Colmar is a town in the northeastern region of France, on the Alsace Wine Route. It has a district that is called Little Venice which is situated on the canals along the Lauch River. The river can be explored by boat, a route that passes through the fishmonger’s district (known by its colorful houses).
In this Colmar travel guide you will read about: a brief history of Colmar, where is Colmar, how to get there, things to do in one day in Colmar, what to visit in the town, and where to stay.
I am not even surprised that throughout the history everybody wanted Colmar. Here’s a brief story of that:
Once upon a time (in the 9th century exactly) there was some cool guy that said: “hey, the world needs colorful half-timbered houses”. So he founded the beautiful town of Colmar.
It kept being a town (free imperial city precisely) with colorful half-timbered houses until it was taken by the Swedish army for two years. Then it was conquered by France (actually by Louis XIV-he liked nice things) in 1673, then it became part of the German Empire. After the WW1 France said: “No, I want the colorful half-timbered houses back!”. So it became part of France again. Until 1940. Colmar became German again. Not for long though: since 1954 Colmar is part of France. It had a pretty intense love-life with Germany and France. Thankfully, Colmar remained a town of “colorful half-timbered houses” throughout the years, becoming the capital of Alsatian wine region.
If Colmar was not on your list of dream destinations, you should add it. It has everything a place can have to be called “perfect”: good food and wine, dreamy streets, beautiful architecture and wine. And Belle’s hometown from Beauty and the Beast was inspired by Colmar.
Can I move here? Please? I always wanted to be in a Disney movie.
To recap it: colorful streets, half-timbered houses, rich history, fairytale-like views, wine region, floral displays, canals, charming boutiques, romantic cafés- am I missing anything?
How to get to Colmar
By train: getting to Colmar by train is the best option, as it is linked with the largest French cities and other big European cities. There is a direct connection from Paris to Colmar (2h50m) with the TGV. You can check the regional train schedules on the official website HERE.
By plane: Colmar is at equal distance from two international airports: Strasbourg-Entzheim airport and Euroairport- Basel – Mulhouse – Freiburg airport. Both are situated at 70km from Colmar. Want to see the cheapest prices? Check Skyscanner: Free flight comparison with Skyscanner, your flight search starts here!
By car: Colmar is 5 hours away from Paris (560 km), 1 hour from Strasbourg, France (70 km), 2 hours from Zurich and Bern, Switzerland (~150 km), 3 hours from Stuttgart, Germany (220 km). You can find some good navigation apps that work offline on this post: 28 useful travel apps for trips in Europe.
Getting around Colmar: Colmar can be covered easily on foot, the main attractions are close to each other. You can explore it by boat or by the Little White Train.
Where to stay in Colmar
We chose to spend the night in the Ibis Budget Hotel in Colmar. The hotel is close to the city center, it offers free parking and breakfast for an additional cost. It was perfect for one night! You can check the prices for the Ibis Budget Hotel in Colmar HERE. We usually use booking.com to find hotels in any city.
You can get good deals on airbnb too if you would like to stay in an authentic french home. Psst, here’s my link to airbnb.com that will get you 25$ off for your first stay!
Things to do in Colmar
Feel like a princess.
The best thing that you can do in Colmar is to walk. Explore it, fall in love with it, keep your eyes open, be amazed, use “awww” far too often, and take a million pictures. These are the things that you are going to do anyway in Colmar. If you want to be fancier, here’s a list of places that you should not miss:
Get lost in Little Venice
Or as the locals call it, La petite Venise is the place you want to be if you’d like to stare at a real-life postcard. No, really, everywhere you look, it feels like you’ve stepped in an over-saturated page of a fairy tale book. It’s one of those places that will keep popping up before your eyes every time you hear a Disney-song. Every. Time. Forever. Let it gooo, let it goooo. Don’t tell me I didn’t warn you.
Visit a local market
Probably not as authentic as it used to be, because it is right in the middle of the “touristy” area. But who cares? It was beautiful and wandering through a french local market is still one of those life-moments that warms your heart. Try some local fresh products, buy some souvenirs and have a cup of coffee (it has a nice terrace).
