If visiting a real life fairytale castle appeals to you, then Haut Koenigsbourg Castle in France's Alsace region is one definitely not to be missed. Looking exactly as a hilltop castle would have looked in the Middle Ages, you are immediately transported into the pages of your childhood storybooks. I was fortunate to visit this amazing castle whilst I was staying in Riquewihr earlier this year and it was well worth the visit.
Built in the 12th century by the Hohenstaufens, Chateau du Haut-Koenigsbourg (as it is officially known), has seen many reincarnations over the centuries. After it was destroyed in 1462, the castle was handed over to the Tiersteins who rebuilt and enlarged it, adding strong fortifications.
Another couple of hundred years later, the castle was burnt to the ground after the Thirty Years War and it wasn't until 1862 that the German architect Winkler drew up ambitious plans to reconstruct it. Unfortunately the local authorities didn't have the money to fund such a massive undertaking, so in 1871, when Alsace was still a part of Germany, the ruins were offered to Kaiser Wilhelm, the German emperor.
Kaiser Wilhelm was keen to rebuild the fortress exactly as it would have been in the 15th century and he employed architect and historian, Bodo Ebhardt, to make his dream come true. He never intended to live in the castle - his dream was to create a museum of the Middle Ages and attract tourists.
The first stone of the new castle was laid in 1901 and in 1908, after only eight years, the Chateau du Haut-Koenigsbourg was finally unveiled to the public.
After being classified as a historical monument in 1993, the castle was again fully restored, and renovations were taking place again during our visit this year.
Visitors to Chateau du Haut-Koenigsbourg can wander through the castle at leisure, admiring the many furnished rooms and the large collection of weapons and armour, mainly from the 16th and 17th centuries. Complete with a drawbridge, turrets and sturdy fortifications, you could be forgiven for forgetting you are actually in the 21st century!
From the tower, you can just imagine what it would have been like, weapon raised and watching the enemy below from your secure vantage point. It's real 'boys own' stuff, and despite the bloody past, I found it a fascinating place to visit.
Chateau du Haut-Koenigsbourg sits on a rocky promontory 750 metres above the Alsace plain, offering views of the Vosges mountains and the Black Forest. It certainly would have provided the perfect place to watch for invaders over it's turbulent past.
Today's invaders aim a different kind of weapon altogether - their cameras. And who can blame them? Visiting Chateau du Haut-Koenigsbourg is definitely worth recording for posterity.
Need to know about Haut Koenigsbourg Castle
Where is Chateau du Haut-Koenigsbourg?
Haut-Koenigsbourg castle is situated 26 km north of Colmar, 55 km south of Strasbourg and 12 km west of Sélestat, in France's Alsace region.
A shuttle bus service operates from the Selestat railway station to Chateau du Haut-Koenigsbourg (not every day). A fee of €2 applies but this is deducted from the Chateau entrance fee. Click here for shuttle timetables.
Parking at Chateau du Haut-Koenigsbourg
Ample parking is available for visitors arriving by car. The castle entrance is located about halfway round a circular, one way road. If the large car park appears full on your arrival, drive around the road (it will eventually bring you back to the main car park) as parking is permitted on the side of the road. The main car park is situated 300 metres from the castle entrance.
€9 per adult, €7 for concession holders. Children under 18 are free of charge. (Prices current May 2018)
Audio guides are available for additional cost.
Chateau du Haut-Koenigsbourg opening hours
The castle is open all year round (except January 1, May 1 and December 25 and on Mondays in January and February). Opening hours vary slightly throughout the year but the castle is generally open from 9.30am until around 5pm. Check the official website for opening times on your day of visit.
A small restaurant and a snack bar (selling ice creams, drinks and snacks) are open from April to November.
Have you visited Chateau du Haut-Koenigsbourg or another 'fairytale' castle? I'd love to hear about it in the comments below.