Alsace

Colmar

The Little Venice of France is one of the medieval jewels of Alsace: a succession of canals, picturesque corners, characteristic alleyways overlooked by delightful half-timbered houses.
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The enchanting town of Colmar looks like something out of a storybook. It is undoubtedly one of the most romantic and marvellous cities in Europe: it boasts an extensive, perfectly preserved medieval old town.

With its cobbled streets, canals running through the old quarters, colourful and quaint half-timbered houses and hidden squares, Colmar offers its visitors an incredible number of picturesque views, all worth photographing.

This small jewel-city, at the foot of the Vosges mountain massif, is also known as the Petite Venice: the Lauch river and its numerous canals make Colmar truly magical and charming. The canals and small pedestrian streets are lined with half-timbered houses all different from each other: each one is characterised by absolutely unique shapes, decorations and colour combinations.

You will feel like stepping back in time, admiring the old medieval buildings that have remained intact over the centuries. Browse around the charming craft shops, taste gastronomic delicacies in the patisseries selling traditional cakes and biscuits or hole up in the typical winstubs and bierstubs, taverns with a very cosy atmosphere, where you can sample local beers and fine Alsace wines.

Like neighbouring Strasbourg, Colmar also has a dual personality, half French and half German. This duality is easily recognised by the different traditions, languages and gastronomic specialities that are woven into Alsatian culture.

Colmar is especially wonderful in spring and summer, when its flower-filled balconies decorate every colourful house in the centre. But the Alsatian town displays all its splendour during the Christmas period: the whole town is festively decorated and every corner exudes an absolutely enchanting magic and atmosphere, thanks also to its characteristic Christmas markets.

Things to do in Colmar

La Petite Venice

The most picturesque corners of Colmar are undoubtedly those you come across when walking around La Petite Venice. It is so called because of its tangle of bridges and canals, which provide fascinating glimpses all to be photographed.

Walking unhurriedly along the most characteristic streets in the centre of Colmar, you will admire the colourful half-timbered houses, sloping-roofed façades and beautiful medieval buildings named after the guilds that had their business here, such as Quai de la Poissonnerie1. Here stretched the old fishermen’s district, a very powerful category with a lively and noisy trade. A little further on stretches Rue des Vignerons2, the wine growers’ street, another flourishing medieval guild.

If you are wondering what the most picturesque corner of Petite Venice is, it is undoubtedly Pont du Rue Turenne3. It is the most photographed spot in Colmar: from here you can admire the colourful houses reflected in the water of the canal. Simply enchanting.

Another unmissable spot is Pont st-Pierre4: arm yourself with a camera to capture this enchanting glimpse.

Il quartiere dei conciatori

5Rue des Tanneurs, 68000 Colmar, Francia

The Tanners’ Quarter, around Rue des Tanneurs, is one of Colmar’s most characteristic areas. Here you will find a high concentration of half-timbered houses dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries and picturesque canals.

These narrow streets were home to the guild of tanners, who used the first floors of the houses as workshops for drying hides. Among the palaces to be noted for their beautiful façades are the Market Hall, the Palace of Justice and the Hotel des Chevaliers de St. Jean, built in an unusual Venetian style.

St. Martin's Cathedral

618 Pl. de la Cathédrale, 68000 Colmar, Francia

St. Martin’s Cathedral is a splendid example of Alsatian Gothic architecture and dominates one of the most characteristic squares in the old town.

Recognised as a Historic Monument of France, it stands out for its pinnacles, large stained-glass windows and, above all, the portal of the façade, richly decorated with a relief depicting the Adoration of the Magi and the Last Judgement.

The peculiarity of the cathedral is certainly its reddish colour: it is made of sandstone from the Vosges Massif, a material that also characterises Strasbourg Cathedral.

La Maison des Têtes

719 Rue des Têtes, 68000 Colmar, Francia

The Maison des Têtes is one of the oldest houses in Colmar, dating back to the Renaissance period. The building gets its name from the incredible number of carved heads, both human and animal, that sprout from its façade. You can count 106 heads creeping into the most unexpected corners of the façade, between balconies and windows.

This rich mansion was commissioned in 1609 by the mayor of Colmar, the wealthy merchant Anton Burger. Today, the Maison des Têtes houses a luxurious five-star hotel.

Maison Pfister

815 Pl. de la Cathédrale, 68000 Colmar, Francia

On the corner of the picturesque Rue des Marchands, the Merchants’ Street, is the Maison Pfister, which has become the absolute symbol of Colmar.

It is a typical Alsatian building, with the classic stone and wood structure, but with a significant stylistic innovation: the corner house has a large projecting window, called an ‘erker’ in the vernacular, with long balconies running along the two richly frescoed façades and an octagonal turret with a half-timbered dome on top.

Although it cannot currently be visited, it deserves to be admired from the outside for its exquisite architectural and decorative workmanship.

Koïfhus, the Old Customs House

9Pl. de l'Ancienne Douane, 68000 Colmar, Francia

Dating back to 1480, this beautiful Alsatian-style building is the oldest in Colmar. It once housed the customs house, the place where goods, before being imported or exported, were stationed, examined and finally taxed.

The most picturesque features of this historic building are undoubtedly the sloping roof covered with coloured tiles, the portal surmounted by a two-headed eagle, the octagonal turret and the arcades supporting a wooden balcony.

