Off the beaten path but beautiful nonetheless, if you’re looking for an unusual day trip from Eguisheim (or, indeed, Colmar at just a fifteen-minute drive away), then the three castles of Eguisheim are a must-see. Dating back well over a thousand years, the romantic ruins are surrounded by lush green forest and offer panoramic views over the endlss vineyards that the Alsace is so well-known for. Here’s how to visit Les Trois Châteaux du Haut-Eguisheim (the three castles of Eguisheim), as well as what to know before you go!
But first, it’s important to distinguish the exact name to call the Châteaux! You see, depending on who you ask will depend on how the three castles are called. While some refer to the structures as the ‘Three castles of Eguisheim’ on account of their proximity to the timber-framed town, others say the ‘Three castles of Husseren-les-Châteaux,’ as this is technically the closest settlement to the medieval buildings!
A history of Les Trois Châteaux du Haut-Eguisheim
From far and wide, it’s possible to spy the looming towers of the Eguisheim castles. Perched atop a low level hill ridge, despite their appearance, the châteaux were actually all constructed at different times. In the North, there’s the Château of Dagsburg, while that in the middle is known as Château of Wahlenburg. Thirdly and finally, the Château to the South is that of Weckmund.
All are constructed of the same red sandstone that is so synonymous with the region and all have been listed as protected historic monuments since 1840. Schlossberg hill stands at a height of 591 metres and Wahlenburg is the oldest of the three towers.
Wahlenburg dates all the way back to 1006 when the castle was constructed at the behest of Hugues IV, the Count of Eguisheim. And that’s not even where the history began. You see, the first tower was actually constructed on the site of a former Roman watchtower! Indeed, the entirety of the Alsace has a rich and varied history, having been passed between France and Germany during various points, not to mention having been inhabited since prior to Roman times!
The Dagsbourg was built in 1144 but was not to stand for long before being destroyed in 1197 during a revolt. Last but not least, The Weckmund was built. All three of the sandstone castles cover an area of half an acre and what was largely left was predominantly destroyed during the War of the Six Oboles in 1466. Visit today and you can expect to find three crumbling towers, as well as a few staircases.
What you should know about the Route des Cinq Châteaux (Five Castles road)
Though much of the larger towns and cities of the Alsace can be seen via public transportation in the form of buses and trains, the easiest way to get around by far is by car. After all, this will allow you the flexibility you’ll so need to see the many smaller gems and villages of the region, including the route of the Five Châteaux.
Renting your own transportation will also allow you to take as much (or as little time) at each destination as you so desire. We personally enjoyed being able to stop in smaller towns such as Turckheim, where bus schedules are incredibly limited. Check the best car rental comparison prices here.
Otherwise, you should know that once you reach the parking space for the three Châteaux, the space is free and the walk is a quick ten-minute hike uphill before you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views and the chance to admire the castles close up.
Free to visit all year ’round, I would suggest that the best time to visit the three castles of Eguisheim is in the autumn when the fall foliage transforms the surrounding landscape into a pastel picture of golden hues and all the views. Just be sure to wrap up warm and wear suitably shoes as the paths are uneven in places and there are many steps once you reach the Châteaux from the car park.
Though the castles are free to visit, the path is forbidden during the night and in the winter. As the name ‘five castles road’ would suggest, there are actually five châteaux on the hilltop (and narrow in places) road between Eguisheim and Turckheim.
While the three of Eguisheim are the best-known, there’s also the fortified Château du Hohlandsbourg (which is only open seasonally and has a paid entry fee) and the Château of Pflixbourg (which is the least impressive of the five châteaux but is always free to visit).
Other attractions and things to do nearby include wandering around the town of Eguisheim (which is one of the most beautiful towns in the Alsace region) and stumbling into a real life fairytale in the city of Colmar. As one of the largest cities in the Alsace (third only to Mulhouse and Strasbourg), there’s no shortage of things to do, as well as quirky and offbeat spots.