Original Post-December 5, 2021 | Updated November 30, 2023
There’s nothing quite like Christmas in the Alsace, the region in France that exudes quintessential charming villages in every corner. Ribeauvillé is just one of the many picturesque, charming towns in Alsace that is a perfect example. Add a few locals dressed to the tee in Middle Ages attire, decorate the whole town in Christmas splendor, and bring in live animals to add a touch of authenticity, and you’ve got yourself a Medieval Christmas market! But this isn’t just a Medieval Christmas Market; it’s an authentic festivity bringing you back in time as the village replicates every aspect of the market to a wonderful experience like no other. Here’s an overview of Ribeauville’s Medieval Christmas Market, and it only takes place for two weekends in the beginning of December.
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Located in between vineyards and mountains, Ribeauvillé lies 10 miles north of Colmar, France, and 47 miles south of Strasbourg. The town has a history that dates back to the 14th century, with the vineyards along the Alsace wine route having existed since the Middle Ages. During the Middle Ages, the town was the seat for the Ribeaupierre Family where the name Ribeauvillé derives from. The family built three fortified castles, where you can still find the ruins towering above the town and the surrounding hills today. It’s no wonder it’s one of the oldest medieval towns in Alsace.
Fun Fact: Ribeauvillé is known as the City of the Minstrels due to the history of a Lord of the Ribeaupierre who had given a coin to a passing fiddler who had broken his fiddle. To thank the Lordship, the “brotherhood of fiddle players” chose the Ribeaupierre as their king. Today, one of the oldest festivals in Alsace called ‘Pfifferdaj’ (Strolling Fiddle-Players’ Festival), is celebrated on the first Sunday of September to commemorate this event.
Ribeauvillé’s Medieval Christmas Market
Ribeauvillé’s Medieval Christmas Market is unique in so many ways. It is one of the most authentic, interactive, and magical Medieval Christmas Markets I have ever visited. Not only is it so special, but it makes you feel like you are strolling through a Christmas Market taking place in the 14th century! Here are a few things that makes this market so special.
The Live Animals
As soon as we entered the market, I knew this would be different, because one of the first things that sets this market apart from other Medieval markets I have been to are the live animals. Wandering around the streets, we suddenly found ourselves surrounded by several white geese in the middle of the cobblestone streets of Ribeauvillé. We soon realized this was part of the interactive festivities of the market and found this to be so cool!
Camels in the middle of France? Sure! We stumbled upon a beautiful camel near the city center. I hadn’t thought about seeing a camel in a Medieval Market, but it was quite a sight!
Livestock animals are also spread out in different areas of the market. We found sheep and chickens in gated areas for children and adults to admire.
The locals and people are the key players in bringing this Medieval Market to life! These dedicated folks dress to the time period of the Medieval Ages to bring about a wonderful experience for everyone! And, the period actors do a wonderful job putting this whole Medieval Christmas Market together! Although we attended during the pandemic, we were very impressed with how well this Market was orchestrated. Lots of activities and shows were performed throughout the town. The whole market was very animated! We saw dancers, in full medieval costumes and masks in the city center, jugglers, blacksmiths, stilt walkers, and more.
There’s no Christmas Market without the food, right? From the Alsatian local specialties to Christmas market foods and mulled wine/vin chaud, Ribeauvillé had a variety of Christmas Market and time period food to share! One of my favorites was the boar sandwich, and we did see a boar on a firepit which was a sight to see. Here are few other foods to try:
↠ Flammekueche/Tarte Flambée: Not to miss in Alsace, this is the pizza of this region. It’s made with thin pastry-like dough and white (like sour cream) sauce, topped with bacon bits, cheese, and onions. There are other toppings you can choose from. This is quite good, and I love this Alsatian treat!
↠ Mulled Wine aka Vin Chaud: the star of the Christmas Market, this concoction of citrus fruits, spices, and wine. It’s kept simmering warm and placed in a mug for you. The mug/cup can be purchased (you pay for the deposit when you buy the drink), and you can either keep the mug or return for your deposit. We like to keep our mug for souvenirs. Each Christmas market will have its own mug/cup.
↠ Apple Cider: If you’re not into wine or alcohol, I hear the apple cider is delicious and freshly made.
