Visit the Cathedral of Strasbourg – Guide to prepare your visit

by | Dec 15, 2022 | Museum and monuments, Museum and monuments (when it rains), Open on sundays, Strasbourg | 0 comments


Strasbourg Cathedral is the oldest Gothic cathedral in the world and one of the must-sees when visiting Strasbourg. It is the second most visited cathedral in France, just after Notre Dame de Paris! It is easily recognizable by its pink sandstone façade and its unique tower. It is really beautiful and imposing! It is located in the center of Strasbourg and is open every day of the year except January 1st, May 1st and December 25th.

The history of the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Strasbourg

The Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Strasbourg was founded in 1015 on the remains of a Carolingian cathedral, by the Bishop of Strasbourg Werner of Habsburg and Emperor Henry II. Its foundations (unique in the world), to be precisely on the place where the first Christians had prayed, were laid on a water table and required years of work and a specific ancient technique to be stabilized.

The Cathedral was destroyed in a fire in 1176 and the new one was built in 1220, on the old foundations and in a gothic style. It is unique because of its only bell tower, topped by a spire and completed in 1439. Its construction took more than three centuries and assumptions about its unique bell tower are varied.

With the Reformation, the Cathedral was devolved to Protestant worship in the early 16th century. A disputed seat until the concordat of 1801, it is now exclusively dedicated to the Roman Catholic cult. However, its history remains troubled in the 20th century, with two world wars, bombings, a fire and the threat of the tower collapsing due to the water table. In 2015, it still celebrated its millennium serenely.

Height of the cathedral of Strasbourg

With a spire of about 142m high, it was the highest building in the world until the 19th century (in 1874).

Visit of the cathedral of Strasbourg: free or paying entrance?

The entrance to the cathedral of Strasbourg is free, but the presentation of the astronomical clock as well as the ascent to the top of the tower are paying.

What to see during your visit to Strasbourg Cathedral?

Interior and exterior of the cathedral

The cathedral has an infinite number of things to admire, both inside and outside. Before entering the Cathedral, don’t miss to admire its pink façade and its sculptures. You will be able to admire many remarkable works during your visit of the Cathedral of Strasbourg: sculptures, altarpieces, tapestries, a remarkable monumental organ, stained glasses dating from the 12th to the 15th century.

The architecture of Strasbourg Cathedral is also noteworthy and shows finesse and elegance, with its gothic pulpit, the baroque altar of the Saint-Laurent chapel, the portals, the innovative frontispiece for the time and its rose window. Don’t forget to admire the spire, a very daring technical work in the Middle Ages. You can also visit the crypt.

Guided tours of the interior of Strasbourg Cathedral are only possible with a qualified guide. You can book your visits at the Tourist Office.

There is also an excellent audioguide: I advise you to download the Pop Guide app on your smartphone and buy the Cathedral tour module. The application is well done: we access a map of the cathedral and we can then click on the elements that interest us to listen to the explanations. You can stay there for a total of about 3 hours, but of course you don’t have to listen to everything either. You can really do according to the time you have and your desires. The price is 4€ but I advise you to take the Pop Guide pack + boat trip with Batorama (another must for a visit to Strasbourg), the application is then only 2€50. It would be a shame to miss out! 😉

Astronomical clock of the cathedral of Strasbourg

One of the great sights of the cathedral is its astronomical clock, which has a worldwide reputation and is definitely one of the things to see when visiting the cathedral. This masterpiece of the Renaissance is fascinating because of its complexity and precision: it is the result of a collaboration between artists, mathematicians, watchmakers, sculptors, painters and automaton creators. Its current mechanism dates from 1842. It is very impressive when the automatons (representing the four ages of life) come to life!

It can be seen freely during a visit to the cathedral, but it can only be seen in motion once a day during the Parade of the Apostles.

Presentation of the clock and the Parade of the Apostles

The Parade of the Apostles, during which you can watch the complete play of the automatons, takes place every day at 12:30 pm sharp.

Before that, at 12:00, the presentation of the astronomical clock takes place, which consists of the projection of a film about the clock and its history. I strongly advise you to attend this presentation of the clock before attending its animation, because you will be able to understand much better what you will observe.

Please note that this projection does not take place on Sundays or holidays when a mass is celebrated at 11:00 am (but access to the clock is then free after the 11:00 am mass).

Tickets for the astronomical clock

You must purchase a special ticket to attend the presentation of the clock and the Parade of the Apostles. These cannot be purchased in advance but only on the day:

  • Until 11:00 a.m.: at the stalls of the Cathedral Notre-Dame de Strasbourg;
  • From 11:30 a.m.: at the entrance to Place Saint-Michel (access from Place du Château)

I recommend you to enter a little bit in advance because the film starts at 12 o’clock precisely and it is often crowded.

