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- Historical heritage sites
- Discovering the castles
Alsace is widely recognised for its wine and cuisine, but it also boasts a large collection of castles. So it’s not surprising that Alsace has a Castles and Fortified Cities Route.
In the region of Sélestat Haut-Koenigsbourg, we are fortunate to have many castles. They dot the landscape, adding historical character to the mountainsides. However, some of them are not open to the public.
If you’d like to have a unique experience, come visit these 5 castles, and explore their amazingly rich history!
Haut-Koenigsbourg Castle (Orschwiller)
The most famous castle in Alsace
For more than 900 years, legends, tales and mysteries have lain dormant within the grounds of the Haut-Kœnigsbourg Castle, a magnificently restored structure that is one of the most visited sites in Alsace. The keep, the cannons, the drawbridge and arms room… Passing through the castle’s gates is a step back into medieval times.
It stands majestically atop a rocky outcrop, from which visitors enjoy a breathtaking view of the Alsatian plain.
Did you know that the Haut-Koenigsbourg Castle has also proved a source of inspiration for the film industry? Its very special atmosphere, architecture and centuries-old stones covered with new ones, have fascinated many directors. “The Grand Illusion” in 1937, “The Adventures of Arsène Lupin” in 1957 and “Agent Trouble” in 1987 were all filmed at the famous fortress in Alsace.
Ramstein Castle (Scherwiller)
The little sentinel
This castle was built in 1293, close to its neighbour, Ortenbourg Castle, at an altitude of 433 m. Thanks to its strategic location, offering a clear view, enemies could be seen from afar. The castle was destroyed, probably in 1633; all that remains of the original structure are two sections of the keep wall, a chimney and a deep embrasure with an arrow slit.
For several years, a team of volunteers, called the “Veilleurs du Ramstein” (Lookouts of Ramstein), have been clearing and consolidating walls, towers and foundations.
The lush landscape surrounding it is rare and special, featuring, for instance, buckler mustard, a small plant belonging to the crucifers family, unique in the region, as well as other threatened species, such as perennial lettuce, the noble yarrow, the green lizard, and others.
For safety reasons, the castle is closed to the public, although the site can be visited during Heritage Days.
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Ortenbourg Castle (Scherwiller)
One of the finest examples of castle ruins in the Rhine Valley
It can be glimpsed from afar, perched atop a rocky peak at an altitude of 443 metres, towering over the town of Scherwiller. The castle, built in the 13th century by Rudolf of Habsburg, is considered to be one of the best designed fortresses in the Rhine Valley, for defensive and residential purposes.
A 17-metre-high apron wall surrounds the pentagonal keep (32 metres high), which formerly offered 6 levels for firing against enemies.
It can only be reached on foot, via a marked hiking trail that starts 200 metres from the “Auberge de la Hühnelmühle” inn. It’s a half-hour walk from the trailhead to the fortress. And don’t forget to bring a picnic, so you can enjoy a meal with a view!
Oedenbourg Castle (Orschwiller)
The Little Koenigsbourg
Located about a hundred metres from its famous big brother, the Haut-Koenigsbourg Castle. Its name, which means “deserted castle”, appeared in 1417, seeming to indicate that the castle was already in ruins at the time. It most likely served as an outpost for Haut-Koenigsbourg; however, it was completely destroyed in 1462, during a siege in which artillery played a key role. The Oedenbourg was consolidated in the early 20th century by German architect Bodo Ebhardt. Little more than a few vestiges remain: 3 sections of walls from the noble living quarters, with Gothic windows, as well as remains of the keep. Visiting the inside of the ruins is prohibited.
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Stronghold of the Volerie des Aigles (Eagle Park)
Perched at an altitude of 260 metres on the hills of the little wine village of Kintzheim, the castle was first mentioned in 1270 as belonging to the Rathsamhausen family. It was subsequently bought by the City of Sélestat in 1492, then sold in 1649 to Jean Guillaume de Goll, who restored it partially (the keep, the living quarters and the chapel).
Falcons, buzzards, eagles and other birds of prey are now the illustrious guests of this castle. From late March to mid-November, at the Volerie des Aigles (Eagle Park) they offer a breathtaking spectacle for the whole family.