A perfect August night in Strasbourg follows an almost unbearably hot, sunny day because when the sun goes down, a fresh breeze arises to cool the heavy air, and the streets come to life with both tourists and residents looking for free, relaxing, family entertainment. In Europe, light shows projected onto landmark buildings provide just what they’re looking for. After viewing a spectacular one a few weeks ago in Nancy (click here), I couldn’t wait to see the ones in my own beloved city of Strasbourg.
Around 10pm, we joined the crowds milling about downtown and headed towards the historic Petite France quarter to see the light show at the Barrage Vaubaun. This towering flood barrier was constructed in the 17th century and could be used to flood the area, if needed, so that an attacking army could not cross it and access the rest of the city. Today, you can climb to the terrace constructed on top for a beautiful panoramic view of the city like this one:
This summer and until the end of August, it serves as the backdrop to a summer light show that is built around the theme of Strasbourg and Alsace. While it has been greatly simplified compared to last year’s light and firework show at a different location on the river, the images are strikingly beautiful and it fulfills its purpose as family entertainment as well as a tourist’s introduction to Alsace with its symbols of the stork, the European Union, and many others.
Afterwards, we headed north towards the Cathedral, winding our way through the small cobblestone streets of Petite France and then through the wider, shop-lined Grand’Rue where the small wooden tables of sidewalk cafés and bars overflowed onto the streets. Finally, we found ourselves standing in the plaza beneath the looming Notre Dame Cathedral, and there we were treated to a much more artistic presentation that far surpassed last summer’s show in terms of creativity, variety of colors and music. In fact, it has been so highly appreciated that it won’t end on August 31 as originally planned: the city has extended it until September 7. Instead of just simple flashes of colors, a storyboard has been introduced: angels fighting demons and then destruction by stone and fire, followed by the blossoming of giant, glistening pink roses and a dazzling grand finale of all colors imaginable. And when it was finished, appreciative applause and cries of delight arose from the cluster of hundreds (thousands?) of tourists and residents alike, a small party in Strasbourg’s honor at the very heart of the city.
These pictures don’t do them justice: you’ll have to see these yearly traditions for yourself- if not this summer then in the summers to come!
“Strasbourg d’eau et de lumières” at the Barrage Vauban: Every night until August 31 at 10:15pm, 10:30pm, 10:45pm, 11pm and 11:15pm
“Les transfigurations de Notre-Dame” at the Cathedral: Every night until September 7 starting at 10:15pm and every 15 minutes thereafter.
More information at: http://www.ete.strasbourg.eu