Colmar, with its colorful half timbered houses and cobblestoned roads is a must visit town on the Alsace Wine Route in France. Colmar is the capital of Alsatian wine and was a trading powerhouse around the 15th-17th centuries. I visited Colmar as a part of a 3 day visit to the Alsace Wine Route. This post covers how to spend one day in Colmar, France and what you can do in a day, including where to eat and where to stay!
Colmar, France Overview
Colmar is in the east of France, near the German border and about two thirds of the way down the Alsace Wine Route. Given this close proximity to Germany, lots of the culture, food and architecture in Colmar is a unique bled of both France and Germany.
How to Get to Colmar, France
You can get to Colmar from either within France itself or via Germany or Switzerland. The best way to get to Colmar from a big city is to fly to one the cities below and take a train. The train durations are as follows:
- Paris – 2.5 hours
- Strasbourg – 35 minutes
- Basel – 45 minutes
- Frankfurt – 3 hours
- Zurich – 2 hours
Everything in walkable once you are in Colmar! In fact, the historic city center is car-free. However, if you are planning on visiting other towns on the Alsace Wine Route, then having a car gives you a lot of flexibility.
One Day in Colmar
One full day is probably the perfect time to spend in Colmar. Another way of doing this is to make Colmar your base if you are going to visit the rest of the towns on the Alsace Wine Route. This is what I did. I made Colmar my base and explored the town in the evenings (helps to go in the Summer where the days are long) and in the mornings. Doing this for 2 evenings and 2 mornings is the equivalent of spending one day in Colmar. If you are wondering if one day in Colmar is enough, I think it is. Most of the things to do around the city involves walking around and seeing things so there’s not a lot of time spent in various attraction lines.
What to See in One Day in Colmar
La Petite Venise
Little Venise is hands down one of the most beautiful places in Colmar. The Lauch river flows on either side of half timbered pastel colored houses with colorful flower pots cascading from their roofs. This place is a fairytale! Come early to avoid crowds. You can also take a boat ride here although I heard it was not that exciting so I opted to skip it.
Half Timbered Houses
Although everywhere, the road between La Petite Venise and Quai De La Poissonnerie probably has some of the pretties colors and makes for a beautiful picture (the one on this post’s cover page)
Quai De La Poissonnerie
The Fisherman’s Quay is where fisherman once lived. Today it draws crowds for all the views of the half timbered houses you can see from the bridge.
View from Another Bridge
Another bridge, another beautiful view! This one can be seen from the bridge after Quai De La Poissonnerie along the Old Market Hall
A merchant’s house from the 16th century. It’s famous for its richly decorated wooden gallery panel and murals. This merchant really wanted to display his wealth back in the day!
Old Market Hall
I love a good covered market! Colmar’s has been around since 1865. From that time onwards locals have come here to buy produce, meats and other goods. You can find picnic food here and cafes. There’s even one with a patio facing the river.
Colmar enjoyed privileged trading statues in the 15th-17th centuries. The city was a part of a trading league founded in 1354, consisting of 10 Alsatian cities. This Custom’s House played a huge role during that time. It’s where delegates met to talk trade and sort trading issues out.
House of the Heads
Another house built in the early 17th century by a big merchant who was a winemaker. The façade of this house is decorated with 111 faces, masks and heads!
Street that was the tanner’s quarter back in the 17th and 18th century. It was later resorted in the 1970 after the tanners moved out of town and the place became run down.
Back in the Middle Ages, each town or city had their own units of length. This man carved into the side of a building is shown holding a bar which was Colmar’s local measure of one meter. Fascinating right?
Church of St. Martin
This Roman Catholic church is a landmark in Colmar. It was built in 1235 and replaced a smaller church that stood here earlier.
Built in the same time as St. Martin but much smaller and simpler. The Dominican order here was all about austerity as reflected in the simple church.
Wander Through Old Town
Wandering is one of my favorite things to do in any town! Wandering around Colmar is a true feast for the eyes! From colorful buildings to cobblestoned streets, Colmar really is in my opinion one of the pretties places in France. I loved how lots of buildings had colorful whimsical decorations hanging from their windows and shutters. I also loved the intricate iron shop signs.
If you even remotely love art, then I highly recommend a visit to this museum. Housed in a Dominican convent, the Unterlinden features artwork from Medieval times to Monets. It’s most famous piece however, is Matthias Grünewald ‘s beautiful Isenheim Altarpiece from the 16th century.
Where I Ate
Wistub de la Petite Venise
Cosy little restaurant between La Petite Venise and Quai De La Poissonnerie serving traditional Alsatian food. The portions here were huge!
Le Palais Gourmand
If you are looking for crepes then try Le Palais Gourmand. They have a wide variety of sweet and savory crepes and is open until relatively late
Maison Alsacienne de Biscuiterie
One of the best places to try traditional Alsatian cookies, called bredele. There are 2 types of bredele. Shortbread and soft. The soft bredele simply melts in your mount. It’s like a mix between cake and marzipan…be right back!!..going to get some I brought back home from my fridge (yes, I carried them even to Germany and then back again to Nice, France before they made the flight back to the US)!
Back! Seriously though these cookies are AMAZING! This shop is in a historic 16th century building, where back in the day it was considered a sky scrapper for its height.
Where I Stayed
If you are a solo traveler like I am, then check out La Provence Studio. The studio is in a fantastic location close to so many attractions. Elie is an awesome host and excellent communicator and really went out of his way to make my stay comfortable. There is a parking spot right in front as well. Staying here gave me so much flexibility to come and go and take breaks.
When to Go
There are lots of festivals happening in Colmar at different times of the year. Usually March- April (Easter), July to August and November to December are busy festival months in Colmar. The town is really festive during Christmas. I can’t wait to go back during Christmas one day!
If you want to avoid crowds, January to March and then September to November may be your best bet. This avoids the May to July summer peak and the other months mentioned above.
Other Tips for Visiting Colmar
- Try to find accommodation in the city center. This way you are close to all the main attractions
- Make reservations for dinner ahead of time
- Stay at least a night in Colmar to experience it crowd free late evening and early morning
- Some of the most picturesque spots like La Petite Venise gets crowded by midday. Go to these early in the morning
- There are a decent amount of parking spaces in Colmar. I parked at Lacarre and it was reasonably priced
Visiting the Alsace Wine Route from Colmar
As I mentioned above, Colmar is a great base to visit the rest of the towns and villages on the Alsace Wine Route. Stay tuned for for an itinerary for visiting these towns.
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Read all about the some of the best fairytale towns and villages on the Alsace Wine Route HERE or below!