A picturesque French city with abundant attractions, Colmar is easily one of the most beautiful villages in the world. With its ideal location on the Alsace Wine Route, it’s also the self-proclaimed “capital of the Alsatian wines.” Not only can you tour several nearby vineyards, but the city itself has an incredibly well-preserved old town, fantastic museums, and breathtaking Middle Ages architecture.
Planning a relaxing holiday can, ironically, be quite stressful, as you need to find good accommodation and also build an itinerary that takes advantage of the nearby attractions. We here at Road Affair want to make your holiday planning as seamless as possible, so we’ve done the heavy lifting for you and carefully curated a list of the best things to do in Colmar. Let’s jump in!
Take a Boat Ride Through La Petite Venise
One of the most magical places in Colmar is La Petite Venise (Little Venice), an area known for its gorgeous Alsatian timber homes lining the canal.
La Petite Venise was originally home to winemakers, boat workers, and market gardeners. Today, you can tour the picturesque river and district on a boat cruise while admiring the gorgeous 14th-century homes. During the Christmas season, all these homes feature enchanting lights and festive decor, making for an even more magical tour!
Take a Day Trip to the Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg
Just a 30-minute drive north of Colmar is the Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg, one of the best castles for sightseeing in Colmar and the Alsace region overall. This 12th-century fortress was destroyed and abandoned for some time until Kaiser Wilhelm II restored it in 1899 to symbolize Alsace’s return to its Germanic roots. The fully restored castle boasts incredible Middle Ages architecture and Renaissance-style decor.
You can tour the lord’s and lady’s bedrooms, the inn, the courtyard, and even the hunting trophy room. Audio guides are available in case you want to know more about the rooms and history of the castle. After your tour, you can grab a bite at the on-site restaurant and browse the gift shop for a souvenir.
The Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg is open every day except New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, May 1 (Labor Day in France), and Christmas Day.
Snap a Pic at the Statue of Liberty
Lady Liberty might be a symbol of New York City, but it was originally a gift from the French, and the sculptor who designed this grand gift was from Colmar!
Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi was the French artist tasked with creating a gift to Americans, both as a symbol of friendship and to encourage the French to support the same ideas of liberty. Bartholdi, with the help of Parisian architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, designed “Liberty Enlightening the World,” the now-famous statue that sits on the edge of New York City. The statue was assembled in Paris and shipped to the U.S., landing in New York City on June 17, 1885.
On the 100th anniversary of Bartholdi’s death, Colmar erected a 12-meter-high replica of Lady Liberty in his honor. It stands as not only a symbol of American and French friendship but also a nod to Colmar’s twinning agreement with Princeton, New Jersey.
The Colmar Statue of Liberty is on the north side of the city, about a 10-minute drive from the Old Town. A visit to this statue is easily one of the best free things to do in Colmar.
Admire Great Art at the Unterlinden Museum
The Unterlinden Museum is the most visited museum in Alsace for a good reason. It’s home to an outstanding collection of art, which ranges from prehistoric to contemporary works and includes pieces by Picasso and Monet. The museum has two main sections, linked by an underground gallery.
Easily the most intriguing artwork in the museum is the “Isenheim Altarpiece,” the masterpiece of German artists Nikolaus of Hagenau and Matthias Grünewald. This large-scale 16th-century painting and sculpture depicts the Annunciation, the Virgin Mary and the infant Jesus, and the Resurrection.
The Unterlinden Museum is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day except Tuesdays and public holidays.
See Historic Architecture in the Quartier des Tanneurs and Place de l’Ancienne-Douane
The central areas of the Quartier des Tanneurs (Tanners’ Quarter) and Place de l’Ancienne-Douane (Old Customs Square) are a short walk from La Petite Venise. These are the ideal spots to roam around and pop into quaint bistros and shops. You can admire the local architecture and visit the famous Schwendi Fountain, which was designed by none other than Lady Liberty sculptor Bartholdi in 1898. It depicts famous war chief Lazare de Schwendi, who fought for Emperor Maximilian II against the Hungarians in the 16th century. The fountain was destroyed in 1940 but has been restored to its former glory.
Another historic site in this part of the city is the Koïfhus, also known as Ancienne Douane (Old Customs House). This is the oldest public building in the city, built in the 15th century (first mentioned in 1370), and served as a center of economic growth for Colmar.
