Look at a picture of Colmar and you will immediately understand that it is a place to visit at least once in a lifetime. And given the flow of tourists from all over the world it is not just our personal thought. Colmar in fact satisfies every kind of travelers: who are passionate about photography, who is looking for a romantic destination, who wants to revive their children the magic of a fairy tale, who is looking for food and wine itineraries…go through this article and we will explain to you why.
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Colmar and Alsace
Colmar is located in Alsace, an eastern region of France famous for wine production. Here the medieval charm of the villages is still alive: you will find colorful and well-kept half-timbered houses, cobbled streets that lead to central squares where high Gothic churches stand, defensive walls and fortified towers that embrace the inhabited area, circular masonry fountains and ruins of those once had to be magnificent castles. The hills planted with vines characterize the surrounding countryside, to complete this fairy-tale scenario.
Today Colmar is the most famous center of Alsace and is considered one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. Why? Because it is full of picturesque views characterized by colorful half-timbered houses, canals and bridges…you can’t stop photographing them!!! Colmar is more developed than the surrounding villages and is also a culturally lively city: in fact, there are several museums for those who want to deepen the historical and artistic side. Finally in Colmar you will find many traditional restaurants and shops where you can taste the Alsatian specialties (do not miss the typical tarte flambée), fine wineries, patisseries with shop windows overflowing with delicacies and local craft shops, therefore free your imagination to bring home the most original souvenir.
The most famous and suggestive neighborhoods of Colmar are:
- the Petite Venice, namely the Little Venice, due to the streets interwoven with bridges and canals, this place resembles the famous Venetian glimpses. The district extends from the Koïffhus, follows Quai de la Poissonnerie until it reaches the Saint-Pierre bridge…this walk is absolutely the best in Colmar! Don’t miss a stop at the covered market, that is placed near the main canal, you could eat or buy typical French products;
- the Quartier des Tanneurs, or the Tanners’ Quarter, where you will find tall half-timbered houses dating back to the 17th century. In there lived the tanners, who kept the hides to dry on the upper floors of the houses. The neighborhood is built around Rue des Tanneurs and borders the Petite Venice.
Walking through the center of Colmar you will come across some famous historical buildings that are worth seeing. Most of them are located between Rue des Marchands, Rue des Tetes, Rue des Clefs and Place de la Cathedrale:
- the Collégiale Saint-Martin, is the most impressive and important church of Colmar, in Gothic style, dating back to the mid-fourteenth century;
- the Maison des Têtes, takes its name from the 106 stone heads (Têtes in French), depicting men or animals, which emerge from its frontage; today there is a luxury hotel inside;
- the Maison Pfister, it is a typical Alsatian building characterized by an “erker” (a kind of typical German projecting window) with two floors connected to a balcony, an octagonal turret half-timbered at the top and frescoed facades;
- the Maison Adolph, the oldest house in Colmar (dates back to the fourteenth century);
- the Ancien Corps de Garde, the building of the ancient guardhouse (stands right next to the Maison Adolph);
- the Koïfhus – Ancienne Douane, that is the ancient building of import/export of Colmar, it is the oldest in the city.
The museums that you can find in Colmar are:
- the Musée Unterlinden, it is located in an old medieval convent and houses masterpieces ranging from prehistory to the modern age. Despite it is famous for the Issenheim Altarpiece, there are also works made by Monet, Renoir, Picasso (info);
- the Musée Bartholdi, the house-museum of Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi, the author of the Statue of Liberty of New York, he was in fact originally from Colmar (info, only in French);
- Le Village Hansi & son Musée (the Hansi Village and its Museum), it is a place dedicated to the famous Alsatian cartoonist and watercolorist Jean Jackues Waltz, aka (Oncle) Hansi; his works wanted to denounce the German domination of Alsace. We recommend a stop especially in the shop that looks like a “village”, where you can purchase decorated items (with the famous and beautiful representations of Hansi) and biscuits, jams, bon bons and various souvenirs (info, in addition if you wish to buy the brand products the Biscuiterie de l’Oncle Hansi from your home click here);
- the Musée du Jouet, the museum of toys and trains, we suggest to visit if you are traveling with children (info);
- the Musée d’Histoire Naturelle et d’Ethnographie de Colmar, the ethnographic and natural history museum (info, only in French);
- Choco-Story – Musée du Chocolat, the chocolate museum (info, only in French);
- the Musée des Usines Municipales, the museum of municipal factories (info, only in French).
The city of lights
If you think that your visit to Colmar ends with long daily walks, you are wrong. Colmar is in fact known for another particular feature: it is the city of lights!!! In the evening take a walk through the streets of the historic center, you will find a lot of lights from the floor, varying in intensity and color, to illuminate the facades of some buildings. The show is visible all year round on Friday and Saturday evenings, while every evening during the Christmas markets time, the International Music Festival and the Film Festival.
The surprises do not end here: a few kilometers from the city there are, in fact, wonderful vineyards with a lot of picturesque villages, in which the magic of fairy tales is even more vivid. They all are located on the famous Route des Vins d’Alsace and will delight the lovers of good wine. The most famous one is Riquewihr, the village said to have inspired the scenography of the “Beauty and the Beast” cartoon, then there is Ribeauvillé with the oldest wine cooperative in France, while Eguisheim is simply our favorite…but we will talk about them in our next article.
Colmar (and all of Alsace in general) can be visited at any time of the year, but it is highly recommended in spring, when the flowered balconies enhance the beauty of the houses (our photos were taken during Easter) and in December, when the Christmas markets invade the squares and streets of all the villages of Alsace with lights and scents. We hope we have at least partially conveyed to you the magic of this city…how do you say? Have you not visited Colmar yet?!?!? So run to plan your fairytale weekend and leave us a comment to tell us how it went.
See you soon