The Château Rohan is an impressive sight at night

Saverne travel guide

About Saverne

Saverne in Alsace Lorraine is famous as the town of the unicorn and for the magnificent Château des Rohan that stands beside the canal.

On an important travel route in Roman times, Saverne was once known as Tres Tabernae Cesaris (Caesar's three taverns) because of the three taverns positioned here on the way to the Lorraine plateau from the continent. Today, it is on another important travel route with the Marne-Rhine canal, connecting the rivers Marne in France and Rhine in Germany, flowing through the town. Saverne's symbol of the unicorn dates back to the Middle Ages and legend says that a unicorn dipped its head into the Badbrünne fountain, which thereby received healing properties, and pilgrims in the Middle Ages would visit the fountain to sample some of the water. A statue of the unicorn stands proudly on the Grand Rue, Saverne's main street. However, Saverne's history has not always been so fantastical and war has played a large part in its more recent history as it became part of Germany during the Franco-Prussian War but was reclaimed by France at the end of WW2. Situated at the foot of the pass over the Vosges mountains, the Col de Saverne, Saverne is the perfect base for a holiday outdoors hiking and cycling. Goethe immortalised the Col de Saverne in his autobiography after he fell in love with the beauty of this mountainous region.

The town's biggest landmark is the Château des Rohan. Once the home of the bishops of Strasbourg, it now houses the Saverne Museum, a cultural centre, a primary school and a youth hostel. Nearby is Cagliostro tower where the famous Italian adventurer and alchemist Cagliostro once lived at the invitation of the Prince of Rohan.

Saverne has some lovely Romanesque churches as well as a synagogue which was built in 1900 but restored in 1950 after it was destroyed by the Germans during WW2. Near Square Latouche where the war memorial is located are the last remants of the medieval ramparts. There is also a semaphore tower, or optical telegraph, just outside the town which belonged to a line of 50 towers communicating between Paris and Strasbourg, which were created by inventor Claude Chappe. Get your hiking boots on or jump on your mountain bike and explore the area with cycle paths, mountain biking trails and over 200km of paths through the countryside and up the Vosges mountains. Pass many other castles with the Haut-Barr castle perched above Saverne and known as the 'eye of Alsace', and the ruins of the Ochsenstein, Greifenstein and the Little Gerdolseck and Big Gerdolseck castles. Walk up through the Col de Saverne to Prince Charles' Leap, a rocky escarpment from which, according to legend, the Prince of Rohan leaped from in order to escape pursuers. Traces of his horse's hoof prints are engraved in the rocks nearby. Along the Col de Saverne you will also find two fabulous gardens - the Rose Garden, la Roseraie, and the Botanical Gardens, the Jardin Botanique du Col de Saverne. The Rose Garden contain over 550 different varieties of roses and hosts the International Contest of New Roses every year in June.

Saverne has some wonderful shopping for those interested in arts and crafts,as well as clothes shops, souvenir stores, and shops selling regional food. The weekly market on Grand Rue is also great for picking up some local foods such as cheeses like Munster, fresh asparagus and cooked meats such as bluetwurst and knack, both local types of sausage. Try some traditional Alsatian cuisine at a winstub, a local friendly tavern, where you'll find specialities such as sauerkraut (fermented cabbage) often served with wädele (ham shank), tarte flambée (a type of thin pizza covered with cream, onion and bacon lardons) and baeckeoffe (a potato dish simmered in Alsatian white wine with pork, beef and lamb) on the menu alongside wines and beers of Alsace. 

OVERVIEW

  • Country: France

  • Region: Alsace Lorraine

  • Department: Meurthe-et-Moselle

  • Population: 12,000

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