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We were drawn to Colmar, France by colorful photographs depicting fanciful scenes of half-timbered houses and quaint canals, both draped in blooming foliage. The weaving cobblestone lanes in the Old Town and cheerful Little Venice Colmar districts seemed to be plucked straight from a fairytale – one that had to be seen to be believed. Now that we’ve been, we can attest to the fact that Colmar is as pretty as a picture. We had three full days in the city, which allowed us plenty of time to experience the best things to do in Colmar.
Colmar is located in the Alsace region of France, which occupies the northeastern part of the country along the Rhine River (and German border), north of Switzerland. (Look at a Colmar map in Google Maps.) Known for its wine production, Alsace is dotted with picturesque towns and hillside vineyards. For us, to visit Colmar also meant visiting the Alsace Region, which we were able to do by using public transportation and pedal power.
Best Things To Do in Colmar, France
Our list of Colmar things to do includes city, history, nature, cuisine…and a bit of exercise, too! Visitors can plan their trip to Colmar using our list of fun activities.
Colmar Fun Fact: Artist Auguste Bartholdi – better known as the man who created the Statue of Liberty – was born in Colmar in 1834. As a Colmar claim-to-fame, Lady Liberty appears throughout the city.
Top Tip: Before you begin your Colmar sightseeing, stop by the Colmar Tourist Office for a Colmar city map and other useful information about the Alsace Region.
#1 Explore Colmar Old Town
Old Town Colmar, France is the highlight of the city – and there are several ways to explore it. You can wander aimlessly, find sights by using a Colmar tourist map, ride the Colmar tourist train or follow the Tourist Trail.
Tourist Trail to Colmar Attractions
For our first stroll through town, we opted to follow the Tourist Trail, which serves as a Self-Guided Colmar Walking Tour. The signposted trail leads visitors in a 6.1km loop around the city (estimated time: 2.5 hours).
The route is outlined on the free Colmar Old Town Map from the tourist office, but a map isn’t necessary – we simply followed the golden triangles (embossed with Lady Liberty) to top Colmar sights. Each Colmar attraction featured a sign of relevant information providing a history of Colmar, France (in both French and English).
Places to Visit in Colmar
We think following the Colmar free walking tour trail is one of the best things to do in Colmar to get acquainted with the city. However, for those preferring to ramble, there are a few Colmar things to see that shouldn’t be missed. We recommend putting the following sights on your Colmar to-do list.
Little Venice Colmar, France
Little Venice in Colmar (called La Petite Venise) is the most attractive part of the Old Town. The narrow and shallow Lauch River flows past brightly painted houses and under arching bridges. Taking a Colmar canal tour is the best way to see the impeccably decorated homes along the river.
Colmar Cathedral (Saint Martin Church)
The impressive spire of St. Martin’s Church (or Collegiale Saint-Martin) can be seen from many points around town, but it’s worth a look up close. Visitors will want to see both the ornate façade and the incredibly decorated interior. It should be noted, however, that the church is not officially a cathedral (as it is not the seat of the bishopric) and is only called such because of its massive size.
Built in 1537, the lavishly decorated Renaissance-style Pfister house (or Maison Pfister) is a must-see in Colmar. Sitting along the charming Rue des Marchands, the Pfister House features paintings from the Bible, as well as German emperors.
House of Heads Colmar
Dating to 1609, the façade of the House of Heads (or Maison de Tetes) is decorated with more than 100 head sculptures peering down at the onlookers.
Colmar Customs House
Once the center of business and politics, the Old Customs House (called Koifhus or ancienne douane) was built in 1480. The ground floor served as a warehouse, market and customs office for hundreds of years.
Colmar Covered Market Hall
The beautiful brick and metal Market Hall dates to 1865 – and, after many other uses, is again a market today.
The Tanner’s District (called the Quartier des Tanneurs) dates to the 17th and 18th centuries – and is where tanners (people who tan animal hides) lived. Their tall, half timbered houses were designed to allow animal pelts to hang and dry in the open air on the upper floors of the homes.
Once home to fishermen, the Fishmonger’s District features a colorful rainbow of half-timbered houses along the Lauch River on Quai de la Poissonnerie (which we think is the prettiest street in Colmar!).
Top Tip: Want to learn the history of Colmar from a local guide? Book a 2-hour guided Colmar Walking Tour.
#2 Hike Through Colmar Vineyards
Colmar – and dozens of other smaller towns – are situated along the foothills of the Vosges Mountains. The stunning vineyard and mountain landscapes of the region beg to be discovered on day trips from Colmar. Drivers can visit many of the quaint towns, which are linked together on the Alsace Wine Route. Without a car, however, we used the public bus and our own two feet to see more of the Alsace region.
