The Ultimate Travel Guide to Kaysersberg, Alsace

Kaysersberg is an instant heart-stealer, there is no doubt about that. But before hearing your first ‘Bonjour’, you may well wonder if you are on German or French grounds. However, having changed hands many times during its history, this comes as no surprise.

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Kaysersberg has everything you would expect from a quintessentially medieval village: a maze of cobblestone streets filled with colourful half-timbered houses, a quaint river running through, and a castle – or at least its ruins – dominating the background. Even its name, meaning Emperor’s Mountain, and the local cuisine pay homage to the village’s German roots.

But at the same time, Kaysersberg is as French as it gets, with its backdrop of vines and surrounded by centuries-old family wineries. In fact, the area around it is one of the finest wine-growing regions in Alsace, with the first vines brought here from Hungary as early as the 16th century.

From castles and towers to wineries and MICHELINstarred restaurants, here is everything you need to see, do, and eat in a French village like no other!

When to Visit Kaysersberg

When it comes to the best time to visit Kaysersberg, climate needn’t be a major consideration. An important factor, instead, should be tourism itself, as Kaysersberg is tiny and suffers from a deluge of summertime visitors. That means you’d better avoid the main French holiday periods (mid-July to the end of August) as you will have to deal with both tourists and French people holidaying in their own country. 

Therefore, opt for the months of April to June, when the sunny days make sightseeing and cycling in the region superb, and the vines turn green again. But if you want to enjoy the wine routes specifically, visit Kaysersberg during the harvest season, running from late September to early November. During that time, there are many wine festivals, and you can even organise an excursion to join in the grape harvest. 

Kaysersberg may be gorgeous at any time of year but is in its prime at Christmas when it hosts one of the most authentic Christmas markets on the four Advent weekends. The houses’ windows get decorated with fir garlands, around 30 stalls selling handcrafted gifts, Christmas treats, and steaming mulled wine get set up at the courtyard behind the Sainte-Croix church, and as soon as the night falls twinkling lights throughout the village create a winter wonderland.

🗓 Christmas MarketsDates 2022: from November 25 to December 20, Fri-Sun: 10.00-20.00

And if you want to plan your trip in a way that coincides with a festival, you can check out these events.

How to Get to Kaysersberg

The closest airports to Kaysersberg are those of EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg (BSL) and Strasbourg (SXB), both of which are about 70km away. From there, you can either hop on a bus or train to Colmar and then make your way to Kaysersberg by bus or rent a car. 

Getting there by Public Transport

Colmar is the transport hub of the region, and unless you have your own set of wheels, be it a car or a bicycle, you’d better base yourself there. You can reach Colmar directly from EuroAirport by hopping on a Flixbus (from €5, 1 hour 15 minutes, 3 times per day). There are also numerous buses and trains taking you there from every major French city. 

Once in Colmar, take Bus Line #13 towards Le Bonhomme.  The bus ride takes about 30 minutes and costs €4,00. You can find the full timetable here

Getting there by Car

Without a doubt, the easiest way to reach Kaysersberg is by car. Parking in the village shouldn’t be a problem, as there are plenty of parking spots found in two zones: the purple one and the yellow one. A parking fee has to be paid from 9:00 to 12:00 and from 14:00 to 19:00 in the yellow zone, and from 9:00 to 19:00 in the purple zone.

If you stay the night in Kaysersberg, your host will either provide you with a card to park free of cost or give you a coupon that allows you to park the whole day for 5,00€ in the yellow zone. Otherwise, you have to pay an hourly rate, depending on the zone you park in. Parking in the purple zone is much more expensive and is only allowed for a maximum of 2 hours.

Here, you can find a map with the parking spots available and the rates per hour.

Getting around

Kaysersberg is teeny-tiny, and you can walk around it in about 20 minutes. Therefore, neither a car nor a bike is required for Kaysersberg itself, but we absolutely recommend renting one to explore the nearby villages. This website is a great source for organising a bike trip in Alsace.

