Ribeauvillé is undoubtedly one of Alsace’s most picturesque villages. With its wonderful medieval streets, pastel-coloured half-timbered houses and craftsmen’s workshops, the village is an unmissable stop on a trip to Alsace.
Nestled in a bucolic valley covered with lush vineyards, Ribeauvillé enchants visitors at every turn. We recommend that you lose yourself in the narrow streets in search of picturesque glimpses to photograph, such as the view of the seventeenth-century Pfifferhus, the minstrels’ house, which looks like something out of a Grimm brothers’ fairy tale.
Located on the Wine Route, amidst vineyards and mountains, halfway between Strasbourg and Mulhouse, Ribeauvillé is a pretty little town with a population of 5,000 that has combined its historical heritage with modernity.
The town is dominated by the majestic ruins of the Three Castles of the Lords of Ribeaupierre while the centre is dotted with historical buildings dating back to the 15th and 18th centuries and dotted with Renaissance squares decorated with rich fountains.
The Grand’Rue is the main artery of the town of Ribeauvillé and this long street is lined with the most interesting buildings and the most characteristic small squares, each with a picturesque fountain, such as the Vintner’s Fountain, built to celebrate the area’s winemaking art.
The historical centre of Ribeauvillé is a jewel of art and architecture, which can be visited entirely on foot, surrounded by partially preserved city walls and characterised by an incredible array of intact medieval buildings, with colombages, half-timbered houses, the ancient churches of St. Gregory and St. Augustine and an atmosphere that seems to have magically stopped time.
Maison Pfifferhus is one of the most charming and picturesque half-timbered houses in the town. The building dates back to 1663 and on its richly decorated façade is a very characteristic oriel with two statues depicting the Virgin Mary and the archangel Gabriel.
In medieval times, this house was the meeting place for minstrels. Indeed, at the time, the lords of Ribeauvillé were ‘kings’ of minstrels and troubadours throughout Alsace.
The Town Hall Square is the nerve centre of the town and represents the natural boundary between the upper and lower parts of the town. Around the square are some of the most important buildings from the Renaissance period, such as the Town Hall and the fountain of the Deer, dating from 1536.
Opposite the Town Hall is the Augustinian Convent, an admirable example of Gothic architecture that today houses the Sisters of Divine Providence.
For centuries, the picturesque Tour des Bouchers played the role of defensive access between the upper and lower parts of the town. In fact, in the Middle Ages, the town was divided into four fortified zones, linked by towers and gates that allowed controlled passage from one district to the other. This tower in particular, in addition to being a lookout point, also served as a bell tower and prison.
Its name, the Butchers’ Tower, obviously derives from the activity of the butchers’ congregation that carried out its business in this area. Its construction took place in two different periods: the lower part was built in 1290, while in 1536 it was decided to continue up to a height of 29 metres.
A stop at the small but quaint little Place de la Sinne is not to be missed: this picturesque corner of the town is surrounded by beautiful half-timbered buildings in soft pastel colours: the Sun Inn, once a town meeting place, or the Sheep Inn, which served as a post office.
In the centre of the square is the fountain designed in 1862 by the architect André Friedrich: at the top of the fountain is a statue representing the personification of Ribeauvillé, its trade and agriculture.
The centre of the old town used to end in this square, which was once accompanied by a fortified gate. Today, the esplanade is still a lively place with beautiful houses, a rich fountain and some picturesque inns.
Just before reaching the square, note the last stretch of the Grand’Rue, flanked by characteristic canals.
Around Ribeauvillé, you can follow a short but picturesque itinerary called the Circuit of the Three Castles: you can admire three splendid examples of fortified architecture, surrounded by hills and vineyards.
In about 3 hours on foot (round trip) and a 9 km walk, you can see the ruins ofSaint-Ulrich Castle7, perched on a hill with its walls, chapel and tower, Giersberg8, built around the middle of the 13th century and reached on foot through a magnificent forest, and finally Haut-Ribeaupierre Castle9, topped by Mount Taennchel and an important defensive bulwark of the town during the Hundred Years’ War.
In the following map you can see the location of the main places of interest mentioned in this article
In honour of its title as the town of minstrels, the town of Ribeauvillé boasts one of the most original and picturesque Christmas markets in all of Alsace.
This is where the Medieval Christmas Market takes place: once you leave your car (be prepared for queues to park, especially at weekends), you will take a real leap back in time. Waiting for you are ancient inns serving peasant dishes from the Middle Ages, knights, richly dressed ladies, mysterious monks, singers, minstrels, jugglers, street artists, all furnished and reconstructed according to the customs of the time.
Traditions, myths, legends, games, handicrafts, gastronomy and peasant traditions dating back to the Middle Ages mingle together to form an enchanting picture that blends fairy tale and historical reconstruction.
On the first Sunday in September, Ribeauvillé celebrates an ancient tale handed down by oral tradition.
Legend has it that a gentleman from Ribeauvillé, meeting a piper in the street who was desperate because he had lost his flute, gave him a bag of coins. To his surprise, a few days later an immense and surprising procession appeared at the château, led by the piper playing his all-gold instrument: he was followed by bear, dog, cat and monkey tamers, trumpet and drum players, minstrels, troubadours and jugglers. The entire guild of street performers came before him to name him king, in gratitude for his generosity.
Tradition has it that every year since then, musicians and street artists from all over France gather in Ribeauvillé for a great folk festival that invades and cheers up the whole town.
With its Green Holiday Resort and Climatic Resort labels, awarded in recognition of the quality of its environment, Ribeauvillé has a high-quality hotel scene.
Ribeauvillé offers a wide range of bed and breakfast and historical accommodation, often located in period houses, hotels and refined boutique hotels, some of which include excellent restaurants and even cosy spas.
Another interesting option may be to stay just outside the town centre, in comfortable hotels surrounded by the bucolic vineyard landscape: a unique experience worth trying.
What's the weather at Ribeauville? Below are the temperatures and the weather forecast at Ribeauville for the next few days.
Ribeauville is easily accessible by car from Colmar in 24 minutes and from Strasbourg in almost 1 hour.