The château du Haut-Knigsbourg (Hohkönigsburg in German) is one of France's great medieval castles. Perched on a rocky hill at an altitude of 757 metres, Haut-Knigsbourg commands incredible views on the vineyards of the Alsatian Plain. This red-sandstone fortress dates back to the 12th century, when it defended the strategic route between the Vosges and the Black Forest.
The exact age of the castle is unknown. The first explicit mention of a castle built by the Hohenstaufen kings of Germany was in 1147. The castle's name appears in 1192 as Königsburg, German for the 'King's Castle'.
At the onset of the 13th century, the Hohenstaufen grant the castle to the Dukes of Lorraine. They in turn entrust it to the Ratsamhausen family, who remained lords of the castle until the 15th century.
In 1462, a coalition of cities besieged and burnt the castle. Frederick III of Habsburg, Holy Roman Emperor, bestows the ruins to the Thiersteins, who rebuilt and enlarge the castle from 1479, setting up a new defence system against artillery.
At the height of the Thirty Years' War, despite its state-of-the-art fortifications, the castle succumbs to the artillery of the Swedish army in 1633, after a 52-day siege. The castle is burnt down and looted, and left abandoned for two centuries.
In 1882, the municipality of Sélestat undertakes restoration works under the supervsion of the architect Winkler, but the project was suspended due to insufficient funds. Sélestate then presented the castle to Kaiser Wilhelm II, who was looking for a place to indulge in his Romantic fantasies. The emperor then entrusted Bodo Ebhardt to refurbish the castle to the splendour of its heyday. Works started in 1900 and were completed in 1908.
Opening Hours & Admission
The castle is open all year round from 9:15 am (9:30 am from October to March) to 5:45 pm (until 6:45 pm from June to August). From November to February, the castle is closed between 12:00 noon and 1:00 pm and closes at 5:15 pm. The last entry is 45 minutes before the closing time. The annual closing days are 1st January, 1st May and 25th December.
Admission costs 8 € for adults and 6 € for concessions, and is free for children under 18 years old.
How to get there
Haut-Knigsbourg is located at Orschwiller, halfway between Obernai and Colmar, at the edge of the Ballons des Vosges Regional Nature Park.
The nearest railway station is Sélestat, 12 km away, from where there are frequent train connections from/to Starsbourg (17 min) and Colmar (10 min). A tourist bus makes the journey (30min) from Sélestat Station to the castle. The bus leaves Sélestat Station every hour from 9:25 am to 4:25 pm, and Haut-Knigsbourg from 10:35 am to 5:35 pm. The bus runs on weekends and national holidays between 17th March and 30th December, and everyday from 6th April to 8th May and from 16th June to 16th September. The journey costs 4 € for adults and 2 € for children aged 4 to 12, and is free under 4 years old. The ticket is valid the whole day.
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