Ribeauville: The prettiest town you've probably never heard of

Nestled between vineyards and mountains on the Route des Vins in Alsace, north-eastern France, you will find the amazingly picturesque town of Ribeauvillé. In fact, it's so pretty you might find yourself rubbing your eyes to make sure you're not dreaming it.

Grand Rue at Ribeauvillé view

In the Middle Ages, the town was the seat of the Seigneurs de Ribeaupierre - the Lords of Ribeaupierre - which is where the town's name comes from.

Part of its medieval town walls and some of its defensive towers still exist, among them, the “Tour des Bouchers” (Butchers’ Tower) (dating back to the 13th century and rebuilt in the 18th century). “Grand Rue” (Main Street), and its picturesque neighborhood, lined with buildings dating back to the 15th and 18th century, is dotted with squares featuring Renaissance style fountains.

Castle view in mountains

The Ribeaupierres built three fortified castles, the majestic ruins of which dominate the town and surrounding hills to this day. It's possible to hike to all three if you're feeling energetic.

  • Saint Ulrich castle (the oldest and the most important)
  • Girsberg castle
  • Haut-Ribeaupierre castle (the highest of the 3 castles)

For those who want to avoid the hard work of hiking (like me), a fun way to see the village and surrounding countryside is to take the “petit train touristique”. It leaves every hour, on the hour, from the park at the edge of town. Individual headsets are provided and the commentary is available in eight languages. The train will take you through the narrow, and sometimes very steep, streets of Ribeauvillé, through the vineyards to the small village of Hunawihr with its 14th century walled church.

Wooden shutters

A stroll through the winding streets of Ribeauvillé reveals colourful flower boxes adorning every charming facade, with wooden shutters (volets) framing every windowsill.

French pasteries

Life moves at a different pace in this part of the world. It's such a pleasure to just meander and listen to the laidback “Bonjour! Ça va?” that echoes on every corner. Streets are shut down so that people can simply enjoy walking through the pretty streets, and shops open and close at times that seem to have no rhyme or reason. Yet, somehow, it all adds to the charm.

In the mornings, wake up to the sound of birdsong, slowly get ready for the day, and make your way to one of the many patisseries that tempt you with delicious French pastries.

You could spend hours just exploring the cute little shops that offer a vast array of trinkets, curios and souvenirs. On Saturday mornings, make sure to check out the weekly market that takes over the town centre and will make you drool with its wide selection of fresh fruit and vegetables, wines, meats and cheeses. If you're lucky, you'll be approached by little kids carrying baskets of just-out-of-the-oven bread, and offering free samples.

Wine shop in France

A “dégustation” stop is a must here. Viticulture is an important part of the economy in Ribeauvillé and there are around 500 viticulturists operating in this region. I recommend a chilled glass of Pinot Blanc but, whatever you choose, I'm sure you won't be disappointed. I know I wasn't!

For those looking for a wild party, Ribeauvillé is not for you. If, however, you want to enjoy fantastic food and wine, excellent service and beautiful scenery, then I can't think of a better place to do it.

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I fell in love with traveling much earlier than I fell in love with my first man. And I'm still faithful to that love (But I have exchanged some men since my first one). I have never had a reason to regret my passion. I constantly dream of going further, it gives me indescribable emotions and meaning to my life.

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