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Riquewihr, France

Riquewihr, France

Riquewihr is one of the attractive villages in France, located on the edge of the Alsace plain. This short article explains the appeal of this village.  Odyssey Traveller is an Antipodean travel company serving World Travellers since 1983 with small group educational tours for senior couples and mature solo travellers.

Riquewihr, France

Riquewihr is classified as one of France’s most beautiful villages, and it’s easy to see why. Nestling at the entrance to a small, tree-clad valley on the Alsace plain, the village offers a splendid view over the valley of the Rhine, from the edges of the Alps to the fringes of the Vosges. The beautiful village itself is an authentic open-air museum, with its architecture and layout remaining preserved and unchanged since the 16th century. Located 8 miles (13km) from Colmar and 43 miles (70 km) from Strasbourg, it is encircled by vineyards, firmly on the Alsace wine route. With its stunning location, quality of architecture, and world-famous wines, it’s no wonder it’s garnered the nickname “The Gem of the Alsace Vineyards”, becoming one of the region’s most popular destinations.

This article is part of our series on French villages, each with its own unique history and culture. We visit these villages on our various tours of France, each taking you on a journey through different periods in history and exploring the rich tapestry of these places and the people who have lived there. On each tour, we examine the various cultures and economies that have shaped these villages, including their agriculture, trade, and merchant activity. In doing so, we delve into the wealth and philanthropy that has come out of these places, represented today in the art of their museums and galleries, as well as the palaces and homes built in these periods. Each village we visit will offer a unique snapshot of the past, showcasing the lives of the people who lived there and how they created vibrant and thriving communities. Join us on a journey through time to discover the beauty and history of these enchanting French villages.

We conduct a tour of Riquewihr as part of our 23-day Provincial France Small Group Tour. This program explores French villages throughout the country’s remote mountain plateaus, perched villages, dramatic gorges, and Mediterranean coastline, with a key focus on history. It is designed specifically for mature-aged and senior travellers – whether travelling solo or with a companion – who prefer small group travel with an educational focus. This article explores Riquewihr’s architectural attractions and things to do in and around the town as background reading for your tour. Much of the information is extracted from Stéphane Bern’s The Best Loved Villages of France.

Village of Riquewihr, Alsace, France 

Riquewihr’s Architectural Attractions  

The medieval town of Riquewihr possesses an astonishing architectural heritage that has survived innumerable armed conflicts almost intact. The first sights one notices on approach are the imposing fortified walls that surround the town. These ramparts were built in two stages: the ruins of the 13th-century ramparts encircle one part of the town, and there’s a second fortification wall built in the 16th century.

Included in the ramparts are several gates, built at strategic points to allow for controlled entry and exit into the town. The most notable is the upper gate, which today preserves traces of the drawbridge that once protected the entrance. Its port-cullis – now installed in the former castle of the counts of Württemburg-Montbeliard, the Musée de la Communication en Alsace – is one of the oldest in Europe, predating that in the Tower of London.

Upper Gate, Riquewihr, Alsace, France / Zairon / CC BY-SA 4.0

Running between the two fortification walls is the Rue des Ramparts. This picturesque, cobbled, medieval street is considered one of the most beautiful streets in Alsace. It is lined with half timbered houses, shops, cafes, and restaurants. The town’s main street is the Rue Charles de Gaulle. It is paved and lined with houses from the Renaissance period. Framing it are quaint side alleys and charming courtyards featuring picturesque balconies and windows beautifully decorated with assortments of flowers.

The Rue Charles de Gaulle rises softly to the Porte du Dolder – “the highest point” in the town, a 25-meter tower built in pink sandstone, extracted from the nearby Vosges mountain range, and timber. Built at the same time as the 13th century fortification walls, its watch tower and austere outer façade served to defend the village. It was here that outsiders were checked and intruders repelled. The exterior façade of the towering belfry displays a military aspect, whereas the side facing the town is half-timbered and rises to four floors.

Today the Dolder Tower is the site of the local Museum of Art and Popular Tradition, which has been awarded special national status. Full of treasures, it tells the history of the fortified village and of its evolution from the 12th to 17th centuries: its lords (the counts of Württemberg), its means of defence, and the occupants of its tower.

Dolder in Riquewihr, France / Krzysztof Golik / CC BY-SA 4.0

Close by to the Dolder Tower is the Tour des Voleurs (the Thieves Tower). This defensive structure, dating to the beginning of the 14th century, used to serve as the seat of feudal justice at the time when Riquewihr belonged to Würtemmberg. It is also the former prison of Riquewihr and hosts a torture chamber (complete with strappado and oubliette) that is open for visits. The guardroom also features a display of  gruesome instruments.

