A Christmas tour of Alsace wouldn’t be complete without experiencing the magic of the Ribeauville Christmas Market. In December, the historic wine town turns into a medieval fairy tale! The themed feast attracts thousands of tourists, and on the narrow streets you literally can’t get away from people and just follow the crowd…
Where is located and how to get there
Located on the Alsace Wine Route, Ribeauville is nestled between numerous vineyards and the sheer slopes of the Vosges Mountains. The nearest villages are two other charming places from the area – Riquewihr (5 km) and Bergheim (4 km). In the immediate vicinity is the main road between the popular cities of Colmar (18 km) and Strasbourg (65 km).
You can take the train to Colmar and from there use the special Christmas shuttle to visit the markets in Riquewihr and Ribeauville. More information about it can be found HERE. I’m going to repeat myself with the other articles about Alsace, but in my opinion the best option for traveling around the region is still the car! Thus moving between small villages is the fastest and you can enjoy the wonderful nature in peace.
I had spotted a few parking spots in Ribeauville, but I certainly hadn’t anticipated that the town would be bursting at the seams with visitors… We had to go to the farthest of them all – Parking Hohlegasse. There were no seats even on it, and there were parked cars everywhere on the streets… However, we looked for the moment when space became available and we settled in immediately. And despite the parking difficulties, this is another place in Alsace where we don’t pay for parking! From here we left to a rope bridge that took us to the westernmost part of the main street Grand’Rue…
Time for lunch – the slow-roasted wild boar in the square
We hadn’t had lunch yet and decided to head directly to the big square in front of the town hall… A local specialty is prepared on it, which has become emblematic of Ribeauville – wild boar spinning on a spit! Following the aromas of the slow-roasting game meat, we somehow managed to make our way through the crowd to get there…
I recommend the sandwich full of meat (€5)… They cut it directly from the spit! To try it all, we topped it off with farmer’s soup (€2.50) and red cabbage… with more game meat (€7.50). Luckily for us, we managed to find a seat at one of the nearby wooden tables. The medieval flavor of the Ribeauville Christmas market in its full glory!
More about Ribeauville
The town began its existence mainly with houses of winegrowers and craftsmen. In the Middle Ages, the lands were entrusted to the management of the Ribeaupierre family, who built three magnificent castles that can still be seen today in the hills around Ribeauville. They began to take full advantage of its favorable location and turn it into an important trading city, and in the 13th century city fortifications and defensive towers were already built, some of which have been preserved to this day. Through the streets of Ribeauville you will see the famous Alsace architecture with beautiful half-timbered buildings dating from different periods – mainly between the 15th and 18th centuries.
💡 In many places you can find Ribeauville as the city of Minstrels! A “Festival of Fiddlers” is held annually. This glory of the city dates back to the time of the Ribeaupierre, who protected traveling artists.
The medieval Christmas market
A Christmas market like you’ve never seen anywhere else in the world! Its magic transports visitors to a delightful medieval atmosphere inspired by the history of Ribeauville. Its streets become a stage for singing troubadours in medieval costumes, dressed as strange creatures stilt walkers, acrobats, jugglers and other artists… We even met a few camels pulled by their cameleer… An outdoor show that happens in only two weekends before Christmas!
Stalls for Christmas wreaths, handmade dolls, candles, all kinds of toys, objects and household goods are scattered throughout the city. And those for sweet and salty delicacies can captivate even the most demanding gourmets! You might try roasted chestnuts or freshly made apple cider. The mulled wine is probably the best in all of Alsace, and the beautiful porcelain cup is decorated with the coat of arms of the city. Almost all the sellers are transformed in a medieval style, and at times they even stop work to sing a song in unison or do something else to attract the eyes of passers-by…
Where is the Christmas market located
You can find a corner of medieval Christmas magic all along the main street – Grand’Rue! I mentioned to you that we entered the city from the westernmost part, around the Place de la Republique, where tourists often hardly go… However, the main entrance to Ribeauville is on its eastern side, at the intersection with Route de Bergheim. From there comes the main flow of visitors and the medieval tale begins…
The aroma of soup boiling in a cauldron wafts through the small square by the entrance, and several wooden huts with different purposes mark the beginning of the main street… After less than 100 meters are perhaps the most artistic mulled wine stands, and the space behind them has been turned into an improvised zoo and a bunch of other activities for the little ones.