Eager for exploring the wine route? Check out our guide for the Ultimate Road Trip in Alsace

What to See in Kaysersberg

Château de Kaysersberg (Schlossberg)

Perched on the hill high above the village, the ruins of the 13th-century imperial castle are a looming presence. The castle had a strategic role as it was used to control an important passageway between the regions of Upper Alsace and Lorraine. From the top of its round keep, the views of the rooftops of Kaysersberg and the surrounding vineyards are magnificent, but it requires you to climb the spiral staircase with its 100 steps.

To get there, follow any of the three well-marked walking trails from the historic village center (see map). The trail from the fortified bridge along Rue des Forgerons and the one starting from the Hôtel de Ville involve a steep climb, while the route through the vineyards is a more leisurely one.

The towers  

The castle of Kaysersberg was surrounded by ramparts dotted with six defensive towers, five of which are still standing today. They date back to the 14th century and their administration was entrusted to bakers, tanners, coopers, and winemakers.

Closest to the castle, the High Gate Tower served as a watchtower, while all that’s left of the nearby Pfaffenturm is its lowest part with its arrow slits. A stone’s throw away is Kesslerturm, the tallest tower of the rampart, which could only be entered by ladder. A plaque hung on it commemorates the 20 inmates that waited there for their fate during WWII. 

On the other side of the river, Tour de l’Hôpital was used as a powder keg and inside the 20-meter-high Tour des Sorcières (Witches’ Tower), also known as Junker Hansen Tower, thieves and other criminals were locked up until the French Revolution.

The fortified bridge (pont fortifié)

If there is one single place that characterises Kaysersberg, this is the fortified bridge. Originally it was a simple wooden structure that connected the old town with the upper village, cut off by the 24-km-long river Weiss. Later, in 1514, it was replaced by the current stone bridge with its crenelated parapet and loopholes that allowed archers and cannoneers to prevent incursion from the river.  

But what’s even more unique about this bridge are some additions on its one side.

At its left end, there is the small statuette of the martyr priest Jean Népomucène, the patron saint of boatmen, fishermen, and bridges. And right in the middle, an aedicule houses today the statue of the Virgin and Child. Its use in the distant past, however, was quite different: residents responsible for minor offences were locked up here for a short time to become the laughingstock of the whole village.

The historical buildings

Rue du Général de Gaulle is more than just the village’s main street: it is a living museum peppered with half-timbered houses! And most of them have gorgeous inscriptions carved above their doors and bearing testament to the many centuries of existence.

A stroll along the street takes you first to Hôtel de Ville (no.39), the town hall of Kaysersberg, from where a passageway leads you to the inner courtyard. Then there is Maison Loewert (no.65) with the beautiful oriel windows and the baroque painting of Virgin and Child, which now houses an excellent bakery on its ground floor. And just a few meters away are the patrician twin houses with the paired gables (no.66 & 68) occupied by the historical museum and a restaurant, respectively.

Clustered around the east side of the fortified bridge are three more remarkable buildings, one next to the other. At the Old Butcher’s shop (no.78), rebuilt in 1616, villagers would come to sell their food products, while Maison Herzer (no.101), built for a blacksmith called Herzer, bears the inscription “Thistles and thorns prick sore, but evil tongues prick even more” in German on its large window. Hard-to-miss Badhus (no.103), taking its name from the public baths and the washhouse built on the ground floor in 1872, was initially an inn and the office of the municipal gourmet, who acted as an intermediary between winegrowers and buyers. 

And just across the bridge, Maison Faller Brief (no.88) was built for the cooper Paul Offinger, whose initials and emblem appear several times on the walls.

Other charming houses but not directly on Rue du Général de Gaulle include the 15th century Maison Buchelé (Rue de l’Ancien Hôpital) and the first school in the town, Maison Bohn, located at the end of the cul-de-sac where is thought to be the original entrance to the castle (Impasse du Père Staub).

