When it comes to visiting Colmar, it really does feel like you’re stepping foot into the kind of idyllic town found in storybooks and fairy tales! Here’s what to expect if you’re planning a trip.
Only a thirty minute train ride from Strasbourg, Colmar has become somewhat of the representative Alsatian village in the last few years. Its history goes back to at least 884 when Charlemagne mentioned it in his writings. Like much of the region, it’s been passed through different owners, like the Holy Roman Empire, the German Empire, and France. In the last century alone it went from France to Nazi Germany and back to France again following World War II.
Despite all this change as well as the many wars and turmoil of the last few centuries, Colmar has largely remained untouched, and its historic center still feels like something from the olden days. You can still see plenty of timber-framed houses and the oldest building, the Koïfhus, has been standing since 1480.
Naturally, as my friend, Silvia, and I were planning out where to go in Alsace, we made sure to spend a night here. I had first heard of Colmar after watching Hayao Miyazaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle. The scenes he creates are so magical, I had to see what real life place inspired them!
I can safely say Colmar lives up to all the images you find online, and it was so nice to stop in, walk around, and just enjoy being outside in the late spring air. I have a guide below to help you plan your trip, but this is one place I recommend doing as little planning as possible. The real charm is found just wandering around and getting lost down the different streets!
A Little Guide to Visiting Colmar
Where to Stay in Colmar
When it comes to figuring out where to stay in Colmar, I recommend finding somewhere relatively close to the train station. Once you get into the old town area it’s all cobblestone paths and small, narrow streets, so a little stressful for anyone with rolling luggage.
After some research, Silvia and I stayed at the super cute Hotel Restaurant Le Maréchal. It’s right by La Petite Venise and has a parking lot out front if you’re driving. The decor is full of antique furniture and just feels like the kind of place you’d want to stay when visiting Colmar. I also thought the receptionists were really nice and friendly.
Bonus: if you’re visiting Unterlinden Museum, buy your ticket with them as it’s a slight discount vs buying it online or in person at the ticket booth.
|Hotels in Colmar
|Hotel Restaurant Le Maréchal $$
|where we stayed, superrrr cute, easy to walk to from train station
|Grand Hotel Bristol $$
|next to train station
|L’esquisse Hotel & Spa – MGallery $$$
|in Parc du Champ de Mars
|Le Colombier $$
|another spot we looked at, design is more modern though
|Le Maison du Batelier $$
|more modern hotel
Getting There & Getting Around
Your best bet for getting to Colmar is via train. Trains in France are quite nice and easy to navigate. From Paris, there are direct routes to Colmar and even indirect routes are just one changeover in Strasbourg (which I recommend visiting anyway).
From the Gare de Colmar, it’s about a 15-minute walk towards La Petite Venise and all the main parts of town.
If you want to rent a car from Colmar, the rental spots are all at the train station which is pretty convenient. We didn’t have to park while visiting, but if you do, I’d recommend this parking lot. It was right outside our hotel and near La Petite Venise. You won’t have to go down any narrow alleyways or cobblestone streets to get there either.
Otherwise, I’d ask your hotel which is the closest spot to their property. Some may have their own free parking available.
Where to Go in Colmar
I admittedly don’t have too many specific landmarks or buildings to point out as I took my own advice above and just enjoyed being in the village itself. However, if you’re someone who does still want a little more guidance, I recommend booking this private walking tour or even this self-guided interactive tour. The main tourism site also has specific buildings listed with a bit of history as well.
La Petite Venise
La Petite Venise is the main spot to visit in Colmar! As the name suggests, it’s like a mini, storybook version of Venice, and I want to say you can even go for a boat ride in it. We stayed right by here, so it was less than a minute walk and the perfect entrance to the historic center.
Down a bit was also known as the Quartier des Poissonneries, or the fishmonger’s districts.
One of the places we wandered through was the old tanner’s district, or Quartier Tanneurs. Most of the buildings here are from the 17th and 18th centuries and were where tanners worked and lived. This building particularly stood out with all its sweet decorations!
The Fonatine Schwendi dates back to 1898 and is of Lazarus von Schwendi, who apparently brought grapes to the region back during the 1500s. This is a particularly photogenic area.
If you only visit one museum, let it be the very cool Musée Unterlinden. It’s located in what was once a 13th century Dominican convent and holds the massive Isenheim Altarpiece, painted by Nikolaus Hagenauer and Matthias Grünwald between 1512 and 1516. The museum is pretty large with tons of pieces from the medieval and early Renaissance periods. Some are, uh, pretty graphic!
Grand Rue is the main street that runs through Colmar, and we walked along it coming back from Musée Unterlinden. It’s full of these timber-framed buildings as well as lots of shops and restaurants.
Parc du Champ de Mars
Midway between our hotel and the train station sits the very big Parc du Champ-de-Mars. Lined with linden trees and complete with some statues and a carousel, it’s just a nice place to stroll around and good for anyone who wants to get a run in.
What & Where to Eat While Visiting Colmar
Marché Couvert Colmar
Ok so we totally missed going to the Marché Couvert when we were visiting Colmar! Originally designed in 1865, you can come here to visit around twenty merchants with all sorts of fresh food. Depending on when you come, I think it could be nice to collect some picnic supplies here and then head towards the park for lunch or dinner.
Most hotels in France only offer breakfast at an additional cost, so we often skipped them and instead went. For Colmar, we stopped at the very cute Bistrot Gourmand to eat outside at the red and white dining set-up. They have a few options depending on what you’d like.
Version Originale 68
By the time we got into Colmar and settled in, it was well after most restaurants had closed for lunch, so we had very limited options. Luckily Version Orginale 68 was open and even had some outdoor seating. We got some Alsatian dishes in the form of tarte flambée (like a thin pizza) and I want to say a gratinée.
Schwendi Bier und Wiestub
In the evening, we wandered into town and settled on Schwendi Bier und Weistub, which was part of a few restaurants in one square. Again, loads of outdoor seating and some Alsatian food! If memory serves, Silvia and I split some escargot and then I tried this dish, which I want to say was a rösti dish?
Outside of the Unterlinden Museum is Restaurant Pfeffel, which is a nice spot! We only got drinks here, so I can’t speak to the food, but it’s good if you’re hungry or thirsty after the museum and want somewhere nearby!
Restaurant Brasserie l’Auberge
If you want somewhere to sit or eat right by the train station, we really liked Restaurant Brasserie l’Auberge. I remember them having a huge, refreshing seasonal salad, and in general was a nice spot to spend an awkward hour or two waiting for the train.
More Colmar Photos
This place is really just too pretty; I had to share more of the photos I took. Enjoy some more visual inspiration below!
And there you have it. All I’ve got on visiting Colmar and what to expect when stepping into a village straight out of a storybook! Let me know if you have any questions or recommendations. I definitely wouldn’t say no to returning someday.
For more travel in France, read these posts next:
- A Weekend in Paris is ALWAYS a Good Idea
- What to Do in Montmartre in Paris
- Nice Travel Guide: Read Before You Go
- 13 Magical French Pharmacy Skincare Products
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