Do you remember the opening scene from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, in which Belle wanders through her medieval village with books in her arm? Passing cobble-stoned village streets, along half-timbered houses with their traditional look of wood and plasterwork.. On the internet, many villages are claimed to have been the inspiration for Belle’s hometown, but most beautiful of these can be found in the French Alsace. Make a small road trip along these fairytale towns and surround yourself with their Disney-like vibe.
The French Alsace is located in the northeast of France, close to the German border. That border has been moved in the course of centuries, so this area has been part of Germany in the past. You’ll still see a lot of German touches around here, such as the German town and street names! Our road trip starts with one of these villages with a German name: Riquewihr.
The tiny town of Riquewihr lies between endless vineyards and a beautiful hilly landscape. It is not much more than a main street with some side streets, but these are absolutely worth the visit. It is like stepping on the Beauty and the Beast film set! Walk from city wall to city wall through the main street and occasionally wander into a side street to see that even the half-timbered houses over there are beautiful. Nice detail: back in the old days the colour of the houses indicated the profesion or religion of the owner! We were told that the baker would live in a yellow house and that the owner of a red house was a Protestant.
Riquewihr may seem like a quiet village, it is a huge tourist magnet! We have been told that the city attracts more than 2 million visitors annually. WOW! Passenger cars might fit in the tiny streets, but buses don’t. So there is a large parking area just outside the city walls for visitors. Our tip: come early to skip the crowds and visit Riquewihr in spring and autumn instead of the high season!
You’ll find many tourist shops in the main street, selling local sweets and weirdly enough Christmas decoration throughout the year. A bit strange, but in some way it fits the medieval place.
Beauty and the beast village Ribeauvillé
Next? Ribeauvillé! This place is only a ten minutes drive from Riquewihr. It is slightly larger than its little brother, so here are even more ancient Disney houses, cobbled streets and cute shops. You might get that this is the perfect setting for one of the most popular Christmas markets in the region. A visit to Ribeauvillé is therefore not only recommended in the sunny months, but in December as well.
Ribeauvillé is not only known for its medieval Disney architecture, but also for its castles! On the hill that towers above Ribeauvillé, three castle ruins can be found: Château Saint Ulrich, Château Girsberg and Château du Haut-Ribeaupierre. A walking trail leads from the village to the three ruins. The trail ends at Saint Ulrich and Girsberg. From here you have a great view over the Disney village and the vineyards in the area! Do you have the energy to hike a bit longer? Visit the ruins of Château du Haut-Ribeaupierre as well. It is named after influential family that has once built the three castles here. One of the castle towers is still intact; it is a beautiful viewpoint over the area.
Disney village Kaysersberg
Time for a new destination! Kaysersberg is located in a valley of the beautiful Vosges, so the drive to it will definitely require some photo stops. Here, too, historical half-timbered houses and cute streets will give your a Beauty and the Beast vibe. One of the most beautiful parts of the town is the square near the bridge. From the bridge you’ll have an idyllic view at the houses on the water. The village square looks as if a reading Belle could walk by any moment. Kaysersberg has many tourist shops as well, though the place is a bit quieter than Riquewihr. But here too our tip is: avoid high season and visit this beautiful place in spring or autumn.
Right next to the village is a vineyard, where an old castle towers above. Climb through the vineyard to the ruins for a beautiful view of the Disney town and the beautiful valley. The castle tower is still open for visitors and via a narrow spiral staircase you can climb to the top for an even more beautiful view.
The last stop on this mini roadtrip is Colmar. This is also the biggest town of the trip. You will not only see the colourful medieval half-timbered houses in a main street and a handful of side streets, but throughout the entire city. Pay particular attention to the signboards on the buildings. Some of them are still original! A populair part of the old city center is Petit Venise. It will probably not remind you of Venice at all, but the pastel-colored houses are beautiful anyways.
A trip to this city is also recommended in December. We did not visit the city at that time, but we were told that it looks like a fairytale Christmas card around then. It is not hard to imagine this, looking at those cute, colorful houses!
Tip: have a wine tasting!
Are you thiking: Alsace and Disney? Is Alsace not one of the more well-known wine regions? Yes, it is! The landscape is characterized by green vineyards producing the best wines. The towns on this Beauty and the Beast road trip are located along or near the Route de vin d’Alsace. So forget about your Disney moments for a second to have a wine tasting at one of the wineries.
Or even better: stay on a vineyard, as we did! Our stay at the airbnb
Greiner Winery in the tiny town of Mittelwirh was just amazing. We had a private wine tasting with the host, free of charge. He even gave us some of the opened bottles to take with us. You’ll find other amazing places to stay along the Route de vin d’Alsace here. Salut!
The My Maps map above summarizes all our tips. The menu on the menu has separate layers that mark the best coffee spots, sleeping places and highlights. Click on the star to save the map to your own Google Maps or open the map in a new window for a larger version. Enjoy!