Alsatian Wine Route Walk
North of Colmar, the towns of Riquewihr, Hunawihr and Ribeauville are nestled along the Vosges among hillside vineyards. Each of these historic towns near Colmar, France boast a cluster of half-timbered houses and a church with a rising bell tower. The three towns are connected by a 5km path – allowing travelers without a car to take a hike through the vineyards from town to town.
Mid-morning, we took a public bus from Colmar to Riquewihr. We walked the central cobblestone lane, stopping at Au Petite Delice for unbelievably delicious chocolate macaroons and diverting onto charming side streets. We exited the town through the Thieves’ Tower and set off on our jaunt through the vineyards. The path – which is also used by bikes and a few cars – steadily inclined through a forest and plateaued just outside the town of Hunawihr.
From Hunawihr, we followed the path through budding vineyards, stopping often to take photos and enjoy the view. We found a picnic table under the shade of a tree where we ate our packed lunch (and macaroons!) with a view. As we completed our easy trek to Ribeauville, we could see hill-topping castles perched above the town we were walking to.
Ribeauville, which is the largest of the three towns, is home to several winery tasting rooms. After our trek through the vineyards, we rewarded ourselves with a taste of the product. Much busier than the two previous towns we visited, we contently strolled the length of the Old Town before catching a bus back to Colmar.
Top Tips for Walking from Riquewihr to Ribeauville
Buses 106 and 109 transport passengers from Colmar to Riquewihr and Ribeauville (and back). Tickets can be purchased from the driver and cost about €4 each way.
Request a bus schedule from the Colmar Tourist Info Office – and ask for an explanation of which buses are running on the day of your trip (not all buses on the schedule run year-round or all days of the week). There are no buses on Sundays. Also, ask them to mark the bus stops on a Colmar map and confirm the most current ticket prices.
In Riquewihr stop at the Tourist Info Office (located on the main street) for a walking map, but note that the highlighted route does not go to Ribeauville, but the city is on the map (and continuing straight where the highlighted route turns back toward Hunawihr will get you to Ribeauville Old Town).
While at the TI, pick up informative pamphlets on the towns, if you are interested in seeing the sights. From Ribeauville, it is possible to continue hiking to the castle remains in the hills, which we heard takes about an hour each direction.
Pro Tip: Visitors who want a guided tour of the Wine Route in Alsace can let a guide lead the way on this popular tour.
#3 Bike to Eguisheim, France
Day trips from Colmar, France are not limited to vehicle transportation – the town of Eguisheim, just southwest of Colmar, can be reached by bicycle. We pedaled our way from the Colmar train station along the river, through open fields to Eguisheim, another historic town in Alsace.
It took less than an hour for us to navigate the route from Colmar to Eguisheim – and we stopped often to take photos. Once we arrived in Eguisheim, we locked up our bikes (just around the corner from the Tourist Info Office) and set off to explore.
At the center of the Medieval village, which was awarded the ‘Favorite French Town’ award in 2013, is the Chateau Saint-Leon. From the central square (that the castle sits on), three ring roads encircle the town. We looped around the town on foot, marveling at the architecture and reading the history of the town on provided plaques.
Top Tips for Biking in Colmar
Biking is one of the popular Colmar activities and there are a few places to rent bikes in the city. We rented our bikes from Colmar Velo – Velodocteurs, which is located at the Colmar train station and rents bikes for as little as €7 for 5 hours.
Ask for a free Colmar Cycling Map – and, if you are biking to Eguisheim, ask for the best route (which differed from the route we thought we would take).
#4 Dine Al Fresco in Colmar
During our Colmar visit, the weather was incredible – sunny skies, but not too hot. It was perfect weather for dining al fresco. Throughout the Old Town, there are numerous Colmar restaurants that offer outdoor dining and feature local Alsace cuisine.
Craving something simple and light, we stumbled on Winstub La Krutenau in Little Venice. The riverside restaurant has only three food menu items – all of which are a variation of Tarte Flambee. The crispy, cheese-covered dish – similar to pizza – was exactly what we were looking for.
More Restaurants in Colmar
There are so many incredible Colmar, France restaurants that feature local cuisine and international fare. While La Krutenau is a delightful stop for a quick and easy bite to eat, we have a few more tips for where to eat in Colmar.
A classic and cozy restaurant in Colmar, Wistub Brenner focuses on traditional Alsatian food that is perfectly presented. The menu features 3-course meal options; highlights are the pork knuckle and foie gras – but save room for the delectable desserts.
La Caveau Saint Pierre
Housed in a quaint half-timbered house along the canal, Caveau Sant Pierre Restaurant serves traditional French cuisine. The authentic meals are exquisitely prepared and offered at fair prices.
