A stay in Strasbourg holds countless surprises. Rich in historical monuments, the capital of the Grand Est region is a city where it is good to stroll along its canals. The half-timbered houses, which give it a picturesque atmosphere, are also a delight to behold. Strasbourg is also known throughout the world because it occupies a very special and most important function, that of being the official seat of the European Parliament. So on the occasion of a trip to this splendid city on the border with Germany, you should not hesitate to visit the European quarter and the European Parliament, as well as the architecture of the neighbouring institutions.
Why is Strasbourg the capital of Europe?
Before we get to the heart of the matter, a little history. Strasbourg, a city in the east of France, is a strategic meeting point for Northern and Mediterranean Europe due to its geographical location. The city is bicultural and as you stroll through the historic district, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, you will inevitably notice French and German influences, evidence of a long past that was not always kind. Strasbourg is also the symbol of reconciliation between peoples, nestled in a territory that the French and Germans have long disputed. It is therefore on the strength of this history that it was chosen as the founding capital of Europe. Today, more than twenty European institutions are located in the city's mythical European quarter. Strasbourg, although not the capital of any country, is the seat of international organisations, like Geneva and New York, and it should not be forgotten to mention that it also hosts 75 diplomatic representations and consulates. It is the most important diplomatic city in France after Paris
A visit to the European Parliament and the Simone Veil Parliamentarium
The European Parliament takes its seat in the Louise-Weiss building. It was inaugurated on 14 December 1999 by the President of the French Republic Jacques Chirac and the President of the European Parliament Nicole Fontaine. The building was named after Louise Weiss, a French politician who was also a journalist, writer and feminist. This exceptional building has 20 levels. When you go there for the first time, you have to be seduced by its incredible architecture, made of glass, wood and metal. Its shape evokes that of a liner whose bow would come into contact with the waves of the banks of the Ill on which it sits. Its inner courtyard is a true masterpiece of curves and the monument is incredibly beautiful when it lights up in the evening. When visiting the European Parliament, you should not miss the hemicycle. It has 750 seats for MPs and 628 seats for the public. During this visit, which lasts about an hour, one has a unique opportunity to immerse oneself in the atmosphere of the world's largest transnational parliament. Thus, during the sessions, we take part in part of the debates that animate the place between the different deputies who represent the member states of the European Union. During these plenary sessions, they debate and vote on the various pieces of Community legislation. It should be noted that outside the sessions there is no need to book for individuals and groups under 20 people for a visit to the hemicycle. Visits for individuals and spontaneous groups take place with audio-guides available in the 24 official languages of the European Union. Only groups of more than 20 people need to make a reservation. In any case, it is important to remember to bring your ID card with you
The other key venue for the visit to the European Parliament not to be missed is the Simone Veil Parliamentarium. This exceptional area, which is part of all visits, enables visitors, young and old, to gain a better understanding of the history of Europe, how it works and the work of the Members of Parliament whose role is to meet the major challenges of today's world. During this free tour, available in the 24 languages of the European Union, you can take advantage of the touch-screen tables and the 360º cinema room to learn about the stages of European integration, understand how laws are made, how votes are cast and the consequences of European policies on the lives of the continent's citizens, or get to know the various MEPs who sit in the place. This pedagogical place is open from Monday to Saturday, and offers an incredible opportunity to become familiar with how Europe works and what is at stake. It provides an immersive experience to become familiar with an area of political life that is of great importance to everyone
Let us not forget to mention that on Friday afternoons and Saturdays, when the weather is fine, visitors to the European Parliament can go to the terrace, a pleasant place that is worth a visit for the panoramic view of the city of Strasbourg and its surroundings
Touring other institutions
During a walk in the European quarter of Strasbourg, it is interesting to take the opportunity to visit all the institutions. The public can opt for a walk, a bike ride or a boat trip to admire the architecture of all the European institutions. Starting with the Palais de l'Europe, where the Council of Europe has its headquarters. Its modern and muscular architecture dominates the pleasant park of the Orangery and visits are also possible inside to better understand its role. Then the walk leads to the Human Rights Palace. The building that houses the European Court of Human Rights fascinates with its metallic architecture and its two cylinders symbolising the scales of justice. Change of atmosphere afterwards with the Place of Europe, an 18th century villa whose purpose is to inform the general public about the history of the European continent and its institutions. A place of exchange that offers all year round various activities: screenings, games, exhibitions, debates... And then don't forget to visit the headquarters of the European television channel Arte, whose contemporary building stands proudly on the banks of the river Ill. The tour ends with the European Pharmacopoeia, which houses offices and laboratories and is dedicated to Europe-wide quality control of medicines and healthcare