Strasbourg Study Abroad Program
Travel Suggestions in Europe
Strasbourg is perfectly located for weekend travel. By train, Strasbourg is minutes from Germany, about an hour from Switzerland, and two-and-a-half hours from Paris.
The best way to travel in Europe is often the Eurail. This can be a fairly simple and cost-effective way to travel. Be sure to educate yourself about the different kinds of Eurail passes so that you can get one that best suits your travel needs. Rick Steve's website gives some great tips on this subject.
For train tables, click here. The site gives you the entire train schedule for Western European travel. Simply pick your departure and arrival cities and the site indicates travel times, connections, and sometimes even specific track numbers. It can be helpful to print these tables for your specific trips, but be sure to check back in for the rare last minute change.
It is also possible to find inexpensive flights to and from European cities. Start with Ryanair.com, then continue to check other airline websites.
Renting a car is another option for closer destinations. While most rental car companies require drivers to be 25 years old, ABA members get discounts and can sometimes rent cars even if he or she is not 25. Check with both the ABA and each rental company for their specific policies and do not forget to bring your ABA card with you!
Wherever you go, or however you get there, using TripAdvisor to get tips from other travelers has been highly recommended by students.
SOME SUGGESTED LOCATIONS...
- Strasbourg. It is a beautiful medieval city and is historically and culturally significant in its own right. Take a weekend and spend it looking through the Cathedral, Petite France, and Strasbourg's museums. Obtaining a Strasbourg Pass at the Tourist Information Center is recommended. For a reasonable fee you get free admittance to one museum, an organ concert at the Cathedral, the Cathedral rooftop platform, and a boat tour around the city. You also get reduced prices for other visits. The Strasbourg Tourist Information Center is located on Cathedral Square. (If you are facing the Cathedral, it is on the left side.)
- Paris. A 2.5-hour train ride takes you to Gare l'Est on the northeast side of the city. From there, you can hop onto Paris's efficient underground Metro system. You can plan your trips on the Metro with the handy Transilien website. If you have some time in Paris, consider buying the Carte Musee (Paris Museum Pass). You can pick this up at any of the major museums for a reasonable price. With it, you have free and quick access to all of the major museums and the Palace at Versailles. Check out the Orsay and Orangerie art museums. Both are fantastic. (For Impressionism fans, check out the bottom floor at Orangerie - there are two oval rooms where you are literally surrounded by Monet's "Waterlilies!") Be sure to go to the top of the Triumphal Arch - the views of the Champs-Élysées and the Eiffel Tower (especially at night) are breathtaking. Going to the top of the Eiffel Tower is also incredible at night, but beware that the subway system closes before the Eiffel Tower does. You pay a different price depending on how high you want to go (the second level gives a wonderful view of the city). If you can, take a regional train (the RER) to the Palace of Versailles, just a few kilometers away. There you will find the ultimate in royal opulence. Finally, take a cruise on one of the Seine River boat tours. The Vedettes du Point Neuf have provided students with good-quality, but inexpensive, cruises in the past. The Hotel du Roubaix is a good choice for accommodations. It is clean, reasonable (though certainly not fancy) and well-located within a block of a metro stop. A breakfast of French bread, coffee, tea, or cocoa was included.
- Colmar. About 40 miles south of Strasbourg. A highlight is the Unterlinden Museum containing a breathtaking altarpiece by Northern Renaissance painter Matthias Grunewald (check out the prints in Dean Brauch's office). The city is also known for its historic district built on a canal known as "La Petite Venise."
- Route du Vin (the Wine Road). A road extending south of Strasbourg through scenic vineyards and medieval towns (particularly famous are Riquewihr and Kaysersberg). You will see some of this area on our sightseeing trip.
- Verdun, France. Tour perhaps the most famous WWI trench warfare battlefield. It is said that each side lost 400,000 men here.
- Normandy. A must see for any lover of freedom! Normandy is about a 5 hour train ride from Strasbourg. It is a good idea to find a hotel in Caen or Bayeux. A great option, La Consigne, is a hotel located directly across from the train station in Caen. To see the beaches and the American Cemetery, you will either have to rent a car or take a guided tour, such as with the Caen Peace Memorial. A guided tour may seem pricey, but it is more than worth it. There are many sights to see in Caen and Bayeux as well, so do your research. Mont Saint Michel, one of the oldest monasteries in France, is about an hour drive from Caen and a popular destination in the Normandy region.
- Kehl. Kehl is a city within biking distance. It is a small town with little stores and a little shopping area where you can get delicious German chocolate. The ride itself is around 4 miles. You can go through the streets of Strasbourg, take the bridge to the north, and ride along the river once you get into Kehl. Or you can go through the streets of Strasbourg, but take the bride to the south, and once you get to Kehl you will see the signs for a scenic bike trail. (Simply follow the signs that have a bike on it with gold stars for tires.) Along that bike trail is a World War II memorial which provides a picture taking opportunity. This is a great afternoon trip and costs very little! Map
- Trier. This city in the southwest of Germany is a 3-hour train trip from Strasbourg and can been done as a day trip if planned tightly. You can get an English walking map in the train station's visitor center and cover all the sights on foot. The city claims to be the oldest in Germany. It was a capital in the Roman Empire and still has a gate, a church, and baths dating from Roman times. You can also see where Emperor Constantine held court. The city also has a gorgeous medieval cathedral, a beautiful open-air marketplace, the home of Karl Marx, and Birkenstocks for under $40. Consider staying at the Catholic Church-run Kolpinghaus Warsberger Hof (a clean and inexpensive dorm with 2 to 6 person rooms). An extremely substantial breakfast is included in the reasonable price. Phone: 0651/975-250. You can also swing through Luxembourg on the way to Trier and get another country notched into your belt!
