Nestled among vineyards, traditional houses, canals, floral displays, amazing cuisine, Colmar is a microcosm of Alsace where it is located – if I had to sum up the town in one word, it’ll have to be “romantic”.
Colmar is one of the favourite French towns I’ve visited. Somewhat similar to Bruges in Belgium, I loved the half-timbered houses and unique Early Renaissance architectural style found in this cute and quaint town.
The clear and bright weather here helps a ton too! I really recommend visiting this place if you ever have the opportunity to, as I’m sure you’ll fall in love with it as I did.
- Map of Colmar, France
- Colmar, France Weather
- What to do in Colmar, France
- 1. Take a stroll in Colmar Old Town
- 2. Hop onto a “gondola” at Little Venice
- 3. Get educated at the Musée Unterlinden
- 4. Grab a bite at the Market Hall
- 5. Take a day trip around Alsace
- 6. Catch the town-wide light show
- 7. Join in the festivities at the Colmar Christmas Market
- Getting to Colmar, France
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Map of Colmar, France
Colmar is located in the Alsace region in the north of France. It’s a tiny town that covers a land area less than 67 square kilometres – given its proximity to the German and Swiss borders, Colmar is also widely regarded as a gateway to these countries.
Much of Colmar is centred around the historic Colmar Old Town, which has been classified as a protected area for over 20 years. As a result, there has been significant efforts to preserve traditional architecture and structures in the Old Town.
However, just a stone’s throw away are the Colmar Centre Ville (known as Quartier Ctre) and Little Venice Colmar, both of which boast their fair share of tourist attractions.
Colmar, France Weather
The weather in Colmar, France is super mild relative to the rest of Europe. Expect temperatures year round to be between 10℃ to 25℃, with the mercury hovering around 0℃ in the winter months of November to February.
Humidity constantly hovers around a comfortable 50%, and while it does drizzle periodically, Colmar stands unique in having quite a lot of sunny days year round. The bright weather definitely matches the vibrant streetscape here.
What to do in Colmar, France
1. Take a stroll in Colmar Old Town
You’ll absolutely love walking down the cobblestoned, worn streets of the Old Town. Full of charm, designation of the Old Town as a “protected sector” by the French authorities have really helped in preservation efforts of the physical form of the original town.
Its old Alsatian dwellings, incredibly picturesque with their corbelled turrets, flower-covered balconies, half-timbering and oriel windows are really a sight to behold. I personally love how the locals here have a lot of pride regarding their homes.
Not a single house is left decrepit, and everyone tries to spruce up the exterior with little potted plants, or some more unique decor like these wrought iron bicycles!
Take a breather as you explore the Old Town! Slow down and smell the roses at these particularly significant buildings:
Built in 1537 by a hatter from Besancon, Pfister house is the first example of architectural renaissance in Colmar. With an ornate two-storey oriel, its intricately carved wood gallery, octagonal turret and murals which represent biblical scenes, the Pfister house has become a treasured and irreplaceable symbol of Old Colmar.
Koifhus (Former Customs House)
Merchandise subject to communal tax used to be stored in the ground floor of the main building, completed in 1480. The upper floor was home to the town’s council, the law courts and the council of magistrates.
The building has served many purposes throughout its history, such as being the home of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry from 1870 to 1930 and an Israelite school in the late 19th century. Today, public activities take place in the building, reflecting its status as a hub for public life since its construction.
House of Heads
This large house built in 1609 by a wealthy merchant is a fine example of Renaissance architecture. It’s super interesting, and if you were wondering how it got its name, its because of the no fewer than 106 sculpted heads on its façade.
2. Hop onto a “gondola” at Little Venice
No, you won’t be heading to Italy in Little Venice. Located along the Lauch river that runs through Colmar, Little Venice is part of the Krutenau district. It’s been affectionately dubbed Little Venice because of the rows of houses lining the riverfront that are reminiscent of the famous Italian city.
You can take a leisurely stroll along the waterfront here as I did, and watch boats ferrying passengers sail by. Alternatively, you can hop onto a boat ride, where catching the sunset with your significant other sounds like a pretty romantic idea.
