Strasbourg on pounds 250

Central London, Friday, and you need a weekend break. Margaret Campbell recommends a trip to the `World Cup-free zone' of the Alsatian capital
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The Independent Culture
Down payment

The best deal is on Eurostar (0345 303030) from Waterloo International to Paris, changing between the Gare du Nord and Gare de l'Est (a five- minute walk). If you catch the 11.57am you get there at 8.50pm Friday night. But you'll need to book a week in advance to get the lowest return fare of pounds 109.

Instant briefing

The main tourist information office is next to the town's principal attraction, at 17a Place de la Cathedrale (00 33 3 88 52 28 22). There is also a branch in the underground gallery at the railway station. Either is worth visiting in order to pick up the Strasbourg Pass (Fr58/pounds 6.50), which gives four free admissions to various museums/excursions and half-price reductions to others.

Strasbourg's municipal authorities decided that the financial costs involved in being a host town for the World Cup were prohibitive. While the rest of France goes football crazy, opt for Strasbourg's Cathedral and its annual Festival of Classical Music, to be held from 9 June to 2 July. Details on 00 33 3 88 32 43 10.

Rest assured

Forward planning is advised for your hotel room: city-centre hotels are often booked up well in advance. It is sometimes easier to find a room at the weekend than during the week - many hotels are full during the one week each month when the European Parliament meets here. The Hotel aux 3 Roses (7 rue de Zurich, tel 00 33 3 88 36 56 95) is a pleasant, friendly hotel within easy walking distance of the Cathedral and museums. Prices start at Fr395 (pounds 42) for a double room, but Fr470 (pounds 50) should get you a view of the river and Cathedral. For something different, try the Hotel Hannong, just off Strasbourg's main square, the Place Kleber (15, rue du 22 novembre, 00 33 3 88 32 16 22). Housed in a former pottery warehouse, it is a little more expensive (a double room with bathroom is Fr515/pounds 55), but the wide wooden staircase and historical feel make this a good place to come back to after a long day's sightseeing.

Should you arrive without a hotel room, there is an on-the-spot hotel reservation service.

Must see...

Must eat...

You'll be spoilt for choice. Jacques Chirac took President Yeltsin to Chez Yvonne, at 10 rue Sanglier, a venue famous for Alsatian specialities and traditional French cooking. Reservations are essential - 00 33 3 88 32 84 15. Less well-known, but also excellent, is Le Panier du Marche at 15 rue Ste Barbe (00 33 3 88 32 04 07).

Out and About

Take a boat trip around the city centre and up towards the Palais de l'Europe. Open-topped boats leave every half hour from the landing stage behind the Palais de Rohan, rue de Devidot, 100m from the Cathedral.

If that seems too touristy, rent a bike from Velocation (about Fr30/pounds 3.20) at Place du Chateau and head up to Parc de l'Orangerie in the north east of the city. From the park, you can see the spectacular, almost-complete new European Parliament building - which you've paid for.

Night moves

Listen to live jazz at Le Griot (6, impasse Ecrevisse), or enjoy a quiet chat in the cafe adjoining the Strasbourg National Theatre on Avenue de la Marseillaise. For those in search of something livelier, head to la Salamandre, 3 rue Paul Janet, a reasonably priced venue with regular concerts and theme nights.

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