Autumn in the Upper Rhine Valley is actually three seasons in one. September is often an extension of Summer. Autumn in Alsace is also the season of the grape harvest which, according to the years and the weather, can extend until the end of October for the great wines and the late harvests. During the months of September and October, there are still some beautiful wine festivals and many gastronomic opportunities. In early October, the foliage is still very green. But at the approach of Halloween and All Saints’ Day (November 1st) will come the period of flamboyant foliage that will last almost until the start of the Christmas markets (November 23). And in my little village of La Vancelle as well as in the vineyard in Riquewihr, autumn is a brilliant season of warm and golden colours, perhaps the most aesthetic in the year.
Ideas for a stay throughout the fall
– Let’s harvest the beautiful grapes!
– Lift the glass at the winemakers
– Discover and taste the “vin nouveau”, the new wine
– Walk around Riquewihr in the golden vineyards
– Autumn at the Haut-Koenigsbourg castle
– At Europa-Park, some nice days around Halloween
– New! Rulantica, Europa-park’s newest water park opens in November 2019
– The Royal show of the Eagles’ Park
– Meet the monkeys at the Monkey Mountain
– With storks and otters at the Naturoparc in Hunawihr
– In the Butterfly Garden of Hunawihr
– Traditions and autumn colours at the Ecomusée (living museum of) d’Alsace
– A beautiful excursion to the Black Forest
– Explore the Route des Crêtes (Crest Road) in Autumn
– On the Munster Cheese Route
– Discover the secret Val d’Argent (Valley of the Silver)
– Mulhouse – the Cité de l’Automobile and its fabulous collection of vintage cars.
– Mulhouse – the beautiful locomotives of the Cité du Train
– At Hartmannswillerkopf (HWK), a major battlefield of WW1 in Alsace
– At the Linge Memorial, the other major battlefield of WW1 in Alsace
Punctual events not to be missed, on one or more days
– September 1, the fabulous Pfifferdaj, feast of the Menestrels in Ribeauvillé.
– September 1, Wine Festival, Weinfest of Breisach-am-Rhein (Germany).
– At Saint Stephan’s Brotherhood, an extended autumn program for Alsace wine lovers.
– September 1-23, Colmar Jazz Festival
– September 8, Transhumance and meat pie festival in Munster
– September 12-15, European Patchwork Meeting in Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines
– September 13-15, BiObernai, nature and bio fair in Obernai.
– September 14-15, The Old Lamp Stock Exchange at Tellure Park.
– September 21-22, The European Heritage Days.
– September 27-30, Ortenau wine festival in Offenburg (Germany).
– October 6, Festival of mountain agriculture in Steige.
– October 5-6, Plant Festival at Schoppenwihr Park (between Colmar and Riquewihr).
– October 6, The grape harvest as in the 1900’s in Dambach-la-Ville.
– October 12, Transhumance Festival in Muhlbach-sur-Munster, the biggest event for transhumance in the Vosges mountains.
– October 23 – November 1, A frightening Halloween at the Haut-Koenigsbourg castle.
What to do, what to see all along Autumn?
It’s time for the harvest of the grapes!
The 2019 harvest began in early September (with the grapes for Crémant d’Alsace, the Alsatian sparkling wine)! This is the moment expected by all, to cut the long-awaited grapes. A great opportunity to have a nice walk in the vineyards (but remain strickly on the paths) and watch the pickers in action. Grapes graded Grand Cru are picked last, often at the end of October.
Lift your glass at the winemaker’s wine cellar!
Is it raining ? Is this really a problem? That day, the winemaker certainly does not pick his grapes. Take the opportunity to meet him and taste his wines. Push the door of one of the numerous wine cellars of the region, and discover the wines of the Alsace wine growers.
Check out the list of my favorite vine growers in Riquewihr and everywhere else in Alsace.
Discover and taste the new wine
Once the grapes are cut, they go to the wine press. The precious juice flows and will begin to ferment to become wine. Without waiting for a complete alcoholic fermentation, you can already taste the juice a few weeks after the harvest: this is the “vin nouveau”, the new wine. The alcohol content is low and the grape sugar still very present but we already taste the characteristics of the different Alsatian grape varieties. More a grape juice and not yet a real wine, the new wine (not to be mixed up with the primeur wines that are real wines) can be tasted only in the vineyards. It is untransportable because it is in full fermentation and cannot be put in a closed bottle (unless a special process is applied that stops fermentation). At many winemakers it is possible to taste the “vin nouveau”.
