The Historic Cellar of the Hospices de Strasbourg, a place steeped in history

This is one of the most unusual things to do in Strasbourg. The Hospices cellar has a very... original history. Built in the underground passages of the civil hospital, the cellars helped the institute to be self-sufficient in food, before becoming a prestigious wine cellar. As well as the sick, the poor and the elderly, the ecclesiastical body housed pilgrims. Today, the cellar is benefiting from a renewed tradition, with winemakers keen to preserve the terroir and the ancestral production method. Each vintage is tasted blind. The most promising vintages are matured in oak barrels for a few months, under the guidance of an expert in the field, before being bottled. A special, distinctive atmosphere reigns here, bearing witness to the cellars' rich past. A picturesque visit to a timeless place to enjoy with family and friends.

Glass of Alsatian white wine on horseback.

- © Ppictures / Shutterstock

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Construction in an original location

Before it became a benchmark for wine, the Hospices de Strasbourg cellar was located in a rather unusual place. The underground passages were built in 1393 and 1395 within the walls of a medical establishment. Strasbourg's civil hospital was founded in 1119.

Originally, it was a hospital divided into several pavilions. It retained this layout until 2008, when it became the "Nouvel Hôpital Civil", bringing all the departments together in a single block. The hospital still has a number of historic buildings, including the cellar of the Hospices de Strasbourg.

The civil hospital in Strasbourg, France.

- © Pack-Shot / Shutterstock

Patients couldn't pay for the care they received with money. In those days, people had to make do with what they had, and they made do with what they had: land. They played a direct part in enriching the hospital's land holdings by bequeathing plots of land. As a result, the hospital quickly grew into a vast estate.

Landscape along the Alsace wine route in autumn, France.

- © Jean-Luc SCHMITT / Shutterstock

✈️ Flights to Strasbourg

Strasbourg can be reached from many French cities.

A rescue in extremis

Following a terrible fire that spared the cellar, the underground galleries underwent extensive renovation and were put back into service in 1997, under the impetus of the Alsatian winegrowers, who created a cooperative to save the site. The winegrowers delegate part of their production to the cellar, which matures the wine in barrels before bottling it with the "Vin des Hospices" label.

Gewurztraminer, riesling, pinot gris - these noble grape varieties are part of Alsace's heritage and are now exported all over the world. Despite the quality of the wines on offer, the institute puts all its profits back into medical investment.

View of the rows of vines in the vineyards of Alsace, France.

- © Sergei Leto / Shutterstock

A vintage among treasures

Hidden away in the depths of the hospices is one of the oldest beverages in the world. A bottle of white wine dating back to 1472. To preserve this delicious liquid, it has been transferred to a stainless steel vat before being transferred back to the cask, where it will be stored for many years. Extremely rare, the spirit has only been tasted 4 times since it was put into casks. Among the hidden treasures are an illustrious wine press from 1727 and a cask capable of holding several thousand litres from 1881.

Rows of wine bottles in a wine cellar.

- © l i g h t p o e t / Shutterstock

Preserving an ancestral tradition

A new generation of winegrowers has taken over and restored the cellar. The wines produced here perpetuate the Alsatian tradition and preserve its heritage. Maturation in oak casks, which had almost disappeared in the region, is the common feature of all the wines magnified here.

This process gives them greater finesse and increases their longevity. In terms of taste, there is an immediate woody note that makes all the difference. Each vintage is the subject of a blind tasting to try and identify the chosen one, which will be matured in the cellars of the Cave Historique des Hospices. These cellars are home to some of the finest wines in Alsace. The result of hard work and know-how, and proof that the passion for wine has not deserted the region.

Once the wine has been bottled, each winery gets back all of its production, with the exception of a small amount offered to the Civil Hospital as payment in kind, in the same way that patients used to pay for their consultations. This place is definitely a magnificent return to the past, where respect for tradition is de rigueur. A great way to discover the city of Strasbourg. This activity is ideal for families, and will delight the youngest visitors, who will be curious to contemplate these enormous wooden barrels.

Practical information

🚌 How do I get there?

On foot: the winery is located near the Kruteneau district, just a 10-minute walk from the Cathedral.

By tram: A or D - "Porte de l'Hôpital" stop.

By bus: line 10 - "Saint Nicolas" stop

👉 Visits are free and open to all.

If you would like more details while exploring, you can request an audio-guide from reception (French, English, German, Italian, Spanish, Japanese, Russian and Alsatian dialect).

👛 Price: €3

⏰ Opening times :

  • Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 12pm and 1.30pm to 5.30pm

  • Saturday 9am to 12.30pm

  • closed on Sundays and public holidays

👉 Other info :

Duration: 30 minutes

Accessibility: the cellar and shop are adapted for people with reduced mobility and pushchairs.

Where to eat?

Here's an address that puts nature at the heart of your meal. Healthy, natural products that are far from boring. Delicious hot drinks and homemade juices accompany the colourful dishes. Madame Julia offers healthy cuisine using fresh produce from French farms.

Where to sleep?

Hotel Restaurant Au Cerf d'Or 3* - Strasbourg Strasbourg

Hotel Restaurant Au Cerf d'Or 3* - Strasbourg

Nestling in an old, typically Alsatian house, this 3-star hotel offers comfortable, personalised rooms.
by Jude JONES
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