We will be delighted to see you around this year! But when? When is the best season to visit? The answer is difficult since it depends on which are your personal points of interest. But what about seazing the opportunity of a Winter break? You will experience Alsace off the beaten track, only known by the local and some connoisseurs.
Winter – from January until end of March – is the season of traditional Alsace. January, February and March offer plenty of discoveries for those who know how to look and approach closer. Riquewihr is an uncomparable base for exploring all of Alsace.
Following the Crib’s trail and discovering more Nativity scenes …
Nativity – medieval stained glass. Cathedral of Strasbourg.
Nativity scene in Thannenkirch, Alsace. Wood carving and sculpture masterpiece.
Nativity scene – cathedral of Strasbourg.
Nativity scene in Bergheim, Alsace
First of all, during the month of January you will have a kind of extension of the magical Christmas atmosphere through the Nativity scenes and Crib trail which remains in place until end of January. This was always a tradition in Alsace.
World class museums almost for you alone …
Musée de l’Automobile – Mulhouse. The biggest and most beautiful car collection in the world.
Virgin Maria with Baby Jesus – Detail of the Retable d’Issenheim. Tetable d’Issenheim, Unterlinden museum in Colmar. A world class masterpiece.
The Magi. Romanesque sculpture. Musée de l’Oeuvre Notre Dame, Strasbourg.
Adoration of the Magi. Part of medieval paintings by Martin Schongauer and companions. Unterlinden museum in Colmar. Another world class masterpiece.
Train museum in Mulhouse. A voyage back in history with the most famous trains at display.
The manuscript dating back to 1521 and presenting the first known mention of a Christmas tree: “4 schillings to be paid to the rangers to watch the Christmas trees in the forest”. Kept in the Humanist Library of Selestat in Alsace.
Life as it was in Alsace in the past. Traditional living room (stub) at Musee Alsacien – Strasbourg
Visit an old silver mine from the Middle Ages. Gabe Gottes old mine in Sainte-Marie-aux-mines.
Then, always in Winter you will have the museums for yourself (no crowd, no waiting time). After the Christmas magical time follow the track to some major masterpieces of medieval art depicting the Nativity and related stories including the adoration of the Magi. The Unterlinden museum in Colmar is one of the major museums in France with masterpieces like the Retable d’Issenheim. Museums in Strasbourg including the famous musée de l’Oeuvre Notre-Dame which is tighly bound to the history and construction of the cathedral are a must go and only an hour away. Overlooking the plain of Alsace and the Rhine, the Haut-Koenigsbourg is a spectacular medieval castle open all year round. And in Mulhouse there are the MUST visit museums for automobile and train. All of them are world class places to visit.
Just walk off the beaten track or … stay on the path.
Medieval church in Rouffach, south of Colmar with alpine background. The Alps in the background are as far as Austria and Italy. Some days the visibility is just extraordinary and you can feel that Alsace is in the very heart of Europe!
A nice walk through the snow around Riquewihr. Snow is not there every year. But sometimes, it is just magic!
Winter sunset on the vineyards near Ribeauvillé, Hunawihr and Riquewihr in Alsace.
Schoenenbourg vineyard of Riquewihr in Winter. Sometimes there is snow. Sometimes not. But always some stunning experiences for those who know how to watch.
Depending on the weather (might be cold but also sunny and some years with beautiful snow) some nice walks are awaiting you. No need to go far away: within half an hour driving there are plenty of incredible places to explore. Even without a car actually. Just walk out of Riquewihr through the vineyards towards Kaysersberg or Ribeauvillé and come back with the bus. And one recommandation: open your eyes widely. And take some binoculars with you.
Illuminated landmarks wake up at dusk …
At dusk you will admire some beautifully illuminated churches and other landmarks all over the region.
The Haut-Koenigsbourg castle overlooking the plain of the Rhine in Alsace. A must visit. Open all year round.
Bergheim near Ribeauvillé and its medieval ramparts.
Diffenthal near Dambach-la-ville. At dusk the medieval church of this unknown village is getting to life.
Hunawihr just 2 kilometers near Riquewihr
Riquewihr in Winter after snow fall
Church of Mount Sainte Odile overlooking the plain of Alsace in the Winter. Fantastic view reaching as far as the Black Forest.
Fortified gate of the western ramparts in Riquewihr
Follow the winemaker in the vineyard or into … the cellar!
The wine cellars are open also in Winter (and it never rains inside!) and the winemakers will have some time to spend with you.
Since the Middle Ages each major hospital had its own wine cellar. Winemakers were offering some of their best wines for charity purposes. The cellar of the Hospices de Strasbourg is even older than its counterpart in Beaune. Here they keep the eldest wine in the world dating back to 1472!
In old times the wooden barrels were carved. Here two wolves attacking ducks. To be seen at the Musée Alsacien in Strasbourg.
Historical cellar of Maison Zimmer in Riquewihr. Open all year round. Excellent wines.
Treat yourself at a traditional winstub or a pâtisserie
Enjoy the famous choucroute (Sauerkraut) in a winstub. Warm, spicy, excellent for the Winter!
There are plenty of old charming restaurants in Alsace
Dessert at l’Auberge de l’Ill in Illhauesern. One of the fantastic 3 Michelin stars restaurants in Alsace.
Local trout from the Black Forest
Afternoon coffee time. It is necessary to enjoy a piece of cake with your tea of coffee.
There are plenty of old charming restaurants in Alsace
At the Clos de la Garrenne, a charming restaurant overlooking Saverne
Winter is certainly the best time to enjoy the warmth of the traditional Alsatian restaurants and winstubs. Most of the restaurants working only for tourists will be closed but apart from their well deserved yearly holidays the best restaurants are open. Because the locals like them too. In the afternoon, there is a tradition to stop at a coffee or tea shop or most of the time at a “pâtisserie – salon de thé” to have a cup of coffee with a piece of delicious cake.
Carnival time in the Rhine valley
Lantern procession of the Morgenstreich – Basel Fasnacht carnival
Carnival character in Emmendingen, Germany. Just on the other side of the Rhine.
Traditional carnival parage in the Rhine valley.
Still very popular in Alsace: Apfelkiechle, the Alsatian Carnival apple doughnuts
End of February and beginning of March is the time for Carnival. An old tradition in the valley of the Upper Rhine, southern Germany and Switzerland, carnival is the time of the year when the reign of bad spirits of the cold and grim winter period is over and these spirits are symbolically being hunted down and expelled. During some 2 weeks, a number of very colourful events are to be experienced. See the updated Carnival page for the current year here.
In brief, in Winter you will not get the warmest temperatures outside but cheaper rates and meet only connoisseurs for some very special events.