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Strasbourg townscape
Strasbourg townscape

Strasbourg (German Strassburg, "castle of roads", Alsatian Strossburi) is the capital and principal city of the Alsace région of northeastern France. It is the préfecture (capital) of the Bas-Rhin département.

Population: 250,000. Population of the metropolitan area (in French: aire urbaine) at the 1999 census was 612,104. Including the part of the metropolitan area which is on German territory, population was estimated in 1999 at around 650,000.

Strasbourg is an important centre of manufacturing and engineering, as well as of road, rail and river communications. It is the seat of the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights and it hosts the new seat of the European Parliament after the asbestos scandal in the 1980s.



Strasbourg is situated on the Ill River, where it flows into the Rhine on the frontier with Germany. The German town across the river is Kehl.


The city is known for its sandstone gothic cathedral, and for its medieval cityscape of Rhineland black and white timber-framed buildings, particularly in the Petite-France district alongside the river Ill, which has been declared a World Heritage site by the UNESCO.


At the site of Strasbourg, the Romans established a military outpost and named it Argentoratum. It belonged to the Germania Superior Roman province. From the 4th century, Strasbourg was the seat of a bishopric.

The Alamanni fought a battle against Rome in Strasbourg in 357. They were defeated by Julian, later Emperor of Rome, and their king Chonodomarius was taken prisoner. On January 2, 366 the Alamanni crossed the frozen Rhine in large numbers, to invade the Roman Empire. Early in the 5th century the Alamanni appear to have crossed the Rhine, conquered and then settled what is today Alsace and a large part of Switzerland.

The town was occupied successively in the 5th century by Alamanni, Huns and Franks. In 842, Strasbourg was the site of the Oath of Strasbourg.

1888 German map of Strasbourg
1888 German map of Strasbourg

A major commercial centre in the later Middle Ages, it became in 1262 an Imperial Free City of the Holy Roman Empire, with a broad-based city government from 1332. The minster of Strasbourg was completed in 1439, and became the World's Tallest Building, surpassing the Great Pyramid of Giza. During the 1520s the city embraced the religious teachings of Martin Luther, whose adherents established a university in the following century.

Annexing Strasbourg in September 1681, France was confirmed in possession of the city by the Treaty of Ryswick (1697). The official policy of religious intolerance which drove many Protestants from France after the Edict of Fontainebleau (1685) was not applied in Strasbourg, as the Edict of Nantes (1598) had still been in effect in France at the time of the city's annexation. With the growth of industry and commerce, the city's population tripled in the 19th century to 150,000.

Annexed to the newly-established German Empire, as part of Alsace-Lorraine, in 1871 following the Franco-Prussian War (Treaty of Frankfurt), the city was restored to France after World War I, in 1919 by the Treaty of Versailles. It was again part of Germany during World War II, from 1940 to 1945.


There are three universities in Strasbourg:

A campus of the École nationale d'administration (ENA) is located in Strasbourg, the other one being in Paris. The building of a new one to reunite both in Strasbourg and to give the ENA a European vocation has started.

The permanent campus of the International Space University (ISU) is located in the south of Strasbourg.


A modern-looking tram system has operated in Strasbourg since 1994.

Two TGV lines are planned to link Strasbourg to the European high-speed train network:

  1. LGV Est (Paris-Strasbourg) (under construction, to open 2006)
  2. LGV Rhin-Rhône (Strasbourg-Lyon)


Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the writer, and Johann Gutenberg, the inventor of printing with movable type, were both former residents of Strasbourg.

The city is sometimes regarded as the capital of European Union although Brussels in Belgium is more often considered to be the unofficial capital of the Union.

France and Germany are negotiating the creation of a Eurodistrict straddling the Rhine river combining the Greater Strasbourg and the Ortenau district of Baden-Württemberg, with some common administration. The overall population of this "European Washington DC" would be 860,000.

Twin towns

See also

Last updated: 02-06-2005 20:58:02
Last updated: 02-21-2005 12:07:58