The Colmar Christmas markets may be the most famous small-town markets in the world, and for good reason! Here’s what you need to know to plan your time.
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As usual, multiple markets spread through the squares and main avenues. I’m not going to differentiate them in Colmar, because so many lead into the next. Even when they don’t, the town is so picturesque and lovely that it’s easy to wander and soak in the beauty until you find yourself in the next one.
There is an indoor set of booths called the Handcraft Christmas market in the Koifhus (Old Customs House) that’s free to enter. With two sections, you can get a break from the cold and see some truly gorgeous jewelry, wall art, leather goods, antiques, and more! Note that you can’t bring dogs or take photos inside these, so plan accordingly.
There’s also a dining tent next to the cathedral (Church of Saint Martin) called the Marché Gourmand, where you can try restaurant-style food! They have lots of classic French and Alsatian dishes. It’s also open later than the rest of the market stalls, so it’s a great place to end up for dinner.
Need a break from the booths (and potentially crowds)? Head over to their Little Venice quarter for a breather and a walk. Beautiful year-round, they decorate the bridges and buildings for the season and it’s a cute area away from the hubbub.
What to Eat and Drink at the Colmar Christmas Markets
Very similar to Strasbourg in terms of what to look for: tarte flambée and crepes are everywhere and very good.
Another classic in France is nougat, in both booths and local shops. Many allow you to try tastes, cutting it straight of a massive block. It’s somewhere between American nougat (the stuff inside a Three Musketeers) and marshmallow, and it’s delicious!
Another local delicacy is foie gras. It’s a controversial ingredient, for sure. I’ll let you look into it and decide for yourself, but I will say that it was delicious. I don’t plan to eat more of it, but I did try it – it’s a lot like really good smooth pâté (which I love a lot).
Planning Your Time in Colmar
The age-old question is: do you see the town as a day trip, or spend the night?
I’m torn on this. Colmar positively oozes quaintness, and it’s a lovely place to visit. Most people call it a small town, but it’s big enough to have dozens of restaurants and several museums. So maybe better as a big town? That being said, hotels in the area are more expensive around the holidays (like anywhere with Christmas markets) and can even double their rates in December.
I stayed two nights in Colmar to get the full experience, and that’s unnecessary if your main goal is the Christmas markets. The markets hit their most magical in the evenings, but most of the Colmar Christmas markets close around 7. Plus, with things getting dark around 5:30, you can experience them in at night and still catch a train back to another town.
It’s easy to reach from other towns: 30 minutes from Strasbourg, 45 from Basel, Switzerland. If you felt really ambitious, it’s 2 hours 20 minutes from Paris, but I don’t recommend that. If you’re already in Strasbourg for their amazing markets, I’d advise adding a day to go to Colmar.
Another good option is road-tripping through small towns. Alsace has a long history of Christmas traditions – we can thank them for Christmas trees in the home, and glass ball decorations to name a few! – so their small towns really embrace the holiday spirit. A few more Alsace towns on my list are Obernai, Ribeauville, and Eguisheim if you’re hoping to plan a road trip! There’s also a Christmas shuttle train connecting the towns with markets, so that’s worth looking into as well.
That being said, if you do decide to spend the night in Colmar, get in touch! I offer travel planning services ranging from tips & tricks to full-out itinerary building, and I’m happy to recommend places to stay.
There were officials at every entrance to any enclosed areas to ensure mask-wearing. But the markets are so integrated into the town that there wasn’t a huge distinction here between when you were officially in the markets or not.
Officials of course reserve the right to check your vaccination status, but in my experience, it was less intense than in other cities. The Marché Gourmand is the only exception – you must present your QR code to enter.
Colmar Christmas markets were some of my favorites! They offer a more intimate experience of what the markets may have been like a century ago, with all the modern touches.
Want a handy way to keep all this organized? I’ve put all my Colmar tips together on Thatch for a quick (free) guide to the town!