Welcome to Grande Ile, in Strasbourg, France. This is the only city center that has the distinction of being declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. And indeed, Grande Ile is imbibed with a unique sense of culture, and is overflowing with a wealth of historical and cultural monuments. There are also 22 brass plates that celebrate its being a World Heritage Site – these can be found at the bridges that lead to Grand Ile.
Grande Ile, as the name suggests, is really an island, as two branches of the Ill river encircle the area, separating it from other parts of the city of Strasbourg.
Grand Ile is the perfect embodiment of a medieval city. It is also home to the Strasbourg Cathedral, as well as four churches that are centuries old. These are the churches of Saint Pierre le Vieux, Saint Etienne, Saint Thomas and Saint Pierre le Jeune. Here, you will also find the Palais de Rohan and the Museum of Notre-Dame. There is also an utterly beguiling collection of squares, alleys, bridges and bank that make a visit to Grand Ile simply unforgettable.
The crown jewel of all the monuments in Grand Ile is undoubtedly the Strasbourg Cathedral, or more formally known as Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg. Victor Hugo aptly called it the 'Prodigy of the gigantesque and the delicate'. It is a perfect example of the transition of Romanesque from Gothic architecture. Made of rose-hued sandstone, it stands at a soaring 141 meters, which make it the highest cathedral of its time. Its architectural splendor makes the perfect backdrop for the religious ceremonies that are still held there regularly. Of note is the rose window, which is so intricately done, it resembles stone lace at first glance. Other adornments are also as stunning, like the Coronation and Death of the Virgin as well as the stained glass windows that show knights and kings. It also has an Astronomical clock that harks back to 1842.
Another must-see is the Palais de Rohan, south of the cathedral. It is renowned for its rococo interior as well as its fabulous facades. It houses a number of Museums. There is the Musee des Beaux-Arts (which has works by the masters Rembrandts, Goya, Rubens, Renoir, Monet and many more). The Palace is also home to the Musee des Arts Decoratifs – a collection of china and furniture, as well as the original mechanisms of the astronomical clock found in the Strasbourg Cathedral. Another museum features a collection of Roman and medieval artifacts.
For a look at the lives of the Alsacian people (from the 13th century on to the 19th century), visit the Musee Alsacien. Here, you can find articles the Alsacian peoples used in their daily living – clothes, tools, objects for worship, and toys.
Grande Ile is a magnificent quarter of the already magnificent city of Strasbourg. It is rich in architectural gems and provides you with an insight on a great many subjects. The Grande Ile is one of the favorite tourist destinations in Europe, beckoning visitors with its old world charm and historic character.