I’ve spent days walking the streets of Strasbourg, Basel and Geneva to write these three guidebooks. Don’t turn to them for their maps (useless!) or their description of the cities’ touristic highlights (barely mentioned). These are meant to be complements to more traditional guides, pointing you towards unusual architecture, cool shops and little-known landmarks.
Here are three entries that didn’t quite make it into the Wallpaper* Strasbourg City Guide because of lack of space…
Saint-Guillaume was built in 1307 by knight crusader Henri de Müllenheim-Rechberg, who had pledged to open a church in his hometown if he made back from the Holy Land. With its row of three arched windows surmounted by three small gables, the original building (dedicated to boatmen, as indicated by the anchor on the spire) must have been pretty unusual. And so is the church that you can see now, the botched result of a 17th-century refurb. The then pastor, unhappy with the eccentric façade, asked carpenter Philippe Schermann to build a more classic belltower. But Scherman’s attempt to match the rectangular base of the tower to the polygonal spire failed spectacularly. He was payed for his hard work with a beating, while we today are rewarded with the eerily contemporary lines of this most unusual building.
1 rue Saint-Guillaume, T 88 36 01 36, saintguillaume.overblog.com
This centrally located two-star hotel with bright lime green walls and groovy orange furniture is named after the famous German printer who spent years in exile in Strasbourg. The 42 rooms, all with free wifi and flat-screen TVs, feature graphic white headboards as well as mezzanine bathrooms in the attic rooms. In an historic district crammed with more traditional offerings, the décor is refreshingly contemporary; the only traces of the building’s fusty past can be found in the old swirling staircase at the back of the 18th century townhouse. Some superior doubles offer a softer, more traditional décor with classic wooden furniture, but still have a modern, pared-down feel. Hotel Gutenberg is a five-minute walk away from most of the city’s main attractions, so skip the in-house breakfast and go for a café-croissant on a terrace overlooking the river or the cathedral.
31 rue des Serruriers, T 88 32 17 15 http://www.hotel-gutenberg.com
Strasbourgeois are divided as to where to find the best ice-creams in town. Some say Christian (www.christian.fr), an innovative pâtissier and glacier operating in the shadow of the cathedral since the 1960s, is the clear winner. But the long weekend queues at Glacier Franchi near place Kléber seem to suggest otherwise. We’re certainly leaning towards the latter, an artisanal ice cream shop founded in 1934 by Joseph Franchi and now managed by his grandchildren. Maybe it’s the décor, reminiscent of the gelaterie of Rome or Florence. Or the size of the ice cream coupes, served in Murano-style coloured glasses, with plenty of fresh fruits and lashings of whipped cream. Or just the fact that you can choose between over 40 flavours of the day (from the classic cappucino to the local Fleur d’Alsace), taken from the shop’s 150-strong catalogue. Whatever the reason, make this an essential stop on your Strasbourg itinerary.
5 rue des Francs-Bourgeois, T 88 23 16 15, http://www.leglacierfranchi.com