Welcome to Ribeauvillé, the town that’s so charming it gives the rest of France a run for its money! Nestled in the heart of Alsace, this place is like a real-life fairy tale, minus the wicked stepmother and pumpkin carriages.
The Alsace region in France is a one-of-a-kind destination, and if you are traveling through, a stop in the tiny village of Ribeauvillé is a must, in my opinion. Having been half-German, it has a feel that is completely different from other parts of France.
With its cobblestone streets that seem designed for photo-happy tourists, the village is lined with half-timbered houses straight out of a storybook.
Indeed, the villages of Ribeauvillé and next door Riquewihr are famous for being the town that inspired Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. (Unfortunately there is no Disney store there, and you will not find Belle wandering around.)
Pronounced “Ri-bo-vill-ay” (don’t forget the “Ay”, eh!), this medieval village is famous for its charming architecture, rich history, and delicious local cuisine.
It is located along the Alsace Wine Route, making the village of Ribeauvillé a a popular destination for tourists and wine enthusiasts alike.
So let’s explore the village of Ribeauvillé and see what there is to see and do in this charming corner of Alsace, shall we? Allons-y!
History of Ribeauvillé
The history of Ribeauvillé dates back to the 8th century and has always been connected with wealthy Alsacian noble families. You can still find traces of this today in the area, if you don’t mind going on a small walk.
Right next to the village are the three castle ruins that you can hike up to and explore.
As with much of Alsace, the town was regularly swept up in the conflicts between France and Germany, along with the rest of Europe. The town is called Rappoltsweiler in German and Rappschwihr in Alsacian. You can read more facts about Alsace here.
Things to do in Ribeauvillé
1. The Old Town and Village
Wandering around the streets, souvenir shopping at the cute shops, and sampling the local cuisine are the best ways to spend your time here.
The summer months are perfectly enchanting, but it is even better in winter. The fairytale-like atmosphere makes Ribeauvillé the perfect setting for traditional Christmas markets, which are so famous in this part of Europe.
2. The Châteaux ruins
Ribeauvillé is also the perfect place to head out for a small hike. Right next to the village are the castle ruins of Château Saint Ulrich, Chateau Girsberg, and Château du Haut-Ribeaupierre. A walking trail leads from the village right up to these castles.
The Château de Ribeaupierre dates back to the Middle ages and sits atop a hill overlooking the village. The castle is open to visitors and offers stunning views of the surrounding area, as well as a glimpse into the history of the region.
From here, you’ll have great views of the village and the vineyards in the area. You may be tempted to stop at the first two castles, but make sure to continue your hike to the 3rd as well.
All three castles were built by the powerful Ribeaupierre family (Rappolstein in German) in the 11-13th century. They used them to control the area and occupied them along with their vassals.
The castles fell out of disuse in the 16th and 17th centuries when the family moved to a new Renaissance-style mansion nearby, which is today a school.
3. Vineyards along the Alsace Wine Route
The surrounding Alsace region is known for its excellent wines, so this should definitely be on your to-do list.
There are over 7 main types of wine produced in Alsace so visit a vineyard for a wine tasting.
Wine lovers will also find plenty to enjoy in the surrounding area, as the village is located in the heart of Alsace’s wine country. Visitors can take a tour of one of the local wineries, sample the delicious local wines, and learn about the region’s winemaking traditions.
There are several wine tours that you can take where tastings are offered free, and you can purchase a few bottles as a souvenir.
4. Food and local specialties
Ribeauvillé is also home to a number of excellent restaurants that serve traditional Alsatian cuisine. Visitors can enjoy dishes such as tarte flambée (a type of thin-crust pizza), choucroute (sauerkraut), and baeckeoffe (a hearty stew made with potatoes, onions, and meats).
Wash it down with some local beer as you take in the local scenery. You can read more about foods and drinks in Alsace here.
How to get there?
Ribeauvillé is located in the northeast of France, close to the border with Germany in the Alsace. If you like these fairytale-like villages as much as we do, make sure to add neighboring Riquewihr, Colmar, and Kaysersberg to your Alsace trail road trip.
By car: Off the A35 highway
By train: TGV high-speed trains run into Strasbourg from Paris and most large cities in Western Europe. From there, you can take the local TER into Ribeauvillé.
By plane: Nearest airports are at Strasbourg and Mulhouse, both equally 45 minutes away (assuming no traffic).
How many days should you spend here?
The village itself is small, but if you would like to explore the Alsace trail, you could pick Ribeauvillé as your base to spend a night or two.
It is located between Strasbourg (45 minutes) and Colmar (30 minutes), making it easy to explore both.
When is the best time to visit?
Ribeauvillé is famous for its medieval festival called Pfifferdaj, fête des ménétriers, which takes place the 1st week of September. Minstrels, musicians, and acrobats all put on a show in a festival dating back to the Middle ages.
A medieval market and entertainment are organized in the town centre, before a torchlight procession at nightfall. On Sunday, there is usually a great medieval procession, led by floats and brass bands.
The village is also famous for its Christmas market in December, like other areas of Alsace.
Where should you stay?
If you are looking for medieval village charm, I recommend staying in the immediate vicinity of Ribeauvillé village:
For more luxurious accommodations, with pool and spa amenities:
- €€€€ – Hôtel Barrière Ribeauvillé (outside village)
So if you were debating heading to Ribeauvillé, don’t hesitate visiting this charming little village in a very unique part of the world. If you enjoyed that article, you may like to read more about visiting Alsace. Bon voyage and à bientôt!