Colmar, France: where is it, when to go and what to see

Colmar

Colmar (France) – the most detailed information about the city with photos. The main attractions of Colmar with descriptions, travel guides and maps.

Colmar (France).

Colmar is a charming city in the north-east of France in the province of Alsace, department of the Upper Rhine. Known for its old half-timbered houses along the canals, its wines and as the birthplace of Auguste Bartholdi, creator of the famous Statue of Liberty. Colmar is one of the most picturesque and photogenic cities in Alsace, which has well preserved its cultural and architectural heritage.

All the attractions of Colmar are located in its old town, which has survived remarkably well in spite of the world wars. The historic center of the city is quite large, but it is still convenient to explore on foot. See the old town of Colmar and take a walk through its streets.

Colmar

Colmar

Things to do (Colmar):

Enchanting Colmar

€118 per tour

Charming Colmar

Immerse yourself in the fairytale flavor of the most beautiful city in Alsace on a soulful sightseeing tour.

Through the magic streets of Colmar

€124 for a guided tour

Through the streets of Colmar

The image of an authentic city with the inimitable Alsatian style on a walk with a cultural historian…

Geography and climate

Colmar is situated on a plain on the banks of the Loch, at the foot of the Vosges Mountains, a few dozen kilometers from the Rhine and the German border. In fact, the plains of Alsace divide the Vosges and the Black Forest. The city is conveniently located between Strasbourg and Basel.

Colmar has a relatively mild temperate continental climate with relatively dry weather, which is great for the famous wines of Alsace. The average rainfall during the year is about 600 mm, most of which occurs between June and September. Temperatures are about 24 degrees in summer, and only about 5 degrees from December to February with frosts, most common in January. Snow is also possible at this time.

Colmar in winter

Colmar in winter.

Information for tourists

  1. The population is 70.3 thousand people.
  2. Area – 66.6 square kilometers.
  3. Language: French.
  4. Currency – euros.
  5. Visa – Schengen.
  6. Time – Central European UTC +1, in summer +2.

Best time to visit

Colmar can be visited all year round. But the most magical time is before Christmas, when the city acquires a simply magical charm.

Colmar before Christmas

Colmar before Christmas

History

Colmar was first mentioned in the 9th century. It became a free city in the Holy Roman Empire in the 13th century. Due to its border location, the city was repeatedly under German rule and experienced strong German influence. Colmar joined the Union of Ten Cities in the 14th century. Because of its location, it developed rapidly during the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

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The Old Town

In the old town

Colmar suffered greatly in the process of the Reformation, the subsequent peasant wars and the Thirty Years’ War. By the Treaty of Nimwegen the city is part of France. In 1871, Colmar becomes part of the German Empire. After World War I, the city became French again. During World War II, Colmar was one of the last French cities to be liberated. The city has maintained a rich architectural and cultural heritage, including a former monastery church, several monasteries, a remarkable theater, canals (for which Colmar is called “Little Venice”), and beautiful medieval houses.

How to get there

Colmar is about 60 kilometers south of Strasbourg airport. The airport of Basel is also close. With these two cities, as well as with Freiburg, Colmar has a regular train service. Trains run every hour. The city has good vehicular accessibility from France as well as from Germany and Switzerland.

On the Streets of Colmar

In the streets of Colmar

Shopping

In the historic center of Colmar you can find a variety of stores. It is considered to be quite profitable to buy clothes and shoes here. Because prices here are lower than in neighboring Germany, Switzerland and even Strasbourg. Notable is the typical Alsatian pottery.

The Streets of Colmar

The streets of Colmar

Alsace is known for its pastries and wines. The local dishes include Kugelhopf (pie), Tarte flambée (Alsatian pizza with sour cream), choucroute (sauerkraut), pretzels with salt and Choucroute aux Poissons (fish dish).

Many people call Colmar the wine capital of Alsace, so wine is definitely worth tasting or buying as a souvenir. During the Christmas holidays you can drink orange juice with honey and spices, as well as spicy hot wine (mulled wine).

Colmar

Colmar

Attractions

The old town is the main attraction of Colmar. Wandering through the old streets is the best way to explore it. In the historic center you can find many old buildings from the Middle Ages and Renaissance. The highlight of it is the beautiful half-timbered buildings. In the streets of Colmar you can find almost all architectural styles from Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, Classical to Empire, Eclectic, Art Nouveau. The historic center is an open-air architectural museum.

Colmar Architecture

The architecture of Colmar

“Little Venice” is a district of Colmar with picturesque houses by the water. Located just beyond Coifhus.

Take a boat tour of “Little Venice”.

