Fortified Castles of Alsace Association

In the French region of Alsace, there are over a hundred remaining castle ruins on the Alsatian side of the Vosges mountains. Most of these ruins are in the open countryside, and all but four are freely accessible. Many are maintained by volunteer associations which were created in the last 20 years. The aim of the association Fortified Castles of Alsace (Châteaux Forts d’Alsace), created in 2013, is to underline the importance of this remarkable heritage to the public, to elected representatives, the authorities and the general public, through a range of different initiatives.

Fortified Castles of Alsace Association, FRANCE

By the mid-18th century, most of Alsace’s fortified castles had been abandoned and left in ruins. Today, there are five that are regularly maintained such as the Haut-Koenigsbourg, which attracts approximately 500,000 visitors a year, and is operated at commercial level. The other castles, however, are left mostly in poor conditions. For this reason, there has been a movement among local communities to reclaim this heritage, to preserve the castles and ensure their accessibility to the public through the establishment of volunteer organisations.

These volunteers have achieved a huge amount of success with very few resources and limited public support. For more extensive restoration works, such as the consolidation of ruins, the organisations are almost entirely reliant on public funding.

In 2013, after a period of public budget cutbacks, the Fortified Castles of Alsace was created to support these volunteer-based organisations. The association sought to demonstrate that the castles were valuable to the region, not just from a cultural point of view, but also for the economy and society.

Fortified Castles of Alsace Association, FRANCE

The projects undertaken by the association have included the creation of a website presenting their history and events for diverse audiences. A major achievement was the creation of the Alsace Fortified Castles’ Trail, which spans 450km, 26 stages and passes 80 castles. The Alsace Castles Day takes place annually on 1 May and enables organisations to organise events and visits for the public. Also notable is the involvement of historians in the production of resources for schools.

These activities have raised the profile of the region as a whole, and helped motivate the interest of local authorities in continuing their support for the maintenance of the castles. This includes the “Rhine Castles” INTERREG 2023-2025 project, which launched in October 2022 and brings together 37 partners from France, Germany and Switzerland to research and communicate about the castles on a cross-border level.


The community-driven approach of the Fortified Castles of Alsace not only ensures sustainability and local relevance but also fosters inclusivity, a strong sense of ownership and pride among the local community, including young and non-traditional audiences”, the Awards’ Jury said.

The initiative is very successful in the promotion of regional identity, as well as in the engagement of the local community in the care for their heritage. Together with the integration of tourism and the visibility they have succeeded in raising, the project is very transferable also at European level”, the Jury commented.

Contact: Laurence Rasseneur, ACFA | |