The Ill River, its five arms and its quaint quays
The Ill River is everywhere in the Petite France, which is why this district is sometimes compared to a little Venice. The district is spread across an amazing river delta, formed by the five arms of the river. Seen from the sky, they look uncannily like the fingers of a hand trying to grab the whole city. Both peaceful and impetuous, the River Ill irrigates the whole district with its charm. Take a leisurely stroll along its quays and admire the reflection of the colourful facades of the old houses.
The charming Place Benjamin Zix Square
This is where you can sit back and simply appreciate the beauty of the place. In the shade of the plane trees on this square, which is very lively in summertime, you’ll get wonderful views of the river and of an exceptional set of half-timbered houses. The Maison des Tanneurs (House of Tanners), generously laden with geraniums from spring to autumn, is the crown jewel of the site. Take a moment to enjoy it by having a drink or eating lunch on the terrace of La Corde à Linge!
The white street: Rue du Bain-aux-Plantes
From Place Benjamin Zix Square, you can reach Rue du Bain-aux-Plantes, which features a set of remarkably homogeneous half-timbered houses. They are so mesmerizing that you won’t be able to look away. In this former tanners’ street, each house is absolutely white, highlighting differing shapes and sizes of half- timbering and an additional roof, largely open, which was designed for drying animal skins. The street, with its old-fashioned paving stones, takes you on a journey into the past.
At the end of Rue du Bain-aux-Plantes, you’ll discover the Pont du Faisan, a bridge also known locally as the “Pont Tournant” (the swivelling bridge). Small and discreet, this footbridge imposes its will on all passers-by. Indeed, you might have to wait to cross it, because it has pivoted to let a tour boat go by. An unparalleled attraction.
Saint-Martin Bridge, a stone bridge with two arches and a single column, is very close by. From there, don’t miss the view of the mills, dams and locks, as well as of a picturesque little waterside terrace.
These two bridges offer postcard-perfect views full of charm, so you can bring marvellous souvenir photos home with you.
Eternal Covered Bridges
This is where the Ill River breaks up. The place is exceptional; one of the most renowned sites in Strasbourg. The bridge and its three high, austere, massive guard towers, vestiges of the medieval wall, are truly awe-inspiring! From one end to the other, you’ll discover the five arms of the Ill River, encircling little plots of land, while the Strasbourg Cathedral, a bit further off, stands guard over this sublime place.
The protective Vauban Dam
Alongside the Covered Bridges, the Vauban Dam, built during the reign of Louis XIV by the prolific Maréchal, reinforces the defensive curtain wall of the city, which was completely walled in at the time. The dam has thirteen arches. When the dam was completely sealed, the Ill River couldn’t flow in its bed, thereby flooding all of the land south of Strasbourg. The enemy armies would get bogged down. A panoramic terrace offers a wonderful view of the Covered Bridges, the Petite France and the Cathedral on one side, and of the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art and the Hôtel du département (county government office) on the other.