Haut-Barr Castle, The Eye of the Alsace
Haut-Barr Castle, nicknamed “The Eye of the Alsace,” is a fortified medieval castle built on a sandstone rock with a strategic location, a 360° view, and a rich history. We visited the Castle and listed its history, its legends, and how to reach it.
About Haut-Barr Castle
Haut-Barr Castle is a 12th-century medieval castle, built on the top of sandstone rock, with a beautiful 360° view over the city of Saverne and the Alsace region – hence the reason why it’s called “The Eye of the Alsace.”
The Haut-Barr Castle was built around the year 1100 and appeared for the first time in medieval literature in 1112 under the name “Borre” or “Borra.” The Castle has undergone several destructions and alterations over the centuries, so if we continue to follow the literature, we can notice that from the 15th century onwards, the literary references changed to “Bar” or “Barr.” Finally, in the 16th century, it arrived at its current name, “Hohenbarr” or “Haut-Barr.”
Ever since 1874, Hohbarr even got listed as a monument historique by the French Ministry of Culture.
In addition to its rich and violent history, the Castle is also known for its unique location (on top of three 470 meter sandstone rocks), its legendary “Devil’s Bridge” that connects two sandstone rocks.
The 360° view of the Alsace region (which includes the Vosges regional nature park and the Strasbourg Cathedral), and the restaurant “La-Haut,” which is located between the ruins of the Castle, ensure that it’s still a tourist attraction for both the locals and the tourists.
Basic facts about Château du Haut-Barr
When the Castle was built, the Alsace region was still part of Germany, but France incorporated it throughout the centuries. This is the reason why most of the literature and locals know the Castle by its: German name Burg Hohbarr.
|Château du Haut-Barr Key Facts|
|Built||+- 1100 (12th century)|
|Names||Château du Haut-Barr, Haut-Barr Castle, Burg Hohbarr, and “The Eye of the Alsace”|
|GPS Coordinates||48.7238° N, 7.3374° E|
|Entrance Fee||Free entrance|
|Parking Fee||Free parking|
The history of Château du Haut-Barr
Ever since it was built in the 12th century, the Castle occupied a strategic position over the Alsace region, which is why it continued to play a role in its history.
Judging by the ancient literature, the bishop of Strasbourg bought the third (most southern) rock from the abbey of Marmoutier in 1168 and named it “Markfels.”
In the 14th century, Bishop Jean de Lichtenberg resided here, and under his leadership, the Castle became even more fortified. Subsequently, Bishop Guillaume de Diest ensured that some local lords fortified and defended the Castle.
In 1525, the local peasants revolted, trying to take over the Castle of Haut-Barr. From then on, the Castle gradually fell into disrepair for lack of sufficient maintenance. It lasted until the middle of the 16th century when Bishop Jean de Manderscheid transformed and restored the Castle.
According to two peace treaties signed in October 1648, which formed part of the “Peace of Westphalia,” the French troops had to demolish the Castle, only leaving behind the chapel. Not much later, at the beginning of the War of the Spanish Succession in 1701, the fortress was back in use: The French partially rebuilt the Castle, and a military post was maintained until 1772 when it was returned to the local farmers.
Due to its position allowing it to have a 360° view of the Vosges and the Alsace plain, the Haut-Barr served as an observation post for the German army during the Second World War.
Legends around Haut-Barr Castle
We mentioned it briefly already: between two sandstone rocks lies the legendary “Devil’s Bridge.” This suspension bridge connects two of the rocks and was built – according to the legend – by the Devil himself because no human would have been able to build a bridge this strong.
As a reward for the work, the Devil demanded the soul of the first pilgrim who crossed the bridge. The bishops, who agreed upon his request, wanted to outsmart the Devil and had the idea to pass a dog over the bridge in order not to sacrifice a living soul.
The Devil was enraged by this plan and tried to destroy the bride – without any success. Hence why the bridge is now named the “Devil’s Bridge”!
How to reach Haut-Barr Castle
While the castle is located on the top of the hill, it’s easily accessible by car.
|By Car||Haut-Barr Castle is freely accessible, with parking spots right in front of the castle gate. |
– 55 km from Strasbourg (about 50 minutes)
– 90 km from Colmar (about 1h25 drive)
– 133 km from Mulhouse (about 1h45 drive)
|By Public Transport||Unfortunately, this is not possible.|
When to visit Haut-Barr Castle
While the Castle is freely accessible the entire year, we advise you to visit Haut-Barr during the summer, because the spire of Strasbourg Cathedral is only visible in the distance during good weather.
What to do at Haut-Barr Castle
In addition to a breathtaking view, there are also various activities that you can participate in around the castle – most of them during summer.
- Hiking. There is a 10.8-kilometer loop trail located next to the castle that features a great forest setting and is rated as an intermediate hike on Alltrails.
- Mountain Biking. Mountain Biking is – next to hiking – a popular activity for visitors of the castle. A 30-kilometer mountain bike ride that requires excellent fitness and advanced riding skills display the region’s beauty.
- Visit the restaurant “La-Haut,” which is located in between the castle ruins.
Other tourist attractions near Haut-Barr Castle
During our visit to Haut-Barr, we discovered various other tourist attractions just by enjoying the surroundings and looking at road signs.
Here is what you should visit when you are in the neighborhood:
- Chappe Telegraph Tower. In 1794 France was the first country with its own telecommunication network, invented by Claude Chappe. The Telegraph Tower in Saverne was an essential link for the Paris – Strasbourg line.
- Rohan Castle, also known as Château Neuf (New Castle), is an eighteenth-century palace in the city of Saverne. Today, one of its wings is used as a youth hostel, and another houses the Espace Rohan, Saverne’s 500-seat theatre and concert hall.
- Chateau du Grand-Geroldseck. A ruined medieval castle situated in the commune of Haegen was built to ensure the protection of the region.
What to pack when visiting Haut-Barr Castle
Heading out for a day hike when you visit Haut-Barr Castle is a delightful way to explore French history. Just remember: the longer and the more remote your hike is, the more you’ll need to prepare. That’s why we listed some of the essentials to pack before you head out to Haut-Barr Castle.
|Hiking shoes||You will most likely hike several kilometers, which makes suitable footwear a necessity.|
|LARQ Bottle||We personally have invested in a LARQ water bottle, which we bring to all our hikes. It contains a UV-C Light technology that neutralizes many harmful bacteria and contributes to our zero-waste lifestyle.|
|Sun protection||Don’t forget to bring your sunscreen and sunglasses because it can get quite warm in the summer.|
Photographing Haut-Barr Castle
The most tricky part of photographing the Haut-Barr Castle is to show up at the best time, mainly because good weather gives you an even better backdrop to create unique content quickly.
Haut-Barr Castle is not marked as a no-fly zone, so as long as you respect the new 2021 European drone regulations, you can fly here.
Since 31st December 2020, new European Drone Regulations have been in effect. Read our summary of these EU drone regulations to understand how it impacts you and your drone.
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