Fish quarter

The Fish Quarter

The Fish Quarter is a historic neighborhood where fishermen and fishmongers lived. The area is located between downtown and “Little Venice”. In 1706, a massive fire destroyed about 40 houses, rebuilt in the 1980s of the 20th century.

Dominican Church

Dominican church

The Dominican Church is a medieval church of the Dominican order. Its foundation dates back to the 13th century. Exhibitions and fairs are often held on the square.

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Church of Saint Martin

Saint-Martin

Saint Martin is the main religious building in Colmar and one of the main masterpieces of Gothic architecture in Alsace. The church was built between 1235 and 1365. The latest restoration revealed that Saint Martin was built on the foundations of an ancient building from the 11th-12th century. The people of Colmar consider the church their Münster, but St. Martin currently has the status of a monastic church.

Pfister

Pfister

The Pfister is one of the oldest and most beautiful buildings in Colmar with paintings and wooden elements, built in 1537 by a silver merchant. Despite its distinctly medieval features, it is the first example of Renaissance architecture in Colmar. The wooden gallery, the octagonal tower and wall paintings depicting biblical and secular scenes made the house one of the city’s symbols.

Coifhus

Coifhus

Köifhus or the old customs house is a 15th century building located at the crossroads of the main routes of the medieval city. The Coiffus is the oldest public building in Colmar. It had a dual function: the first floor served as a warehouse and a place to collect taxes for goods, the second as a meeting place for the city authorities.

Chapters House

The House of the Chapters

The Heads’ House is an interesting early 17th-century German Renaissance-style building. The house owes its name to the one hundred and six heads and the masks decorating its facade.

Colmar: sights, routes, tips

Colmar, France

Alsace has many picturesque villages, interesting primarily for their architecture. Among the most important of them – a small town Colmar, 80 km from Strasbourg.

Magnificent examples of early Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Classicist and Art Nouveau architecture have been preserved here. The winding streets of the historic city, canals, colorful facades of buildings and abundance of decorations (fresh flowers in summer, Christmas-themed in winter) make this city look like a holiday card.

You can see Colmar in a few hours, but it is better to stay longer to wander leisurely along the embankments, admire the unusual buildings and taste the traditional Alsatian cuisine in the restaurant over the water.

How to get to Colmar from Paris and Strasbourg?

Colmar

From Strasbourg

You can get to Colmar from Strasbourg. The distance between the cities can easily be covered in about an hour on the A35. For a day trip you can rent a car. In France it is very simple and widespread. Choose a suitable class of car and book a car in advance on this site.

The train from Strasbourg to Colmar runs frequently, up to 3 times per hour. The trip takes 35 minutes, the cost of tickets is on average 12-15 euros. Do not forget that on the day of departure tickets for French trains are always more expensive, so buy them in advance on this site.

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From Paris

The shortest way from Paris to Colmar is by car, which takes about 6 hours (530 km) on the A4 toll road that costs about 32 euros. You can rent a car to the hotel, as well as to the exit of the airport.

There is no direct rail route to Colmar, but you can get by train in Strasbourg, Mulhouse or Dijon. In such a route, half of the trip will be on a high-speed TGV train, and the other half on a regular train.

Trains on these routes leave every hour from Gare de Lyon or Gare d’Est. Travel time is from 2:40 to 3:40 hours. Choose the most convenient route and book a ticket here.

Attractions in Colmar

We’re offering you a short itinerary of the most outstanding monuments in Colmar. There are numerous sights to see and do, but the fact is that the city center is incredibly beautiful and the streets are infinitely winding.

If you arrive in Colmar by train the first sight you see is the train station, built in 1905 in German neo-Baroque style.

First of all we suggest you to go to the most famous attraction of the city – Unterlinden Museum. The museum is located next to the tourist office of Colmar, where you can get a free map of the city, buy souvenirs, get any information.

From the square in front of the museum a small tourist train starts, which will take you through the most picturesque streets. This is especially important if you have very little time (the route takes 35-40 minutes), children travel with you or just if you are not in the mood for long walks. The cost of the ticket is 7 euros, 12-18 years old – 4 euros, 1-12 years old – 3.50 euros.

Unterlinden Museum

Unterlinden Museum is located in the building of the monastery. Inside are objects of medieval art, including the famous Isenheim Altar, painted in the 16th century by the German artist Matthias Grunewald. The museum is open daily from 09:00 to 18:00, except Tuesdays, the ticket costs 13 euros, from 12 to 18 years – 8 euros. It is possible to take an audio guide for 2 euros.

The Head House, built in 1609, gave its name to the entire street on which it stands. You will immediately understand why it is called so – the entire facade is decorated with figures and masks, there are 106 of them.

The Dominican church is most of the 14th century in its architecture, but its outstanding altarpiece is now preserved in the Unterlinden Museum. Unlike most French churches, there is a fee to enter (2 euros).

