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Alsace has some of the most picturesque scenery in France, with its fairytale villages, charming markets, fascinating architecture and sprawling vineyards, belying the complex struggles of power that thundered through the region. Dotted around the countryside surrounding the majestic capital of Strasbourg, you’ll find impressive fortified castles and stately palaces, silent witnesses to the tumultuous history of this now placid and beautiful land.
Overlooking the town of Kaysersberg, chosen as France’s favourite village 2017, is one of the oldest castles in the region, as evidenced by its 13th-century dungeon. This pretty medieval village, about an hour’s drive from Strasbourg and very close to Colmar, used to have the critical job of blocking the roads coming from Lorraine, which made it a strategic place in times of war. In addition to the keep, with 4-metre thick walls, visitors can explore the lord’s chambers, the staircase and ramparts.
About a 50-minute drive from Strasbourg, in the northern Vosges, the Château de Lichtenberg rises impressively from the horizon. Built in the 13th century, the castle was taken by the troops of Louis XIV at the time of the French annexation and bombed in 1870 by the German army. In spite of the extensive damage, the remains of the fortress are among the most beautiful in the region and is home to an active cultural heritage centre.
67340, Lichtenberg +33 3 88 89 98 72
About a 45-minute drive west of Strasbourg, you’ll find the Château de Wangenbourg, which had a turbulent power struggle. It was first built in the late 13th century by the lords of Wangen, set in the heart of what was once an immense estate that had belonged to the abbey of Andlau since the ninth century. The castle had fallen into serious disrepair due to lack of funds then, in 1523, the bishop of Strasbourg initiated restoration works, sparking a dispute with the lords of Wangen. In 1578, the bishop tried to make the castle a possession of the bishopric of Strasbourg but failed, after which the castle was in a state of limbo until it was used as a military garrison under Louis XIV.
Wangenbourg-Engenthal, France +33 03 88 87 31 46
One hour north of Strasbourg on the border of the natural parks of the Vosges du Nord and the Palatinate, stands a spectacular and emblematic troglodytic châteaux embedded high on a sandstone ridge. Witness to over nine centuries of history, it was once an impenetrable fortress. and today, you can chase the ghost of Hugo de Fleckenstein, and the legend of the well – upon the quest for all-important water, he was tempted by Satan himself, but when renouncing evil he came out victorious and was rewarded with unending spring water for his steadfast faith.
67510 Lembach, France +33 03 88 94 28 52