A visit to Colmar, France had been high on my bucket list for years and back in November I finally got the chance to see those half-timber clad buildings that had decorated my Pinterest profile for years. For those not familiar with Colmar, this quaint town is located in the French Alsace region which borders Germany. The proximity to Germany and many turns under both French and German rule has created a pretty unique blend of German and French culture and food in Alsace. Colmar itself is probably most famous for its architecture, particularly the half-timbered pastel coloured houses of Colmar’s old town.
Other famous highlights are Colmar Christmas market and local Alsace wines such as Riesling and Gewürztraminer. I was lucky enough to visit Colmar Christmas market (read my post here) but could easily imagine that summer in Colmar is great too. I’ve compiled an itinerary on how to spend 24 hours in Colmar that you can apply to any season and it will hopefully give you an idea of things to do in Colmar, France.
Travel to Colmar
I flew into the EuroAirport Basel Mulhouse Freiburg airport, which is technically located in France. Exit on the French side when you arrive and grab bus 11 to Saint-Louis train station. The bus fare for one single journey was 2.50 euro in November 2017 and you can just pay the driver on the bus. At the train station, buy a ticket for Colmar in the ticket office. If you prefer, there are also ticket machines by the office but I find it easier to buy tickets from humans. My one way ticket was 13.40 euro on a weekday. Make sure you ‘activate’ the ticket in the yellow machine at the entrance. The train ride takes approximately 45 minutes and the trains are incredibly comfortable!
Some people choose to combine a visit to Paris with a short trip to Colmar. Trains from Paris to Colmar take roughly 2,5 hours and you can book train tickets on this website.
WHere to stay in Colmar
I only booked my trip about 3 weeks before departure and because of Colmar Christmas market, most hotels were fully booked. I ended up staying at Brit Hotel Primo Colmar Centre (booking.com listing here). Brit Hotel had a decent location and you could easily walk into the city centre. Apart from that, I wouldn’t rave too much about this Colmar hotel. The room was small and because of the poor sound insulation I could easily hear the family in the room above. All in all, it was ok for one night, but I’m sure you could find something better if you book further in advance.
I always use booking.com for my hotel bookings. Just be aware of Colmar’s slightly unusual layout when you search for hotels. The city boundaries are rectangular(ish) so make sure you apply the city centre filter when you look for hotels.
24 hours in Colmar
Let’s be honest, you’re probably visiting Colmar because you want to see the amazing architecture. So what better way to start your 24 hours than a walk around town? Colmar is popular with tourists and the main areas of interest quickly get crowded.
I suggest that you make your way to Colmar’s popular La Petite Venise area first thing. La Petite Venise or Little Venice in Colmar’s old town is where those postcard perfect pictures most likely originate from. You’ll find beautiful views at the Rue Turenne bridge and if you’re lucky you might spot the swans.
After Rue Turenne make your way towards the Fishmonger District around Rue des Écoles and Rue des Tanneurs. Here you’ll find an abundance of pastel houses and scenic canal views. This is where the fishermen and boatmen of Colmar used to live and it’s a gorgeous area.
Don’t miss the covered market inside the spectacular red building (entrance on Rue des Vignerons). Inside the market you can buy cheese, wine and meat or have some food at a couple of the stalls. Personally I quite liked the canal views further down Quai de la Poissonnerie too.
Your next stop is Place de l’Ancienne Douane where you’ll find one of the Colmar Christmas market sites if you visit Colmar in winter. Don’t miss the Koïfhus, which dates back to 1480. Thereafter, head up to Grand Rue where there are some really beautiful buildings and you can find more popular photography spots.
Hopefully you’ve worked up an appetite and enjoyed the walk so far! Colmar has surprisingly many good restaurants, including some Michelin stars, considering the size of the town.
I had a lovely meal at Jadis et Gourmande, which serves traditional Alsace food. It was recommended to me and full to the brim the first time I went. I returned about an hour later and managed to get a seat. It looks very quaint from the outside and has a rustic interior design that goes well with the traditional food. A Tarte Flambée (imagine a very thin pizza with bacon, onions and cremé fraiche) will set you back roughly 10 euros, I strongly suggest that you give this traditional dish a try before you leave Colmar, it’s freaking gorgeous.
When you search for things to do in Colmar, you’ll find that the main appeal is the look of the town. For more traditional sightseeing though, you have two well-known churches, the Unterlinden Museum and the Toy Museum (ok, so maybe the toy museum is slightly less traditional). I didn’t want to spend a few hours inside a museum (this time!) so skipped Unterlinden Museum, but I did try the other three Colmar sights.
When you’ve finished your meal at Jadis et Gourmande follow Rue des Marchands and Rue Mercière up to St Martin’s Church or Collégiale Saint-Martin. Colmar’s St Martin’s Church was founded in 1234 and is pretty much super-sized (definitely an official way to describe church sizes). Entrance was free on my visit and the ceiling height of this church is pretty impressive.
After St Martin’s Church continue to Église des Dominicains or the Dominican Church located on Place des Dominicains. Entrance is 1.50 euro. In terms of interior I’d say that St Martin’s Church is more spectacular. However, Église des Dominicains is home to the artwork Madonna of the Rose Bush by Martin Schongauer. I thought the entrance was worth the chance to see this pretty impressive painting.
When you’re done inside the church head out to Place des Dominicains. Look across the square and head for the chocolate store called Jacques Bockel. They sell little pieces of chocolate art and we all know that chocolate is the best kind of art.
Finally, if you fancy a detour and slightly unusual museum experience, head to Colmar’s Toy Museum. This light-hearted museum showcases toys from the 1800s onwards. It’s not a massive museum but it’s fun too see if you can spot any toys from your childhood. I definitely found a few from mine (if toys from your childhood are in a museum, does that mean you’re old??). Entrance is 5.50 euro.
I had most of my meals at the Christmas Market so only had a sit-down meal in Jadis et Gourmande. However, the Colmar restaurant The Court of Angels was recommended to me and looked pretty incredible in the pictures. So unless you’re visiting Colmar in winter (if you are, you need to try the spaetzle at the Christmas Market! Best meal on my trip), have your evening meal at The Court of Angels.
After your meal, go for one final walk around Colmar in the evening light. The town is spectacular in daylight but gets even more impossibly romantic in the evening. Especially if those swans make an appearance.
I really enjoyed my Colmar visit and the town is just as pretty as the pictures online. The Christmas Market was incredible, but there are more things to do in Colmar, France than just this one event. La Petite Venise, the Toy Museum, Église des Dominicains and Collégiale Saint-Martin are all great things to do in Colmar and complement your extensive walks around Colmar old town. If you’re looking for day trips from Colmar, I would recommend the fairytale village Eguisheim (read my post here).
One day in Colmar is enough to see the main sights (outside of the Christmas Market season), but I would recommend slowing down and give yourself one night in Colmar. It’s a place that inspires a slower pace of travel and don’t we all need that sometimes?