Walk around Riquewihr in the golden vineyards
Like an island enthroned alone in the middle of an ocean, Riquewihr is found in autumn drowned in a sea of golden vineyards. Depending on the weather, the vines turn yellow in mid-October, until the leaves fall in November with the first strong wind. Often, the weather is perfect for walks in this season: it’s nice but not too warm. The perfect opportunity for a stroll and why not a picnic?
Autumn at the castle of Haut-Koenigsbourg
The famous medieval castle of Haut Koenigsbourg, the most visited site of Alsace and one of the first in France, is only about twenty minutes from our vacation apartments Riquewihr and La Vancelle. It is a must see attraction all year round. But for Halloween, there is a very special and frightening programme. See further down the events at specific dates (October 23 – November 2, 2019).
At Europa-Park, frightening days around Halloween
A 45-minute drive from Riquewihr, just across the Rhine (so in Germany), the Europa Park theme park has just celebrated its 40th anniversary. Europa-Park is an amusement park, more exactly a theme park and a German leisure complex in Rust, Baden-Württemberg, 45 kilometers from Colmar.
From September 28 to November 3, 2019, thousands of pumpkins, straw boots, chrysanthemums give the park a thrilling atmosphere. The brave ones will even be able to participate in the Horror Nights Traumatica, a nocturnal visit of the park, where you will meet terrifying creatures. Check out the Europa-Park website and the many events of autumn.
New! Rulantica, Europa-park’s newest water park opens in November 2019
Rulantica, the new water park developed by Europa-Park opens its doors for the first time on November 28, 2019. 25 attractions, including 17 spectacular water slides, a huge wave pool, a river of relaxation waiting for you to spend a moment of fun, whether you are a couple or a family. You can see the details of the attractions offered on the official website of Rulantica.
The royal show at the Eagles’ Park
It’s now exactly 50 years since the venerable ruin of Kintzheim Castle, on the slopes of Haut-Koenigsbourg castle, became the sumptuous theater of the eagles and its other feathered companions. Ladies and gentlemen, what we are talking about here is a ballet. An artistic aerial ballet in which the winged stars will embark on a breathtaking high-flying show under the guidance of their riders, the falconers.
Until November 11th. See my article on the Volerie des Aigles.
Meet the monkeys of the Monkey Mountain
The “Montagne des Singes”, the Mountain of the Monkeys, is a wildlife park located in the village of Kintzheim a few kilometres from the Haut-Koenigsbourg castle and close to the Volerie des Aigles (Eagle’s Park). This year the park celebrates its 50th anniversary. There is no cage: you will walk in a forest of 24 hectares where you will be nose-to-nose with the monkeys! See the events of the Monkey Mountain.
With storks and otters at NaturOparc in Hunawihr
Originally, Naturoparc (the new name for the “Stork’s Park”) was exclusively a captive breeding site for the endangered white stork. It is with the aim of safeguarding the emblematic stork of Alsace that was born in 1976 the Hunawihr Center. It is here that the founders of the Volerie des Aigles of Kintzheim, managed to find a technique to “repopulate” Alsace … More details on Naturoparc in my article on activities to do with the family. The park is open 7 days a week from the end of March to the 1st of November. For details and schedules, visit the Naturoparc website in Hunawihr.
In the Butterfly Garden of Hunawihr
Next to our vacation rentals in Riquewihr, you will find a tropical greenhouse, the Jardin des Papillons (Garden of Butterflies). The Butterfly Garden in Hunawihr presents a fascinating collection of exotic butterflies, which live freely among lush flora. You will walk in the middle of hundreds of butterflies from all over the planet and discover the hidden life of these jewels of nature. Open until November 1st.
Check the website of the Jardins des Papillons (Butterfly Garden).
Traditions and autumn colours at the Ecomusée d’Alsace (living museum of Alsace)
The Ecomusée d’Alsace holds a part of the memory of the region, it will never be said enough. In this village formed with some architectural nuggets from all over Alsace, not only are we discovering magnificent houses of the past that have been saved from destruction but also the customs and traditions of our region. Throughout the year, the Ecomusée d’Alsace brings them back to life, according to the seasons and holidays. Regularly I go back to taste some flavors of my childhood and delight my eyes with beautiful colours. See my article and my pictures.
