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, yet most beautiful of these Beauty and the Beast villages can be found in the French Alsace. We can highly recommend you go on a small road trip along these fairytale towns and surround yourself with their Disney-like vibe.
Tip: to get a good indication of the prices for a rental car we always check prices on Discover Car Hire. They usually have the best deals and it gives you a good indication of the prices for car rentals on your trip.
Is the Alsace in France or Germany?
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 in names and culture.
How about places like Kaysersberg or Riquewihr? Don’t be surprised if street signs also mention a German name and menus are more often bilingual than just in French. Delicacies such as flammküchen – tarte flambée in French – are also on almost every menu in Alsace and are a must if you are in the region.
Best Beauty & The Beast Villages in the Alsace
#1 Eguisheim, most beautiful village in France
One of our favorite villages in the Alsace region is Eguisheim. Like the other Alsace villages, this picture-perfect town is known for its cute cobbled streets, cheerful flowers and historic half-timbered houses. It is not for nothing that the village is on the list of ‘Plus Beaux Villages de France’ and it was even voted the most beautiful village in France in 2013.
What makes Eguisheim unique? The construction of Eguisheim once started with a castle on the spot where the chapel can still be found. Streets were built around the castle and Eguisheim owes its special circular structure to this start. The most special part of the old town is the ‘outer street’ that runs all the way around the village like a moat. As the street circles all around the village, you will never see the end of the street. With every step, a new part of Eguisheim reveals itself with beautiful flowers, half-timbered houses and historic signboards.
Be sure to visit the central square with its cobbled streets, half-timbered houses and the Fontaine de Saint-Léon in the middle. Here you will also find the Chapelle Saint-Léon IX, dedicated to Saint Pope Leo IX. This pope was once born in this village with the name Brunon d’Eguisheim. Unlike many other austere churches and chapels from the Middle Ages, both the walls and the ceiling of the Eguisheim chapel are beautifully and colorfully painted.
Another great tip for Eguisheim? Tasty Veggies in the outer street of Eguisheim serves the best (vegeterian) burgers from Alsace. Unfortunately there are no seats, but you can easily eat your burger or sandwich to go on one of the benches on the square next to it.
Where to stay in Eguisheim: the charming bed & breakfast Les chambres du domaine has the best reviews in Eguisheim. Auberge des Trois Châteaux and Hôtel L’Auberge Alsacienne are both beautiful hotels with good reviews, private parking and a prime location.
#2 Charming Riquewihr
The tiny town of Riquewihr is located between rolling hills with vineyards and a beautiful green 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 profession 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. Near the tower at the end of the street you have the largest Christmas shop. You walk a fixed route over two floors past huge Christmas trees, endless rows of Christmas balls and beautiful shop windows with Christmas figures. It is pricey, but then you have a typical souvenir from Alsace hanging in your Christmas tree.
Where to stay in Riquewihr: book (well in advance) a great and affordable place to sleep in the heart of the village, such as Hôtel le Saint Nicolas in an authentic building or the more modern Chez Coco.
#3 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.
#4 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.
Where to stay in Kaysersberg: Kaysersberg has one of the most beautiful luxury hotels in the Alsace at Relais et Châteaux Le Chambard and also offers the lovely, yet more affordable ART Hôtel. The best budget option is Hostellerie Schwendi on the outskirts of the village.
#5 Enchanting Colmar
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.
The best things to do in Colmar? Besides strolling through the old center and Little Venice, we recommend that you visit the covered market hall between these two districts. You can mainly buy local delicacies here, but there are also a handful of places to have some food or drinks. One of them has a terrace on the water directly against the market hall, which is a great place to have lunch with flamküchen. Be sure to visit the cathedral and other churches, admire the most special buildings such as the Maison La Tetes and Maison Pfister, and be amazed by the mini version of the Statue of Liberty in Colmar. Fun fact: the designer of the famous Statue of Liberty in New York is originally from Colmar.
A trip to this city is also recommended in December. We only visited the town in spring and late autumn, but we were told that it looks like a fairytale Christmas card from November till half January.
Where to stay in Colmar: read our blog for tips for the best areas to stay in Colmar, including eight top tips for hotels in the city.
Tip: have a wine tasting!
Are you thinking: Alsace and Disney, but isn’t the Alsace also one of the famous wine areas in France? Yes, it is! The landscape is characterized by green vineyards producing the best wines. The towns on this Beauty and the Beast road trip in the Alsace are located along or near the Route de Vin d’Alsace. So forget about your Disney moments for a second to join 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 – next to Riquewihr – was just amazing. We had a private wine tasting with the host, free of charge. He even gave us some of the open bottles to take with us.
Tip: Booking.com also offers some amazing places to stay along the Route de Vin d’Alsace. Salut!