Nestled between the Grand’Rue and the Place de l’Ancienne Douane, today the palace houses the colourful artisans’ market and by crossing the portico of the Old Customs House you enter the Petite Venise, the beating heart of Colmar.

The covered market

1013 Rue des Écoles, 68000 Colmar, Francia

An absolute must during your stay in Colmar is the covered market, an imposing iron and cast-iron building dating from 1865, overlooking the Lauch river.

From Tuesday to Sunday, Colmar’s market is a riot of local produce. Here you can taste or buy fois gras, cheeses, charcuterie, craft beers and every Alsatian delicacy.

Unterlinden Museum

11Pl. des Unterlinden, 68000 Colmar, Francia

Housed in a former convent of Dominican nuns, the Unterlinden Museum houses a vast collection of old and modern works including works by Grunewald, Picasso, Renoir and Holbein.

The most interesting aspect of a visit to the convent is the magnificent Gothic cloister made of pink Vosges sandstone and the St. Johann unter der Linde chapel, which gives the museum its name.

Toy Museum

1240 Rue Vauban, 68000 Colmar, Francia

If you are travelling with children, you must not miss a visit to the Toy Museum, which houses a vast collection from the 19th century to the present day: more than a thousand toys capable of enchanting young and old alike.

A journey into the world of toys that traces their evolution: from toy trains to Barbie dolls, from ceramic dolls to Lego bricks, from board games to robots.

Map

In the following map you can see the location of the main places of interest mentioned in this article

Boat Cruise

The most romantic way to admire Colmar is to take a mini-cruise on a boat along its canals.

On board these small, flat and narrow boats, you can discover the heart of Colmar and its most hidden corners, passing by the charming half-timbered houses at the water’s edge and photographing the typical coloured windows. Absolutely recommended!

Christmas Markets in Colmar

© Colmar Tourisme

The town of Colmar is a wonderful jewel to be admired at any time of the year. But during the Advent period, this enchanting Alsace town unleashes all its magic: you will feel as if you have been catapulted into a Christmas village.

The entire centre of Colmar is transformed into a Christmas village. Awaiting you will be amazing musical sets and choreographies projected onto the façades of the half-timbered houses, fabulous Christmas decorations adorning every single building or window, traditional festive music and choirs and, of course, the enchanting Christmas markets, which wind their way through the streets of the old town.

You can browse among the wooden chalets selling the most beautiful Christmas decorations, find original gift ideas made of wood and ceramics, taste Alsatian sweets and delicacies. But most of all, you’ll become a child again, wandering among wooden toys, sweets of all kinds, the smell of mulled wine, horse-drawn carousels and a big box for sending letters to Father Christmas.

Where to stay in Colmar

The town of Colmar boasts one of the oldest and most charming historic centres in all of Europe. It has a high concentration of historic buildings from different eras and small, charming quarters overlooking canals. This fairy-tale ambience comes at a cost, however: accommodation prices, especially during the Christmas period, are on average high.

However, by choosing carefully and reserving a place to sleep well in advance during the busiest tourist periods, you can stay in excellent establishments at affordable prices.

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How to get to Colmar

The charming town of Colmar is located almost equidistant between two major ports of call. In fact, Colmar is 70 km from Strasbourg Airport and 60 km from Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg Airport.

Whatever your destination airport, once you land, you can reach Colmar by train thanks to frequent connections from both Strasbourg (30min) and Basel (45min).

Alternatively, you can land at Karlsruhe-Baden-Baden airport in Germany, which is about 130km away (1.5hr drive). In this case, it would be preferable to rent a car and drive along the Wine Route, discovering the beautiful villages you will encounter on the way to Colmar.
Or, if you prefer, drive from Karlsruhe-Baden-Baden airport to Strasbourg and then continue by train.

Colmar is also connected to the largest French and European cities. In fact, there are rapid TGV connections between Colmar and Paris, which can be reached in just 2 hours and 50 minutes. Lyon is also connected to Colmar by TGV.

Colmar is strategically located, close enough to several French, Italian, Swiss and German towns: it is 60 km from Basel, 550 km from Brussels, 350 km from Frankfurt, 45 km from Freiburg, 280 km from Geneva, 450 km from Milan, 600 km from Munich, 375 km from Lyon and only 160 km from Zurich.

It is also very close to the main Alsatian resorts: 49 km from Mulhouse, 45 km from Obernai, 19 km from Ribeauville.

Colmar Weather

What's the weather at Colmar? Below are the temperatures and the weather forecast at Colmar for the next few days.

Friday 14
13°
20°
Saturday 15
13°
22°
Sunday 16
12°
23°
Monday 17
13°
28°
Tuesday 18
16°
28°
Wednesday 19
18°
26°

Where is located Colmar

Colmar is a small town in Alsace, located near the eastern border of France. It is about 1 hour's drive from Strasbourg, Freiburg in Germany and Basel in Switzerland.

Insights on Colmar

Christmas markets in Colmar

Christmas markets in Colmar

Experience the most amazing Christmas magic in Colmar, Alsace. Its Christmas markets enchant young and old with a fairy-tale atmosphere of lights, decorations and heady scents.
Where to stay in Colmar

Where to stay in Colmar

Advice on the best areas and accommodation for sleeping in Colmar, a characteristic Alsatian town with endless romantic views

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