Central Alsace villages: http://www.ribeauville-riquewihr.com
General information: http://www.tourisme-alsace.com and http://www.france-voyage.com
Dotted with medieval villages with Roman roots, this area changed hands between Germany and France 4 times in 75 years infusing it with the neatness of the German and the liveliness of the French – a great combination both esthetically and gastronomically.
While this is an easy weekend trip, you will drive away wanting more, with so much to see and do. Strasbourgh and Mulhouse being larger cities offer enough history and culture on their own to fill a couple days, but between those larger towns, in the smaller villages, you’ll find the heart of the region.
Parcde la Porte Sud
Tek: +33 3 88 55 04 90
Ribeauville distinguishes itself with large stork nests on several of the old towers along the wall. In the spring, the nesting storks are impossible to miss. Part of Alsatian scenery for centuries, the storks, a proud local symbol of happiness and faithfulness can be seen high on top of trees and chimneys all around this region. You’ll also notice three large castle ruins built by the Ribeaupierre family sitting on the mountain overlooking this town. You can hike to these from the town for some great views of the area. Ribeauville is one of the larger villages filled with restaurants, wine tasting, and gift shops. The brightly painted half timbered homes are beautiful so you’ll have a lot of photo opportunities here. Do try the local cheese – a white cheese made in the town by its founder’s name, Ribeaupierre. It’s absolutely delicious.
39 Grand Rue; Ribeauville
*This is where I got that amazing cheese, a small quiche for our lunch, eggs, and a few other treats to snack on. He has a nice selection of meats and cheeses, prepared items like quiches, and other grocery basics. Very friendly, he speaks German and French, but very limited English.
Riquewihr has it’s old town wall completely intact with a large gate on either end and the old town hall or hotel de ville. A rainbow of half timbered homes line narrow streets filled with shops, restaurants, and macaroon stands. Touristy and sometimes crowded, it’s worth dealing with crowds just to walk through the streets in this living museum. We found the best shopping here.
If you are looking for all the charm of a half-timbered village without the huge crowds, go to Hunawihr or Bergheim. Hunawihr is a beautiful village amidst vineyards. It’s old, quiet, and beautiful with friendly people, an old church, and great restaurants. Find the butterfly gardens and stork reintroduction park here. The children will love watching those large birds fly in and out of their nests.
* delicious food, children’s menu, very family friendly,
great service – I had Coqaurieslingwihtspaetzle and a chevre salad. Both really nice.
Butterfly Gardens: www.jardinsdespapillons.fr
Centre de Reintroduction Cigognes & Loutres
Tel: 03 89 73 72 62
Bergheim has it’s old walls and tall tower gate in tact as well and has a few good restaurants just inside, but it also lacks the gift shops and doesn’t draw big crowds. This is a good place to stop for a nice meal as all the restaurants there are excellent and give you some escape from the busier towns. If you’re traveling on the weekend, do make reservations or try to dine early as even in the smaller towns, the restaurants fill quickly. Along the Alsation wine road, you’ll find a lot of wineries and wine tasting in both of these lesser crowded villages.
Bergheim Lodging on this blog:
About 15 minutes from Bergheim on top of one of the Vosgue mountains is the fully restored Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg. Having seen eight centuries of history unravel before it, this castle, fully restored by Willhelm II at the beginning of the 19th c. is completely worth seeing not only for the history, but also for the view. Go early on the weekends. It gets very crowded.
The Alsation wine road covers 170 kilometers winding through picturesque villages all up and down the narrow Alsace region. Specializing in Rieslings and grand crus, vineyards spread as far as the eye can see and tasting rooms are plentiful. It is not hard to find wine here and easy to come home with a few cases. Couple those wines with some of the local food, a clever combination of traditional German and and you have something special. tops almost every menu as a quick and inexpensive option. The thin flat bread is cooked until crisp almost like a tortilla and traditionally topped with ham and cheese. Sauerkraut is served with large chunks of ham and other meats. Look for some served soaked in the local Grand Cru, a sparkling wine they use in much of their cooking. Chicken cordon bleu and fish will be on most menus. For dessert, try the local creme brulee. Each restaurant will make it slightly different flavoring it with home made flower liqueurs or local wines.
Shoppers beware, with good food comes great pottery and a drive to just north of Strasbourgh will prove that. These potters use old methods to hand paint traditional floral and stork designs onto their pots and while you’ll see it in gift shops in the larger villages, the best pieces at the best prices are found in Soufflenheim where you can see the painters at work.
Classified as a “zone of tranquility and silence,” Thannekirch provides quiet in a simple, yet beautiful atmosphere. Go in the spring to see thousands of flowering cherry trees in bloom. From here you can hike through the mountains in any weather. Trail maps are sold at many of the village tourist information booths.
24 rue Sainte Anne
*Recommendation from the receptionist at our hotel.
Colmar and Zellenberg are also worth a stop. Colmar is a large city, yet it has perfectly preserved it’s historic city center, so ignore the sprawl as you drive in. You won’t know it’s there once you’re inside walking along the canals in this “.” Go in August for the wine fair as Colmar is a very important center for Alsation wine making. Zellenberg in contrast is quite small, but it’s location is perfect perched on top of a 285 meter hill. Parts of its ruined castle still stand in this typical wine grower’s village.
Within an hour of Germany’s Black Forest region and and Europa Park and just an hour away from Basel on the Swiss border, the Alsace can be a home base when exploring a larger area or a stop in a long trip. But whatever it is or how much time you have, it’s worth a look. There is really something for everyone here.