10 things to do in the Sundgau

by | Updated on 27/10/2023 | Cities and villages, Cycling, Hiking, Open on sundays, With kids | 0 comments

bendorf-sundgau

The Sundgau is the region located in the south of Alsace, between Mulhouse and Basel (in Switzerland). The Sundgau is an agricultural region with lush green landscapes and rolling hills. I really like this part of Alsace, which is little known by tourists in general, but which nonetheless has a lot to offer in terms of things to discover and things to do. In this article, I’ve summarized my favorite ideas for visits and activities in the Sundgau. Heritage, sports, child-friendly activities… The choice is yours!

Visit Ferrette and its castle

chateau-ferrette-view

Ferrette is a village in the very south of the Sundgau region. We are here in the Alsatian Jura, right on the border with the Swiss Jura. Ferrette was in the spotlight when it participated in the 2015 edition of the show “Le village préféré des Français,” where it finished in 6th place.

Brief history of Ferrette

The castle of Ferrette is mentioned for the first time in 1105. It belongs then to the counts of Montbéliard. It stood alone and the nearest village is now Vieux-Ferrette. 20 years later, the county of Ferrette is founded, which will become one of the most powerful lordships of Upper Alsace in the Middle Ages. From owners to counts and governors, the castle was renovated and expanded in the 16th century. It is at this time that the current village of Ferrette is born and that ramparts are built.

In the 17th century, during the Thirty Years’ War, it was first attacked by Swedish troops, who were quickly driven out, and then taken by French troops who burned and destroyed it. The lordship of Ferrette was offered to Mazarin by Louis XIV and gradually fell into ruin.

In 1777, it was given by marriage to Honoré IV Prince of Monaco. The Prince of Monaco still holds the title of Count of Ferrette, but the castle was sold to a private individual in 2011. Yes, it is an unusual detail: Albert II of Monaco is also Count of Ferrette! Astonishing, isn’t it?

Visit Ferrette and its castle

The village is nestled at the foot of the castle of Ferrette, located in the foothills of the Jura mountains. The castle is in ruins, but it is worth visiting. You have to park in town (follow the signs for the castle, then park in the parking lot in front of the public finance center) and then walk to the castle (about 5/10 minutes uphill). The view from up there, especially from the dungeon, is fabulous! It is also pleasant to stroll through the ruins.

We can distinguish in fact two castles: the upper castle, with its dwelling keep, of which only the surrounding walls, the lord’s residence and the well remain; and the lower castle, of 15th century military tradition, of which one can still distinguish a part of the curtain walls with three cylindrical towers of the castral chapel.

After the castle, the visit continues with the street of the castle, which has several houses with interesting facades. The tourist office publishes a small, free and very well done guide that is easy to follow.

Apart from this street, the village has nothing special. Don’t forget to take a look at the Saint-Bernard-de-Menthon Catholic Church and the Town Hall. Special mention also for a point of view that I love on Ferrette: the Heidenfluh.

I liked

  • The splendid view from the castle of Ferrette
  • The houses of the castle street
  • Quiet: it’s not very touristy

I liked less

  • There is only one street in the village that is really worth a visit (and the castle, of course!)

Practical information

Rates and schedules

The ruins of the castle are freely accessible. Access to the castle is free. You can also download free MP3s with explanations about Ferrette.

Hiking in the Alsatian Jura

view-jura-chaine-raemel

The Alsatian Jura? Yes, you read that right: it’s not generally known, but the Jura massif also has a small section in Alsace! It lies in the very south of the Sundgau region, on the border with the Swiss Jura. There are some great walks to be had here, and these are some of my favorite hikes in Alsace. Here are some ideas for walks of varying lengths and levels:

I liked

  • Magnificent panoramas
  • The exotic side of the Alsatian Jura
  • Possible short passages in Switzerland during walks

I liked a little less

  • Nothing!

A family visit to the Luppachhof educational farm

educational farm-luppachhof

Nestled at the foot of the Alsatian Jura, the Luppachhof in Bouxwiller is both an organic farm and an educational farm. Jointly managed by the La Clé des Champs association, this haven for nature and food awareness is a favorite spot for families and school groups.

