Colmar is the most darling little town in Alsace! Here’s what you need to know for a day trip to Colmar, France.
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Planning your time in Colmar
Because the Alsace region of France has changed nationalities more times than I can count, it’s culturally very much German and well as French.
Colmar may be most known by international visitors for its Christmas market. The Colmar Christmas markets are everything you’d dream of for a small-town Christmas market, and the entire place feels straight out of Beauty and the Beast.
For that reason, many people breeze through on a day trip from Strasbourg. And it’s magical! But if you’ve got a little time, it’s a great place to visit year-round for a taste of Alsace.
Colmar is a small town, but not that small. When I compare it to my current town it feels much larger, so I’d call it a big town. There are plenty of shops and restaurants, but still walkable. You can get from the train station to the old town in about 15 minutes’ walk, and everything is within 10 minutes of there.
If you come for a day trip, you can see it all. Even during the Christmas market season, a full day here will allow you to check out everything. That being said, one of the best parts of small-town France is the natural slowing down you can experience there, so it’s worth considering spending the night.
What to do in Colmar
In such an idyllic town, it seems silly to call one section the “pretty” part, but here we are. Called Little Venice because of the canal, it’s the prettiest part of a pretty town. Be sure to walk around here and soak up the colorful buildings with classic Alsatian architecture.
St Martin’s Church
St. Martin’s is the local church. Sometimes referred to as a cathedral because of its size, it’s not technically, but it does contain beautiful stained glass and is worth sticking your head in.
Don’t miss the stork nest on the back of the roof! Storks are common here and you’ll see them in local art everywhere. This region is where we get the idea that storks deliver babies, so it’s kind of cute to see a massive nest on the roof for them. Visiting in winter means I didn’t see any because they’d migrated south, but definitely check while you’re there!
The Unterlinden Museum is famous for housing the Isenheim Altarpiece, a large altarpiece noted for its medically accurate depictions of plague sores on the body of Christ. Sounds like something you really want to see, right?
Okay, I’m making a bit of fun. But that’s really what it is. It’s a historically significant work of art.
There are plenty of other pieces, running from prehistoric to contemporary art. The biggest exhibitions are focused on local art, particularly from the Renaissance period.
I include it because it’s the biggest tourist attraction in Colmar outside of the Christmas markets. Honestly, I wasn’t interested in paying 13€ to see one triptych. But if church history and art is your favorite, this is apparently a must-see!
Colmar Tourist Trail
If you want to explore a bit more, there’s a self-guided walking tour labeled on the ground with brass plaques and signs in front of significant locations. Signs are in English, French, and German, meaning you know what you’re looking at. A full map is available here or in the tourist office if you want to pick and choose your spots.
The plaques have a picture of the Statue of Liberty on them because the sculptor, Auguste Bartholdi, was originally from Colmar! You can also find a recreation in a local park as well.
Le Palais Gourmand
Le Palais Gourmand is a great spot to try tarte flambée or crepes! Taste flambé is an Alsatian specialty, a bit like a flatbread pizza. Many of them are topped with this lovely cream that I had a hard time articulating. When I asked about it, the owner laughed at much confusion – it’s just really high-quality cream, lightly beaten to thicken. The texture is like a cream sauce, and tastes a bit like sour cream, but better (and much much lighter). I ordered the Reblochon and practically licked the plate.
Schwendi Bier and Wienstub
Schwendi Bier and Wienstub has a classic tavern feel. It’s a pretty large menu with plenty of options. Rosti is a great choice, and don’t forget to order a local wine in the unique Alsatian style of glasses.
Try the Pastries
Want to try amazing pastries? Head to any boulangerie or patisserie! You can get classics like pan au chocolat or regional specialties like kugelhopf or gingerbread cookies. I went to Patisserie Gilg and loved it, but you can hardly go wrong.
Shopping in Colmar
Cote Caramel is a caramel shop with the best candies! You can buy them by weight, and they have at least a dozen different flavors, as well as nougat and other goodies. It’s not cheap, but it’s 100% worth it!
Marché couvert Colmar
Exploring the local market is always a treat, and Colmar has an indoor market every day! Called Marché Couvert (covered market), it’s great for a wander. Stalls offer fresh produce as well as bakery and gifts.
Colmar is only 30 minutes by train from Strasbourg and 45 minutes from Basel, Switzerland, so it’s easy to get to!