Visit SĂ©lestat and the surrounding area – 12 things to see and do


What if I took you to visit Selestat? SĂ©lestat is an Alsatian city located between Colmar and Obernai, at the foot of the famous Haut-Koenigsbourg Castle. It is the 4th largest city in Alsace, but it is still quite unknown to tourists. And yet it's a lovely city, with beautiful buildings including the incredible Humanist Library, and a great place to wander around. SĂ©lestat is also an excellent base to visit Alsace because of its central location. That's a lot of assets!

Laurène is the blog's creator. Originally from Brittany but now living in Alsace, she has fallen in love with her adopted region and loves exploring its every nook and cranny to unearth great ideas to share with you!

What is Selestat known for?

SĂ©lestat is best known for its Humanist Library, a Renaissance treasure that I’ll tell you more about below. It is also famous for the Christmas tree, because it is in SĂ©lestat that the oldest written mention in the world referring to the Christmas tree was discovered!

How long does it take to visit Selestat?

Count on half a day to visit SĂ©lestat quietly, but more if you also want to discover the surroundings (which I advise you to do!).

1. Visit the old town of SĂ©lestat

SĂ©lestat has been awarded the Ville d’Art et d’Histoire label and it is indeed impressive to admire its built heritage during a stroll in its city center. I invite you to take the tour proposed by the tourist office, called “In the footsteps of the lion and the giant Sletto”. According to legend, the giant is the founder of the city and the lion is the symbol of SĂ©lestat.

The course is really well done. It allows to admire the main buildings of SĂ©lestat and to stroll in neighborhoods, which we would not necessarily have gone through otherwise (the Tanneurs neighborhood, for example, is a marvel, but it is not very commercial and I had not had the opportunity to go there during my previous visits).

SĂ©lestat is full of majestic monuments, old half-timbered houses and painted facades: it would be a shame to miss them! I also advise you to enter thechurch of Saint-Georges, which has in its choir very beautiful stained glass windows from the 15th century.

Do not miss, during your historical visit of the cityYou can visit the tourist office in the Commanderie Saint-Jean, the former residence of Ebermunster, the Tour des Sorcières on the Place de Lattre de Tassigny, the Porte de Strasbourg of the Vauban fortification, the Tour Neuve, the church of Sainte-Foy, the church of the Recollets, the clock tower, the Vauban ramparts, the Arsenal Sainte-Barbe, the municipal baths, the splendid water tower or the rue des Chevaliers, which is one of the oldest streets in the city.

2. Visit the SĂ©lestat Humanist Library

Among the buildings not to be missed, located in the Halle aux Blés, is the Bibliothèque Humaniste de Sélestat, whose current building was designed by architect Rudy Ricciotti. It is home to some very valuable works, which are included in the Unesco Memory of the World register. This museum is unique in the world, with more than 3,000 documents (prints, incunabula and manuscripts), dating from the 7th to the 16th century. This is the collection belonging to Beatus Rhenanus, which he bequeathed to his hometown at his death. A true treasure of the Renaissance that we are lucky enough to be able to admire today. If you can, I recommend taking part in a guided tour.

Why a Unesco-listed humanist library in SĂ©lestat?

The famous Selestadian humanist Beatus Rhenanus was the driving force behind the creation of the Humanist Library, bequeathing his incredible personal library to his native SĂ©lestat on his death. With its 423 volumes, containing 1,287 works and 41 manuscripts in various collections, as well as 33 early manuscripts and 255 autograph letters, this was one of the richest and most beautiful collections of its time! It is the “treasure” of the SĂ©lestat Humanist Library, and has earned the library a place on UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register.

Books, exhibition treasures

The books are beautiful, displayed with great care: held at a certain angle so as not to damage them, without too much humidity, nor too much light. A rotation system is in place that allows visitors to regularly discover new works. I learned a lot about books, such as the purpose of their thick covers and big clasps to keep them in shape, or the different types of “paper”: for example, vellum (stillborn calf skin) or rag paper (made of textiles). Or that people bound their own books to save money and that several books were sometimes “under the same cover”.

3. Cultivate and indulge at the Maison du Pain d’Alsace, in the heart of the city center

In a different register, another emblematic place of SĂ©lestat is the House of the bread of Alsace, located in the old seat of the Corporation of the Bakers. La Maison du Pain is a bakery-museum. The bakery area has an open bakery and it is therefore possible to observe the bakers at work (and to take part in the regularly organized activities). The museum area is dedicated to the history of bread, flour and wheat.

4. Explore the contemporary art circuit

Finally, if you like contemporary art, you should know that SĂ©lestat offers a contemporary art circuit. Yes, you wouldn’t necessarily expect it in a city of this size, but it’s really nice to be able to mix the discovery of the old heritage and the contemporary path during the visit of SĂ©lestat! Of course, don’t forget to visit the Fonds RĂ©gional d’Art Contemporain. I love the work of the artist Sarkis entitled “The meeting point: the dream” and its 310 street signs whose messages leave indeed dreaming…

5. Take a break in a tearoom in the heart of SĂ©lestat

Sélestat is home to a number of gourmet and unusual addresses: click here for my list of good tearooms and cafés in Sélestat.

6. Visit the SĂ©lestat Christmas market

At the end of the year, I strongly recommend you to visit the Christmas market of SĂ©lestat, a market away from the tourist trails and which is entirely dedicated to the Christmas tree. Why is this? For its first mention was found in a register of accounts of the city dating from 1521: it is the oldest known written mention in the world to date referring to the Christmas Tree!

7. Visit the Haut-Koenigsbourg castle

The famous Haut-Koenigsbourg castle is close to SĂ©lestat: it would be a real shame not to take the opportunity to visit it!

8. Visiting wildlife parks with your family

Just outside SĂ©lestat are some of Alsace’s most famous wildlife parks: Volerie des Aigles, Montagne des Singes or NaturOparc, you’ll be spoilt for choice!

9. Discover the Alsace ried

The ried d’Alsace is the plain of Alsace: a little-touristed area just outside SĂ©lestat that offers some lovely local discoveries!

10. Visit a winemaker and taste wine

Of course, SĂ©lestat is not located on the Alsace Wine Route… But it’s so close that it’s just like that! I invite you for example to visit one of my favorite domains, Domaine AchillĂ©e in Scherwiller.

11. Cycling between the Wine Route and the Alsace Plain

If you like cycling, here is a very nice idea for a bike ride which is one of the routes I would recommend for a first day of discovery of Alsace by bike. The Medieval Cities and Baroque Art loop allows you to appreciate the variety of Alsatian landscapes, between the plains and the vineyards, and to make some very nice visits along the way… As a bonus, you can easily rent an electrically assisted bicycle from the tourist office if needed.

12. Hire an electric motorcycle to tour the Wine Route

Wattrider in Selestat offers an unusual activity: the rental of electric motorcycles, so that you can easily go for a ride on the Alsace Wine Route. Fun!

Bonus – Attend the Machores carnival

SĂ©lestat is famous in Alsace for its carnival, the Carnaval des Machores. It’s worth attending if you’re in the area on the right dates!

My good addresses in SĂ©lestat

Where to sleep in SĂ©lestat?

I can recommend two addresses if you are looking for a nice bed and breakfast or a gite in SĂ©lestat: Domaine des Remparts and Carpe Diem.

Restaurants: where to eat in Selestat?

I can recommend two good French restaurants, the Schatzy and the Stork (with a special mention for the superb terrace of the latter!).