Discover Strasbourg’s Place Kléber

by | Updated on 5/02/2024 | Strasbourg | 0 comments

Let me introduce you to one of the squares in the historic center of Strasbourg in Alsace: Place Kléber. While I find the square a little lacking in charm, I’d still recommend a visit, as it’s one of the city’s most emblematic landmarks. One of the strengths of Place Kléber is its central location. Located near Strasbourg Cathedral, in the heart of the city, it serves as a central meeting point for locals and tourists alike.

History of the Kléber square and statue

Strasbourg’s Place Kléber was originally called Barfüsserplatz ( German for “barefoot square”), after the nearby Franciscan church and monastery, destroyed in the 16th century.

The square then became a Place d’Armes, as part of the city’s modernization and embellishment project by Jacques-François Blondel, architect to the King of France. But lack of funds and economic problems ultimately prevented this project from being realized: only the Aubette building, a large guardhouse that still exists today, was built in the 1770s, which explains the square’s lack of architectural unity to this day!

My guide to Strasbourg

couverture-guide-strasbourg

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The name Place Kléber was given on June 24, 1840, when the mausoleum dedicated to General Jean-Baptiste Kléber, who led the French army during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, was inaugurated. This is a mausoleum, not just a statue as is generally thought: the general’s ashes are preserved in the statue’s base… But his heart rests at Les Invalides in Paris! Standing 21 meters high, the imposing statue of Strasbourg general Jean-Baptiste Kléber is adorned with sculptures, bas-reliefs and inscriptions commemorating the general’s life and career.

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Place Kléber today

Place Kléber has been remodeled several times. The last complete restructuring took place in 2007, under the guidance of landscape designer Gilles Clément. I didn’t know the square before, but I must admit that I don’t find this version very successful: this square is too cold, too mineral for my taste, with its water basins surrounded by gneiss stone but very little greenery, but that’s just my opinion…

Place Kléber is surrounded by a variety of stores, cafés and restaurants. This is where all Strasbourg events take place, as well as many of the city’s cultural and associative events.

On a positive note, the Place Kléber is pedestrianized (with the exception of the streetcar which passes to the west of the square. The Homme de Fer stop is just a stone’s throw away). There’s an underground parking lot in the basement (much better than the vast surface parking lot it housed until 1993!).

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Outstanding buildings

The square features rows of buildings from very different periods, ranging from the Middle Ages to the end of the 20th century. The two most remarkable are Aubette and Maison Rouge.

L’Aubette

L’Aubette is a historic building of Vosges pink sandstone. It’s THE beautiful building on the square, I’d say 😉 It was built in the 1770s as part of the city’s modernization and beautification project, and then bombed during the 1870 war. Only the original neoclassical façade remains, but a reconstruction was carried out in 1875 by the city architect Jean Geoffroy Conrath, who enriched the building with decorative elements contrasting with its original sobriety.

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Today, l’Aubette is home to a shopping mall with big-name stores such as the Apple Store and Starbucks, as well as an event hall hosting a variety of events.

Last but not least, the building houses a little-known free museum, the Aubette 1928. Enter the Aubette leisure complex, decorated in 1928 by the three avant-garde artists Theo Van Doesburg, Hans Jean Arp and Sophie Taeuber-Arp. Just that! At the time, the Aubette was a major cultural center in Strasbourg, and today the entire second floor is listed as a historic monument. Discover the staircase, the Ciné-dancing, the Foyer-bar and the Salle des fêtes.

aubette-musee-strasbourg

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La Maison Rouge

Another remarkable building, the Maison Rouge, stands in stark contrast to the other buildings on Place Kléber, and with good reason: the original historic building, which housed the Maison Rouge hotel, was demolished in 1973 to make way for a modern-style shopping center…

The building we see today was built in 1978 by Mr. Herrenschmidt, chief architect of civil buildings and national palaces, who wanted to make a reference in his facade to Alsatian houses, with their pitched roofs and seated dogs, while reinterpreting the half-timbering. I admit I’m skeptical, but let’s face it! I don’t think I know many people who appreciate this building, either from the outside or the inside, I must say.

Today, the Maison Rouge is still a shopping center and home to the Fnac (which is what the people of Strasbourg actually call the building). Not to be confused with the Hotel Maison Rouge, a beautiful hotel just around the corner!

Place Kléber during the Christmas market

The Place Kléber is a must-see during Christmas in Alsace, and with good reason: it’s here that you’ll find the famous Christmas Market tree, some thirty meters high! Come and admire this king of forests and have your photo taken in front of the Strasbourg, Capital of Christmas sign, a must-see for visitors at Christmas time! You can also stroll around the square, which is beautifully decorated with lights and decorations, and browse the stalls at the Christmas market while sampling some Alsatian Christmas specialities

strasbourg-christmas-market

Laurène

Laurène

Laurène est la créatrice du blog Mon week-end en Alsace. Bretonne installée en Alsace depuis 2014, elle est tombée amoureuse de sa région d'adoption au point de lui dédier un blog et d'acheter avec son mari une maison alsacienne dans un village du Kochersberg, près de Strasbourg. A pied, à vélo, sur ses chevaux ou au volant de sa voiture, elle aime partir explorer les moindres recoins de l'Alsace pour dénicher de bonnes adresses à partager sur le blog.

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