Ride the Little Tourist Train Through the Old Town
If you’re wondering what to do in Colmar when you get tired of walking, consider seeing the Old Town from a little train!
This fun thing to do in Colmar takes you on a 35-minute tour of the Old Town. You can wear a headset that shares interesting tidbits and history about the places you pass. Each train has 60 seats, including spots that can accommodate wheelchairs. Tickets are available for purchase from the conductor, and the train runs from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day from April 1 to mid-November.
Visit the Bartholdi Museum
In case you haven’t gathered this already, Colmar is very proud of famous local artist Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, so it should come as no surprise that it has a museum dedicated to him!
The Bartholdi Museum is inside the home where Bartholdi was born. It highlights several statues the sculptor created for the city of Colmar, personal artifacts from his family, and a section dedicated to Alsace’s Jewish community. You can even see early workings of Bartholdi’s Statue of Liberty and Lion of Belfort sculptures. This is a must-see in Colmar for anyone interested in sculptures or art!
Explore Catholic Architecture in St. Martin’s Church
St. Martin’s Church, also known as the Colmar Cathedral, is one of the city’s most notable buildings. Built sometime in the 13th or 14th century, this Roman Catholic church features an incredible Gothic interior. The most notable sight inside is the sculpture of the Last Supper, created in a late Gothic style. The church is free to visit and open every day (except Sundays) from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Relive Childhood Memories at the Toy Museum
Another fantastic tourist attraction in Colmar is the Toy Museum (Musée du Jouet). This is a great museum for the young and the young at heart who want to discover the toys of the past. Explore the exhibits to see various Barbies throughout the ages, model cars and trains, dolls, board games, and much more! You can even play some of the giant board games and video games. This is a fun place to visit in Colmar for families or anyone who enjoys some childhood nostalgia.
The museum is closed on May 1, Nov. 1, Christmas Day, and Tuesdays from November to January.
Tour Nearby Vineyards on the Alsace Wine Route
A trip to France would be incomplete without at least one winery tour, and you have plenty to choose from in Colmar!
The Alsace Wine Route is a 170-kilometer trail that will take you through the region’s top wineries, along with Renaissance churches and picturesque fields. Alsace is known for its crisp and refreshing Riesling, but the Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris are quite popular as well. Make sure to sample Gewürztraminer and Crémant d’Alsace when you visit the wineries, as both white wines are well known in the region.
While you can explore the Alsace Wine Route on your own, we highly recommend this half-day wine tour. The tour will take you (and no more than eight guests) to two wineries and includes a winery tour, tastings, and transportation – so you won’t have to worry about drinking and driving or navigating roads with signs in French!
Hike Around the Three Castles of Eguisheim
If you’re looking to escape the town and enjoy the countryside, consider taking a day to hike and explore the Three Castles of Eguisheim, which are roughly a 20-minute drive from Colmar.
This 7-mile trail will take you to three significant towers in the Alsace hillside region. The trail takes roughly 3.5 hours to complete, and you can explore the ruins at your own pace for free. We highly recommend bringing lots of water and good hiking shoes, as the trail can get quite slippery.
Soak Up the Sun in the Parc du Champ de Mars
Are you looking for a place to enjoy the summer sun like a local? Make your way to the Parc du Champ de Mars!
This lovely, tree-lined green space is the perfect spot for a picnic on a sunny day. If you don’t feel like packing a lunch, indulge in a fresh waffle or churro at Les Dèlices du Carrousel inside the park and stroll past statues of several prominent Frenchmen. This is also a great place to bring kids, as the park has a carousel and a playground where they can let their energy out. In the winter, the park features a skating rink and several stalls as part of the Christmas market.
Browse the Marché Couvert
Strolling through an enclosed marketplace is a classic activity in Colmar and France overall, and Colmar’s Marché Couvert (Covered Market) is the perfect place for this experience. Its stalls offer fresh vegetables, cheese, meats, baked goods, and other products. You can enjoy small bites and coffee while admiring the cast-iron arches and stone walls of this 19th-century building.
The market is open every day except Mondays and public holidays. You can see daily hours here.