Apart from its defensive structures, most of the town’s architecture dates to the 16th century. Considered to be an “open air museum”, the layout and structure of the town has not changed since then, with the architecture miraculously preserved. This includes the beautiful half timbered houses, oriel windows, charming inner courtyards, dignified fountains and old-style wells.

Many of the houses are listed as Historical Monuments. Built in the half timbered style that was popular in medieval Europe, they are made with sandstone on a framework of distinctive wooden beams and include steeply pitched roofs and dormer windows. Each house is painted in a vibrant colour – ranging from blue, yellow, pink, turquoise, and green – which help them to stand out and add to the charming atmosphere of the town.

Old houses facades in Riquewihr, France

Things to Do in Riquewihr

With its picturesque architecture, beautiful surrounding scenery, wine and cuisine, shops, and museums, Riquewihr has become a popular tourist destination. Many come here on a day trip before continuing on the Alsace wine route or to other well-known nearby tourist sites such as Colmar, Ribeauvillé, and Chateau Haut du Koenisgsbourg.

Many people visit for the famous vineyards that grow between the hills surrounding the town. The wine-making tradition here goes back centuries and historically allowed Riquewhir to prosper by trading its reputed wine all over Europe. Today these vineyards continue to produce some of the best wines of Alsace and indeed the world. They mainly produce excellent white wines such as Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, Sylvaner, and Muscat d’Alsace.

Visitors can explore Riquewihr’s vineyards, and those of nearby villages like Hunawihr, Zellenberg, Beblenheim or Kientzheim, along numerous vineyard paths or wine trails that wind through the picturesque landscape. Along the trails, signs explain the works of the vineyards and the diversity of grape varieties grown.

On the small family estates, you are able to meet the winemaker himself or his wife and taste their wines. The bigger estates, meanwhile, run wine shops in the town open during the day for you to try and buy the wines.

Riquewihr Vines ccdoh1 (flickr) / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Riquewihr’s numerous hotels and restaurants also reflect its status as a popular tourist destination.  Its restaurants offer a variety of traditional dishes from the Alsace region, famous for the unique blend of French and German influences. These include baeckeoffe, tarte flambée, choucroute garnie, kougelhopf spaetzle, fleischnacka, gingerbread and pretzels – all washed down of course with one of the excellent Alsatian wines.  The best place to taste the food are the winstubs – a type of traditional Alsatian wine bar and restaurant that have a rustic feel and warm atmosphere.

There are also various pretty shops in the town to visit. These sell souvenirs, traditional food, and wine. And there are numerous museums, such as the Hansi Museum (dedicated to famous Alsatian artist, JJ Waltz), the Winemaker’s House (dedicated to the wine making traditions of the region), and Alsace’s Museum of Communication (reflecting the history of long-distance communication in the region since Gallo-Roman times), amongst others.

For those who wish to discover the wonders of Riquewihr from a different angle, there’s the tourist train. After circling the village, it ends up in a vineyard offering an outstanding panorama.

Tour of Provincial France

Abbey of Senanque and blooming rows lavender flowers on sunset. Gordes, Luberon, Vaucluse, Provence, France, Europe.

Odyssey Traveller visits Riquewihr as part of our 23-day Provincial France Small Group Tour for mature and senior travellers. On this small group tour exploring provincial France, drift through Alsace, Burgundy, Provence and the stunning Jura Mountains on the byways and waterways of France. With a key focus on the region’s history, our French foray commences in Alsatian wine country and concludes in Paris, after detouring through the south of France. This tour is fully escorted, accompanied by an Odyssey Program Leader and local guides.

The regions of France can further be explored during our  25-day Secret France Small Group Tour and our 24-day Rural France Tour. Escape France’s bustling cities to visit the country’s beautiful rural towns and picturesque medieval villages, basking in the fairy-tale natural beauty, Roman and Imperial heritage, and World Heritage Sites.

Odyssey Traveller has been serving global travellers since 1983 with educational tours of the history, culture, and architecture of our destinations designed for mature and senior travellers. We specialise in offering small group tours partnering with a local tour guide at each destination to provide a relaxed and comfortable pace and atmosphere that sets us apart from larger tour groups. Tours consist of small groups of between 6 and 12 people and are cost inclusive of all entrances, tipping and majority of meals. For more information, click here, and head to this page to make a booking.

Articles about France published by Odyssey Traveller.

The following list of articles, represents some of the articles published by Odyssey Traveller for mature aged and senior travellers to maximise their knowledge and enjoyment of France when visiting;

External articles to assist you plan your visit to France.

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