Saverne is a town 23 kilometres to the north-west of Strasbourg in the Bas-Rhin department of Alsace. Best known perhaps for the Chateau des Rohans, the town has an interesting historic centre and is also popular as a base from which to explore the Vosges mountains and the surrounding region
The site of the town of Saverne has long been important as a gateway for trade, dating back as far as Roman times, due to its position at the end of a pass through the Vosges mountains. The importance of the town was further reinforced when the Bishops from Strasbourg established their homes here.
The main ‘big’ site in the town – and big it is – is the Chateau des Rohans. The castle, constructed at the end of the 18th century for the powerful clergy of Strasbourg, is in the neoclassical style and built from the rather dark red rock of the region, which give it a rather sombre appearance.
The chateau started out as an episcopal (bishops) building but was restored by Napolean and converted into a barracks, and it is now home to a museum of local history, a primary school and a youth hostel.
In front of the castle you will also enjoy a stroll around the harbour and along the sides of the Canal de la Marne au Rhin. The canal continues through the centre of the town, with baskets of colourful geraniums adding an additional splash of colour to the scene.
After taking a look at the castle you will enjoy exploring the pretty streets lined with medieval steep-rooved houses in the historical centre of this active little town. In particular the highlights that you will see in Saverne include:
– various half-timbered houses, in particular two very ornate houses on La Grande Rue. One of these is the most interesting building in the town: the beautiful Taverne Katz with its amazingly ornate facade. It was built in 1605 for Henri Katz who was the chief tax collector and the house is one of the most beautiful in the Bas-Rhin department. Be sure to take the time to look at the numerous carvings of people and fruits in the woodwork of the Maison Katz..
– the Church of the Recollets and the associated gothic style cloisters, built in the 14th century and planted with a selection of medicinal plants and the Church of Notre-Dame, an attractive church with a square tower dating in part from the 12th century that contains various interesting artefacts
The main square in the centre of Saverne is the Place de la Licorne (Place of the Unicorn), where you can also see a statue of a unicorn. The association between unicorns and Saverne dates back more than a thousand years and relates to a legend that a unicorn dipped its horn in the waters here and thus conferred them with therapeutic powers.
There are lots of other interesting buildings, churches and smaller sights of interest that you will also come across as you explore so to make sure you don’t miss anything important be sure to also visit the Saverne Tourist Office (at 37 Grand Rue).
From the top of the town the view along the Grand Rue is very pretty, past the Taverne Katz and the town hall beside it, with its lovely roof, and on down to the hills that form a back-drop beyond.
The Rose Garden in Saverne, on the edge of the river and with several hundreds of varieties of rose planted, is also a very popular attraction with visitors.
If you are staying near Saverne, you should also explore some of the pretty villages such as Bouxwiller and Neuwiller-les-Saverne.
You can find more local travel ideas in the Bas-Rhin guide and the Alsace guide.
“Licorne (Unicorn) is the local beer in Saverne.”
The two oldest seals of the village of Saverne both date from the 14th century. The smaller seal shows the arms as shown above with the unicorn, the great seal shows a fortified town. Later rolls of arms also show initially two coats of arms, with a unicorn or with a town. Later only the above arms were shown as the arms of the town. The origin or meaning of the unicorn, however, are not known. The colours are known since the 18th century and were adopted in the 1940s by the local council. In some older sources the colours are shown rather differently.
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