Strasbourg Cathedral is the oldest Gothic cathedral in the world and one of the must-see when visiting Strasbourg. It is easily recognizable by its pink sandstone facade and its unique tower. It is a really beautiful and impressive building! Of a height of about 142m, it has been for a long time the tallest edifice in the world, up until 1874.
The history of the Cathedral of Strasbourg
The Cathedral Notre-Dame de Strasbourg has been founded in 1015 on the remains of a Carolingian cathedral, by the bishop of Strasbourg, Werner von Habsburg and by the Emperor Henry II. Its foundations (unique in the world) have been laid upon groundwater – to be in the exact place where the first Christians had prayed – and have required years of work and a specific ancestral technique to be stabilised. The Cathedral was destroyed by fire in 1176 and the new building was erected from 1220, on the old foundations and in a Gothic style. It is unique because of its single tower, surmounted by a spire, and finished in 1439. The construction took more than three centuries and there are various suppositions about the single bell tower. With the Reformation, the Cathedral was subjected to Protestant worship at the beginning of the 16th century. Disputed up until the Concordat of 1801, it is now exclusively dedicated to the Roman catholic worship. However, its history is unstable in the 20th century with the two world wars, bombings, a fire and the threat of the tower collapsing because of the groundwater. In 2015, the cathedral managed to celebrate its millenium with serenity.
What to see during your visit of the Cathedral of Strasbourg?
Before entering the Cathedral, don’t forget to admire the pink facade and the sculptures. You can see countless remarkable works during your visit of the Cathedral of Strasbourg: sculptures, altarpieces, tapestries, a remarkable organ, stained-glass windows dating back from the 12th to the 15th century and of course, the famous astronomical clock. The architecture of the Cathedral of Strasbourg is also interesting and shows fineness and elegance, with the Gothic pulpit, the baroque altar of Saint-Laurent chapel, the portals, the innovative (for the time) frontispiece and the rose window. Don’t forget to admire the spire, a very bold technical work for the Middle Ages. You can also visit the crypt.
One of the main feature of the Cathedral is the astronomical clock dating back from the 19th century. It is fascinating because of its complexity and accuracy. It is very impressive when the automatons (depicting the four ages of life) animate.
Climbing up to the Cathedral’s platform
You shouldn’t miss climbing up the cathedral tower, except if you suffer from vertigo. It’s better to be a bit in shape to climb up to the platform of the Cathedral of Strasbourg, as you will have to face about 330 steps and a bit of sweating. A nice reward is expecting you at the end: a beautiful view on Strasbourg, from 66 meters above the city! On a clear day, it is even possible to see beyond the city. Strasbourg lays in front of your eyes, with its red roofs and the different neighbourhoods. You might even recognise a few monuments and buildings, like the European institutions, the railway station or the modern and contemporary art museum. There are three other platforms, but they are not open to the public.
To learn more about this monument, I recommend you to read this instructive (and not boring) article, “Les 8 savoirs indispensables sur la cathédrale de Strasbourg” (in French). You will discover for example the story of the mysterious green beam. You will already learn a lot about the cathedral, even if it doesn’t replace a guided tour!
- The panoramic view over Strasbourg from the top of the cathedral tower: so beautiful!
- Observing the astonishing astronomical clock
I liked a little less
- The lack of information about the astronomical clock outside the hour of presentation. A small sign would be very helpful!
Prices and opening times
Entry for Strasbourg Cathedral is free. You can admire the cathedral, as well as the astronomical clock outside the presentation time (animation of automatons everyday at 12h30). You will find here opening times to visit Strasbourg Cathedral.
Access to the astronomical clock presentation is not free. You will find here prices and times.
Access to the cathedral tower is not free, except on the first Sunday of each month. You will find here prices and times. The ticket counter is located on the right side of the cathedral when you are facing it.
It is possible to take part in guided tours of the Cathedral of Strasbourg. You can book your tour here.
Strasbourg Cathedral is located in the heart of the pedestrian area, on the central island. Stop: Langstross Grand’Rue (tram A and D) / Broglie (tram B, C and F) / Corbeau (bus 10).