The town is located in the foothills of the Vosges mountains at the bottom of the Mount Saint-Odile and 8 km south of Obernai. Running through Barr is the Kirneck river, a tributary of the Andlau river.
Originally an imperial property, the Habsburgs gave up the town to Nicholas Ziegler in 1522. His sons later sold the town to the city of Strasbourg, and Barr had to ally itself with the city in the war which pitted protestant Strasbourg against the catholic Lorraine province. In 1592 the attackers burned the castle, the common house and seventy residential homes, and tortured several inhabitants.
During the Thirty Year War the town had to endure the Imperials, the Swedes and the French, but not as much as some of the surrounding villages. During the conflict between Louis XIV and Strasbourg the town was occupied by the French; the murder of an officer by a villager resulted in the burning of the town as an act of revenge, however there was no massacre of the inhabitants, contrary to common tales. Similarly, claims by a creative site  that the town was levelled in 1675 are unfounded.
The town was rapidly rebuilt and in no similar disaster happened in later years, even if the town had to endure the presence of troops and provide their sustenance.
In the 18th century a trial took place which was to last over 100 years, between Barr nobility and the city of Strasbourg, which claimed the forests as its property. In 1763 a first decision gave a third to Strasbourg; after the appeal it only in 1836 was the verdict definitively confirmed. Only 40 years ago, old-timers still called the portion taken by Strasbourg d'r g'stohlne Wàld, the stolen forest. In the 18th century Strasbourg built, legally, a small canal which took the water of the Kirneck which was supposed to flow to Andlau, and old-timers in Andlau, up to 50 years ago, were talking about g'stohlnes Wasser, stolen water. Today this dispute seems to be largely forgotten, the canal has not been maintained since the eighties and the water will soon resume its flow toward Andlau.
In 1944 the town was the site of fearce battles between the German and American forces
Barr nowadays is in a state of relative decline. It remains the wine-producing capital of the Bas-Rhin, but a large part of the vineyards have been sold to cooperatives belonging to other towns; the tanning shops only employ a small number of workers. Tourism has not had the same success as in neighboring Obernai.