- Rhine River Area. The Rhine River between Mainz and Koblenz is both beautiful and historic. Mainz is 2-1/2 hours away by train. The steep banks of the river are covered with vineyards and castles. For most of the period of the Holy Roman Empire, no single leader could centralize control over Germany. Instead, there were lots of barons controlling their own little area. They each built their own castle for protection. From Bacharach to Bingen, there is one castle after another along the river. Consider taking a boat ride up or down the Rhine for a great glimpse of the past. If you have a Eurail pass, the ride on the K-D boat line is free.
- Rothenburg. This town is preserved as a 13th century medieval walled city. Fantastic! Law students need to check out the Crime and Punishment Museum. The museum contains important medieval legal documents - but more interesting is the incredible array of medieval punishment (including torture) devices. Renting a car for this trip is a good idea as there may be no direct route from Strasbourg. Be sure to check current train schedules online!
- Baden Baden. Several students recommend this 19th Century spa resort. It is only a 45-minute train trip from Strasbourg toward the Black Forest.
- Black Forest. Recommended as "relatively close, and fairly inexpensive." The area is known for beautiful scenery and the cuckoo clock. Look for the train schedule as the bus ride takes ALL day.
- Heidelberg. A famous German university town with its own historical area and castle. Check the schedule for the fireworks display and concert/play performances.
- Bassel/Bale. It is only a 1-2 hour train trip away. There are great walking tours of the city with impressive churches, beautiful views of the Rhine River, and striking architecture. If you come prepared and it is hot enough outside, you can actually float down the Rhine from one designated place to another. There is an art museum which has different visiting exhibits. The Visitor Center is in the train station, so acquiring a map and speaking with an English speaker about where to go in the city is very easy to do. There is a guided walking tour of the city that tourists can pay to take. The map of the city clearly lays out the self-guided walking tours which are free and make it just as easy to see the sights. This city can be done in one day, so it is perfect if you just want to do something one day out of your weekend. Map
- Interlaken region. A four-hour train ride away, Interlaken lies between two of the most aqua-blue lakes in the world and is at the base of 10-12,000 foot mountains. Take a train or gondola into the Alps to stay in breathtakingly beautiful hamlets like Gimmelwald, then go higher to the tops of mountains like the Shilthorn. Be sure to check out Esther's Guesthouse, but be sure to get reservations far in advance! The views are enchanting and you will always want to return.
- Luzerne. Students have recommended a boat trip to Mt. Pilatus (free with a Eurail pass) as well as a train trip to the top. They reported that the area is expensive but recommended the Hotel Gutsch for those who can share a room in a group of 3 or 4. Luzerne is about 4 hours from Strasbourg by train.
- Geneva. 3 hours south by train. John Calvin's Reformation home. Today it is a cosmopolitan city that is home to many United Nations agencies. But be prepared: Switzerland is expensive.
The train ride is about two hours to Luxembourg City and it is fun to be inside such a small country!
Suggestions for the more ambitious travelers:
- London, England. Only a 7-hour trip by train (taking you through the Chunnel). As far as things to see in London, well, you might already have a guess!
- Florence, Venice, Milan and Pisa; Italy. Several students enjoyed this trip by taking a night train.
- Prague, Czech Republic. Called "The Gem of Europe," this city is filled with gorgeous architecture. A highlight is the St. Charles Bridge, which leads to the main shopping district, famous for garnet, silver, and crystal. The Castle and Cathedral overlook the city of red-topped buildings. There is no need to speak Czech, because pretty much everyone speaks English. They take the Euro, but will give you change in the Kurona ("corown"). A well-run underground and bus system can get you around the city easily, so no need to say in the center of town. It is best to travel here by overnight train.
- Salzburg, Austria. Home of Mozart and "The Sound of Music." This city is about a 7-hour train ride from Strasbourg. The city is divided into the old and new districts by a river. Overlooking the city is the Salzburg Castle/Fortress. The "Original Sound of Music Tour" is not to be missed. It takes half the day and will shuttle you to all of the major "Sound of Music" attractions and take you outside the city to the beautiful countryside. The tour leaves you at the gorgeous Mirabell Gardens. Take a 20 minute bus ride from the center of the city to the Untersberg Mountain (The "Do-Re-Mi" song was filmed here!). A cable car will take you to the summit where you can bring lunch and enjoy hiking around the mountain top.
- Pamplona, Spain. The Running of the Bulls happens in Pamplona during the Strasbourg program. This event is internationally prominent and happens in July every year. Therefore the city of Barcelona is usually packed. If this is something you want to do, make sure to book your hotels and your train reservations early. For more information about this festival, click here. A group of students who went Summer 2009 rented a car and drove. The drive was expected to be 8 hours but because of traffic associated with the Running of The Bulls event, it was actually 12 hours. The students who went did not actually stay in Pamplona, but in San Sebastian. They loved the beautiful beaches and quieter atmosphere found there. Map of Pamplona