A beautiful excursion to the Black Forest
The Black Forest (in Germany), we see it from Alsace when we look to the East, and even from the windows of some of our holiday apartments in Riquewihr. On the other side of the Rhine, the mountain range extends for several hundred kilometres from North to South. With a good hour drive from Riquewihr, I suggest a very exotic excursion in the Hochschwarzwald (Upper Black Forest). In the vicinity of Titisee (famous lake) or Sankt-Peter (Baroque abbey) you will discover the large traditional and so typical farms that you have probably seen in picture books. Of course do not forget to taste a big piece of the cake bearing the name of the massif: The Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte (chocolate cake, cream and cherry)!
Explore the Route des Crêtes (Crest Road) in Autumn
How beautiful is this Route des Crêtes! I travel all year, in summer to go for wildlife photos or to escape from the heat in July-August, but also in winter when the Route des Crêtes is transformed into a cross-country ski run. In autumn, the forest is multicolored: green, yellow, red, brown, enough to put your eyes on it. So hop-la (as they say in Alsace), put on your sneakers and let’s go out for a trip on the road ridges and a small hike on the stubble altitude. And then, we will stop at a farm’s inn to enjoy their famous “repas marcaire”, a meal that used to be eaten by the farmers (marcaire = mountain cheese maker).
Hidden treasures of the Val d’Argent, out of the beaten track
As an extension of the Route des Crêtes, to the north, opens the Val d’Argent (Valley of the Silver), a little unknown region that is full of treasures to discover. Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines, Sainte-Croix-aux-Mines … I bet for most of you, the names of these villages evoke the blackness of the heaps and chimneys of a coal mine. Well no. Think again. There is no coal mine in these green valleys, but rather many very old silver mines that made it rich in the sixteenth century … But as prejudices die hard: will I continue to enjoy in secret my little corner of paradise? The Val d’Argent keeps many secrets. Ancient silver mines and hidden paths through mountains and mysterious forests? As well as some good but unknown inns and restaurants!
Here are some good addresses known to locals and a little less tourists.
On the Munster Cheese Route
Like wine, the famous local cheese, the Munster cheese, also has its route. The valley of Munster, with its magnificent mountain scenery, counts 16 villages where farms produce their own cheese made with the milk of their cows grazing in the surrounding mountains. A pure delight! Do not miss the opportunity to make a beautiful excursion in the valley of Munster and stop at a farm-inn (ferme-auberge). There is even a House of the Cheese (Maison du Fromage). Do not hesitate to buy some Munster cheese: it will be packed under vacuum so that you can bring it home without the smell of munster cheese perfuming all your belongings 😉
Mulhouse – the Cité de l’Automobile and its fabulous collection of vintage cars.
The Cité de l’Automobile – a National Museum presenting the Schlumpf Collection in Mulhouse, is the largest automobile museum in the world, with 500 vehicles including 464 cars of 98 brands. It includes the famous Fritz Schlumpf collection and traces the history of the European automobile from 1878 to the present day. The museum is located in a former spinning mill dating back to 1880.
It is the most important Bugatti collection in the world with two of the six famous Bugatti Royale including the Napoleon Coupé and a large collection of Rolls Royce.
Mulhouse – the beautiful locomotives of the Cité du Train
The Cité du train (also known as the French Railway Museum) in Mulhouse is the largest railway museum in Europe!
The museum contains the only and most important global collection in the history of the French railways. Today it houses a 15,000 m² collection of more than a hundred vehicles and railway vehicles of all times.
Immersed in semi-darkness, locomotives and wagons are discovered in their reconstructed environment, with models, who light up as and when wandering with the moments of luxury and misery especially during the Second World War.
Click to prepare your visit to the Cité du Train
There are tickets combined with the Cité de l’Automobile. A good idea is to visit one of the museums in the morning and the other in the afternoon. A beautiful day in perspective!
