Immerse in History: Strasbourg Historical Museum Tour

Revolution, Wars & Heritage: Strasbourg's Story

One of the most significant museums in all of France is the Historical Museum of the City of Strasbourg. It may be found in the Alsace area, namely in the city of Strasbourg. The museum first opened its doors in 1874 and now features an extensive Roman-era collection. Archaeological, Decorative, Fine Arts and Historical Galleries make up the museum’s four distinct parts.

Many Roman artifacts may be found in the museum’s extensive collection. Furniture, paintings, and other decorative artifacts from the 17th and 18th centuries are on display in the Museum of Decorative Arts. Paintings from the 15th to 20th centuries are on display in the Historical Museum of the City of Strasbourg. The Museum of History houses an extensive collection of medieval-era artifacts.

If you want to learn about Strasbourg’s past, from the Middle Ages to the founding of European institutions, the Historical Museum of Strasbourg is the best place to begin. This stunning collection provides enough opportunity for participation when you visit the free city, the revolutionary city, and the European capital.

The Renaissance structure that houses the museum was once a slaughterhouse in the late 14th century. Thus, its location is fitting, given the turbulent history of the city it depicts. The museum opened in 1920.

Strasbourg Historical Museum
Strasbourg Historical Museum

Strasbourg is discussed in terms of its history throughout three separate epochs, from its time as a free city in the Germanic Holy Roman Empire (1262-1681) to its time as a Royal city (1681-1789) to its time as the contemporary metropolis (19th and 20th centuries). Following World War II, the museum’s curators crafted exhibits around large political, cultural, economic, and social themes.

There are works of art (paintings, sculptures, a scale model of the city) as well as everyday items (costumes, furniture, glassware, tiles) and objects of worship (exhibitions on the influential persons who shaped Strasbourg) on display at Historical Museum of the City of Strasbourg.

The museum is a far less celebrated structure than it should be. Not well advertised, yet leaving every visitor with a richer understanding and appreciation of the city’s history.

The museum has temporary exhibitions on a variety of topics in addition to its permanent display, so there’s always something new to learn about the city’s and region’s past. If you are interested in learning about upcoming exhibits and hours, please visit their website.

Exterior of Strasbourg Historical Museum
Exterior of Strasbourg Historical Museum

History of the Historical Museum of the City of Strasbourg

In 1867, historian Georges Weill opened the Museum of the City of Strasbourg at the site of the city’s historic Grand Boucheries. Once home to the Grand Boucheries of Strasbourg, this iconic building on the Grande Île was converted into the Museum of Decorative Arts and opened by Emperor William II.

The museum is situated on the banks of the Ill River right next to the Old Customs House and the famous Corbeau Bridge. The building underwent its current 1919 Historical Museum form.

A permanent exhibit is on display now that details the origins of Strasbourg all the way up to the current day. Beautiful collections of artifacts and interactive interventions allow visitors to experience life in several eras, from the city of freedom to the city of revolution and finally to the European capital.

Under the direction of Monique Fuchs, the museum reopened on June 30, 2007, showcasing a first slice of Strasbourg’s history from the earliest traces of civilization to the year 1800; the second section, corresponding to the first floor of the building, opened on November 16, 2013, and covers the Napoleonic period up to the present day.

All of the museum’s exhibits are now available to visitors after a year-long renovation and reopening that ended in 2013.

Historical Museum of the City of Strasbourg
Historical Museum of the City of Strasbourg

Collections of the Historical Museum of the City of Strasbourg

The museum showcases the political, economic, and social history of Strasbourg via displays of artifacts from the Middle Ages to the Eighteenth Century, including weapons, clothes, paintings, sketches, sculptures, and more. After the second phase is complete, newer collections can be shown to the public.

Only 1,650 of the museum’s 200,000 holdings are on display, but among those is a magnificent relief map from 1727. At approximately 80 square meters in size, this model depicts the city and its environs at a 1/600th scale.

Exhibits and materials at the museum were largely given by locals of Strasbourg and the surrounding area of Alsace. There includes, for instance, a collection of about 160 military outfits and documents.

The Strasbourg European Institutes (Council of Europe, European Court of Human Rights) also donated their collections to the museum. Jean-Paul Costa’s robe from his time as president of the European Court of Human Rights is a prime example.

Highlights of the Historical Museum of the City of Strasbourg

Strasbourg’s history is covered in chronological order in the museum, beginning with its time as a free city under the Holy Roman Empire (1262–1681) and progressing through its time as a revolutionary city (1681–1800) and European capital (19th–20th century).

The entryway offers a free audio guide with insightful commentary that you should definitely take advantage of. The collections are prominently displayed and thoroughly explained, with a strong emphasis on engaging with the exhibit’s physical objects.

Collections of the Historical Museum of the City of Strasbourg
Collections of the Historical Museum of the City of Strasbourg

The Homme de Fer? Have you heard of him? A copy of the one that gave his name to the renowned Strasbourg plaza is above the drugstore currently, while the original is on display at the Historical Museum. You may even try on replica military helmets right next to the real thing.

All around you are artifacts from the Middle Ages, including weapons, coins from Strasbourg, and more. A highly accurate replica of the historic courthouse will also be on display. Information on the work, diet, and way of life of the people of Strasbourg, as well as the major events that shaped the city’s history, may be found in the other exhibitions.

The artifacts housed at the Historical Museum are priceless. Here are several pieces and exhibits that shouldn’t be missed:

This is not a replica of the Homme de Fer statue; rather, it is the original!

In 1576, the Zurichois pot was taken by sea to Strasbourg, where it arrived still in flames, reassuring the city’s friends that they could rely on Swiss support.

Strasbourg Historical Museum, France
Strasbourg Historical Museum, France

The outfit worn by the “Belle Strasbourgeoise” is based on a painting by Nicolas de Largillière that was on display at the Museum of Fine Arts and served as inspiration for the ensemble.

The Prussian shell: fragments of the numerous shells that rained down on Strasbourg in 1870 are still apparent in the city’s architecture. You may put your hands on a real one in the museum’s collection.

The original tricolor flag commemorating the liberation of Strasbourg was raised atop the cathedral spire upon the arrival of General Leclerc’s 2nd Armored Division in 1944. A butcher sewed it together out of her blue skirt, some discarded white fabric, and a scrap of the Nazi flag for the red. You can see this at the Historical Museum of the City of Strasbourg.


In conclusion, visitors interested in learning more about the past of Strasbourg and the surrounding area might check out the Historical Museum of the City of Strasbourg. There is a lot to learn about the city, and the tour is interesting and engaging for people of all ages and levels of historical expertise.

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