Located right in the heart of Strasbourg, the Palais Rohan is a veritable treasure trove of architecture and history. Built next to the sumptuous Notre-Dame cathedral, the palace now houses no fewer than three exceptional museums: the Archaeological Museum, the Fine Arts Museum and the Decorative Arts Museum.
A rich and fascinating history
Of all Strasbourg's monuments, the Palais Rohan is undoubtedly the most French. Built between 1732 and 1742 at the request of Cardinal Armand-Gaston de Rohan-Soubise, the city's prince-bishop, and based on plans by Robert de Cotte, the king's first architect, this architectural masterpiece was inspired by Parisian town houses and marked the arrival of French taste in Strasbourg.
It was first and foremost the residence of the four cardinals of Rohan, who made it an essential stop-off point for distinguished guests on the French border. Louis XV made a stop here in 1744 during his trip to Austria. In 1770, it was the young Marie-Antoinette who entered France via Strasbourg and stayed at the Palais after the rite of handing over the bride on the Île aux épis.
Over the centuries, the Palais Rohan has undergone numerous upheavals and changes of ownership. During the French Revolution, the residence was given to the town council, which used it as its town hall. Soon outstripped by maintenance costs, it was offered to Napoleon I in exchange for the Hôtel de Hanau, now the town hall on Place Broglie.
From an imperial residence...
Having become an imperial residence in 1806 in the same way as Saint-Cloud and the Tuileries, the Palais was redesigned by Fontaine, the Emperor's great architect, to give it the prestige worthy of its rank. The ground floor was for Napoleon, the first floor for his wife Josephine.
The prince-bishop's former study was transformed into the Emperor's bedroom, furnished by the cabinetmaker Jacob-Desmalter. Of the period furniture, only the bed remains, recently joined by a telegraph clock. As for the décor, it has remained intact, from the wood panelling to the fireplace.
... to exceptional museums
After the fall of the Empire, the palace became a royal residence, then a gift to Napoleon III, who never stayed there. The building could have had a third emperor with Prussian Wilhelm II, who was particularly fond of it. But a palace that was too French would have looked bad. He reluctantly had what is now the Palais du Rhin built in the German Quarter.
Finally, after undergoing major restoration work following the bombings of 1944, the Palais Rohan became a major cultural centre in Strasbourg, housing three renowned museums. It also continues to welcome distinguished guests, as in 2009, when it served as a meeting place for Presidents Sarkozy and Obama on the sidelines of the NATO summit.
A perfect location in front of the cathedral
Situated on the Place du Château, the Palais Rohan enjoys an exceptional location right in the historic heart of Strasbourg. It faces the majestic Notre-Dame cathedral, a masterpiece of Gothic art and a true symbol of the city. It is also next to the Musée de l'Œuvre Notre Dame, the 5e Lieu and the Lycée Fustel de Coulanges. This proximity gives the palace an extra dimension, both spiritual and aesthetic, and contributes greatly to its prestige.
You can particularly appreciate this from the cathedral platform, which offers a bird's-eye view of the Palace and Place du Château. On the other side, the Palace overlooks the River Ill and the Batorama pier. Every year, the Christmas market sets up its huts in the square and on the terrace of the Château.
As well as the cathedral, the area around the Palais Rohan is an ideal place to discover the architectural and cultural treasures of Strasbourg's old town. The cobbled streets, half-timbered houses, including the famous Maison Kammerzell, and the banks of the River Ill that take you as far as Petite France or the original English-style tearoom Au Fond du Jardin all bear witness to the authentic charm of this Alsatian city.
Three exceptional museums
The Palais Rohan now houses three outstanding museums, offering visitors a fascinating journey through history, archaeology and the fine arts.
The Archaeological Museum of Strasbourg
Founded in the 18th century, the Musée Archéologique de Strasbourg has one of the largest archaeological collections in France. It has been housed in the vast basement of the Palais Rohan since 1896. Its collections cover a wide period from prehistoric times to the Merovingian era, providing a comprehensive overview of the history and civilisations that have passed through the Alsace region. You'll be fascinated by the vestiges of the civilisations that have succeeded one another here, with discoveries ranging from Palaeolithic tools to medieval artefacts.
The Strasbourg Museum of Fine Arts
Located in the left wing of the Palais Rohan, Strasbourg's fine arts museum was founded in 1890. Today it houses an impressive collection of masterpieces that bear witness to the exceptional artistic wealth of the region and of Europe as a whole. The works on display will immerse you in European art from the 14th to the 19th century. You'll be able to admire masterpieces by great masters such as Botticelli, Raphael, Rubens, Van Dyck or Delacroix.
The Museum of Decorative Arts in Strasbourg
Last but not least, Strasbourg's Musée des Arts Décoratifs is a treasure trove for lovers of art and history. The collection includes a wide variety of objects, from earthenware from the porcelain and faience factory of the brothers Jean and Paul Hannong, to pieces from the Niderviller faience factory and works by the Strasbourg goldsmith dynasties Kirstein and Imlin. The exhibits retrace the diversity and development of Strasbourg's applied arts from 1681 to 1870, particularly in terms of furniture, ceramics, clocks and goldsmiths.
When you visit the museum, you will also be able to discover flats that have been reconstructed to a high standard of technical and artistic execution, such as the synod room, the king's bedroom, the library and Napoleon 1st's bedroom.
Strasbourg City Card - 7-Day City Pass
Explore Strasbourg with a 7-day city pass that offers discounted rates for attractions and activities. Climb up the Strasbourg Cathedral, take a guided walking tour, or visit the Château Vodou Museum.
Strasbourg's Palais Rohan is undoubtedly one of the jewels in the city's cultural and architectural heritage. By exploring its museums and allowing yourself to be seduced by the beauty of its architecture, you can appreciate all the historical and artistic wealth that this exceptional place has to offer.