Explore Colmar, a day trip less than an hour away from Strasbourg. This beautiful town, whose heritage spans from the Middle Ages to the 19th century, is one of the most prized gems of Alsace.
Colmar is easy to reach from Strasbourg, either by car or by train. More than 40 trains shuttle between the two cities every day, taking around 40 minutes each way. We decide to take the train, as much for the sake of the environment as to avoid having to worry about traffic and parking.
A flock of pigeons standing neatly in a row outside the train station is our welcoming committee upon our arrival in Colmar. Could this be a nod to the town’s old Roman name – Colombarium – the place where doves nest?
The Petite Venise (Little Venice) district and the pedestrian streets in the old town are about a 15-minute walk from the train station, passing by the Cour d’Appel (Court of Appeals) and through the parc du Château d’Eau (with a beautiful old water tower).
We start by exploring Colmar’s main must-see sights:
• The picture-postcard neighborhood of la Petite Venise certainly owes its name to the rows of half-timbered houses lining the river Lauch. The buildings remind us of a gingerbread village. If you truly want to imagine yourself in the Venice, you can book a sightseeing tour in a shallow boat.
• Quai de la Poissonnerie: the fishermen of Colmar used to live in these colorful half-timbered houses along the quay.
• Maison Pfister: this house, which once belonged to a prominent merchant, is a 16th-century treasure. It’s one of Colmar’s most iconic buildings, and the first example of Renaissance architecture in the city.
• Maison Adolph: the oldest house in town.
• St. Martin’s church, which was built between 1235 and 1365, is one of Alsace’s major works of Gothic architecture.
• The Koïfhus (the old customs house) is Colmar’s oldest public building.
• The market halls (marché couvert) date back to 1865. The building, which combines brickwork and cast-iron framework, contains twenty-odd stalls offering fresh and local produce.
The charming and colorful city center is the ideal place to wander around, and it’s very easy to get from sight to sight on foot. Getting lost in the web of side streets in the old town is the perfect way to take in the atmosphere and fully enjoy the spirit of Colmar.
Colmar is also home to several museums, such as the Unterlinden Museum and the Bartholdi Museum:
• The Unterlinden Museum, which was inaugurated in 1853, is located in a former Dominican monastery. The museum collection includes paintings and sculptures dating from the Middle Ages to the 21st century, such as the famous Issenheim altarpiece (le retable d’Issenheim), as well as works by Picasso, Monet, or even Dubuffet.
• The Bartholdi Museum is dedicated to the man behind the Statue of Liberty, Auguste Bartholdi, who was born in Colmar. As an homage to Bartholdi, a scaled-down replica of the famous New York statue has been placed in a roundabout just north of Colmar (about a 10-minute drive from the center of town).
Colmar has served as inspiration to artists around the world. For instance, Hayao Miyazaki, the iconic Japanese director behind Studio Ghibli, was inspired by the architecture of the houses of Colmar when he created his animated feature film Howl’s Moving Castle (2004).
It’s no coincidence that Colmar is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Alsace. Its position at the heart of the world-famous Route des Vins (the wine road) makes it even more attractive, since the picturesque villages of the area, like Kaysersberg and Riquewihr, are less than 15 km away.