If you like fortified castles, I have something in store for you! The Haut-Koenigsbourg castle, near Sélestat, is not to be missed in Alsace. It is a mountain fortified castle, located at 757 m altitude. From there, on a clear day, there are incredible views over the surrounding area. In addition to the altitude and its distinguishing red Vosges sandstone color, the main specificity of the Haut-Koenigsbourg castle is that it is really well-maintained. Dating back to the 12th century, it was entirely restored during the 20th century. It is one of the kind in Alsace and is well worth a visit!
History of the Haut-Koenigsbourg Castle
Built in the 12th century on a rocky outcrop, making it an ideal lookout and a strategic retreat point, the Haut-Koenigsbourg castle (which name means royal castle) has seen, over the centuries, many conflicts, rivalries and owners (including the Habsburg). After a long siege, a plundering and a fire, the castle is abandoned in 1633 for over two centuries, the vegetation slowly growing back onto the ruins.
It is offered in 1899 to Wilhelm II von Hohenzollern by the town of Sélestat. He then started a huge restoration venture, thanks to the architect Bodo Ebhardt, a expert in medieval architecture, thus realizing his ideas of Germanisation of Alsace. These works lasted for 8 years, and ten years later, the French State would become the castle owner.
Thanks to this quite unique restoration (despite the controversies) and to the renovation work in the 20th century, the visit of the Haut-Koenigsbourg castle offers today a brilliant insight into the architecture, the history and the daily life during the Middle Ages. It is the unique witness of two different periods in history, mingling inextricably.
Visit of the Haut-Koenigsbourg Castle
From the outside, the castle is already impressive with its fortified walls, its towers and its star bastion. As soon as you step through the high gate, the visit of the Haut-Koenigsbourg castle immerses you into another realm, another time, in the Middle Ages. Inside the castle walls, you’ll first discover in the farmyard, a fountain, the stables, a mill, a forge and an inn, before going to the dwellings and the keep, by passing through the drawbridge and the different courtyards.
Inside the towers and the dwellings, some rooms are furnished with medieval furniture and some others with more recent furniture, dating back from the Kaiser days. A series of rooms decorated in panelling, wooden galleries, the banquet hall, the trophy room, the weapons rooms, the Empress room, the imperial kitchens (only open for unusual tours), the Kaiser room with its 20th-century paintings…. from one room to the next, you will be transported in a few steps into the daily life of the fortified castle in the Middle Ages and at the beginning of the 20th century. History is told through furniture, paintings, decorations and other marks of time.
From the two towers of the large bastion, you can discover the famous view over the Plain of Alsace, the Vosges and the Black Forest (and even the Alps on a clear day!). Outside, you can visit the artillery terrace and the medieval garden of the Haut-Koenigsbourg castle, a true breath of fresh air recreating the style of medieval gardens and once again, recounting history, through the seasons: at the time, it was possible to see plants to eat, to heal, to dye clothes and of course to walk around the “pleasure garden”, inviting its visitors for a stroll, for a rest or for courtly love. People were dancing, having fun, admiring flowers and enjoying courtships.
This rich heritage, this magnificent setting and this very particular architecture are the reasons why the Haut-Koenigsbourg castle is one of the most visited sites in Alsace, but also the inspiration for many artists and film directors throughout the years such as Jean Renoir, Jean-Paul Carrère or Dionysos and Hayao Miyzaki.
As for me, I really enjoyed my visit: you’ll finish your visit with a good idea of what was a fortified castle in the 15th century (the glorious period of the castle, that was used for the reconstitution, except in some places…). Just remember to bring warm clothes, as it can get cold in this large edifice!
Walking around this majestic castle
The splendid views on the plain of Alsace, of the Vosges and the Black Forest
The castle regularly offers other tours for young and old alike. For children, there are for example playful visits, as well as thematic workshops, with themes such as medieval building, food, daily life during the Middle Ages, stained glass and so on. It seems quite interesting!
The address is as follows: Château du Haut-Koenigsbourg, 67600 Orschwiller. The castle is located:
27km from Colmar (about 35 minutes drive)
64km from Strasbourg (about 55 minutes)
70km from Mulhouse (about 1h)
Good news: parking is free!
By public transport
The line 500 of the network 67 “Navette du Haut Koenigsbourg” stops at the castle and takes 30 minutes from Sélestat train station. However, this is not a daily service. Please refer to this website for the days and times of operation of the line 500.
In order to calculate your itinerary from your starting point, the website Viaalsace is very well made!
Good news: the shuttle costs 2€, but you will then get a 2€ discount on your entrance ticket, so you don’t end up paying more!
The Haut-Koenigsbourg castle has a few food services inside and outside (the terrace is close to the parking, but has beautiful views). I tried a good vegetable tart. A picnic area (covered but not heated!) is also available.
Laurène est la créatrice du blog Mon week-end en Alsace. Bretonne installée en Alsace depuis 2014, elle est tombée amoureuse de sa région d'adoption au point de lui dédier un blog et d'acheter avec son mari une maison alsacienne dans un village du Kochersberg, près de Strasbourg.
A pied, à vélo, sur ses chevaux ou au volant de sa Fiat 500, elle aime partir explorer les moindres recoins de l'Alsace pour dénicher de bonnes adresses à partager sur le blog.