At the Hartmannswillerkopf (HWK) a major WW1 battlefield and memorial
The Hartmannswillerkopf, or Vieil Armand, is a must for history buffs. During the First World War, both enemy camps wanted to control this mountain overlooking the Upper Rhine Valley. Result: a real massacre. 35 000 soldiers died on this front line between 1914 and 1918. The site features a very new museum built in collaboration between French and Germans. After a half an hour walk behin the memorial and the cemetery you will reach the trenches and the former front line, with a large cross at the end in tribute to the fighters on both sides. The museum is open until November 11th included. See the website of the Hartmannswillerkopf memorial.
At the Linge, the other major WW1 battlefield in Alsace
The Linge is a mountainous summit on the front line of the First World War 1914-1918 (WW1). Park your car, and visit the small museum run by volunteers, you will get familiar with the daily life of the soldiers in the trenches. They had the heavy task of maintaining a front line located at more than 1100 meters above sea level, with extreme weather conditions in winter. Have you heard of the incredible story of the “Poilus d’Alsaka” (Hairy from Alaska)? 430 sled dogs were brought from Canada and Alsaka to care for the logistics of the soldiers in the winter time? Read my article and then head to the trenches and imagine the scene. I am personally very moved at each of my visits, with great respect for the fighters on both sides who had to face death on the orders of their respective chiefs of staff. The museum is open every year from Good Friday until 11 November.
Events on one or several specific days
The fabulous Pfifferdaj, festival of the Menestrels in Ribeauvillé.
September 1. 2019
The Pfifferdaj (the Pfiff, as they say in Ribeauvillé), the festival of the Menestrels in Ribeauvillé is an amazing event. Dating back more than 600 years (to the year 1390) it is the oldest festival of Alsace. Here is how the organizers present the event: “Every year, this authentic festival, great popular meeting with the Middle Ages, takes place every first Sunday of September with a huge and fantastic parade. There are nearly 1,500 participants in incredible costumes for the delight of thousands of spectators during this colorful medieval fresco lasting for two hours.”
In 2019, it was the 629th edition of the Pfifferdaj which takes place as always the first Sunday of September. See the video I made on September 1, 2019 and make sure you are there for the 630th edition on September 6, 2020!
Wine Festival, Weinfest in Breisach-am-Rhein (Germany).
August 30 to September 2, 2019
Less than 40 kilometers from Riquewihr and 24 kilometers from Colmar, the Weinfest Kaiserstuhl und Tuniberg will be held every year in Breisach am Rhein (Breisach), along the Rhine side of Germany, at the end of August, beginning of September 2019. The program rejoicing with the schedules is here. A great wine festival not to be missed by our German neighbors. The numerous cooperatives of Kaiserstuhl will be present but also 8 famous domains. This is an opportunity to get to know the often surprising wines of this small volcanic vineyard whose silhouette is visible in the distance, from some of our apartments in Riquewihr. You have to go there in the evening to enjoy the atmosphere. See my images of the 2019 wine festival.
At the St Stephan’s Brotherhood, an extended autumn program for Alsace wine lovers.
From the beginning of the history of the brotherhood Saint-Etienne, in the Middle Ages, the Confreres gathered in “chapters” to celebrate around the wines of Alsace.
The Brotherhood organizes in its castle of Kientzheim but also abroad, several solemn chapters, prestigious evenings from a commented tasting, wine tastings and the ritual admission session for the new members.
Colmar Jazz Festival
September 1-23. 2019
A little Jazz music in the region of Colmar, I love it. Some concerts will take place in Colmar, others in Selestat.
Practical information and programming on the official website of the festival.
Festival of Transhumance and Pie in Munster
Sunday, September 8, 2019
Discover the folklore and the traditions of the mountain farms, on the occasion of the festival of the Transhumance which celebrates the return of the Vosges cows in the valley. Demonstrations of cheese making, mini-farm, dances and horns of the Alps delight young and old, without forgetting the marcaire meal in the Salle des Fêtes (tasting of the real pie of the valley) and the parade of the beautiful Vosges cows in the streets from Munster to 16h. And throughout the day, a peasant market is offered on the market square, while many concerts, animations, games and exhibitions on the theme of Transhumance embellish the day. The full program is here.
