We continue our tour of the smallest region in France with another charming village. Riquewihr is surrounded by vast mountain slopes with vineyards that descend to its intact fortress walls. And the beautiful architecture gets a unique Christmas atmosphere in December… It is called by many the “pearl in the crown” of Alsace!
Where is located and how to get there
Located at the foot of the Vosges Mountains, it is just 15 km from Colmar and around 70 km from Strasbourg. From the capital of the region there are day trips to its most interesting villages and Riquewihr has a major role in them. From Colmar can be reached in 30 minutes, thanks to the permanent bus line #106.
It’s most convenient to travel by car. Due to its fame, it overflows with tourists, especially on weekends. The most convenient for us was the parking lot next to the main gate – Parking Payant. The machine reads the car number when entering and you don’t need to pick up a ticket. Upon leaving, you enter the number and pay the amount due. We paid about 3 euro for a few hours walk. But there is only one payment machine, and in the late afternoon, when most visitors leave, there are huge queues.
On the main street Rue du Général de Gaulle
The village is completely surrounded by beautifully preserved fortress walls. There are two layers of them, the older ones date from the 13th century, and the perfectly preserved outer ones are from the 16th century. The inside between them was built during the greatest prosperity of Riquewihr, between the 15th and 17th centuries and is intact to this day! Maybe by accident, but the cobbled streets and exquisite architecture haven’t the slightest trace of the two world wars!
💡 In the past, the place was known as Winzerdorf or “wine village”. To this day, this is one of the centers for wine trade in Alsace! The most common is the production of white wine, especially the Riesling variety.
The former lower gate has been demolished and the central part is entered through a makeshift tunnel in the Hotel de Ville. Passing through it, the cars disappear and we find ourselves in a fairytale environment. Elegant fountains, ancient wells, beautiful courtyards and wooden buildings with charming windows are just some of the romance that awaits us in the streets of Riquewihr!
Enjoy the amazing variety of colorful facades on the main street in Riquewihr. Most of the houses are designated as historical monuments. One of the most famous buildings is the “skyscraper” or a five-storey building with a half-timbered yellow facade. Its height is 25 meters and this makes it the tallest wooden house in all of Alsace!
The decoration on the facades
The most beautiful to visit is in the spring to autumn, when a spectacle of flowers pours on its streets! Many flowers contribute to the pleasant atmosphere. And of course… at Christmas! Then Riquewihr recreates in a unique way the magic of the holiday and combines it with local traditions. The small shop Le Comptoir des Authentics is literally full of teddy bears, wrapped gifts and snowflakes… The restaurant Relais des Moines has beautifully decorated windows, and the orange house next to it impresses with the knits and elements hung on she, hinting at the focus of the shop located in the hall… The decorations, accompanied by Christmas carols in the streets, create a unique Christmas atmosphere!
At the end of the main street is the remarkable 25-meter construction dating back to the 13th century! She served as an observation tower and a bell tower, where the guard lived with his family and was responsible for closing the gate every night. The stone from the nearby mountain was used for the construction, and the inner facade is richly decorated, while the outer one is extremely simple. The name Dolder comes from the purpose of the tower and in Alsatian means “highest point”.
Lunch – Tart flambe (Flammekueche)
Wandering the crowded streets and looking for a place to sit for lunch isn’t desirable. We had chosen two restaurants, one of which was closed and the other overflowing… This made us improvise in our choice and from the second restaurant we were directed to “Au vieux Riquewihr“.
The beautiful blue building outside turned out to be traditional and inside. The pleasant and cozy local atmosphere made us try one of the most traditional foods in Alsace – tart flambe (Flammekueche in Alsatian and tarte flambée in French). Despite the resemblance to pizza, locals insist that their specialty is completely independent and even older than Italian. It originated as a family recipe, and products prepared in every family at that time were used to prepare it. Thinly rolled leftovers from the bread dough, spread with homemade cream, sprinkled generously with onions and a few pieces of smoked pork. Baked for a few minutes to a perfect golden crust… A simple recipe whose fame has gone beyond the family kitchen and is now available literally everywhere in Alsace!
Since we tried the traditional version in Colmar, here we decided to improvise with one of the special offers of the restaurant. Emmental, tomatoes and olives had been added. Great aroma and taste! In addition, mulled wine (Vin Chaud), for warming up on a cold December day…
The charming shops
The huge tourist flow has greatly developed the supply of various Alsatian goods in Riquewihr. On the streets you will see many beautiful shops selling souvenirs, local delicacies, handmade products and of course… wine! Under the Christmas motto “Caves de Noël” (Christmas cellars), wineries open their doors and reveal their secrets… A mix of smells wafts through the streets, and beautiful windows with sausages and other delicacies attract the attention of passersby.
The macarons of Riquewihr and Maison Alsacienne de Biscuiterie
And namely one of the aromas, that of freshly baked sweets, takes us to the Maison Alsacienne de Biscuiterie. It started its existence as a small family bakery in Riquewihr, today it is among the most popular and recognizable in Alsace!
In Eguisheim we tried their French macarons, and here it was mandatory to try the traditional sweets for Riquewihr – Macarons de Riquewihr. This is the first cookie offered by the confectionery! The recipe has remained unchanged since 1996 and combines unique taste characteristics, and the coconut base is mixed with a variety of products. Fluffy at the beginning and creamy at the heart, the most popular sweets in the village remain an unforgettable feeling for the palate…
The great Christmas shop la féerie de Noël
This is the most exciting Christmas store and it is open all year round! It’s one of the main attractions and is always crowded with visitors. To avoid crowds, the traffic is one-way. Following the route, customers find themselves in a Christmas village on two floors. Amazing Christmas decorations, figurines, angels and a bunch of other items impress buyers. In the center of the store there is about 5 meters high white Christmas tree!
Riquewihr has one of the most beautiful Christmas decorations in Alsace! The same goes for the bazaars – full of great products. As we make our way through the crowd, we discover unique treasures – holiday candles, wooden toys and puzzles, syrups, jams, beers, many delicacies and a bunch of other interesting items, including walnuts…
The main chalets are located in two locations – Fernand Zeyer Square and the fortress wall next to Rue des Remparts. On the main street, Rue du Général de Gaulle 6, there are several chalets, like a tunnel. On the outside, mulled wine and Alsatian dishes with potatoes and meat are stirred in huge containers, and inside you can taste various delicacies, wines and even local whiskey.
The secret places
One of the most enjoyable things to do in Riquewihr is to deviate in places from the main road and explore the streets hidden from the crowd. You are there again, in a fabulous atmosphere, but without the many curious glances of tourists…
➡ The corner of Rue Saint-Nicolas and Rue Latérale – right next to Hotel Saint-Nicolas.
➡ The end of Rue de la Couronne – the yellow facade with wine-red shutters on the windows.
➡ The whole street Rue des Écuries – the view to the end houses and the vineyards above them, as well as the one to the main street and the pedestrians on it.
For a final
Riquewihr is a must stop from any trip to Alsace! In December, tourists from all over the world come to the village and the modest population of only 1,200 inhabitants is growing dramatically! They all want to feel the Christmas magic that emanated from every corner of it… Christmas magic, which is one of the most impressive in the area!