, Strasbourg also offers free physical, sports and leisure activities in the city’s public parks. And from time to time, you can even see a few tightrope walkers testing their balance.

For the less sporty, this is the ideal place for a picnic with family or friends, followed by a game of pĂ©tanque or ping-pong. You’ll find everything you need on site. People also come to the Parc de l’Orangerie to cool off, read a book in the shade or simply relax on the grass.

If you’re a polyglot and don’t want to get bogged down, let yourself be surprised and make your selection directly at the book shack open during the summer months and located at the entrance to the park (at the corner of Boulevard de l’Orangerie and Rue François-Xavier Richter). Between the many playgrounds and the vintage car circuit, children too can let off steam and have a blast.

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A park for lovers

Strasbourg’s Parc de l’Orangerie is also a popular spot for lovers. It starts with a date, a romantic stroll, a canoe trip on the lake followed by a discreet kiss under the bower. It ends with a formal request. It’s not unusual to come across a kitschy scene under the Temple d’Amour, a small wooden kiosk at the entrance to the park, and the traditional bride and groom photo shoot.

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And the storks aren’t about to contradict the lovebirds! They too have chosen the Parc de l’Orangerie as the site for their little love nest. And during the breeding season (March-April), many of them crackle and fly overhead. A never-before-seen show that you’ll only see in Strasbourg this spring.

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Projects and renovations

The Parc de l’Orangerie was also famous for its mini-zoo, built in 1903 and now permanently closed. The city of Strasbourg is currently working on its second life, and an educational park is due to open in 2024. The mini-farm is still open (admission charge). Bowling alley and restaurant also closed. The large building, built in 1966 opposite the lake and waterfall, is currently being renovated and will reopen in 2025.

The Parc de l’Orangerie for gourmets

The digestive stroll has never been so aptly named. Especially after a gourmet meal at Buerehiesel, the Michelin-starred restaurant run by the Westermann family. For those with a sweet tooth, whether ice cream or hot chestnuts, the Franchi artisanal ice cream parlour is also loyal to its two outlets, summer and winter alike. You’ll see his van (or locomotive) on Boulevard de l’Orangerie, and he’s also set up shop “en dur” on the corner of Avenue de l’Europe.

Buildings and works of art to see at Parc de l’Orangerie

Old or more recent, the park is dotted with works of art and buildings such as the wooden Monoptery, the Octroi Pavilion, a small ancient temple planted opposite the Council of Europe, and of course the Josephine Pavilion, now recycled as an exhibition and reception hall. Or half-timbered houses, one of which houses the Buerehiesel gourmet restaurant. Along with the little fisherman’s hut on the lakefront, it’s one of the last vestiges of the Industrial Exhibition.

And it’s home to some lovely bronze and mineral pieces. The most famous and oldest (1898) is certainly the Gänseliesel (Let’s read to the geese), a work by sculptor Albert Schultz. Or is it “Les amours du poète” just behind the pavilion? This sculpture features a drape and two flying angel heads (Jean Claus, 1994). The park also conceals two sculptures by Alfred Marzolff, the bust of composer Victor Nessler (1895) and Hercules slaying the lion (1905).

Of course, we can’t talk about the Parc de l’Orangerie without mentioning its backbone: its ponds and artificial fountain. The two bodies of water are separated by a rock grotto, a waterfall and a footbridge. The water flows through a canal surmounted at one end by a stone terrace before reaching the other part of the lake.

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