Ever heard of a place that moved countries? Well, the town of Colmar, in North-Eastern France and on the border with Germany, is one such place.
Imagine a place with cobblestone streets running next to canals that are lined with absolutely gorgeous half-timbered houses that are accentuated with quintessential French shutters and are colored in various shades of sky blue, rose, lemon, apricot, peppermint and many more pastel colors! This is Colmar.
It is one of the most beautiful villages in Alsace, France. And one that you should include on your holiday to France.
Colmar France Travel Guide
Find below everything you need to know for your visit to Colmar in France.
Where is Colmar Located?
Located on the border of France and Germany and near Switzerland, Colmar is a fairytale French town that offers a mesmerizing insight into the last 1,000 years of European history.
Colmar is located in northeastern France, next to the mighty Rhine River and on the border with Germany.
Colmar is an extremely gorgeous little town in the heart of Alsace, a French region famously known for its vineyards and wonderful wines. Ask anybody familiar with this region and he/she will tell you that Alsace is the world’s pioneer of wine tourism. However, Colmar is pushing this even further, but more on that later.
How to Get to Colmar?
Colmar is set somewhere between the French cities of Strasbourg and Mulhouse (the Bugatti city). You can find a direct train connection to Colmar from both cities. Please note that if you are coming from Strasbourg, which is 35 minutes from Colmar, make sure that you sit on the right side of the train and enjoy the highly captivating and stunning views of the Vosges Mountains.
Alternatively, if you are coming from the German side, you can choose a bus near the border town of Breisach. Again, you can take a direct train from Freiburg and get a RegioElsass Ticket, which is way cheaper and valid for the bus from Breisach.
Additionally, there a numerous low-cost flights from the closest airport; the Euroairport in Basel. Other airports in the area include Baden Airport, Zurich, and Stuttgart.
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Here is a video to show you how stunning this Alsace city really is.
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What to Look out for When Visiting Colmar
For the last 70 years since the end of the WWII, Colmar has remained a permanent part of France, albeit with a hint of German architecture and culture. But more important than its Franco-German features is that this region’s stunning mountainous scenery shelters a gorgeous city with idyllic villages, superb vineyards, wonderful wines, fascinating museums and cozy cuisines, restaurants and of course, of course, Colmar hotels.
This is a little town with 67,000 inhabitants, remarkably exceptional heritage, lovely canals, romantic streets, sumptuous cuisines, wonderful wines and even a dialect that’s only unique to this town. It’s definitely a town worth visiting; a place where you’ll find serenity and intimacy of a medium-sized town, but stand to bump into various amazing things, scenes and magical architectures reflecting 1,000 years of strange French and German coexistence and struggles.
It may be quite hard to believe this but the truth is; Colmar is so attractive that it doesn’t feel real!
It’s one of those few places in the world that you can visit and ultimately feel the urge to remain there for the rest of your life. We have traveled to various parts of France and the world in general, but there’s no other place in this country or anywhere else where me or any other visitor, for that matter, can be given a genuinely warm welcome than in Colmar.
Colmar dates back to the 14th century. This ultimately unique place has changed hands numerous times over the centuries between Germany and France. This is perhaps one of the main reasons why it has maintained an irreplaceable and fierce character that never conforms to any specific country. To drive this home, this is a place where a unique dialect is a commonly spoken language.
The best part of Colmar’s history is the fact that its centuries-old buildings have seen it all, but still remain beautiful and in tiptop shape.
This town began as part of the Holy Roman Empire but for the last 800 or so years, it has been governed either by France or Germany with Sweden also enjoying some few years of rule. France took its control in 1673 but was overthrown by the Germans in 1871 only to be returned to France after the WWI. It was again taken by Nazi Germany in 1940 and was returned to France in 1945 where it remains to date.
Things to do in Colmar France
Colmar is filled to the brim with spectacular sights and sensatioinal spots. Here are our two most favorite things to do in Colmar France:
1. Stroll around the Old Town Colmar
Forget Colmar’s magnificently eccentric history, this little old town has many attractions and indisputable charm that it would be impossible to visit them all in a day. There are the flat-bottomed boats plying the lovely canals while meandering under gratifying little bridges and besides romantic streets.
Walking down the streets of Colmar is reminiscent to visiting a captivating movie set full of century-old, half-timbered buildings that are conspicuously Germanic, yet with elegant French finishes like in the critically acclaimed Disney movie, Beauty, and the Beast.
In essence, you’ll never remember that you are in France if not for the croissants and pain au chocolat from the bakeries. This is because Colmar is an architectural goldmine full of the renaissance, gothic churches, and baroque mansions.
2. Check out the Little Venice in Colmar
While there are various places to visit such as the Maison des Tetes (House of the Heads), Unterlinden Museum, Bartholdi Museum (in memory of Colmar’s famous son, Frederic Auguste Bartholdi who designed the original Statue of Liberty in the U.S.), the main point of attraction is the romantic and world famous district of Petit (Little) Venice near Quai de Poissoniers.
This picture-perfect district, named after Italy’s Venice, will surely be great for your Instagram, and that’s why you should carry an extra memory card just in case the first one gets full. Like the rest of Colmar, Little Venice dates back to the 14th century and survived wars and annexations unscathed. Legend has it that it was a quarter for the old merchants including butchers, tanners, and fishmongers.
3. Other Things to do in Colmar
In short, Colmar is generally an enchanting maze that illustrates Alsace’s unique culture, historic leather-tanning district, brightly painted half-timbered houses and amazingly interlocking waterways. From boat rides, mountain climbing and bike rides to hiking and fishing, there are a lot of things to do in Colmar.
What and Where to Eat and Stay
Colmar is an amazing place and there are tonnes of amazing places to stay at and plenty of gorgeous restaurants to eat at. Here are our favorites:
Where to Eat in Colmar
Discovering the gentle Alsatian lifestyle as presented by Colmar cannot be complete without the sampling of the Colmar cuisines and wine culture.
Different from any other part of France, you’ll encounter the mouth-watering Alsace pastries. From the Kugelhopf cake (similar to the American Bundt cake), sauerkraut (fermented cabbage served with a variety of meats and boiled potatoes), tarte flambèe (Alsatian pizza), foie gras, juicy ham hock, spicy gingerbread and escargots to famous Alsatian wines, you’ll never go wrong if you’re a foodie.
Hotels in Colmar
If you are looking for a hotel in Colmar, please note that there are tonnes of options to choose from. There are friendly and affordable places to stay with many of them now available through Airbnb, which is our preferred accommodation in Colmar option.
There are also tonnes of hotels in Colmar such as Maison Bellevue, Hotel Les Tètes, and Maison Martin JUND – just to mention a few.
Colmar is a truly magical place and a fairytale-like town in our eyes. This is the place in France that we are planning to settle down for a while one day. Everything about this place is beautiful, from the colorful buildings, cobblestone streets, delicious cuisine in many restaurants and so much more!
I hope that our guide has helped you to answer all your questions. And if not, please feel free to pop some more in the comment section below. We will try to help as much as we can. Until then, enjoy your travels and have a great time in Colmar!