Every wider space along the Grand’Rue has something going on (Place Gouraud, Maison Jeanne d’Arc, Place de la 1ere Armee, Cour de la Mediatheque, Place de l’Hotel de Ville, Cour Sipp , Place de la Sinne, Place du Bouc, Place de la Republique, etc.) There are various medieval games for young and old, photo corners and a bunch of other activities that won’t let you get bored even for a moment!
The decorations and the houses
Walk through the picturesque streets of Ribeauville and immerse yourself in the medieval atmosphere! Remember that your eyes must be constantly directed upwards to enjoy the delightful details on the facades and the beautiful Christmas decorations. Undoubtedly, the most impressive are along the main street Grand’Rue, but at times you can deviate to some of the side streets.
Despite the huge traffic and crowds, we didn’t miss stopping around some of the city’s landmarks, such as the 18th-century town hall and the former 13th-century defensive tower Tour des Bouchers. And perhaps the most beautiful houses in Ribeauville are Pfifferhüss (14 Grand‘Rue) and Auberge de l’Éléphant (1 Place de la Première Armée).
Shining stars, wreaths, hearts, pretzels, sacks of gifts and many other Christmas elements on the half-timbered buildings are a perfect backdrop for the fairy-tale atmosphere of the Alsatian town. And the garlands of lights and the lanterns hanging over the street only hint that with the coming of the night, the place will become even more magical…
Ribeauville at the dark
We planned to spend about two hours in Ribeauville and then head to Kaysersberg-Vignoble for dinner, but we were captivated by the spirit of the Christmas market and decided to stay the rest of the day! We were definitely not wrong… The festive lighting of Alsatian towns creates an incredible atmosphere, but here our expectations were exceeded…
We assumed that the falling temperatures would cause people to disperse, but on the contrary, the crowds remained and the merriment on the streets of Ribeauville was rising! We also immersed ourselves in the entertainment, as a special pleasure we were given two locations where we came unexpectedly…
The square between Rue de la Sinne and Rue des Boulangers
We decided to continue our tour to the western part of the city from where we entered. Passing the Tour des Bouchers tower, we ducked into one of the intersections to find ourselves in a small plaza with various activities – HERE. In addition to the many games, various medieval and craft items were for sale.
The courtyard of the winery – Domaine Jean Sipp
We returned to the Grand’Rue only to see a huge crowd of people at the next intersection, which we followed a second and ended up at the gates of the Domaine Jean Sipp winery… Inside was the funnest place in Ribeauville! Pleasant melodies floated throughout the courtyard, and in addition to the amused visitors, there were also a few medieval knights swaying to the beat… And shortly before we left, they demonstrated a spectacular sword fight!
While we were still in the “lower” part of the center we tried to reserve a table at two restaurants for later in the evening (Winstub La Flammerie and D’baecka Ofa Stub), but got a resounding no… And despite our hearty lunch, we were already getting hungry… This led us to the central bar where we chose to try the Alsatian specialty – Galettes de Pommes de Terre. These are potato pancakes to which spices and leeks have been added. They were very tasty!
Christmas beer at Bar Saint Ulrich
We still didn’t feel like going! I had mentioned to you that the western part of the city is less busy, and that is exactly what helped us find a free table at the bar Saint Ulrich… A cozy place where we decided to warm up and drink a local Christmas beer each (330 ml. – around €6). And the lighter eating gave us the perfect opportunity to try the popular Alsatian salami (around €3), which until now only caught our eyes hanging in the windows of delicatessens…
Last walk around Ribeauville
The square in front of the bar was still bustling, and right in the center of it, a sympathetic lady in medieval garb was cooking the last soups of the day. At its other end, playful flames from logs split in the middle warmed some of the last visitors to the city… And we were so intoxicated by the whole experience that we unanimously decided to take another walk down the night high street! The crowds of people had already settled and it was possible to enjoy the beautifully decorated half-timbered buildings in peace. It was as if we were seeing everything for the first time! The lights and decorations were even more magical…
For a final
The Christmas market in Ribeauville was the most impressive of all the ones we visited in Alsace! Its medieval mood is indescribable… It’s a fact that the traffic and attendance on the four days of the market is huge, but it is worth swallowing the inconvenience to indulge in this experience! Even if you can’t visit the town on the two medieval weekends before Christmas, you can just walk around it!