The farm is home to many animals (from cows and ducks to rabbits and donkeys…) and also has a permaculture vegetable garden. The tour can be self-guided, with informative panels, or guided for a more rewarding experience. Numerous activities are organized on a regular basis, including farm brunches and donkey rides. A really nice place!

Don’t hesitate to read my article on animal parks in Alsace for more information on my visit to the farm.

I liked

  • Many animals to see
  • Nice farm taking care of the animals’ well-being
  • Numerous activities offered
  • Delicious cheeses

I liked a little less

  • Closed on weekends

Visit the Grotte des Nains

rocks-grotto-dwarf-ferrette

The Grotte des Nains is a must-see in the Sundgau and Alsace Jura regions. Its name is linked to a Sundgau legend, according to which a tribe of dwarves once inhabited the cave (and not to the garden gnomes in the cave, which are a nod to this legend!

The cave itself is small, but the surrounding limestone rocks form a 35-metre-high gorge called Erdwibalaschlucht. Above the gorge, you can reach the Plateau des Nains, which offers a beautiful panorama of the Ill valley and the villages of Bouxwiller and Werentzhouse.

The site is ideal for a family outing or a hike, as it is easily accessible. There are a number of short and longer walks to get there. For more information, see our article on the Grotte des Nains.

I liked

  • Unusual cave
  • Huge limestone rocks
  • Very exotic for Alsace!

I liked a little less

  • Nothing!

Mountain biking on the Sundgau’s marked trails

vtt-sundgau

The Sundgau region has a large mountain bike area certified by the French Cycling Federation… which I went to try out!

The Sundgau, a paradise for mountain bikers

The Sundgau is home to the largest mountain bike area in Alsace: 33 mountain bike trails and more than 700 km of marked routes await you! The advantage of the Sundgau is that there is something for everyone. The Largue and Ill valleys offer easy routes suitable for families, while the Alsatian Jura region offers more technical trails for experienced mountain bikers.

You will find on this page a map with all the mountain bike trails in the Sundgau, which are all marked on the ground and classified by difficulty level. The big plus is that these routes and markings are checked regularly, so there are usually no nasty surprises.

You can also order a topoguide, really well done, which gives you more information on each circuit, with notably the points of interest to see along the way, but also the restaurants where to stop for a gourmet break.

I tested one of the most beautiful mountain bike circuits of the Sundgau

I tested the circuit “Au pays des sources” (MTB circuit number 5), reputed to be one of the most beautiful MTB circuits of the Sundgau. It is true that it offers varied landscapes, with a superb nature and charming villages to admire.

With its 35km and its 875m of positive altitude difference, the circuit is noted as difficult and it is! It is the difference in altitude that makes it difficult, not the technicality of the paths (although there is a stony climb of more than 10% that combines both!), but you will have to be in good shape to do it.

On my side, I had an electric mountain bike that day, so I didn’t really suffer, the motor making the climbs much easier 😉 I would come back to do it with my own mountain bike for more challenge, having a hard time is also part of the mountain bike experience, right? 😛

Whatever your choice of mount, the route is very pleasant to ride. We discover the source of the Ill (yes, the river which crosses all Alsace and flows into the Rhine!), we pass a ford at Oberlargwe enter the beautiful chapel of the Warthwe admire the small village of Bendorfwe drive in the middle of theallée des Hêtreswe cross (very briefly!) the Swiss border, we appreciate the beautiful views on the hilly landscapes of the Sundgau…It is varied and superb, I liked it a lot!

I liked

  • Variety of proposed tours
  • Circuits for all levels
  • Very good marking on the ground
  • Very practical guidebook

I liked a little less

  • Nothing!

Practical information

On this page you will find all the information you need:

  • Map of the mountain bike area (freely accessible and can be ordered in paper format if desired)
  • GPX files of all courses
  • info to buy the Topoguide

Go here for addresses offering mountain bike rentals.

