Do you know the Ried in Alsace? It is a natural region located in the Plain of Alsace. You might not have heard of the Plain of Alsace, as it’s a bit more unknown. However, there is not only the Wine Route to see in Alsace! Let me tell you more and give you some ideas of activities to do in the area… to get off the beaten track in Alsace!
Let’s start with a short geography class about Alsace, so that you can locate everything. Alsace is located between two mountain ranges: the Vosges to the West and the Black Forest (in Germany) to the East. It was only one mountain range about 65 millions of years ago, but their divide gave way to our beautiful Alsace. From west to east, we now have the Vosges, then the lower-Vosges hills (the notorious Piedmont Vosges, hosting the vineyards of the Wine Route), then the Plain of Alsace and finally the Rhine (natural border with our German neighbours).
The Ried, which means reed, refers by extension to a region consisting of submersible meadows and lush forests (namely the Black Forest). The Grand Ried refers to the area of the ried located in the plains between Strasbourg and Colmar, in Central Alsace. The Alsatian Ried is a very interesting area, but it’s not known by tourists.
Why is it so interesting? Because the Alsatian ried is a remarkable haven for biodiversity, an area where you can observe various animals, discover astounding and unspoiled nature (the water-meadows of the Ried offer very unique panoramas in winter!), but also where you can find excellent local products and do some fun activities (including ecotourism tours).
So, are you coming with me? Here are a few ideas for tours, activities and things to do in the Alsatian Ried (as usual, it’s a non-exhaustive list, that I will keep on completing with my new discoveries!).
Take a ride in a flat-bottomed boat
The flat-bottomed boat ride is really an essential activity of the Ried. It allows you to discover at the slow rhythm of a boat its so particular landscapes as well as its fauna, its flora, its history and even its legends!
Enjoy an activity at La Maison de la Nature, du Ried et de l’Alsace centrale
La Maison de la Nature in Muttersholz is an interesting place. First, it is interesting because the building has been designed to fit with its surroundings; but also because of its gourmet vending machine, that will allow you to buy at any hour delicious local and regional products (“tomme du ried”, “pesto à l’ail des ours”, apple juice from the ried, honey, jams… It’s delicious!); for its barefoot trail Sensoried (see below for more details)…
But finally, and it’s probably the most important reason to come and visit: for the countless nature tours offered. La Maison de la Nature is indeed a very dynamic space and a key player in Alsace in the fields of ecotourism and environmental awareness.
For example, you’ll be able to go and see deers in Illwald alongside a guide, go for a walk on the theme of edible plants and learn afterwards how to cook them, take part in a basketry workshop, take a permaculture course, go and listen to the stag bellow… In short, there are a lot of things to do and they change every month!
Marvel at Ebersmunster Abbey
Here is a site that you probably weren’t expecting to find during your visit of the Ried: the small and peaceful village of Ebersmunster is home to Saint-Maurice Abbey, a splendid abbey church dating back from the 18th century and richly decorated in a baroque style. A guaranteed wow effect!
Discover beer production at Les Brasseurs du Ried (while grabbing a bite to eat!)
In Alsace, we have quite a beer culture and there are very good microbreweries in the area. The brewery Les Brasseurs du Ried is one of them: they produce delicious craft beers and open their doors to visitors wishing to learn how beer is made.
As a bonus, the Brasserie du Ried has a Bierstub and a Biergarten, where you’ll be able to take a break, inside or in the garden, to taste a beer with a “tarte flambée” for example. This is a place that I really enjoy going to!
Admire deers in the Illwald reserve
If you want to observe wild deers, then Illwald reserve is the place to be. It hosts the only community of wild fallow deers in France. It’s incredible, isn’t it? Of course, you will have to be patient, to be discreet and to be a bit lucky: there is no guarantee of seeing them.
Have a tea in the zen atmosphere of Les Jardins de Gaïa
Walk barefoot at Sensoried
SensoRied is a free barefoot trail located at La Maison de la Nature in Muttersholtz. It’s a great activity to do as a family!
Taste a matelote from the Ried
The matelote from the Ried is an Alsatian specialty from the region. It is made up of several freshwater fishes (zander, pike, eel, tench, perch, trout…) cooked with a white wine sauce and served with noodles. It has become quite hard to find it, but here is an excellent address for it: the restaurant Les Deux Clefs in Ebersmunster.
Take a tour with a Greeter
A Greeter is “a volunteer, a friendly face for those visiting a city/destination, welcoming individuals or groups”. They are inhabitants who want to share, through a walk, their love for their region. Sélestat has a good network of greeters, among whom you can find two inhabitants of the Ried!
Arsène and Robert, are two friends from Muttersholtz, who love going for walks in the landscapes of the Ried, that they actually visit on foot on an almost daily basis. They offer to bring you along on one of their walks: you’ll get to walk the paths of the Ried, while listening to anecdotes about life in the area. It’s very nice!
Buy excellent local products
You can find really excellent local products in the Ried: everything is delicious! In addition to the very practical vending machine at La Maison de la Nature – as explained above – here are a few very good addresses (of course, the list is non-exhaustive!):
- The Ferme Peter in Muttersholtz is a farm certified as Demeter, working according to the principles of biodynamic agriculture. You can find there excellent fruits and vegetables, but also bread, dairy products, apple juice…
- Les Saveurs du Ried in Holtzwihr, is a producer of fruits, vegetables, jams and fruit juices. Everything is organic.
- La Ferme Durr in Boofzheim is a farm for livestock and mixed farming, selling cheeses, dairy products, charcuterie and meat. Everything is also organic.