Visiting this little Alsatian town in France is like stumbling into a beautiful, colored picture book of princesses and princes. Standing on the cobblestone street, you become a part of a page from a storybook that comes alive with its traditional half-timbered houses adorned with potted geraniums, turrets, old and ornate architecture, and a romantic canal.
The quaint, scenic town of Colmar is nestled amid the foothills of Vosges Mountains. It was an important town way back in the 13th century as a center of art and education and as a marketplace in Alsace region. To this day, it remains to be a fabulous and interesting destination for travelers with a penchant for history, culture and scenic views.
Old Town and Place de la Cathédrale
Just like any old European city, the heart of Colmar is a square surrounded by Rue Mercière and Rue des Marchands, an old customs post, and more of the traditional homes with oriel windows, corbelled turrets and flower-laden balconies. The Old Town is a perfect setting for the medieval jewels of Renaissance Alsatian architecture – Collégiale Saint-Martin, Place de la Cathédrale and the Dominican Church.
The “Little Venice” (Quartier de la Krutenau) of Alsace
The postcard-perfect neighborhood of Krutenau Quarter is replete with all the elements of a “Little Venice” – charming pedestrian bridges, vibrant half-timbered houses, willow trees and brightly-colored blooms in pots along the canal. Jump right into the page, cruise the canal on a boat, stroll along Rue de la Poissonnerie or just view the rows of houses and Saint Martin’s church from a distance or from a bridge.
Musée Unterlinden is a remarkable museum housing a wide-ranging collection of Gothic and Romanesque sculpture, medieval paintings, and other local arts and crafts in the 13th century Eglise des Dominicains (Dominican convent). Noteworthy items include art works from the late Middle Ages to Renaissance, the works of Schongauer, Grünewald and Isenmann as well as modern arts by Picasso, Renoir, Braque, Léger, etc. Don’t miss one of the highlights of the museum, the Isenheim altar.
Other Must See Colmar Attractions
- Koïfhus, Ancienne Douane (Old Custom House): It is a medieval edifice that used to be Colmar’s economic and political center in the 15th century for Décapole. To date, the coats of arms of the ten imperial cities are still in the windows.
- Quartier des Tanneurs (Tanners Quarter): This neighborhood has old traditional houses used to be occupied by tanners or artisan leather makers from the 17th – 18th centuries and the famous Hôtel des Chevaliers de St-Jean.
- Quai de la Poissonnerie: This is where the once powerful, professional fishmongers live in Colmar.
- Musée Animé du Jouet et des Petits Trains: This museum houses an extensive collection of toys, kilometer-long train network and features a puppet show that’s computer-controlled puppet show.
- Chapelle Saint Pierre: A religious edifice built by the Jesuits during the mid-18th century. It features a monument created by the homegrown sculptor Bartholdi.
- Ancien Corps de Garde (Former Guard House) and Maison Adolph: Another gem of the Renaissance architecture, the Guard House has ornate loggia and oriel windows. It is located near Maison Adolph, another “must-see” old house in the neighborhood.
“Must-do” While in Town
While in the city, it will be a shame not to do a bit of shopping (and eating) in its markets. You’ll most likely stumble on one (or more) anyway. Once you “discover” these markets, you’ll have the best shopping days of your life with its seasonal produce, local specialties, artisan crafts, and vintage items that complete the village ambiance of Colmar. The colorful markets will assail all your senses with organic products, enticing scents and tastiest homemade delis. Its Christmas Markets are famous and would get you all fired up once you see the wonderful variety of products on sale.
While here, take the city from a different vantage point: cruising the canal on a boat. Finally, begin or end Colmar days with café crème to go with Kugelhopf, an old-fashioned Alsatian bundt cake made with almonds, raisins and Kirschwasser cherry brandy. Now, that’s what you call an unforgettable holiday!