Address: Marché couvert de Colmar- 13 Rue des Écoles, 68000 Colmar
Discover the famous landmarks of Colmar
I’m a little bit obsessed with architecture and old buildings. Ok, maybe a lot 😀 I have to admit that I knew exactly nothing about the houses and buildings of Colmar before I visited it. Except they’re pretty. If you’re also a geek like me, here are some of the fascinating old buildings that you can spot while visiting Colmar:
This is considered to be the oldest house in Colmar. It was built around 1350. That’s almost a 700 year old HOUSE! *gasp* Oh, did I mention it is beautiful?
Address: 16 Place de la Cathédrale
House of Heads
It’s a building from the German renaissance and its façade is decorated with 106 grotesque masks.
Address: 19 rue des Têtes
The Koïfhus is the former customs house, based on the junction of two major roads in the medieval city.
Address: Place de l’Ancienne Doaune
The tanner’s district is the home of the colorful half timbered houses, The houses were used by tanners who worked and lived there in the 17th century.
Address: rue des Tanneurs
The fishmonger’s district
This was the place where the fishermen and boatman lived. In 1706 a fire destroyed more than 40 houses. Known for it’s colorful houses, it is one of the prettiest places in Colmar.
Address: Quai de la Poissonnerie
The former guard house
Used as town hall, barrack, market, military housing, police station throughout the years. It’s one of the most remarkable houses in Colmar.
Address: Place de la Cathédrale
The Pfister House
The first example of architectural renaissance in Colmar, the Pfister House is one of the symbols of old Colmar.
Address: 11 rue des Marchands
Lazare de Schwendi was war chief in the XVIth century who fought against the Turks in Hungary. He brought the vines from the famous grapes of Tokaj to France. They made him a statue!
Never stop believing in yourself, always try new wines!
Address: Place de l’ancienne Douane
If you want to read more about the buildings, check to Official Tourism board of Colmar on their website.
Visit churches and museums
Like every European town, Colmar has some beautiful churches too. The Dominican church, a Gothic-style church, built in the 14th century houses a Schongauer painting, so it’s worth taking a visit to it (admission fee is 1,5 euros). St.Martin’s church is another wonder of Colmar, which looks like it have been made from pink marble. There are several museums in Colmar: Bartholdi museum (dedicated to the sculptor of Statue of Liberty, who was born in Colmar), a Toy museum (a toy museum, yay!) and the Unterlinden museum (art museum that also showcases works of major 20th century artists).
Dominican church: Place des Dominicains
St.Martin’s church: Place de la Cathedrale
Bartholdi museum: 30 rue des Marchands
Toy museum: 40 rue Vauban
Unterlinden museum: Place Unterlinden
Go on a boat ride
It’s called Little Venice for a reason! For a unique point of view, go on a boat ride in Colmar. A 30 minutes ride costs around 6-7 Euros and you can Tip: go on a cruise at evening, it’s magical! Check availability and prices here!
Have a breakfast/lunch/dinner in town
Basically, just eat everything 😀 It is hard to resist the delicacies displayed in the windows, or the romantic restaurants in the old town. If you want to know other’s favorite place, take a look at TripAdvisor for some ideas on where to eat! You can have meal at 15-20 euros easily in Colmar. Oh, and taste some wines!
Have an evening walk
Please do this for me 🙂 I didn’t have the opportunity of walking around Colmar by night, we were so exhausted when we arrived in Colmar, that we went to sleep instead. Colmar must be amazing at night with all those colorful houses coming alive in the street lights! TIP: Colmar is famous for its Christmas market!
Discover the region of Alsace
Alsace is a cultural and historical region in Eastern France. Thanks to its location (on the borders with Germany and Switzerland) and the historical events, it became a charming region with a mixture in architecture and culture.
There are several other towns in this region that show resemblance to Colmar. While I only visited Colmar in the Alsace region, here are some itineraries and guides to discover more:
Alsace road trip itinerary– Europe and Beyond
Alsace: France’s real life fairytale– Happy to Wander
Road-Trip Adventure On The Alsace Wine Route– In Between Pictures
You can take idyllic road trips through this region. I will definitely come back for a wine tour in Alsace!
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