Take a Day Trip to Germany or Switzerland
Seeing as Colmar is so close to the German border, why not visit the neighboring German town of Freiburg im Breisgau or the Swiss city of Basel? Both cities are famous for their fantastic Christmas markets, incredible attractions, and classic architecture. Basel is roughly an hour’s drive from Colmar and home to one of Europe’s best Christmas markets, along with excellent shopping and interesting attractions like the Basel Minster and the Basel Paper Mill.
Freiburg im Breisgau is an hour or so north of Basel. The drive there is just as beautiful as the city itself, taking you through the rolling Black Forest hills of southern Germany. When you get to the town, you can enjoy great shopping and beautiful buildings such as Freiburg Minster (the city’s large cathedral) and the Historical Merchants’ Hall.
You can do this day trip on your own with a rental car, but we recommend this full-day tour of three villages. The tour includes a guide, drinking water, and transportation to and from your accommodation.
For a fun day trip less than an hour away from Colmar, consider visiting the famous Europa-Park in Germany. This massive amusement park features 18 themed areas, 13 roller coasters, and over 100 attractions. You can purchase tickets to Europa-Park here.
Hike or Drive Through the Ballons des Vosges Regional Nature Park
The Ballons des Vosges Regional Nature Park is one of the largest and most beautiful parks in France, spanning three regions. There’s plenty to do in the park, including various snow sports (if you visit in winter) and even paragliding! It also offers several walking and hiking trails, along with historic churches and viewpoints.
The three popular trails we recommend hiking are the Lac Blanc Loop, the Lac de Gérardmer Loop, and the Sentier des Roches. Of course, there are other ways to explore the park – but whether you hike, drive, or bike through it, bring a camera and a fully charged phone!
Shop at the Christmas Market
The Colmar Christmas Market is one of the best in France and possibly even Europe. The market runs every year from the end of November to the beginning of January and spans six areas of the city.
If you come at Christmastime, you’ll also see the entire Old Town draped in lights and classic European Christmas decor. With Colmar’s amazing architecture, this makes for a truly magical experience. You can learn more about the Colmar Christmas Market here.
Sample the Local Cuisine
France is known for its fantastic cuisine, such as croissants, croque monsieur sandwiches, and coq au vin. Colmar doesn’t disappoint here, with several local dishes that you should try on your holiday.
Foie gras was invented in the neighboring town of Strasbourg and is easily one of the region’s best dishes, often eaten for special occasions. It’s not for picky eaters, though, as it is a seasoned pate made from the liver of a duck or goose. Other local dishes to try include baeckeoffe (a casserole of marinated meat and potatoes), spaetzle (egg noodles), pain d’epices (French gingerbread), and coq au riesling (chicken in white wine).
Tour the Château du Hohlandsbourg
Another incredible castle near Colmar is the Château du Hohlandsbourg. This 13th-century fortress is a 20-minute drive from the Old Town and offers sweeping panoramic views of the Alsace region.
This high point in the hills near Colmar was a strategic center for the region as far back as 1300 B.C. You can see Bronze Age artifacts and explore several well-preserved rooms on your tour, with various actors sharing information (only in French) about the castle and region.
The Château du Hohlandsbourg is open on varying days from April to November.
Check Out the Dominican Church
The stained-glass windows in the Dominican Church of Colmar are a must-see for anyone who enjoys religious artwork. Even if you’re not the biggest fan of art, a visit to this restored 14th-century church is well worth your time. It’s actually more popular than the Colmar Cathedral, mainly because it’s the home of Martin Schongauer’s masterpiece painting, “Madonna of the Rose Bush.” The church is open daily to visitors.
Enjoy the Old Town’s Evening Light Show
You don’t have to visit Colmar in winter to see a dazzling light display, with a spectacular show illuminating the Old Town on Fridays and Saturdays all year. A walk through the Old Town during the light show makes the perfect after-dinner activity.
The show’s static and dynamic lighting wonderfully enhances the view of the town’s architecture, and the colors and intensity change throughout the year to reflect the seasons. The colors represent the four elements present in Colmar: white for the fire of faith in the churches, gold for the earth of the Alsace region, blue for the sky, and green for the river and lush nature.
Well, now you know the best Colmar attractions! All that’s left to figure out is how many of these highlights you can fit into your itinerary.
Leave a Reply