When I was a child, I was living more North. But my mother always loved the colorful villages between Obernai and Eguisheim and several times per year parents and children were crushing into the little car for a nice day trip. Later, when I was a student in Strasbourg, the villages along the wine route and especially Riquewihr were on the top of my list for weekend escapes. At that time I could hardly guess that years later I would have the opportunity to undertake in Riquewihr all that exciting heritage renovation works …
Riquewihr in Alsace, a fairy tale medieval city between mountain and vineyards
I found some quotations about Riquewihr from more famous travelers than myself.
Here they are.
The colourful main street of Riquewihr, a glimpse of typical Alsace
The fame of the village of Riquewihr is mainly due to its vineyards which – since the end of the Middle Ages – are producing some of the best and most famous white wines in the world…
Park your car and forget about it! The main street (rue du Général-de-Gaulle) crosses the village and will offer you a festival of gorgeous medieval houses. No, this is not a Walt Disney movie scenery! It is just reality! Left and right, smaller streets will attract you for even more surprises. Step by step you will walk uphill until you will reach the impressive Dolder tower (built in 1291) and the picturesque ‘rue des Remparts’. Riquewihr, while being only a village with 1300 inhabitants, is the third city in Alsace for the number of National Heritage buildings (48), just after the large cities of Strasbourg and Colmar! This is the reason why Riquewihr is so popular worldwide.
Walks through the little side streets of Riquewihr
On each side of the main street of Riquewihr, there are quite a number of beautiful hidden little streets. The “day trippers” who are in a hurry hardly explore this part of the village. But if you are an adept of Slow Travel in Alsace and while staying in one of our holiday homes in Riquewihr, this part of the village will offer you a lot of interesting discoveries. Take some time to leave the main street beaten track and discover the hidden and secluded streets of Riquewihr. Lift your eyes and you will see so many wonderful architectural details…
Indeed there is more to do in Riquewihr than rushing with the tourist crowds in the main street! Open your eyes, look at the details on the old houses. Explore the side streets. And at the end of the afternoon, when the tourists of the day are gone, you will have Riquewihr for yourself. A very privileged feeling indeed. You will probably need a week or so to discover the main attractions within walking distance or with the local bus.
Hiking along the wine trails surrounding Riquewihr
Visitors can easily explore the heart of the vineyards of Riquewihr and the nearby villages like Hunawihr, Zellenberg, Beblenheim or Kientzheim. You will walk along numerous vineyard paths, or wine trails, leading to the crest of each slope, where signs explain the work of the winegrowers and the diversity of the grape varieties grown. There are several of these wine trails around Riquewihr, winding their way through the heart of the vines and the picturesque landscapes.
For a two-hour walk, at most, each wine trail offers a view of the local colours and flavors, as well as a connection with the personalities of the growers that bring them to life. The tourist office in Riquewihr carries the detailed maps of the wine trails / paths around Riquewihr.
Wine tasting in Riquewihr
For centuries, Riquewihr made some of the most beautiful wines of Alsace and the world. The area between Colmar and Sélestat enjoys some of the lowest rainfall in France (just 400-500mm or 16-20 inches per year) and Riquewihr is right in the middle of the driest area.
Many good and even very famous winemakers are in our village Riquewihr and in the villages around Riquewihr. There are some important wineries but most of them are small family run estates. The bigger estates are running wine shops in the village where you may step in at any time during the day. In the small family estates, the winemaker himself or his wife will let you taste their wines. Unless you are a very big buyer / client, there is no real need to book a long time in advance. Just phone the day before. The weather and the work in the vineyard come first anyway. This means that even if you had an appointment a long time ahead, it might not work when the day comes because of the vineyard needing urgent care.
Yes, I know, the weather might be cold. Alsace is neither Florida nor the French Riviera. In Winter, the winemaker has got more time for you to let you taste the wonderful wines of his cellar and introduce you to the mysteries of the wines from Alsace. The restaurants, inns and taverns that are open in winter are those frequented by Alsatians themselves, a guarantee of quality and authenticity. In winter, the treasures of medieval architecture, the picturesque streets of Riquewihr, the crown jewels of the museums in Colmar belong to those who know how to choose a different approach for their stay in Alsace. Here are some more ideas for your stay in Winter.
Spring – time for the vineyards to get ready for the new season
Spring is the season of trees in blossom. End of April the vegetation is exploding: it is a festival of flowers and leaves everywhere! The asparagus tips show their nose. The activities also start again: flower festivals, flea markets and local products … The terraces in the main street of Riquewihr are taken by storm when the sun shines. In the spring, the weather lends itself to hiking: the temperature is pleasant without being too warm. See my recommendations for some nice events in Spring.
Summer – The winegrower is anxious about the weather …
The winemaker is watching the sky and the vineyards. Is the weather too dry or to cold and humid? The weather has also an important and direct impact on the vineyards and the riping grapes. While the tourists are happy when the weather is warm and sunny, Summer can be a stressful season for the winegrower.
Autumn and grape harvesting in Riquewihr
September (sometimes as early as end of August) and October are the season for grape harvesting. Then there is a very special atmosphere in the village. The winegrowers and their people are busy with taking in the grapes. End of September it is usually possible to taste the new wine. The “neuwe sisser” (which means the “new sweet” in the local Alsatian language) is actually a kind of sweet grape juice with low alcohol. The sugar of the grapes did not yet turn into alcohol completely. This “neuwe sisser” is a nice aperitive with wallnuts which can only be tasted locally since the new wine cannot be bottled since the fermentation is still going on.
Joseph Ward, an American wine specialist writing in the Washington Post said: “Alsace is a region apart. German in appearance and character but French in spirit and fact, it has captured the best of both”.
Finally, the year summed up in some sentences:
Most visitors start visiting Alsace and Riquewihr in Spring, when the beautiful and famous vineyards are wearing their first leaves.
Summer is the time for families or visitors wanting to take advantage of the long daylight to explore the Alsatian countryside and the nearby Vosges mountains.
In Fall, harvesting the grapes is another great period, with plenty of festivals and tasting opportunities. Until beginning of November, the vineyards are wearing their golden coat!
As you may imagine, Riquewihr is a successful tourist destination in Alsace, France. But most of the tourists are only coming to Riquewihr for the day. At 6 o’clock in the evening, most of the visitors are gone and this beautiful village will be yours until late in the morning of the next day. The next pictures below are taken at approx 9:30 am… And finally, there is hardly any car traffic allowed in the narrow and picturesque streets of the historical village of Riquewihr. This means that your vacation rental apartment is in a priviledged place.
Although in a very preserved area, Riquewihr is only 7 miles from Colmar and minutes from other famous alsatian villages like Ribeauvillé, Hunawihr, Eguisheim or Kaysersberg.
Simply walk out of your holiday apartment and go for beautiful walks in the forest and mountain or through some of the most famous vineyards in Alsace, the choice is yours!
What is the best, quickest, cheapest way to travel to Riquewihr in Alsace? Discover our hints and tips for airports, flights, trains, car rental… To read our suggestions about how to get the best flights and high speed trains to Alsace and the best car rental deals, click here and scroll down after the Google map will have shown up.
Riquewihr, your headquarters to explore Alsace and the Upper Rhine valley