The Churches  

Without a doubt, the most impressive church in Kaysersberg is the red-sandstone Église Sainte-Croix, dedicated to the Holy Cross. Step inside the magnificent 13th-century Romanesque portal and appreciate the wooden altar with the 18 painted haut-relief panels of the Passion and the Resurrection.

Out front, a Renaissance fountain holds aloft a statue of Constantine the Great, whose mother, St Helena, was credited with having discovered the fragments of the True Cross. 

Right behind Sainte-Croix, the chapel of Saint-Michel shelters in its basement an ossuary that houses bones of the nearby cemetery. On the banks of river Weiss, the Oberhof chapel, also known as Notre-Dame du Scapulaire, is classified as a historical monument as well.

The museums

When it comes to Alsace, happening upon wine museums is what you would probably expect. 

There may not be one in Kaysersberg itself, but in the nearby village of Kientzheim, you will find Musée du Vignoble et des Vins d’Alsace, located within the castle of the Saint-Etienne brotherhood. Wandering through its 300 m², you will come across a wine cellar with its vats, barrels, presses, and a transportable still, and learn all about the richness of regional viticulture.

In Kaysersberg, walk in Verrerie d’Art for a unique glassblowing demonstration and wander among their spectacular collection of Lorraine glass. Then drop in Musée Historique de Kaysersberg to find some interesting Medieval weapons, Neolithic tools, and religious artefacts, including a wooden sculpture of Jesus on Palm Sunday and an Opening Virgin (Jul-Aug, free). 

Finally, plunge back into the life of one of the most famous Nobel Peace Prize winners in Musée Albert-Schweitzer. Dr. Schweitzer (1875–1965), a musicologist, theologian, and medical doctor, was born in Kaysersberg but spent his life going back and forth to Lambaréné, a town in Gabon, to build a hospital. His birthplace is now a museum that traces the doctor’s life and work in Alsace and Gabon.  

The wineries

In the heart of Kaysersberg, you will find Haas Bernard et Fils, a family winery running since 1776. Their 11-hectare vineyard, named “Côtes de Kaysersberg”, and mainly represented by three grape varieties – Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Pinot Gris – is located to the left of the castle. You are welcome to taste their wines daily, but if you want to take a tour of the winery and cellar, a reservation 24 hours in advance is required. 

On the outskirts of town, Domaine Weinbach, established as a winery in 1612 by Capuchin friars, is an unmissable stop for those looking for a special wine experience. And a little further (1.5km), in the village of Kientzheim, three more excellent wineries are also worth your visit: Domaine Paul Blanck, Domaine Blanck André et ses Fils, and Schmitt & Carrer.

What & Where to Eat in Kaysersberg

| What to Eat |

With a cuisine distinct from other French regions yet incorporating Germanic culinary traditions, Alsatians are hearty eaters. Some local specialties include baeckeoffe, a slow-cooked casserole of wine-marinated meat and vegetables, coq au Riesling, the local version of the classic coq au vin, the quintessentially Alsatian choucroute (aromatic pickled cabbage), and the infamous tarte flambée, a wafer-thin flatbread topped with crème fraiche, fromage blanc, and onions.

When Christmas is around the corner, spicy Bredele cookies, kirsch-laced Berawecka fruit cake, Mannele brioche in the shape of little men, and pain d’épices gingerbread make great foodie stocking fillers. Other beloved festive treats include the paschal lamb-shaped Lamala biscuits at Easter and the mouthwatering shenkele beignets, made with ground almonds and cherry liquor, during Mardi Grass.

| For drinks |

You may be in the ‘wine route’, where winemaking has evolved into fine art, but at the same time, there are nearly 40 craft breweries and microbreweries in Alsace. So, here, a foaming beer is just as popular as a glass of wine! 