Situated in the Champ du Mars park, JY’s is a fine dining restaurant (with two Michelin stars). Patrons can expect exceptional service and phenomenal, creative fare.
Pro Tip: Need more ideas of what to eat in Colmar? Check out these reviews on TripAdvisor.
Picnic in Colmar, France
Visitors who want to experience something different from restaurants in Colmar can prepare a fun picnic lunch – like we did!
In the morning, we headed to the Covered Market Halle for a little Colmar shopping. We perused the items for sale at the Colmar shops and started gathering items for a late afternoon picnic at Parc du Champ de Mars. At the shops, we found some of the best food in Colmar, France: Munster cheese with cumin spice, freshly baked baguettes and almond-stuffed olives.
Pro Tip: The Covered Market Halle has several restaurants, where you can dine before you shop. We started our Colmar shopping adventure with a quiche and fresh-squeezed orange juice at the small café in the center of the market.
#5 Sip Alsace Wine and Local French Craft Beer
Being smack in the middle of the Alsace Wine Region, drinking the locally produced wine should be on every Colmar itinerary!
Most of the wine in Alsace is white, including varietals such as Riesling, Muscat, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer. Pinot Noir is the sole red wine in Alsace, however, it is quite pale in comparison to other Pinot Noirs.
Local wine is available at every café and restaurant…and even the grocery store. After long days of sightseeing, finding a café in the Old Town where we could swirl and sip local Alsace wine was an ideal way to wind down the day.
Pro Tip: If you are planning to bring a few bottles home (who could resist?!), make sure you pack your wine properly so it arrives safely home!
Craft Beer in Colmar, France
Beer drinkers, don’t despair! While wine is certainly the most popular drink of choice in Colmar, they have French craft beer as well! Our go-to spot for drinking beer in Colmar is Les 3 Singes (The Three Monkeys), where they offer a selection of craft beer on tap.
There is one local craft brewer, Brasserie St. Cru, which is located about 4km north of the Old Town. Although we never made it to the brewery, we heard it was a cool spot for Colmar nightlife.
Alsace Wine Tour
While it is fun to stop into different bars and restaurants to sample the local wine, visitors interested in learning more about the wine in Colmar can take a guided tour through the Alsace wine region!
More Tips For Visiting Colmar, France
We have more tips for visiting Colmar and the Alsace Region – like day trips, where to stay, how to get there and our best packing hacks!
Day Tours From Colmar, France
Need more tips of what to do in Colmar? The city makes a great base for exploring the region. We already highlighted a popular Colmar walking tour (info here) and the wine tours from Colmar (like this one), but we have a few more ideas for popular tours from Colmar.
Gems of Alsace Day Tour
Explore the beautiful Alsace region with a professional guide. Stroll along cobblestone streets in small towns and learn about the history and culture of Alsace on a full-day tour. Book it now!
The 4 Wonders of Alsace
See some of the most picturesque villages in the region – Eguisheim, Ribeuville, Riquewihr and Kayserberg – and sample fine local wines with a professional guide. Reserve your seat!
3 Country Tour
Festivals in Colmar, France
Colmar is a beautiful destination on its own, but travelers may want to plan their Colmar trip to coincide with one of the city’s top festivals.
Colmar International Festival
A classical music festival in Colmar, the Colmar International Festival is a musical experience unlike any other. The programming includes symphonic music, choral works and chamber music. Find out more on the official event website.
Alsace Wine Fair
The Wine Fair in Alsace (called Foire aux vins d’Alsace) is an annual event that takes place in the summertime. The celebrations include exhibitions, entertainment, concerts…and lots of local wine, of course!
Museums in Colmar
There are a few Colmar museums that visitors may want to include in their itinerary for Colmar, France. We are highlighting just a few of the top picks.
Housed in a 13th Century Dominican Convent, the Unterlinden Museum is the best art museum in Colmar. The museum features everything from ancient artifacts to masterpieces from Medieval times to contemporary artworks from local artists.
Musee du Jouet
The Musee du Jouet is a toy museum that displays popular toys through the decades (stretching back to the 1800s). The exhibits of dolls and trains are a highlight.
The Musee Bartholdi is dedicated to the life of artist Auguste Bartholdi, the famous designer who sculpted the Statue of Liberty. The small museum showcases his works and models.
How To Plan a Trip to Colmar
Now that you know the best Colmar places to visit and things to do, it’s time to start planning your trip! We have a few tips that will help you plan the perfect trip to Colmar.
What is the Best Time to Visit Colmar, France
Visiting Colmar in France is wonderful anytime of year; deciding what is the best time to go to Colmar will depend on your desired activities.
Summer in Colmar
Summertime is a great time to visit Colmar. The weather is warm and there are lots of events happening around town. That said, the city can get crowded in the summer, which makes it difficult to get dinner reservations and increases the price of accommodations.
