Follow the Route of castle and fortified towns
Dive in the history of the Kaysersberg Valley!
Alsace is a region steeped in history, centuries of trade, art, civilization, conflicts… Numerous castles and walled cities from different eras witnessed this outstanding past and went through time to remind us of this glorious history.
The Kaysersberg Valley also has many fortified works that punctuate its landscape, both in the vineyards and in the mountains.
The Wineck castle overlooking Katzenthal
Located in the small village of Katzenthal, the Wineck castle is the only Alsatian castle to be directly surrounded by grapevines, hence its name : Wineck - wine corner.
Built in 1200 on a granite spur overhanging the village, it is made of a 21m high square keep that served as a dwelling.
Possessed by the Count of Eguisheim-Dabo and then by the Count of Ferrette, the Wineck castle becomes property of the Rathsamhausen Barons in the 14th century. The latter enlarged it and provided it with an additional enclosure to protect it from possible attacks.
After a fire destroyed it in the 15th century, it was abandoned and fell apart.
In 1972, the “Association des amis du Wineck” (the Wineck Friends organization) restored the castle and gave it a new glow.
The organization now offers visits of the castle : every Sunday afternoon and holiday from 2pm. to 6pm., from April 1st to November 1st.
Apart from these opening times, a visit is always possible (especially for groups). Contact the president of the organization Mr. Pierre Laengy by email : email@example.com or by phone : 03 89 47 85 63
The Kaysersberg castle overhanging the imperial city
In 1227, the imperial Provost Woeflin had the Kaysersberg castle erected on a rocky headland for Frederick II, the Holy Roman Emperor, in order to control an important passageway between the regions of Upper Alsace and Lorraine.
The castle is connected to the city with a solid urban bulwark and is flanked by a strong, 4 meters high circular keep which was used as an observation post. It will charm you with its beautiful panoramic view and its late roman architecture.
The castle’s defensive role gradually declined due to the prosperity and empowerment of Kaysersberg.
However, during the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648), the castle, its dwelling and its annex were burnt down and left to be abandoned. In the 19th century, it was rehabilitated, and got classified as a historic monument in 1841 precisely.
It is now a must-see during your visit of Kaysersberg, as its silhouette became the emblem of the imperial city.
The Hohnack castle on the heights of Labaroche
Nestled in a haven of greenery, the Hohnack castle watches over the peaceful mountain village Labaroche. Located at the junction of the Kaysersberg and Munster valleys, it rises to an altitude of 927m. The name “Hohnack” could come from “Hohen Acker”, meaning “the upper field”. Traces of proto-historical occupation and a roman observation post seem to confirm that the strategic position of the castle, located on a high plateau, has been known for a very long time.
The Hohnack castle was built around the 12th century and is composed of a square keep, a seigneurial dwelling and a polygonal enclosure made of humped stones. Very quickly, it built its reputation and was said to be an impregnable fortress.
Ribeauvillé’s Lords of Ribeaupierre, the owners of the Hohnack, used the castle to hide their precious belongings in troubled times such as the Thirty Years’ War.
However, in 1635, the troops of King Louis XIII of France seized it by trickery and used it for garrison until 1654.
The castle was demolished in 1655 by order of Louis XIV to prevent it from being used as a military support point. From then on, it was used as a quarry for local constructions. It is now the property of Labaroche and is regularly maintained and restored by the organization “les compagnons du Hohnack” (The Hohnack companions).
During the restoration of the ancient fortress, the access is closed for visitors. Only members of the association, who work for the reabilitation, have access. However the castle stays imposing and is worth a look.
The Saint-Etienne Brotherhood’s Schwendi castle, in the heart of the vineyards of Kientzheim
It seems that only the vaulted cellar of the west wing and perhaps parts of the shell structure date back from the original construction in the 15th century, undertaken by Jean I de Lupfen. Indeed, when Lazare de Schwendi, a famous Alsatian soldier and discoverer of the Hungarian grape variety Tokay, bought the castle around 1563, he expanded it and partially rebuilt it, giving it the Renaissance style it still has today.
The castle remained property of the Schwendi family line until 1770. All throughout the 19th century, several different owners undertook construction. The castle was therefore expanded with the south-west tower as well as a beautiful outdoor terrace. Furthermore, the grounds are levelled, leaving space for a magnificent garden.
The castle became the property of the Saint-Etienne Brotherhood in 1972, which restored and adapted the castle for its activities. In 1980, the Alsace Wines and Vineyards Museum settled in the old outbuildings.