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Every house along rue Marchand is a historical monument and an amazing masterpiece, take a closer look. Among them:

House of Guard (Corps de garde) – 1575. It served as both a city hall, a palace of justice, and a marketplace.

Zum Kragen built in 1558, but its famous corner sculpture was not affixed to the facade until 1609.

Pfister House

Pfister House (Baker’s House) – 1537. It was built by a hatter who got rich from the silver trade. It got its name from the family who protected it in the 19th century.

The House of Adolph (after the family who lived in it) was built in 1350 and is considered the oldest in Colmar.

Casa Adolphe

The House of the Swan (Zum Schwan) belonged to the artist Martin Schongauer, whose works are now preserved in local museums.

The Bartholdi House Museum is the house where the famous sculptor, author of the Statue of Liberty, outstanding fountains and many other works were actually born. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00 to 18:00 (lunch break 12:00 to 14:00). On the tour is enough for 1 hour. Tickets cost 6.70 euros, reduced price 5 euros, there is an audio guide (2 euros).

By the way, Colmar has its own statue of Liberty. It is located opposite the local airfield. You will definitely see it if you drive from Strasbourg by car.

Church of Saint Martin

The Church of Saint Martin is famous for its stained glass windows. Be sure to go inside for at least a few minutes. It’s a great example of 13th-14th century Gothic architecture.

The Church of St. Mathieu was built in the 14th century by the Franciscan order. The acoustics in this building are absolutely gorgeous. It hosts concerts of the International Colmar Music Festival.

Keuphus, Old Customs House

Colmar was once one of the ten free cities of Alsace, printing its own money and taxing imported goods. A reminder of those glorious times is the magnificent building of the Old Customs Office – Coifhus, built in the 15th century.

Past the old covered market (built in 1865 it seems almost new), where you can buy all possible Alsatian delicacies, you’ll get to the iconic area of Colmar – the promenade of fishmongers, but now this picturesque quarter is not other than called “Little Venice”.

Little Venice

The houses in this area were built in the 18th century, after a massive fire destroyed the old buildings. In the 20th century, the half-timbered facades were lovingly restored and are now enjoyed by citizens and tourists alike.

You can go boating on the river Losch. Do not miss this chance.

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Activities and festivals of Colmar

Christmas in Colmar

Colmar is a city with a rich festival life. Annual events held here are:

Jazz Festival (September);

Kolmar Film Festival (October);

International music festival under the direction of Vladimir Spivakov (July);

in August the Alsace wine festival is held, which attracts dozens of wineries and about 250 thousand visitors to the city;

From the end of November the city hosts traditional Christmas markets. This time is a particularly good time in Colmar. Festive lights, garlands on trees and houses, stalls with all sorts of products, souvenirs and Christmas decorations create a magical atmosphere.

Where and what to try in Colmar?

Colmar

The restaurants of Colmar mostly present either traditional French cuisine or the cuisine of Alsace. We recommend you to try:

  • baekeoffe – stew soaked in white wine,
  • tarte flambée – Alsatian onion pie with bacon, vegetables and cheese,
  • choucroute – a special way of sauerkraut with several kinds of meat.

Thanks to the special microclimate and minimal rainfall, this area is famous for its fine white and sparkling wines. They are in harmony with the local cuisine and serve as the most popular souvenir here.

Fine dining is available at the Atelier du Peintre (1 rue Schongauer). The Michelin-starred restaurant is housed in a fifteenth-century house.

Bartholdi, which specializes in fish dishes, is located at 2 Rue des Boulangers.

The best gastronomic place in town is JY’s . Famous for its frequent changes in the menu, which includes not only local but also exotic cuisine. Awarded two Michelin stars.

In search of a budget institution do not be lazy to turn from wide streets in small alleys. This way you can suddenly stumble upon inexpensive brasseries and cafes. For example, La Cour des Anges is a stone’s throw from the Old Customs House.

“Read the article – Cuisine of Alsace

Where to stay in Colmar?

Grand Hotel Bristol Colmar

It may seem that there is nothing to do in such a small town for more than a day. But the unique atmosphere of Colmar will change your mind. It is important to think about hotels beforehand, especially if you are coming on holiday or at Christmas.

One of the best hotels near the train station and the historic center is the Grand Hotel Bristol de Colmar 4*, known for its gourmet restaurant Au Rendez Vous de Chasse and wellness center with water procedures.

A good option for a budget vacation is the Brit Hotel Primo, which offers modern rooms and breakfast for a reasonable price.

Smaller travelers may prefer the Boutique Hotel Beauséjour with its 14 comfortable rooms.

If you like Alsace, we recommend you to go beyond the famous places and discover the most beautiful villages in the region.

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