Colmar Spring and Autumn
The spring and autumn mark the shoulder season. While the temperatures are cooler and rain is more likely in the forecast, there are fewer people and better prices.
Wintertime in Colmar
Some travelers may wonder what to do in Colmar in winter, but we can assure you it is a fabulous time to visit! The best things to do in Colmar in December are the picture-perfect Colmar Christmas Markets that take place in the heart of the old town. Just plan for colder weather!
Looking for more wintertime destinations? We highlight the Best Places for Christmas in Europe!
How Many Days in Colmar
During our trip to Colmar, we spent several days in the city. It provides a perfect base for exploring more of the region. However, we understand that not all travelers will stay in Colmar for multiple days – so we are outlining a few basic Colmar itineraries to help fellow travelers plan their time in the city.
One Day in Colmar
Visitors limited to sightseeing in Colmar for one day will want to make the absolute most of their time. We recommend exploring the city on foot (or booking a walking tour) – making sure to see the top Colmar sights. In the afternoon, join a half-day Alsace wine tour (like this one) and be back in the city by evening for a delicious local meal.
Two Day Colmar Itinerary
With two days, visitors can experience Colmar at a slower pace. On the first day, visit the top Old Town Colmar sights and stop at the market to pick up picnic items for lunch. In the afternoon, rent bikes to explore the region – and consider pedaling all the way to Eguisheim. Back in the city before dark, enjoy an al fresco dinner.
On Day 2, set off on a full-day tour of the region – either complete a self-guided tour along the Alsace Wine Route or book a full-day excursion.
3 Days in Colmar
Visitors planning to visit Colmar in 3 days will have ample time to see the sights and taste the local cuisine. We recommend following our tips for what to do in Colmar in 2 days – then on the last day, join the 3 Country Tour. Alternatively, guests who want to stay in Colmar for the day can opt to visit one – or more – of the city’s fabulous museums.
Colmar, France Accommodation
There are many choices of accommodations in Colmar. We think the best places to stay in Colmar, France are in – or near – the city center.
During our Colmar trip, we stayed at the Ibis Budget Colmar Centre Ville, which we liked for the affordability, simple and bright design and (mostly) the location. It is just a short walk from the Colmar train station, the Colmar Tourist Information Office and Old Town.
Hotels in Colmar
Travelers will find that there are many hotels in Old Town Colmar, France to choose from. Check out these highly-rated (by customer reviews!) hotels: James Boutique Hotel, La Maison des Tetes, Hotel Le Colombier Suites.
Getting to Colmar, France
Colmar can be reached by train, bus or car.
For our trip to Colmar, we arrived via train from Basel, Switzerland and departed via bus to Frankfurt. There are several train and bus routes that service Colmar. In fact, it’s possible to travel by train on a Paris to Colmar day trip (although, even the fastest trains take 3.5 hours – so it is a really long day trip).
That said, train travel to Colmar is possible from other nearby cities.
Strasbourg to Colmar
The train between Strasbourg, France and Colmar takes just 30 minutes and costs around $10 USD. Use our Guide to Strasbourg, France to plan what to do in the city.
Freiburg, Germany to Colmar
The train journey from Freiburg, Germany to Colmar takes about 2 hours to complete. Visitors spending time in Freiburg should use our Freiburg, Germany Guide.
Before You Go To Colmar: What To Pack
We have a few final travel tips on what to pack for Colmar.
Colmar is a walkable city…but only if you have the right travel shoes! Don’t forget to pack a pair of lightweight and comfortable walking shoes for your trip. I was comfortable walking on the cobblestones and through the vineyards in these shoes by Columbia. Kris liked wearing his trail shoes by Merrell.
Camera to Capture the Colmar Sights
We’re certain you’ll be snapping tons of photos during your trip. Rather than relying on your mobile phone to capture the sights, upgrade to an actual travel camera for higher quality photos. We travel with a Canon Rebel (which takes amazing photos and is great for beginners) and a Canon PowerShot ELPH (which takes beautiful pictures, is slim, lightweight and a good budget camera option).
Colmar and France Guidebook
Travelers interested in the best Colmar wines can use the Wines of Alsace guidebook for the top vineyards and wines of the region.
Exploring more of France? Make sure to have a good guidebook before arriving.
With long days of sightseeing, you will want to make sure you bring a travel day bag. An ideal day pack is comfortable to carry, has multiple pockets and can fit everything you will need (like your guidebook, camera and other travel essentials).
France Travel Insurance
We think travel insurance is essential! If you haven’t already obtained travel insurance for your trip to France, travel protected with World Nomads.
We want to know: What would you add to our list of things to do in Colmar, France? Give us your best tips and advice in the comments below!
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