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Petite France, Strasbourg’s picturesque historic quarter, is a must-visit location for anyone coming to the city. With its half-timbered houses, maze of narrow winding streets and canals that criss-cross the district, the area is steeped in history and simply oozes charm.
Les monuments de la Petite France
Petite France is home to a number of monuments, all easily accessible on foot, or by canal boat. There are three bridges spanning the canals – known as the Ponts Couverts (or covered bridges) on account of the vast wooden roofs that once covered them. Four 14th-century towers – remains of the ancient city walls – stand tall over the bridges. And the Vauban Dam – a fortified crossing built in 1682 to complement the Ponts Couverts – stands across the river.
Although the area is now popular with locals, that was not always the case. Petite France is named after a hospital that once stood here in the late 15th century, treating soldiers with syphilis during the reign of Francis I of France. The disease was seen as a typically French condition, hence the name “Petite France”.
The history of the quarter
At the time, Petite France was known as Strasbourg’s “tanners’ quarter”, since it was home to a number of tanneries, which used water from the river to wash the hides. The long skylights on the rooftops, which remain to this day, were built to ventilate the stores where the tanners dried and stored the hides. The area was also home to fishermen and millers, and evidence can still be seen in street names such as Rue des Moulins (Mill Street) and the famous Rue du Fossé-des-Tanneurs (Tanners’ Pit Street).
Discover the "Petite France"
Spend some time ambling through the cobbled streets and drink in the atmosphere of this area so beloved by the locals. As you stroll past the many timber-framed buildings – a mainstay of Alsatian tradition – you’ll find plenty of restaurants to choose from, since the quarter is the epicentre of the city’s cuisine. With such a vast choice on offer, you’re bound to find something to suit your tastes – each as authentic as the next, and all with stunning views.