Cycling in the Sundgau

ballersdorf-sundgau-velo

In addition to mountain biking, the Sundgau region of Alsace lends itself well to bicycle touring, with its varied terrain and signposted cycle trails perfect for all levels of cyclist.

I tried out local loop 106 entitled “Autour du canal”, a 40 km walk through a variety of landscapes. The program includes lovely views of the Sundgau hills, a stopover in Altkirch, the delightful village of Ballersdorf (which I fell in love with), a lovely shady cycle path and then the return to the Rhone-Rhine Canal. Read my article dedicated to the Autour du Canal loop for more information.

I liked

  • Variety of landscapes on the loop
  • Houses in Ballersdorf
  • Plenty of options for gourmet breaks!

I liked a little less

  • Quite a few roads (but they’re not too busy in general)

Discover the beautiful villages of the Largue Valley

maison-alsacienne

I recommend a stroll through the Largue Valley, home to pretty flower-filled villages with colorful half-timbered houses. Less picturesque than the Route des Vins, but also much less touristy: it’s also worth a visit if you have a little time in Alsace and want to explore some lesser-known corners.

You can drive from one village to another and take the time to stop in each one for a short walk. The villages are not big but they are pretty. I went to Ueberstrass, Friesen, Hindlingen, Strueth, Saint-Ulrich, Altenach and finally Manspach. Friesen is the place to be, with its many charming houses.

I liked

  • The colorful half-timbered houses and their flowered balconies
  • The tranquility: there are not many tourists around!

I liked less

  • Villages a little less cute than those of the Wine Route

Picnic in Parc Charles de Reinach

park-reinach-alsace

The Charles De Reinach park is located in Hirtzbach, south of Altkirch in the Sundgau region. It’s an ideal place for a stroll or a family picnic.

The park is an example of a 19th-century English garden, offering a bucolic landscape of water, trees and flowers. It also houses several Swiss chalets once used for storage, and a Sundgau icehouse (a real curiosity!). The area is also dotted with modern works of art. It’s a great place to relax and get away from it all! Read our article on parks and gardens in Alsace for more information on the park.

I liked

  • The colors! Those of the flowers, the trees, the dragonflies…
  • The variety of gardens in this not so large space
  • Old buildings: whatever their condition, they have charm.
  • Modern works of art

I liked less

  • There are no games for children, even though the sights of the park have already kept them busy!
  • We would like this park to be at least 3 times bigger to spend even more time there 🙂

Street art in Altkirch

street-art-sundgau

Altkirch is the capital of the Sundgau region. It’s a fairly quiet little town, not the kind of place you’d expect to find street art… Yet there are plenty of frescoes to admire! Originally, the street art trail was created at the request of the city’s cultural department as part of the International Film Festival’s 15th anniversary: some works can still be admired today, while others have joined them. You can see a map of the route here.

I liked

  • Beautiful frescoes to admire
  • Nice for a small town like Altkirch!

I liked less

  • Nothing!

Enjoy fried carp

carpe-frite-sundgau

Fried carp is a Sundgau culinary specialty. It’s one of Alsace’s little-known specialties, but one that’s really popular in this part of the region.

There’s even a fried carp route, and the restaurants that serve it are always packed – the locals are crazy about it! Fried carp is a special dish, because it’s fried carp… served with French fries! The local fish and chips 😉 I’m not a big fan of fried carp because I find the dish a bit bland and greasy, to be honest, but I do like to eat it occasionally when I come to the area. Here are two good places I know to eat it (remember to make reservations!):

Christmas bonus: Altkirch’s Enchanted Forest

enchanted-forest-altkirch
During the Christmas period, Altkirch offers not a traditional Christmas market, but an enchanted forest on the theme of tales and legends… Ideal for a family outing! Read our article on visiting Christmas markets with your family to find out more.

Sundgau activities map

Laurène

Laurène

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 voiture, elle aime partir explorer les moindres recoins de l'Alsace pour dénicher de bonnes adresses à partager sur le blog.

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