How to climb to the top of Strasbourg Cathedral?

332 steps and, as a reward, a 360° view of Strasbourg, the Vosges and the Black Forest. The climb to the platform of the Strasbourg cathedral is a must-see, to be done and done again! It begins in the guards’ lodge, which is accessible from the cathedral, on the Castle Square side. There are three other platforms, but they are not accessible to the public.

Please note that access to the platform may be temporarily closed due to unfavorable weather conditions or a large number of people (100 people maximum).

Climbing the tower of the cathedral

I really advise you to take your time for the climb. The ascent is done by a spiral staircase, within a turret with regular openings on the outside. This offers splendid views of the buttresses, roofs and sculptures of the cathedral. You won’t be able to admire these details from as close as the top of the platform.

I have alreadyclimbed the platform of the cathedral of Strasbourg with people who are subject to a slight vertigo. It went well because both the stairs and the platform are well secured. However, if your vertigo is more important, it may not be a good idea… It is also better to be in good physical condition.

Once the 332 steps are climbed, we arrive in the guards’ house. This small building was built in 1782 to monitor the city and to intervene quickly in case of fire. From now on, an exhibition will allow you to discover the history of the cathedral of Strasbourg and of the city.

One can also observe the “squirrel wheel”, a winch dating from the 15th century intended to bring up the materials necessary for the construction of the cathedral. And the mechanism of a clock designed by Jean-Baptiste Schwilgué, author of the third astronomical clock, located in the heart of the cathedral.

A magnificent view of Strasbourg

Then go out on the platform to enjoy the breathtaking view of the roofs of Strasbourg, which we overlook at 66 meters high. 12 eyelets point to the remarkable districts and buildings of Strasbourg, such as Petite France, the Parliament, the Russian Orthodox Church or the Church of Saint Thomas. In good weather, it is even possible to see far beyond the city with a beautiful panorama of the Vosges and the Black Forest. A breathtaking view!

Don’t forget to look up to admire the 142-meter high spire of the cathedral as well as the tower of the transept crossing and the copper roof of the cathedral. With a little luck and attention, you will also see peregrine falcons or kestrels, titmice, hawks, swifts or passerines. The cathedral is home or hunting ground for many birds! However, no storks nearby: they nest in the Orangery park 🙂

How about a trip back in time? There is a free application, VR Strasbourg Cathedral, to discover reconstructed views of Strasbourg in 1730 (east side) and in 1490 (west side) and follow the evolution of the city over the centuries through 3D reconstructions. Finally, the observation table shows the public the direction of several major world cities.

The descent is also made via the spiral staircase of another turret, on the north side of the cathedral this time. Here again, it is worth stopping regularly to admire the city, the buildings and the cathedral in a different light.

Tickets for the platform of the cathedral of Strasbourg

You have to buy a special ticket to go up to the platform of the cathedral. The purchase is made directly at the foot of the tower before going up to the south by the Castle Square.

The entrance fee is donated to the Fondation Oeuvre Notre-Dame. This structure ensures the preservation and restoration of the cathedral of Strasbourg for more than 800 years. It has about thirty people specialized in stone cutting, sculpture, masonry, locksmithing, restoration or historical studies. This work is always done by hand, thus preserving a traditional know-how. The Fondation Oeuvre Notre-Dame is a unique case in France! Only a few cathedrals in Switzerland, Norway, Germany and Austria have dedicated workshops. I recommend that you visit the Foundation’s museum, a few steps from the cathedral.

Sound and light show in summer

Every summer from July to August, the cathedral of Strasbourg is adorned withilluminations at dusk. A sound and light show takes place every night, for the pleasure of tourists but also of locals! The show is different every year, hard to get tired of it…It’s really superb!

I liked

  • Admire the cathedral: impressive outside and inside!
  • The panoramic view of Strasbourg from the tower of the cathedral
  • Observe the amazing astronomical clock
  • Let the Pop Guide audioguide guide me
  • Contribute to the preservation and restoration of the cathedral

I liked a little less

  • Potentially long line in season: go in the morning!

My photos of the visit of the cathedral of Strasbourg

Practical information

Schedules and rates

Here are the timetables of the cathedral of Strasbourg. Admission to Strasbourg Cathedral is free. You can admire the cathedral itself as well as the astronomical clock, except during the presentation of the astronomical clock.

On the other hand, there is a charge for this service:

Guided tour app

To download the Pop Guide application, click here .


Tramway line A and D, stop Langstross Grand’Rue
Bus 10 (Corbeau stop), bus 30 (Saint-Guillaume stop) or bus 14 and 24 (Ancienne Douane stop)



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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