The most picturesque part of Strasbourg
The Petite France is the most picturesque and one of the best preserved parts of the historical centre of Strasbourg. Its bridges, half-timbered houses, and winding streets make it a magnet for visitors.
In the early 12th century, the city began to expand southwards, extending the mediaeval ramparts right up to the delta formed by the river Ill. The Petite France grew up around the four parallel arms of the river and, with its high, half-beamed houses built along narrow, twisting streets, was markedly different to the much more bourgeois sector around the cathedral.
The canals built in the Middle Ages brought in craftsmen and small industries, including tanneries, the evil smell of which had to be kept well away from the more patrician residences, three grain mills and a whole host of other trades.
The Barrage Vauban and the Ponts Couverts, the military side of the Petite France
The district also had a certain military importance. Entry to the city was guarded by four massive towers connected by bridges over the River Ill. The towers were covered by wooden canopies to protect the soldiers. In 1686, military architect Vauban, who considered the defences of the time to be inadequate, built the eponymous dam, which prevented attacks from along the river. An extra level was added to the structure in 1865, and in 1966, it was turned into a panoramic terrace, offering the finest view of the Petite France. Although the wooden canopies were destroyed in the 18th century, the bridge is still known as the Ponts couverts, or covered bridge.