To be honest, we hardly tried any wine in Kaysersberg as we found two lovely places with artisanal beers: Brasserie Bisaiguë and Le Bar’th. If you do go for the wine, however, try the excellent Riesling, aromatic Gewurztraminer, and fruity Pinot Gris, or the grapey Muscat and the sparkling Crémant d’Alsace.

| For Coffee & Breakfast |  

  • Boulangerie L’Enfariné: Frequented mostly by local clientele, this is an excellent bakery housed on the ground floor of one of the village’s most iconic buildings. We tried everything from mozzarella-pesto sandwich to croissant, quiche and tarts, and each and every one delivered!

  • Sur un nuage … le bonheur: Here, you will find delicious crêpes and waffles made with recipes and dedication that go back generations. And as soon as you taste them, ‘you will be on cloud nine’, as its name suggests.

  • Le bruit qui court: This cafe is a hidden gem featuring a cute courtyard with a vegetable garden. The coffee is coupled with homemade cakes and quiche, while the wine or beer goes perfectly with a planchette de fromage (cheese board).

| For dinner and lunch |

  • L’Alchémille : Named after Alchemilla, the favourite plant of alchemists, this old bar has been transformed into a Scandinavian-like Michelin star restaurant. It is run by chef Jérôme Jaegle, a market gardener, permaculture enthusiast, and the son and grandson of butchers and charcutiers. His creative and individual cuisine focuses, unsurprisingly, on herbs and vegetables grown in his kitchen garden, as well as other locally sourced ingredients. Choose from one of the three menus offered and let the chef surprise you! 

  • La Table d’Olivier Nasti : At this 2-starred Michelin restaurant housed in Hotel Le Chambard, the chef has created a personal menu that takes the seasons into account and pays particular attention to sauces and decoctions. The dishes are visually arresting, and no ingredient is off limits: game, morels from the Vosges, foie gras, eels from the Rhine, truffles, and even Arctic char.

  • Winstub Du Chambard : Chef Olivier Nasti runs this Bib Gourmand winstub as well, revisiting all that Alsace’s terroir has to offer: baeckeoffe and choucroute, onion tart, and fish presskopf with radish.

  • La Vieille Forge : Chef Laurine Gutleben’s dishes give pride of place to fresh produce and free rein to creativity at another Bib Gourmand restaurant.

  • Le Moreote : A cosy and intimate restaurant, Le Moreote is run by a lovely couple – a passionate chef and a charming hostess. The delicious dinner is a 3 to 5-course set menu, ranging from 65 to 85€ per person.

Where to Stay in Kaysersberg

Truth be told, a day is more than enough to explore Kaysersberg. But we really enjoyed arriving there, getting an early night, and then waking up fresh to have the village all to ourselves. In addition, Kaysersberg is an excellent place to settle in for a couple of nights if you want to explore nearby villages such as Riquewihr, Ribeauville, and Eguisheim.

While it doesn’t have any international hotel strips, it does have plenty of charming gîtes, as most locals have turned their homes into holiday cottages for let. Keep in mind, however, that even those sell out quickly during the peak season. 

| Budget: In the middle of the village, the one-bedroom apartment Origin’alsace is budget-friendly for couples, while those with kids will adore their stay at Le Grenier du Photographe. Another great option is La Parenthèse, a beautifully restored two-bedroom house offering a bicycle rental service. 

| Luxury: If you’re looking to treat yourself, there’s no place like Relais et Châteaux Le Chambard. This five-star spot offers an unforgettable level of luxury, rooms that open to a terrace with views over the vineyard, and a two-Michelin star restaurant. And if you fancy an apartment with your own sauna and hot tub, look no further than La Suite – Spa & Sauna.

Le Grenier du Photographe →
 Relais et Châteaux Le Chambard →
La Suite – Spa & Sauna →

Map of Kaysersberg 

Now, how about exploring the rest that the oldest wine route in France has to offer?
We’ve got you covered with this Ultimate Road Trip Guide to Alsace!


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