5 must-visit villages in Alsace

in TravelFeed2 years ago (edited)

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The French love their villages. They love them so much they’ve created TV programs and associations to promote them. “The most beautiful villages of France” award a membership to the best-preserved rural communities with a strong cultural heritage while the TV program “France’s favorite village” allows its audience to vote for its favorite village each year. Since the program was established in 2012, three out of the nine winners have been in Alsace, including the winner of 2020.

Even before these recognitions, the appeal of Alsatian villages had not been lost on tourists, whether locally or internationally. Medieval architecture of German influence and colorful timber-framed houses topped with stork nests, the ruins of ancient fortresses looming over hill-top vineyards stretching in the horizon, traditional winstubs restaurants and their rich cuisine had long drawn tourists from far and wide, looking to discover a region unlike any other in France.

A haven for bikers, hikers and wine-lovers, the Alsatian countryside is also the perfect introduction to the blend of German and French influences that defines the region’s identity through its many historic villages, many of which are an easy distance from one another. Villages are indeed a stronghold of regional identity, famous for their serene atmosphere and fairy-tale like architecture as well as for their iconic Christmas markets. Some are crowded year-long while others are off the tourist’ map but they all stand out in their own way so follow us and discover five of the villages we’ve enjoyed the most during our time in Alsace.


Voted France’s favorite village in 2013, Eguisheim is arguably one of the prettiest villages in the entire region. Small in size, the village is built in a circular shape along a series of
defensive walls. Therefore, visiting Eguisheim actually feels like walking in circles but its remarkable timber-hatched mansions provide an amazing spectacle for anyone venturing within its narrow cobble streets, where the decorative details on the front gates and windows are sure to provide top-notch pictures. Many buildings have been preserved for hundreds of years and the village showcases some architectural gems, such as the castle of the earls of Eguisheim or the red-bricked chapel that stands next to the fountain in the city centre. Plus, the town seems like a place of choice for a number of storks, which have become the symbol of Alsace over the years.

Located along the Alsace wine route, the village is surrounded by vineyards as well as by three fortresses nestled in the mountains looming over the area. All of these fortresses can be accessed easily from the grounds through a road winding through the woods and they are especially popular with hikers. A bit further away, the castle of the Hohlandsburg offers an unparalleled view on the village down below and on the Mountains of the Vosges.  


Unsurprisingly, Kayserberg was also voted France’s favorite village in 2017. Since then, tourism has soared in the village and the many souvenir shops along its main street prove just that. Especially popular in December for its famous Christmas market, Kaysersberg is also a destination of choice in spring and summer for its hikes along the many vineyards that surround the area. Yet, you don’t need to be a hiker to enjoy a striking view on the village and the vineyards from the ruins of the castle that stands atop a hill, mere minutes away from the
city centre on foot. The fortified bridge on the narrow river Weiss, home to an unexpectedly big number of trouts, is another highlight of the village as well as the “Gourmet House” that stands across the bridge, striking for its ornate wood panels.

Hugely popular, Kaysersberg overshadows some of the lesser-known villages in the area, including the village of Kientzheim, although the latter is literally just around the corner. Cut the number of tourists in half and you probably still will be far from the number of visitors in tiny Kientzheim. Yet, the village offers beautiful views on the vineyards as well as some unexpected gems, such as a well-preserved system of defensive walls and a unique exhibition of painted ex-voto prayers in its chapel. Plus, its tranquility makes it the perfect spot for a pick-nick away from the crowds.


Riquewihr is usually the one village that tourists will visit in Alsace if they’re just passing through the region and its prime location is no stranger to that. Located on a hill in the heart of the vineyard, Riquewihr is your typical Alsatian village. Barely damaged by the Second World War, the village managed to safe keep the architecture and layout of its glorious golden days, as it made quite a substantial amount of money thanks to its production of wine during the 16th-century.

 Its vividly painted timber-framed houses seem to have sprung out of a Grimm Brothers’ tale and its long cobble streets offer endless discoveries. Riquewihr is is also known for its bell tower dating back to 1291, called the Dolder. It now houses the city’s museum. Another museum is located at the end of the Rue aux Juifs (the street of the Jews) but it is not for the faints of heart as it showcases ancient instruments of torture within the ancient dungeon of the village.


Ribeauvillé usually goes in pair with Riquewihr as both villages are located mere minutes from each other. However, it seems Riquewihr has long stolen the thunder of its neighbor as Ribeauvillé does not receive nearly as many visits. In our opinion though, Ribeauvillé is much more of a must-visit for its quieter and friendlier atmosphere. Besides, it feels like a genuine village where actual people live and work, whereas Riquewihr feels a bit emptier and more tourism oriented, with restaurants and hotels at every corner.

Boasting the inevitable timber-framed houses and remnants of medieval architecture such as the Tour des Bouchers (Tower of the Butchers), which used to be part of the village’s fortification system, Ribeauvillé’s landscape is also particularly endearing for the three ruined fortresses located on the surrounding hills. Just like in Eguisheim, they can all be accessed on foot or by car, although they are much more remote. The way is steep and long indeed so you should plan for at least an hour-walk if you want to visit the closest castles of Saint-Ulrich and Girsberg, while the last castle is not open to visitors.


Turckheim is more of a small town than a village and it rarely appears on any bucket-list when it comes to the most beautiful villages in Alsace. However, it brings a nice change of pace compared to the large crowds drawn to the aforementioned villages, precisely thanks to its relative anonymity. Turckheim is the kind of town when you can spend an hour or two wandering aimlessly in the streets and be sure to discover some gems along the way, such as the opulent wooden carved front of a 17th-century inn or the unexpected sight of a medieval garden near a Renaissance style city hall.

Turckheim is also known to host an original event. At nightfall, a night watchman dressed in period costume will take you through the streets of the town. Carrying a three-cornered hat, a horn and a lantern, he will tell you everything about Turckheim’s secrets and anecdotes and will even sing a traditional tune every now and then. Turckheim is therefore best discovered at dinner time, so that you can attend the round of the night watchman and enjoy a comforting flammekueche or a filling baeckeoffe beforehand.

If you like castle ruins, medieval architecture, mountainous landscapes and wine, there will always be a reason to stop by Alsace to discover the unique atmosphere of some of the prettiest villages in France.

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