Last Updated on January 17, 2024 by Michela
“Little town, it’s a quiet village. Every day, like the one before!” How many of you started singing this classic Disney tune? And how many of you would like to be transported to the exact place that inspired the little town of which Belle sings in the first minutes of one of the biggest fairytales of all time? That’s right, you can actually visit the two charming villages that inspired Disney’s Beauty and the Beast: Riquewihr and Ribeauvillé, France.
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Where are Riquewihr and Ribeauvillé?
Riquewihr and Ribeauvillé are located in the eastern part of France in the region of Alsace. This area is also known as the Grand Est, bordering Germany to the East by the mighty Rhine River.
The region has a unique history: for more than 300 years, up until World War II, due to its strategic position along the border for France and Germany, the land passed between the two countries several times. This long history gives it a unique identity today that is a mix of the two cultures, but the heritage is primarily France.
Riquewihr and Ribeauvillé are two incredibly small villages in the heart of the Alsatian countryside, just a ten-minute drive from one another.
They are said to have been the inspiration for the setting of Disney’s famed fairytale, Beauty and the Beast.
Pro Tip: The best times to visit Riquewihr and Ribeauvillé throughout the year are in spring (April-May) for the blooms and in December for the village Christmas markets!
How to reach Riquewihr and Ribeauvillé?
Traveling the Alsace region by car allows you the most flexibility, since you don’t have to rely on public transportation schedules. It is also more convenient for reaching the small villages easily and attractions like the many castles present in the area.
Both villages have public parking lots located next to the town center. In Ribeauvillé, parking costs €3 for 5 hours. In Riquewihr, parking is also paid, at an average of €2 per hour. Some parking lots have you take a ticket, others scan your license plate automatically and you go to the machine after to pay.
Pro Tip: Have euros in the form of coins handy for paying for parking. Not all machines take card.
By public transportation
The Alsace region is navigable and easily-connected via public transportation, both bus and train.
- From Strasbourg: You will take a train to the town of Sélestat. From there, get on the TER Fluo bus 40043 to Ribeauvillé.
- From Colmar: Take bus 68R016 from Colmar train station. If you are facing the station, it is the platform all the way to the left. The bus may also have the number 106. How can you tell it is the right bus? It will usually have a sign on the front indicating in what direction it is going. Your first stop will be Riquewihr. You can take the same bus from Riquewihr to later reach Ribeauvillé.
You typically buy bus tickets on the bus. Make sure to have cash on you because these busses did not accept card.
Good to know: You could also use Uber as an alternative to move around faster.
By organized day trip
The most stress-free travel option is to pay to participate in an organized day trip of the Alsace region. While it is not usually the most budget-friendly or flexible option, it is the most convenient because you do not have to worry about getting around by yourself.
If you don’t want to drive or try to plan around public transportation, this might be the option for you.
Most day trip tours depart from Strasbourg, so make the city your home base for exploring the Alsace region.
What to See in Riquewihr
Riquewihr is a very small village. To explore it all, you will need an hour to two hours.
Stroll the Rue de Général De Gaulle
Riquewihr looks like a normal town as you enter from the country road, but just beyond town hall opens up a magical, fairytale village.
The Rue de Général de Gaulle is the main street of Riquewihr, what historically was enclosed by fortified walls. Along this street you will find many small artisan shops, bakeries, cozy restaurants and medieval hamlet architecture everywhere you turn.
Mairie de Riquewihr
Mairie de Riquewihr is the first square you see behind town hall. If you are dreaming of having your Belle moment, this is the place! Read your book on the fountain’s edge for that fairytale feel.
The square is especially beautiful in springtime when the vines on the buildings are green and the trees blooming.
Dolder Tower & Museum
Riquewihr’s main event is the Dolder Tower, a historic watchtower that soars above the colorful buildings. All you have to do is keep walking down the main street to reach this square and admire the detail of the tower’s facade.
Just beside the tower is the Dodler Museum which tells the history of Riquewihr from the 12th to 17th centuries. Here you can learn not just about the town’s positioning, architecture and fortifications, but also what life was like and the history of the town’s people.
Museum of Thieves
There are not many museums in Riquewihr, but the Museum of Thieves is its most well known. The museum is housed within a 13th century tower that once was part of the original military fortifications that protected the town.
The tower was converted into a prison in the 15th century and you can still explore today the cell and torture equipment that was used up until the 18th century.
Explore Side Streets
The absolute best part of Riquewihr is exploring all of the narrow, quaint side streets that branch off of the main pedestrian road.
The architecture feels like a cartoon or fairytale, completely unreal with all of its colors, wooden details and misshapen design.
You can see peaks of the sprawling vineyards at the end of these many passageways.
Every single road within the town center is made of cobblestones and is quite narrow and misshapen (apart from the main road), which all contribute to the feeling of being in a small, rural, artisan village.
Try Alsatian Wines at a Local Winery
And since you can see some of the vineyards from Riquewihr’s town center, why not try some of the wine!
The entire area around Riquewihr is surrounded by grape groves, primarily used to make white wine. The land is so well-known for wine-growning that there is an entire Alsatian wine route dedicated to exploring the key points on an Alsatian wine itinerary.
What to See in Ribeauvillé
Ribeauvillé is a slightly bigger village than Riquewihr, but you will also be fine spending an hour or two here as well.
Keep an eye out for storks
Did you know that the Alsace region is known for storks? You can find these birds and their nests all over the small villages in the region and even in some parks of the biggest cities.
