Whether you are stopping in Strasbourg on a river cruise of the Rhine River, exploring this small city as part of a larger tour of France or Europe, or concentrating your trip on the Alsace region, you will experience one of the most charming places in France. Here you can find historic half-timbered houses as well as a modern EU quarter and unique regional food inspired by the cross-cultural influence of both Germany and France. You will also be able to visit the Strasbourg Cathedral Notre-Dame, which features a single towering spire and an astronomical clock that tracks time along with the position of the sun, the moon, and the planets.
This clock is actually the third astronomical clock to be located within the Strasbourg Cathedral. The first was built during the 14th century, and reflected the Gothic style of the Cathedral itself. This original clock was an incredible example of early mechanical automation. In fact, it featured a mechanical rooster that may have been the first automata in the world. Called the “Three Kings” clock, it also had mechanical three kings who would periodically bow before Mary and Jesus.
Along with the mechanical rooster from the first clock, aspects of the second clock can be viewed within the Museum of Decorative Arts across the street from the Strasbourg Cathedral. This clock replaced the first during the later part of the 1500s and featured markings that depict the location of the planets and the occurrence of both lunar and solar eclipses. It was also more elaborate than the first clock, covered in paintings, sculptures, automata, and an array of musical bells. This clock stopped working in 1788, but continued to stand within the Cathedral until the construction of the third clock began in 1838.
Construction of the third clock took five years to complete, and this clock, which melds the gothic architecture of Strasbourg Cathedral with the Renaissance style of the time it was built, rang out for the first time in 1843. Since then its cogs have continued to turn, tracking the daily movements of our solar systems along with Central Europe Time. Located inside of the Cathedral, entry to view the clock is free during most of the day. However, tickets are required between 11:00am-2:00pm, during which time the clock puts on its daily show – the mechanisms begin to move and the information on the planets is displayed. Before this occurs, guests at the clock are shown a 30 minute video that goes into detail about its history. Tickets are inexpensive, but this is a popular event so it’s a good idea to line up early. Entry into the cathedral to view the clock show is also free with the purchase of the 3-day Strasbourg City Pass.
Are you interested in seeing more of the gems of France? Or are you thinking of a Rhine River cruise and would like some guidance about your options? Reach out to me any time and I will be happy to help you plan your trip!
Kira Gartner is the owner of Blue Sky Destinations, a boutique travel agency specializing in river cruises, luxury expedition cruises and customized European vacations. For years she has helped curious travelers plan vacations that allow them to unwind, reconnect, and immerse themselves fully in a destination. Reach out to her for a free consultation - and let her start designing your dream vacation!