The picturesque town of Riquewihr is a little jewel in Alsace and a popular tourist attraction in the region. With its narrow cobblestone streets, medieval half-timbered houses and unique ambience, Riquewihr is one of the most beautiful and most visited villages in France. During a relaxed walk through the car-free old town, our camera was again in constant use, because we could discover numerous worth seeing corners and photogenic motifs.
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Things to know about Riquewihr in Alsace
The small medieval town of Riquewihr, with its 1,200 inhabitants, is hidden among mountain and vineyards on the Alsace Wine Route, which takes you to Colmar after 7 kilometers. Due to its intact townscape from the 16th century, Riquewihr is one of the “most beautiful villages in France” according to an award – even the old city walls and towers are still intact. We could also convince ourselves of this beauty during our visit. Especially worth seeing are the many small alleys with their picturesque houses, which lead picturesquely and colorfully through the village. Everywhere you can see windows and balconies decorated with flowers or walls and courtyards entwined with vines. We particularly liked the fact that the entire urban area of Riquewihr is a pedestrian zone, allowing for a largely relaxed and quiet stroll. Along the main street (Rue du Général de Gaulle) you can find many restaurants, cafes, stores as well as wine stores.
The wine-growing town of Riquewihr is located at an altitude of about 300 meters and is home to numerous winegrowers who invite guests to taste their wines and visit their wine cellars. The old town calls itself the “Pearl of the Wine Route” and, as one of the most important Alsatian wine-growing towns, offers fabulous and tasty wines, such as the “Sporen” and the “Schoenenbourg”.
A map of Riquewihr
A complete guide of Riquewihr can be downloaded here.
The most beautiful sights in Riquewihr
We drove from Colmar to Riquewihr by car and parked it in a large paid parking lot just outside the town (location in Google Maps). From here it is only a stone’s throw to the old town. We started our sightseeing in the east and from there we made a round through the city.
Hôtel de Ville (City Hall)
Directly at the east entrance, on Place Voltaire, is the neoclassical-style Hôtel de Ville, Riquewihr’s town hall. It was built near the lower town gate, which was demolished in 1808, after the old town hall located in the town center was demolished in 1798. A passageway leads through the town hall into the old town – it thus serves as the eastern entrance to the city. From here also starts the Petit Train, a small tourist train that allows you to explore the city and the adjacent vineyards daily from April to October.
Rue du Général de Gaulle
After passing through the town hall, you are already in the middle of Riquewihr’s main street, Rue du Général de Gaulle. It leads just across the city to the west, where the striking Dolder Tower and the Upper City Gate, built towards the end of the 13th century, are located. On the way there, we passed many pretty half-timbered houses, cute cafes, numerous stores and restaurants. Here there is something to see and discover every few meters; one postcard motif follows the next. Particularly noteworthy is the“skyscraper house” at 14 Rue du Général de Gaulle, built in 1561, which is one of the highest half-timbered houses in Alsace, with its 5 floors and its height of 25 meters.
Incidentally, Rue du Général de Gaulle is also the site of the traditional annual Christmas market, open every Saturday and Sunday in Advent from 10:00 to 19:00.
City fortification & Dolder Tower
Riquewihr is very important because the unique old town, including the fortifications, is almost completely preserved. In 1291, the first fortification wall was built for protection, framing the town with its gate towers and forming a closed unit. With the development of firearms, it became necessary to strengthen the city walls around 1500. Thus, a second wall was built on all sides except in the north, to which redoubts and towers were added at the beginning of the 17th century. The town could afford a double city wall because it had become prosperous thanks to the cultivation and trade of wine.
The half-timbered and flower-decorated Dolder Tower, 25 meters high, is the landmark of Riquewihr, which together with the Porte Haute (Upper Town Gate) closes off the town center to the west. Since its construction in 1291, it has served as a bell tower, a watchtower, and a city gate, and today it houses a city history museum that displays, among other things, household and handicraft utensils, as well as war tools from the period since 1870. To the right of the dolder is the so-called Sinnbrunnen from the 16th century, on the top of which is a lion holding a coat of arms.
In addition to the gates and towers already mentioned, there are other towers in Riquewihr. Three corner towers from the first city wall have been preserved until today: the Diebesturm, the Hellerturm and the tower of the Anabaptists. At the northwest corner, at the end of Rue des Juifs, is the 18-meter high Diebesturm (La Tour des Voleurs). It was also built in 1291 as part of the construction of the city walls and rebuilt in the 15th century. Once the city prison was located here, today in the museum you can see the torture chamber, the dungeon and the apartment of the guard. The Diebesturm has a pentagonal shape on the outside and a square shape on the inside. Another tower in Riquewihr is the Hellerturm (Maison de vigneron) on Rue Saint-Nicolas. The building located there has an unknown date of construction and still houses the southwestern corner tower of the first city wall.
Tour of the old town
As we walked through the cobblestone streets of the medieval town, we spotted many colorful half-timbered houses from the 15th to 18th centuries, hidden courtyards and cute stores, cafes and restaurants. The ambience in the city is very special and you can drift here wonderfully. We liked Riquewihr right away.
Worth mentioning is the so-called Three Churches Square (Place des Trois Églises), which got its name from three churches that stood on this spot in earliest times: (1) A parish church from the 12th to the 15th century, which was replaced by the present Protestant church in the middle of the 19th century. (2) The pilgrimage church of Notre-Dame, built in 1337, was converted into a rectory after the introduction of the reform. (3) The early 14th century Saint-Erard church was associated with the adjacent former hospital. After the reform, it was converted into a boys’ school in 1539.
Riquewihr is strongly oriented towards tourism. Especially on summer weekends, the town is incredibly busy; many day tourists come here then to admire the beauty of the place. We were therefore also 2x in Riquewihr: Once in the afternoon, where the place was very very crowded and then again very early the next morning, when the town was still a bit sleepy and hardly any other visitors were there. That was ideal!
The most beautiful Alsace Villages (France)Half-timbered towns, wine villages, castles, medieval city walls and tarte flambée... we spent a few days in Alsace, France. Here you can find our travelogues of some of the most beautiful towns in the region.
» Strasbourg - Tourist Attractions, Things to Do & Photo spots
» Colmar - Top 15 sights in the old town
» Kaysersberg – Sights, Old Town & Castle
» Riquewihr - One of the most beautiful villages in France
» Eguisheim - Top sights of the medieval town
» Turckheim - A day trip from Colmar
» Ribeauvillé – Top Sights & Photo Spots
» Neuf-Brisach - own and Fortress (UNESCO World Heritage)