On the French-German border, the charming city of Strasbourg in the Alsace region takes some of the best bits from both countries. You can admire the French Gothic architecture as you try German-influenced cuisine like choucroute garnie (sauerkraut with sausages and potatoes), washed down with Alsatian wines. With one of Europe’s largest medieval quarters and an Old Town encircled by canals, this is a city for wandering. It's particularly special in winter: Strasbourg has the oldest Christmas market in Europe, dating back to 1570.
Hostels in Strasbourg range from modern buildings decorated by local artists to a converted 13th-century convent. Some places have on-site bike hire, or let you use their secure storage space if you’ve brought your own. You can find a Strasbourg hostel with a rooftop terrace or a communal lounge with a piano and comfy sofas. Look out for Strasbourg hostels that have rooms with flat-screen TVs and private bathrooms as well as female-only dorms with en-suites.
There are plenty of historical areas in this French city. The UNESCO World Heritage-listed Old Town is on Grande-Île (Large Island). Surrounded by the River Ill and the Canal du Faux-Rempart, it's linked to the rest of the city by 21 bridges. The district of La Petite France is a maze of cobbled streets, canals and half-timbered (colombage) houses from the 1500s. Vibrant La Krutenau is southeast of the Old Town and a good spot for cafés and restaurants, as well as the best nightlife in town.
Strasbourg Cathedral is on Grande-Île and was the world’s tallest building for 227 years. Climb the north tower for views as far as Germany's Black Forest, or arrive at 12.30pm to see the Strasbourg Astronomical Clock show. An hour-long boat trip around Strasbourg will help you get to know the city while taking in its picturesque waterways. You can also book a tour of the gleaming European Parliament building, nicknamed the Tower of Babel due to the many languages spoken inside, to learn more about the continent's politics.
Strasbourg is one of the most bike-friendly cities in France, with an extensive cycling network covering over 560km of trails. You can use a self-rental Vélhop bike 24 hours a day. The city also has a tram system with 6 lines. Strasbourg Airport is southwest of the city centre and a shuttle train connects the airport and main station (Gare de Strasbourg-Ville) in under 10 minutes. The station is a 15-minute walk from Grande-Île.