Strasbourg: City of Vision

Strasbourg, for centuries considered the “Crossroads of Europe”, is located in the Alsace Region of France, close to Freiburg. In the Middle Ages, it’s function as an important European meeting place was expressed in the innumerable squares and market places that supported international exchange. Today, Strasbourg’s unique identity finds expression in its role as seat of the Council of Europe and the European Parliament.

Of special note for making cities livable are the major improvements in livability that Strasbourg has achieved in the last 15 years, including its exemplary light rail system that runs through the city center and out to suburban areas, and the city’s wealth of traffic-free squares within a fine-grained, mixed-use urban fabric. In 1994, IMCL awarded Strasbourg the IMCL City of Vision Award. We are proud to work with the City of Strasbourg to bring participants to this city for the "Cities of Vision Study Tour" to learn from Strasbourg’s continuing leadership in these aspects of livability.

Planning for the light rail began in 1990. The first line was built from one suburb, Hautepierre, through the city center to another suburb, Illkirch, a distance of 8 miles (12.6 km). It has 23 stops spaced approximately every 400 yards. The service runs every 4 minutes at peak hours and each tram carries 230 passengers. This system was inaugurated in 1994. Today there are 34.7 miles of lines on six different routes. The system offers quiet, comfortable, fast and economical commuting and carries about 300,000 daily riders on its network.

By removing cars from the city center to make space for the light rail it became possible to improve the environmental quality of central areas, provide more space for urban dwellers, and enhance the commercial and cultural role of the city center. Without cars in the streets and squares it became possible to appreciate the beauty of the architecture, and to enjoy the social ambience.

The historic center of Strasbourg fulfills many functions. It is a primary shopping destination for the region, and also contains a substantial residential population. It is a cultural and administrative center, and a flourishing business center. While the European Parliament buildings lie outside the historic core, delegates from the 46 member states are accommodated in hotels in the old city during parliamentary sessions.

A major program of urban re-animation was initiated to bring back the activities, social life and special events that once flourished in the squares. Numerous festivals and markets now revive the city’s traditions.

The special markets, festivals and free concerts organized in Strasbourg’s squares, the ease of access into the old city by light rail and car, the beauty of its streets and squares, the unpredictability of impromptu entertainment in public, the diversity of businesses, the residential population and the rich gastronomic variety of restaurants and Weinstube help to counteract the commercial pressures put on the city by the construction of shopping malls and hypermarkets at the city’s periphery.

To read more about Strasbourg’s innovative light rail system and revitalization of squares, please click here.

For more information about the Study Tour, please click here.