Colmar, a weekend in the colourful heart of Alsace

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Colmar, a weekend in the colourful heart of Alsace

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The small French city of Colmar is a real jewel waiting to be discovered. Many people choose to visit it during Christmastime, when the city hosts one of the most famous and picturesque Christmas markets in Europe. Instead, we chose to visit during a spring weekend, combining the visit with a short tour of the Alsace villages. So here for you all the places not to miss during a weekend in the city and some useful tips.

We love... Colmar!

The small French city of Colmar is a real jewel just waiting to be discovered. Situated on the edge of French territory, just a few kilometres from the German border, the town is very popular during Christmastime, when one of the most famous and picturesque Christmas markets in Europe is on stage. Here you will find an exceptionally well-preserved medieval old town, picturesque waterways and an excellent food and wine culture to discover. We chose to visit the city during a spring weekend, combining it with a short tour through the villages of Alsace and a hike along one of the many paths that follow the Route des Vins d’Alsace, the Alsace Wine Route. So here are all the places you should not miss during a weekend in the city and some useful tips.

Where to stay and eat in Colmar

For a short stay, our advice is to choose one of the many hotels in the old town or in the immediate vicinity, so that you can move around freely on foot. The historic centre is in fact entirely car-free and the town is small enough to get around on foot without too much effort.
We stayed at the Mercure Colmar Centre Unterlinden, Rue Golbery 15. It is located in the northern part of the city, within walking distance of the centre and the Unterlinden Museum. The hotel offers comfortable and reasonably priced accommodation and also has a garage for your car for a fee. In short, we recommend it.
As for food, you will find several affordable options in the city. The Tarte flambée – a kind of very thin pizza topped with bacon, onions and cheese – is a good choice for a quick and cheap meal. Apart from the very famous Restaurant La Soï and La Stub (famous but very small and where it is almost impossible to book in advance), we had good ones here and here. If instead you want to treat yourself with a nice dinner of excellent quality, we suggest booking a table at Restaurant Le Quai 21 – Quai de la Poissonnerie 21 – truly the best dinners we have had in the city, accompanied by courteous and discreet service.
In general, however, given the high number of tourists, our advice is to always book restaurants well in advance for your dinners!

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Strolling through the historic centre of Colmar

Our tour of Colmar’s old town starts at Place des Unterlinden, a large green and tree-shaded square that takes its name from the famous Unterlinden Museum, which is located right here. For the lazier ones or for rainy days, tourist trains depart from here and propose comfortable guided tours of the old town.
After the ritual photo with the large ‘Colmar’ logo, we move on to the historic city centre by way of the Place des Martyrs de la Résistance, the picturesque Rue des Marchands, the Grand Rue and then the Tanneurs quarter and the famous Quai de la Poissonnerie to the Petit Venise.
Here are the stops we recommend on the itinerary and if you want to follow our route, you can find our route map on Outdooractive:

Church of the Dominicans (Église des Dominicains): in theory, this deconsecrated church is open to the public and can be visited, but opening hours are rather uncertain and variable so much so that during our three-day stay, we never managed to find it open! In front of the side entrance to the church is Place des Dominicains, where the main open-air markets take place, including the famous Spring Market (Marché de Printemps).

Collegiate Church of St Martin (Collégiale St-Martin): it is the city’s cathedral, which can be visited and is open to the public.

Rue des Marchands and the Maison Pfister: built in 1500, this old building owes its current name to the family that renovated and lived in it in 1800. It is undoubtedly interesting: with its exposed wooden beams, frescoes and octagonal turret, it represents the heart of the city, standing on one of the liveliest and busiest streets in the old town, the Rue des Marchands.

Koïfhus: the 15th century Old Customs House building stands at the end of rue des Marchands and is characterised by an elegant loggia and a roof of coloured tiles. The building cannot normally be visited inside, but often hosts exhibitions, events or craft markets.

Marché couvert de Colmar: this mid-1800s building now houses a lively market selling fresh produce such as fruit, vegetables, meat, fish and local specialities. It is also a good option for a quick lunch or an afternoon snack, perhaps on one of the small tables on the (small) terrace overlooking the canal. Beware, however: the Covered Market is a real market and, consequently, may be closed on public holidays. Updated opening hours can be found here.

Quai de la Poissonnerie: one of the most characteristic and photographed streets in Colmar, the Quai de la Poissonnerie is certainly charming with its low, colourful half-timbered houses, cobbled streets and the canal that flows placidly just across the street. You won’t be able to stop taking pictures!

Petite Venise: certainly a must for first-time visitors, the Petite Venise is probably the city’s most popular attraction. This canal is really picturesque! But we must warn you: taking a photo with the canal in the background will not be easy at all given the high number of tourists!

Maison des Têtes: this old building dating back to the 1600s owes its name to the presence of no fewer than 106 heads of animals, devils and angels on its façade. The building, located on Rue des Têtes, is now a luxury hotel, so you can only admire its façade…unless you decide to stay the night!

The Unterlinden Museum

Built in a former convent and gathered around a charming Gothic Dominican cloister, the Unterlinden Museum is certainly the jewel in the city’s crown and well worth a visit. Although the building houses a rich collection of sacred and medieval works, not to be underestimated is also the presence of some extraordinary modern art, such as those by Monet, Picasso and Renoir.
The heart of the Museum, however, is the Rétable d’Issenheim (Issenheim Altarpiece), one of the most realistic and intense sacred works ever.
The Museum can be visited every day except Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (last entrance 5.30 p.m.). The ticket costs € 13 per adult, but our advice is to add € 2.00 per person and hire the audio guide, which helps to better understand the meaning and value of the works on display and the history of the museum. All information can be found at this link.

The villages of Alsace

Alsace is a truly fascinating land and limiting a visit to Colmar alone would not do it justice. This region so rich in history and charm is dotted with small, picturesque medieval towns, imposing castles and attractions to visit. And not to be forgotten are also the excellent wines produced here, which you can get to know through one of the many tastings offered by the local wine cellars. We combined our visit to Colmar with a short walk along the Route des Vins d’Alsace, which can be travelled on foot, by bicycle or by car. We will tell you about our walk from Riquewihr to Ribeauvillé and back, as well as the picturesque villages we visited south and north of Colmar, in a future article. Stay tuned!

How to get there
See the location in Google Maps. Colmar is easily accessible by public transport. To find the best travel option for you, as always we recommend using the SBB website or the SBB App that you can also use to check the timetables and operating status of the lines and purchase tickets.

See the location in Google Maps. Colmar can also be reached by car. To find the best travel option for you, as always we suggest you use Google Maps. The city has many paid parking options. At this link you will find information on parking with a handy map and information on the rates charged.

Tips

1

Colmar is definitely popular and over-visited. Our advice is, if possible, to avoid public holidays and visit it on a weekday. You will be able to make the most of the city and its picturesque sights.

2

If you are looking for guides or official tourist material, the Colmar Tourist Office also provides a good amount of guides and brochures online. You can find them at this link!

3

In addition to the world-famous Christmas market, which takes place this year from 23 November to 29 December, Colmar also hosts a cheerful and colourful spring festival! Every year in April, the city hosts events, exhibitions, concerts and open-air markets to celebrate the beginning of the awakening season!

4

Are you planning a trip or a weekend getaway here and have any doubts or questions? Let us know by leaving a comment below and we will get back to you as soon as possible!

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