France // Alsace and Lorraine //

Four fabulous Alsace fortresses

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Alsace is dotted with medieval fortresses, heirlooms from a quarrelsome past. Here’s a rundown of the very best castles in the region:

Bernstein Explore the marvellous ruins of this castle perched 552m up on a rock overlooking Dambach-la-Ville. It’s a 45-minute walk from the village past the chapel of St-Sébastien or a drive up the D35, turning left at Blienschwiller towards Villé on the D203 and then following the sign to Bernstein on the GR5 until the Schulwaldplatz car park. From there it’s a gentle 20min walk uphill through a spruce forest. Free access.

Haut Koenigsbourg A massive pile of honey-coloured sandstone that sits astride a 757m bluff, this castle dates from the twelfth century. It was heavily restored in the twentieth century under the tenacious management of Kaiser Wilhelm II and is today one of the most visited monuments in France – try to come midweek or out of season to avoid the crowds. It is a stunning spot with fantastic views on a clear day.

Château Hohlandsbourg Six kilometres outside Eguisheim, this enormous castle surrounded by massive walls is the largest in the region. It was extensively damaged during the Thirty Years’ War but there’s still plenty to see, including beautiful gardens. The castle is also a venue for cultural activities, music concerts and children’s workshops – check the website for events.

Château Kintzheim Small but wonderful ruined castle built around a cylindrical refuge-tower and located just south of Haut Koenigsbourg. Today Kintzheim is an aviary for birds of prey – the Volerie des Aigles – and puts on magnificent displays of aerial prowess by resident eagles and vultures.

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