European Patchwork Meeting in Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines
September 12-15, 2019
The 25th European Patchwork Meeting opens its doors in Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines and brings together from September 12 to 15 all the fans of fabrics and creations from all over the world. 36 exhibitions, 1200 works presented in 19 ephemeral galleries. And 150 exhibitors specializing in textile art.
BiObernai, nature and organic fair in Obernai.
September 13-15, 2019
Inescapable appointment of the return of the Lifestyle “bio” (organic): 250 exhibitors, 70 events for young and old, 150 volunteers. An eco-committed event. Free access every morning until noon. Program and practical information on www.biobernai.com
The Old Lamp Stock Exchange at Tellure Park.
September 14-15, 2019
If you like oil lamps and other old lamps, take a tour at the old lamp stock market at the Silver Mines Park Tellure at Sainte-Maire aux Mines. See the Tellure Silver Mine site.
The European Heritage Days.
September 21 & 22, 2019
Everywhere, all over Europe, during the special heritage days, access to museums and many historic buildings (sometimes closed to the public the rest of the year) is possible and free. For example, in Riquewihr, you can access La Tour des Voleurs and the Dolder Museum. In Sélestat, do not miss a visit to the Humanist Library.
See the places around Riquewihr and Colmar.
Ortenau wine festival in Offenburg (Germany).
September 27-30, 2019.
Twenty kilometers south-east of Strasbourg, on the other side of the Rhine, in Germany, the 62nd Ortenau Wine Festival (Ortenau is the name of this small wine region), offers some 200 wines and Sekt (the sparkling wine of quality). The large market square, the Lindenplatz and the surroundings of the historic town hall welcome a large audience. One of the largest and most beautiful festivals in the region, the Ortenau Wine Festival is always held on the last weekend of September.
The grape harvest as in the 1900s in Dambach-la-Ville.
Sunday, October 6, 2019. Starts at 14:00 till… late
You are invited to this very special grape harvest where, in the Frankstein grand cru vineyard belonging to the local Brotherhood. Like the mosaic of colors of the skins of grapes, the people themselves also talk, exchange, laugh. The grapes are trampled in the old wine press. Here are my images of a previous edition that will tell you much more about this event not to be missed.
Festival of mountain agriculture in Steige.
Sunday October 6. 2019 from 10:00 to 18:00
The four agricultural associations of the valley of Villé and the valley of the Bruche wished to organize together the Festival of the Mountain to make you discover a showcase of the mountain agriculture, thanks to their products and their know-how. That’s why throughout the day you will find a space dedicated to old-fashioned agriculture, another dedicated to the different animals of the massif and a farmer’s market. You can also enjoy a meal prepared by the producers and enjoy local and farm products.
Plant & Flower Festival at Schoppenwihr Park.
October 5-6, 2019 – 09:00 – 17:00
For garden lovers and floral decorations, the Autumn Plants Festival in the splendid Schoppenwihr Park in Bennwihr is always a delight. The park is only a few kilometers from our holiday apartments in Riquewihr.
Practical information about the Schoppenwihr park
Transhumance Festival in Muhlbach-sur-Munster, the biggest transhumance event in the Alsace & Vosges mountains.
Saturday, October 12, 2019 from 08:00 to 23:00
Every year, twice a year, the beautiful setting of the Valley of Munster is the scene of an expected event: the transhumance of several herds that descend back in the valley after a summer in the mountains. The Transhumance Festival in Muhlbach-sur-Munster is the biggest event of that kind in the Vosges mountains! A great opportunity to discover the cows of the Vosges, the bread called “Vosgienne”. According to the tradition, the famous clarines (bells), shining for this big day, are put on the neck of the animals.
A frightening Halloween at the Haut-Koenigsbourg castle …
From October 23 to November 2, 2019
End of October the castle of Haut-Koenigsbourg is adorned with its most strange and mysterious clothes. This is the ideal season for elves, witches, white ladies,
werewolves, vampires, goblins … coming out of their hiding places.
For sure you will meet these fantastic creatures if you visit the castle.
In the program of the week: workshop for families on the
Halloween origins, thematic visit on medieval fantasy,
walk with the elves in the heart of the forest, Asian tales on the bestiary
and even two special evenings where the strange merges with the evil for you
to have an unforgettable experience.
Check out my article about the Halloween party at Haut-Koenigsbourg castle and you can also check out the full program on the castle’s website.