↠ Wild boar: you can find this in the city center called Place de l’Hotel de Ville:, right after the camels by the fountains. You’ll find a boar spinning on a fire pit. My recommendation is to try the boar sandwich, it’s worth the wait in line for one.
↠ la poêlée: I didn’t get a chance to try this dish, but it appeared to be pan-fried potatoes with sausages and onions and looked delicious
↠ Bredele: These are Christmas biscuits made in many different flavors and in many individual recipes. Find the ones made especially by a homemade, family recipe.
↠ Manelle: Ok, this cake is actually shaped like a gingerbread man, but it tastes like brioche bread that you can get plain or with chocolate chips. Best to eat with hot chocolate.
↠ Gingerbread: This isn’t your typical gingerbread cookie we are used to in the States. This cake is made from dried fruit, spices, and honey, with a hint of citrus. If bought from a good bakery, it’s very delicious, especially when it’s warm.
The Market Stalls for Gifts
Looking for souvenirs or special gifts? Many market stalls and shops offer a variety of gifts, some unique and handmade. You can find stalls with leather goods, wooden ornaments, jewelry pieces, local and fresh delicacies, and even wooden toys popular during the Middle Ages. And, to get into the Medieval spirit, the sellers are also dressed for the time period!
Strolling along the cobblestone streets, admiring the colorful half-timbered buildings and homes around every corner of the picturesque streets of the Medieval city of Ribeauvillé is enticing enough to warrant a visit. But the added Medieval theme and city decorated with all its over-the-top Christmas decorations bring even more charm to the city! It’s one of those Medieval Christmas market festivities you don’t want to miss.
Where to Find the Medieval Christmas Market in Ribeauvillé
The main market is all along the Grand Rue. We came in from the Jardin de Ville and walked along the Grand Rue, stopping at any intersections and squares if we happened to see any booths or activities we saw. And, you’ll want to wander into these squares, or nooks and crannies, you don’t want to miss a thing. Not all areas are alike and they all have very unique areas. We worked our way up on Grand Rue until we hit the market’s end and walked back to Jardin dè Ville.
When is Ribeauvillé’s Medieval Christmas Market
Each year, this cute Alsatian town in France hosts a Christmas Medieval Market for two weekends in December. This year, 2023, the event takes place during the weekends of December 2 & 3 and December 9 & 10. But the Medieval Magic only happens during these two weekends, so you do not want to miss this! This was one of our favorite Christmas Markets!
Practical Information About Ribeauvillé’s Medieval Christmas Market
Location: Ribeauvillé, France, in Alsace (be sure you have the proper spelling, we drove an additional 2 hours out of the way, not realizing I had misspelled the town’s name on Google Maps)
GPS Location: https://goo.gl/maps/bEHtbMRSXgbrCwya7
Date of Christmas Market: Note** Ribeauvillé’s Medieval Christmas Market takes place for two weekends in December. This year (2023), Ribeauville’s Medieval Christmas Market is on December 2, December 3, December 9, and December 10.
Parking: Parking can be found around the town, we found free parking on a side residential street here and walked about 5 minutes into the town. They also have a park & ride just outside town, and a shuttle can take you to the market entrance (for a fee). Additionally, you can find other parking here and here.
Shuttle: There is also a shuttle that runs between nearby Christmas Markets, such as Colmar, Riquewihr, Ribeauvillé, and more. You can find more information here.
Website: To find more about this event, find the link for the website, here.
Find my blog post on more Alsace Christmas Markets here! A Quick Guide to the Alsace Christmas Markets
For an authentic, interactive, and magical celebration, the French town of Ribeauvillé, one of the oldest medieval towns in Alsace, offers an extremely charming Medieval Christmas Market, one I recommend not missing out on! Additionally, the town takes you back in time with activities and shows; this was a very animated Christmas market with jugglers, dancers, live animals, delicious food/delicacies, and more! It felt like we were in a real-life Disney village and taken back in time to the Middle Ages!
This year, the event takes place during the weekends of December 2 & 3 and December 9 & 10 (dates for 2023). But the Medieval Magic only happens during these two weekends, so you do not want to miss this!
This was one of our favorite Christmas Markets! Are you adding this Christmas Market to your list? Let me know if the comments. Until next time friends! A la prochaine les amis!