In fact, while we were waiting for the bus in Ribeauvillé, I spotted this nest!
Explore the ruins of Château de Saint-Ulrich
While you are walking through Ribeauvillé, the ruins of a castle high up on a hillside will be looking down upon you. This setting, which creates the magical photo moment you see above, is thanks to the Chateau de Saint Ulrich.
The castle dates back to the 11th century and became ruins during the Thirty Years’ War in the 1600s.
There are actually two more smaller castle ruins nearby the Saint Ulrich Castle. You can explore all three by hike, either starting from the Fontaine de Ribeauvillé or parking at the Plateau sportif du Lutzelbach and walking from there.
Stroll La Grand Rue
Ribeauvillé’s main promenade is more open and more commercial than Riquewihr’s, but still has plenty of Alsatian character. Drawings on buildings, beamed architecture and the Saint Ulrich Castle ruins looking down on you as you stroll along.
And don’t miss this! At the entrance of the main pedestrian street, you will find a map to your left just before the tourist center. On this map is a design of the town as it was hundreds of years ago, military fortifications and all. It is incredible to see the transformation from the tiny walled town to larger, open village firsthand.
Admire the Tour des Bouchers
The Tour des Bouchers is a soaring clock tower dividing the Grand Rue. In this open square, you’ll also see the Hotel de Ville of Ribeauvillé (town hall) an ancient covenant.
Eat local food
You can’t visit a new place without trying some new food. Here in Alsace, you will find that cheese is one of the most popular and prideful offerings of the region! Munster is the cheese that is native to Alsace.
Don’t miss out on sweeter treats like the Kugelhopf cake that you will see in nearly every bakery in the Alsace region.
Fontaine au Cerf
Fontaine au Cerf, Place du Bouc and Fontaine de Ribeauvillé
These three locations are grouped together because they are all along the same fork in the road of the Grand Rue near the edge of the town center.
These are residential areas with beautiful, quaint squares characterized by sculpted fountains and even a running stream!
Tips for Visiting Riquewihr and Ribeauvillé
- Consider the season you are traveling in. We visited the villages in February of 2023 and there are both pros and cons to traveling in this off-season time. The positive aspect was that the streets were not flooded with people, even on a weekend. The negative aspect was the cold weather (mainly the huge gusts of wind that the plains area is prone to) and the fewer public transportation routes available.
- Where to stay in Riquewihr and Ribeauvillé. I honestly wouldn’t recommend you stay in either of these towns. They are beautiful to look at, but visiting them should only take up about half a day of your itinerary, so I recommend you stay in an area that is a bit richer with activities to do and things to see, like Colmar or Strasbourg.
- Brush up on your French. I don’t think we met once shop clerk or waitress that spoke English. You can also bet that menus and signs were all written in French. Have a translator app on hand and be polite by utilizing the language to say hello and goodbye.
Place to visit near Riquewihr and Ribeauvillé
If you can’t get enough of French hamlets, then head to nearby Colmar. Colmar is like the much bigger version of Riquewihr and Ribeauvillé, so there is more to see and do while still having that village charm.
Strasbourg is the capital of the Grand Est region of France and is a large city compared to all of the other locations in this pocket guide.
It is a must-visit for history lovers and for those dreaming of experiencing the charm of France. It’s got a bit of everything: a stunning cathedral, a quaint river walk through the historic quarter of the city, naturally beautiful parks, museums and more.
Pro Tip: Make Strasbourg your home base for the region, since it is well connected by train and bus to the smallest of villages and to main cities. There are also numerous organized day trips from Strasbourg to travel the Alsace region stress-free, like a Medieval history tour, a wine tasting tour and a full highlights tour of Alsace.
South of Colmar is another small village with the characteristic wooden beam houses of Riquewihr and Ribeauvillé. This village, Eguisheim, has been ranked as the most beautiful village in France for its quaint and quiet streets.
You can reach Eguisheim most easily from Colmar by taking the 68R030 bus from Colmar train station to the stop called Place de Gaulle. If you are traveling by car, visiting Eguisheim is even easier, since it is only a 13-minute drive from the Colmar center.
Pro Tip: If you want to travel by car in this region, make sure you have what is called the Crit’Air Certificate. This is a sticker that goes on your windshield, classifying the emissions of your vehicle against a ranking of least to most polluting. The sticker is required specifically for Strasbourg and the surrounding metropolitan zones. You can learn more information from the Strasbourg tourism website.
Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg
Not far from Riquewihr and Ribeauvillé is one of the Alsace region’s most famous castles, the Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg.
The easiest way to reach the castle is with your own vehicle.
However, if you are relying on public transportation, take note of this important info! There is a shuttle from Sélestat to the castle but only during specific times of the year.
Find the shuttle schedule here to better plan your visit.
Riquewihr and Ribeauvillé are absolutely must-visits if you are traveling in the Alsace region. They truly transport you into a fairytale. In fact, the houses, squares, towers, streets: everything about the villages didn’t even seem real. It felt like a place truly stuck in time with its own rich and distinctive character.
As mentioned before, reserve just half a day of your itinerary to explore these two French villages. They are definitely worth seeing, but the things to do are limited, so you wouldn’t want to waste precious exploring time of the rest of the region by overestimating how much time you can really spend in these two small villages.
Do you have questions about planning your visit to Riquewihr and Ribeauvillé? Ask me in a comment!
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I hope you enjoyed this pocket guide to two of the most beautiful villages in France, Riquewihr and Ribeauvillé!