A short guide to Strasbourg’s Palais Rohan

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When you're in Strasbourg, it's part of the scenery, but you don't really take the time to look at it or enter it. Probably wrongly so, with the exception of the first Sunday of the month when museums are free, during Heritage Days, or during a summer evening session when its facade is decked out in video mapping. In this blog post, I push back the doors of the Palais Rohan and let you discover this emblematic place .

Céline
Céline
Céline, 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.

A prime location

An important part of the city’s cultural heritage and history, and a small architectural gem in the Regency style, its central location makes it a highlight and a must-see when visiting Strasbourg. The Palais Rohan is ideally located located in the heart of the Grande Ile and close to many points of interest, starting of course with Strasbourg Cathedral but also several museums in Strasbourg: the Musée de l’œuvre Notre-Dame, the 5e Lieu, the City History Museum and just a stone’s throw from the Alsatian Museum.

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Palais Rohan, a brief tour of the building

Before unlocking the secrets of the Palais, let’s take a look at the outside: on the right-hand side, the terrace overlooking the River Ill and the Quai des Bateliers. On the opposite side, the triumphal arch-like entrance portal, its pair of columns topped by statues representing religion and clemency, and the courtyard of honor overlooking the Place du Château and Strasbourg’s Notre-Dame Cathedral. The entrance to the Palace is via the vestibule on the left. To admire the architecture of the Palace, climb up to the Cathedral platform.

We continue with the interior, which you can access with a ticket to the Musée des Arts Décoratifs. First, the state of the ground floor. The building is divided into two parallel enfilades of royal apartments, which must be crossed to reach the decorative arts wing. We start by visiting the first enfilade on the banks of the Ill. Pushing open the door, you come face to face with the large, luminous Synod Hall and its paved floor in Comblanchien stone. It is divided into two large, almost immaculately white spaces: the dining room and the guard room. Apart from a few earthenware stoves, basins and stucco and marble statues, this huge banqueting hall is now virtually empty.

This is followed by a line of rooms comprising the antechamber, the king’s bedroom and the cabinet, all of which are interconnected. And then it’s Versailles! Gilding, moldings, tassel chandeliers, wall tapestries, paintings, crimson curtains, Empire-style furniture, honey-colored parquet flooring: pomp takes precedence over sobriety. At the end of the enfilade is the sumptuous library, whose walls are decorated with large tapestries, and in the center, two portraits face each other, those of kings Louis XIV and Louis XV.

We then attack the part facing the Cathedral. This is the bishop’s private apartment. The configuration is identical, but in reverse, as we move from the cabinet with its beautiful jade-green fabrics to the bedroom and antechamber. The latter was destroyed in 1944 and partially rebuilt.

History of Strasbourg’s Palais Rohan

Culture time! Several prince-bishops and cardinals residing in Strasbourg have taken up residence at the Palais. Cardinal Armand-Gaston-Maximilien, Prince de Rohan, an ecclesiastic and politician, was the first of the four to occupy the site, and was behind its construction.

And when it comes to design, the French touch of the 18th century is Robert de Cotte, King Louis XV’s first architect. Work began in 1731 and was completed in 1742. Armand-Gaston’s grand-nephew François-Armand became prince-bishop in 1749. Passed away at a very young age, he was succeeded in 1756 by Louis-César-Constantin, followed by Louis-René-Edouard.

After the Revolution, the Palais became the Hôtel de Ville in 1791, then the imperial residence in 1806 under Napoleon 1st. The Palais Rohan’s fate was finally sealed when it became part of Germany in 1870.

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Visit the three museums of the Palais Rohan

In addition to the royal apartments, the Palais Rohan provides an elegant setting for three of the city’s major museums: since the late 19th century, it has been home to the Musée des Beaux-Arts (1889), the Musée Archéologique (1913) and the Musée des Arts Décoratifs (1924). Art and history lovers will be delighted.

Strasbourg Museum of Decorative Arts

In addition to the interior of the Palais Rohan we’ve already mentioned, a ticket for the Musée des Arts Décoratifs gives you access to the former stables of the Palais, which have been converted into an exhibition hall. It houses an important collection of decorative arts (furniture, painting, sculpture, ceramics, silverware, etc.) from the 17th to the 19th centuries, as well as earthenware from the famous Hannong factory, a very prosperous company in the 18th century, whose reputation spread far beyond Alsace’s borders. Cobalt-blue floral decorations, trompe-l’œil in the shape of farmyard animals or plants, tableware inspired mainly by nature, have ensured international success and longevity for the Strasbourg dynasty.

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Strasbourg Museum of Fine Arts

Set against the backdrop of the Cathedral’s spire, the Musée des Beaux-Arts on the second floor features paintings from the beginnings of European painting to the mid-19th century. From German, Flemish and Italian primitives to the great masters of Spanish painting, the Italian Renaissance and the French Romantics and Realists of the 19th century.

Classic paintings that are enhanced by brightly colored walls and careful lighting. Biblical scenes, landscapes and still lifes rub shoulders with portraits of the bourgeoisie, such as the “Belle Strasbourgeoise”, whose costume and famous headgear are on display at the Musée Historique. Nicolas de Largillière’s work hangs at the end of a long, handsome blue corridor enhanced by Corinthian columns.

Strasbourg Archaeological Museum

Located in the basement of the Palais Rohan, this 18th-century museum is also the city’s oldest. Sculptures, figurines, ceramics, jewelry and ornaments, weapons and other ancient relics, it is entirely devoted to the history of Strasbourg and Alsace, covering periods from Prehistory to the Middle Ages.

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Rohan Terrace, lively and festive all year round

During the Strasbourg Christmas Market, the Rohan terrace is transformed into the Quai des Délices, stretching all the way to Place de la Boucherie. Whether you’re stocking up on bredele, sipping mulled white wine or munching on a foie gras sandwich under the glow of Christmas stars, this is the place to enjoy Christmas specialties.

It’s also here that you can board a Batorama cruise boat, soak up the shade and quench your thirst after a hot Strasbourg summer day. Or mingle with the locals by chatting on the pontoons, strolling along the landscaped quays and savoring the view with an ice cream cone.

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  • The beauty of the building, inside and out…
  • Rediscover this emblematic Strasbourg building
  • 3 museums to visit, all included in the Alsace Pass
  • Nothing!