Either ways, you’ll be treated to some of the most magnificent views of pastelled homes, wrought iron balustrades and quaint decorations as you head down the river. There’s a good reason to why photographers from all over the world flock to Little Venice – this is one of the most photogenic areas in all of Colmar so have your camera ready!
3. Get educated at the Musée Unterlinden
Unterlinden Museum, already famous for Isenheim altarpiece, also houses artwork from Colmar’s medieval age to the contemporary era. The Dominican convent originally built in the 13th century, recently saw an extension constructed in 2016 which added a new wing.
Modern art collections on show feature works by famous French artists, and the history of the collection spans an eye-boggling 7000 years! If you’re an art or history buff, this is one spot you won’t want to miss.
4. Grab a bite at the Market Hall
Designed in 1865, the Market Hall still serves its original function as a focal point for public life. Housewives and other shoppers from all over town come to this space daily, where about twenty merchants peddle their high quality products: fresh fruits, meats, cheese dairy, pastries and baked goods, and fish being some of the items sold here.
Make sure not to miss out on the chance to try out some of the local specialty foods while you’re here! I tried eating the life-sized Kugelhopf which left me stuffed. Make sure to sample regional wines as well as cheeses if you can.
If you love pizza, why not try the Alsacian version? The Tarte flambée or Flammekueche is a basically a pizza with super thin crust, with a generous helping of fromage blanc and caramelized onions. Yum!
5. Take a day trip around Alsace
Colmar is in the very heart of Alsace, making it the ideal springboard for exploring the picturesque towns and villages of the wine-growing region, such as Haut-Koenigsbourg and Hohlandsbourg.
If wine tastings and historic monuments are not your thing, there are also various tours that allow you to experience trail biking, horse-riding, skiing or swimming available if you know where to look for it. Here are a few that might be quite interesting:
6. Catch the town-wide light show
Colmar might be a quaint, historic town but it too has embraced technology! With the aid of computer sensor systems and over 1110 light sources, a light show runs in and around the Old Town of Colmar bi-weekly on Friday and Saturday evenings.
Get mesmerized as the multicolored lights act as a paintbrush, repainting and highlighting architectural details of the many structures you never noticed during the day. As an added bonus, these light shows run daily during special occasions like the International Festival, Alsace Regional Wine Fair and Christmas.
7. Join in the festivities at the Colmar Christmas Market
The Colmar Marche de Noel, or Christmas Market, is an annual tradition and is usually held for a month from the end of November to end of December.
Located within the pedestrianized town centre of Colmar, catch a glimpse of the entire town being decorated to reflect the warm, celebratory Christmas mood. Not only are there multiple markets open around town, locals love staging plays and carolling to really exude that yuletide festivity.
Though it doesn’t run year-round, you must come and see it for yourself if you are travelling to Colmar at the end of the year – the Christmas Market has been said to be the “3rd European Best Destination” in 2018.
Getting to Colmar, France
Colmar does have a small airport located 1 kilometre from the town, however barely any commercial flights ply the route between Colmar and other French towns. Luckily, Colmar is located pretty near other regional towns, so taking a train to Colmar Train Station will be your best bet here.
From Strasbourg to Colmar, France
It costs 12.60€ for a 30-minute train ride from Strasbourg to Colmar, and this gets cheaper if you are a student with a Carte Jeune SNCF card – 6.30€ for a one-way ticket!
From Basel to Colmar, France
From Basel to Colmar, the ride is slightly longer at 45 minutes, and it will set you back about 11.70€.
From Paris to Colmar, France
Getting from Paris to Colmar by train is slightly longer given the distance from the French capital. That being said, there are multiple Paris to Colmar trains departing daily, and you can get one for as low as 16€ for the 3-hour ride.
TIP: Once at the Colmar Train Station, can easily get to the tourism office. Follow the traffic along the main road of Avenue De La Republique. Head to Rue Des Têtes, cross a river, walk a little further and on your left, you will see a square with signs that guide you there!
I hope my short guide has helped inform you of what there is to see in this charming little town. I need to admit that I completely fell heads over heels for Colmar when I went there, and I think anyone will too – the pastel houses and quaint streets are simply irresistible! Make sure to drop by if you are ever in the area and have the chance to.
29 April 2015, Wednesday