Colmar, in the Grand Est region of Northeastern France, is a picture perfect commune near the borders of Germany and Switzerland. Often described as a fairytale town, Colmar has a history that dates right back to at least the 9th Century AD, when it was mentioned in the chronicles of the Saxon Wars by Charlemagne. Over the last 1000 years, Colmar has been conquered and reconquered by various German and French powers and amazingly, it even survived World War I and World War II intact!
As a result of Colmar’s unique heritage, it has an unusual mixture of German and French cultural influences. This distinctive cross-pollination of cultures can be found in everything from the cuisine to the architectural style and even the local dialect. Colmar is also famous for its fantastic wines, being situated on the Alsace Wine Route, and is sometimes nicknamed the ‘Capital of Alsatian Wine’.
How Do You Get To Colmar, France?
The easiest way to get to Colmar is to fly into one of the nearby airports and then travel onwards by train. The train ride from the surrounding airports to Colmar is absolutely magnificent and will give you a chance to really take in the rural scenery before you arrive in the magical town itself.
The closest international airport to Colmar is Strasbourg Airport although you can only catch a flight from a few European airports, mainly French, as well as from one or two North African cities. From Strasbourg Airport you can catch a train to Colmar which takes just 30 minutes.
If you’re traveling to Colmar from further afield it’s a better idea to fly into a larger airport, such as Paris, Zurich or Basel. From Paris, you can catch a train to Colmar which takes around 2.5 hours while a train from Zurich takes 2 hours and a train from Basel takes 45 minutes.
Some people prefer to rent a car to explore Northeastern France but it should be noted that in rural parts of the country, the roads can be quite slow going. For instance, if you rent a car in Paris and drive to Colmar the journey will take just under 6 hours. Therefore, it’s generally quicker, easier and less stressful to fly into a nearby airport and then jump on a train to relax until you’re dropped off at Colmar.
When Is It The Best Time To Visit Colmar?
Colmar is a wonderful place to visit at any time of the year. During the winter months, you can enjoy the seasonal atmosphere and visit Christmas markets but the weather is pretty cold and you might even see some snow. The summer months are the warmest, with average temperatures ranging between 24 to 30 Degrees Celius, but you’ll have to contend with larger crowds of tourists.
If you’d like to avoid the crowds then you should plan your trip for the Spring or Autumn, when temperatures range from around 12 to 20 Degrees Celsius. As well as avoiding the major crowds of tourists you can also benefit from lower prices at the hotels and restaurants.
What Is There To Do In Colmar?
Take A Ride On The Tourist Train.
There are two competing tourist trains in Colmar but both give you a great 35 minute ride around the town. During the ride, you’ll learn about the town’s history and see most of the major landmarks. The narration for the tour is available in more than a dozen languages and the ride is a great way to get your bearings when you first arrive in Colmar. The trains run between 9 am and 6.30 pm each day from outside the Unterlinden Museum.
Petite Venise, in Colmar, is a gorgeous stretch of canal that is lined with picturesque sherbet colored half-timbered buildings, raised beds of flowers and waterside restaurants. This is one of the town’s busiest historic areas and in past times the canals were used to transport products to and from Colmar’s butchers, tanners and fishmongers. In fact, even today, Colmar’s market still has steps that go right down to the canal where the vendors used to collect and drop off their wares to the passing merchant barges.
While you’re visiting Petite Venise you can also visit the numerous independent stores that sell traditional snacks, such as Alsatian biscuits and charcuterie, souvenirs, clothes and much more besides. As the evening comes down on Colmar, the canal is beautifully lit up and makes a delightful place for a romantic stroll.
Visit The Musee Bartholdi.
The Musee Bartholdi is dedicated to Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, the legendary sculptor who created the iconic Statue of Liberty that stands proudly in the New York Harbor. The prodigious sculptor created countless masterpieces during his 50 year career including sculptures and fountains, many of which are kept in this amazing museum.
The 3 storey museum exhibits some of Bartholdi’s original sketches for his best known works, such as the Lion of Belfort, the Statue of Liberty itself and the Schwendi Fountain. While you’re in the museum you can also visit Bartholdi’s family residence where you can see the sculptor’s personal effects, household items and furniture.
Half-Day Alsace Wine Route Tour And Wine Tasting.
If you’d like to learn about the incredible wines of the region then why not join this half-day tour in an air-conditioned vehicle to explore the famous Alsace Wine Route? With a maximum group size of 8, this intimate tour gives you a unique insight into the traditional production methods of the region’s wineries. You’ll have the chance to meet with some of the winemakers, taste authentic Alsace wines and visit the delightful villages of Riquewihr, Hunawhir and Eguisheim along the way.
The tour departs from 6 Rue Turenne, in Colmar, outside of the Wistub Brenner restaurant. You can find out more or reserve your spot on the half-day tour of the Alsace Wine Route, here.
Once you get back from the tour you’ll be dropped off where you started in Colmar. So if you’re feeling a little peckish after traveling around the Alsace Wine Route you can always stop off at the Wistub Brenner restaurant for dinner.
Colmar’s Festivals And Annual Celebrations.
All through the year, there are festivals and celebrations to enjoy in Colmar, and despite the town’s relatively small size it really knows how to put on a great show! So, if you’d like to experience one of the major festivals in Colmar, make sure to book your trip with that in mind.
Christmas in Colmar is a magical time with beautiful decorations that are very Germanic in style. There’s also a big Christmas market and small high street shops to explore as well as plenty of street food vendors where you can buy snacks during the day. In March, Colmar is decorated for Easter and there are seasonal Easter markets, where you can buy food and souvenirs, special services in the local churches and a great atmosphere in the town.
During the summer there are two main festivals. Firstly, in early July, the town hosts the Colmar International Festival which attracts top quality classical musicians and artists from all over the world. Later, between the end of July and early August, Colmar celebrates the Alsace Wine Fair during which you can taste the very best regional vintages and even purchase a crate of local wine direct from the producer at an excellent price.
Sample The Cuisine In Colmar.
Colmar has a unique cuisine that combines the best of French and German influences. Some of the local dishes that you can’t afford to miss out on include the ‘flammekueche’, a thin-crusted pizza that is topped with bacon, onion and creme fraiche, ‘choucroute garnie’, sauerkraut with pork and potatoes, ‘baeckeoffe’, a delicious meat stew, and, of course, the ‘bretzels’, doughnuts that are made in the shape of a pretzel!
Colmar has an amazing selection of restaurants, including around 10 Michelin-starred establishments, to choose from. So, while you’re in Colmar make sure to visit a few of the town’s restaurants and eateries to try some of the special cuisine that you won’t find anywhere else in France.
Pro Tip – Get The Official Colmar City Pass To Receive Big Discounts During Your Stay.
If you’re planning a trip to Colmar it’s definitely worth getting an official Colmar City Pass. This gives you free, unlimited access to the town’s 5 main museums and the local Dominican Church. On top of this, you get a free ride on the green tourist train as well as a boat ride in the local canal.
You can also benefit from plenty of other discounts in and around the town. The pass lasts for 7 days after the first time you use it. You can find out more about the Colmar City Pass, here.