The imposing Haut-Koenigsbourg Castle is one of France's most popular tourist attractions and welcomes some 600,000 visitors every year. The castle was originally built in the 12th century, then re-built in 1899 and is remarkably well preserved. The re-building was faithful to the original and the castle provides a great example of 12th century architecture. Holidaymakers staying in one of the many gites in Alsace will have a huge selection of castles to choose from for day trips and excursions, but Haut-Koenigsbourg is top of the list for most people. The castle enjoys a spectacular setting atop a rocky outcrop and commands stunning views over the surrounding villages and countryside. Viewed from afar, its fairy-tale like appearance will appeal to children of all ages.
Visitors can enter the castle and explore the many grand rooms, some of which contain impressive art collections and murals. The castle's armoury boasts a huge selection of weapons from as far back as the Middle Ages and adult and kids alike will enjoy seeing the deadly swords and crossbows on display.
The castle has a restaurant serving food and drink, meaning it's perfectly possible to spend a whole day here. There is certainly plenty to see and the guided tours are a great idea if you want to get the most out of your visit. Self-guided tours are also available for those who prefer to make their own way around the castle. There is a gift shop on site, selling touristy souvenirs, as well as some more high-end merchandise.
The impressive gardens are worth an hour or two of your time, too. The gardens were given a makeover in 2011 and contain the traditional plants a medieval castle garden would contain, as well as some more modern varieties. There is a picnic area for al fresco dining on fine days and the views of the surrounding countryside are breath-taking from the best spots. The gardens change dramatically throughout the year, with summer and autumn particularly popular times to visit.
Although most people staying in gites in Alsace tend to do so during the summer months, if you're around during the winter, the castle is transformed into a Christmas wonderland. The gardens might be a little bare and the temperatures considerably cooler, but the magnificent Christmas decorations and tree bring the castle to life throughout December. There are also several festive events and Christmas workshops scheduled each year so be sure to pay a visit if you're around.