Although Strasbourg is the capital of the Alsace-Lorraine region, its sister city Colmar is a beautiful fairytale of a town. Canals lined on both sides with colorful half-timbered houses whose flower boxes overflow with flowers, lively cafés and wine bars to people watch, and belly-filling delicious food . . . you may just see Belle and Gaston at the next corner.
At Christmas time, one of the best markets in the region is here, and young and old alike will be enchanted by the magic.
Most Beautiful Places in Colmar
1. The Little Venice district
This neighborhood is the area crossed by the canals of the Lauch river. Get your camera out because photo opportunities abound, and you may even visit the area on a small boat.
Book a flat-bottomed boat ride with Sweet Narcisse. The boat leaves from the Pont Saint Pierre every 15 minutes during the season. A charming way to discover Colmar.
Quai de la Poissonnerie is the old fishmonger’s district, which was heavily destroyed during a fire in 1706. From 1978 to 1981, important renovation was undertaken to restore many of the half-timbered houses.
The Quartier des Tanneurs, in the continuity of Little Venice, was where the tanners created leather goods, using the upper floors of the houses to dry out the skins.
The Koïfhus, or former customs house, is the oldest public building in Colmar. Its construction was ended in 1480, with two adjoining building being added in the 16th century. The building was set to be demolished in the 19th century, but thankfully a project was put into place to restore it. This work was carried out from 1895 to 1898, and the turret and glazed tiles were added at that time. In 2002, the Renaissance balustrade was restored after being removed in 1976.
The Covered Market
The building was designed in 1865 and is constructed from brick with a metal frame. Small, but you can find everything you need for a picnic or a snack.
Originally built by the hat maker Ludwig Scherer in 1537, the house is the first example of architectural renaissance in Colmar, despite its medieval features. With its two-story corner bay windows, wood gallery, octagonal turret and mural paintings, it has become the symbol of old Colmar. The name comes from the family who restored it and lived there from 1841 to 1892.
Saint Martin Church
Built between 1235 and 1365, the Gothic Saint Martin church is considered by the locals as their cathedral, although it was really a cathedral for 10 years – from 1790 – 1801. The church has been restored many times throughout history. But during the most recent renovation in 1982, foundations of a church dating from the year 1000 were discovered, as well as traces of extensions from the 11th and 12th centuries.
Housed in the 13th century Dominican convent, the museum showcases art from the Rhineland’s late-gothic and renaissance periods. The main piece is the Isenheim Altarpiece, a 500-year-old masterpiece painted by Matthias Grünewald and Nikolaus of Haguenau.
Does this name ring a bell? Native son August Bartholdi was the creator of the Statue of Liberty, and you can see a replica in Colmar . . . in the middle of a roundabout - not quite worthy of Lady Liberty.
The museum itself is in the house where the sculptor was born in 1834. It is dedicated to presenting the artist’s work and displays several statues he created for the town. Family furniture, personal souvenirs, models, drawings and paintings are also presented.
Most beautiful towns around Colmar
Outside of Colmar, charming villages pepper the vine covered valleys along the Alsace Wine route.
Eguisheim was voted “France’s favorite village” in 2013, and after a visit there, you will understand why. The village’s cobblestone streets circle around, following the half-timbered houses built into the medieval ramparts. In the center, in front of the feudal castle is a fountain with a statue of Bruno of Eguisheim, who was born here in 1002 and later became Pope Léon IX.
Located northeast of Colmar is the charming village of Kaysersberg. With the remnants of the medieval walls above the village, the half-timbered houses, Renaissance burghers’ houses and Romanesque church, the town is a step back into old-world ambiance.
In addition to the typical half-timbered houses, Riquewihr has several charming squares adorned with fountains. The main street, rue du Général de Gaulle, ends at the Dolder Gate Tower, build in 1291.
Right next to Riquewihr is Ribeauvillé, a cute town absolutely covered in flowers.
A nice place to have lunch is Au Relais des Menetriers at 10 avenue du Général de Gaulle in Ribeauvillé. Traditional Alsatian and French cuisine served by the Maître Restaurateur.
Located southeast of Colmar very near the border with Germany is Neuf-Brisach – Vauban’s masterpiece. Built between 1698 and 1707 under the orders of Louis XIV, the octagonal citadel forms a star-shaped pattern, with symmetrical towers enclosing 48 equal squares. In the center is the Place des Armes. The Porte de Belfort houses the small Vauban Museum.
And a castle near Colmar - Haut-Koenigsbourg
No trip to Alsace would be complete without a visit to the Haut-Koenigsbourg castle.
This medieval castle is perched above the surrounding hills and vineyards. Built in the 12th century and witness to many historical events, the castle was eventually left to ruins. Fortunately, Wilhelm II, at the end of the 19th century, completely restored the castle as a sign that Alsace was more German than French. However, the French are sure happy today to include the beautifully restored castle as one of the gems of Alsace.
- Want to continue exploring Alsace? Check out our article about Strasbourg.
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