Things to do in Colmar
The city of Colmar, which lies in northeastern France, is a must-see destination on any trip to Europe.
Easily accessible from countries such as Germany, Italy, or Switzerland, this magical city is known for its gingerbread houses, early-renaissance buildings, and beautiful surrounding wine country. It’s got impressive art museums, a greatly varied cuisine, and plenty of exciting activities to do in and around town.
1. Stroll through the Old Town
One of the best things to do in Colmar is to stroll through the streets of the Old Town. Marvel at the differently-colored houses with their wooden beams and at the sophisticated renaissance buildings covered in flowers. Every cobblestone street will leave you as impressed as the one before.
The old quarter is filled with lots of rich history, and there are a few ways to explore it. You can wander through the streets aimlessly, finding beautiful sights using a tourist map. You can also hop on a ride on the Colmar tourist train, or you can follow the so-called Tourist Trail.
This last option is a self-guided walking tour that leads you on a 6 KM loop around the city. A map isn’t necessary, as you can follow the golden triangles on the trail to the highlights of Colmar. This is a great way to get to know the city and should take you about 2,5 hours.
2. Musée d’Unterlinden
Housed in a beautiful 13th-century Dominican convent lies the best art museum of Colmar, the Unterlinden Museum. This museum covers many years of history, featuring everything from ancient findings to masterpieces of various local artists over time.
Dive into over 7000 years of history and the many artistic works of the Rhineland’s late-gothic and renaissance time period. If you only have time for one museum, try to visit this one, as Musée d’Unterlinden is known as one of France’s best regional museums.
3. Little Venice (La Petite Venise)
Arguably, the prettiest part of the old town is the small river right in the middle, known as Little Venice. This shallow stream of water flows past brightly painted houses and under beautiful bridges, making it a must-see on any trip to Colmar. Walk along the river or sit down at one of the many cafes, taking in the beautiful and vibrant atmosphere.
The most visited area along the canal lies south of the center and is called Quai de la Poissonnerie (the Fishmonger District). This picturesque district is where tanners, winemakers, and fishmongers used to work by the water. The area has the most iconic sights of Colmar, where beautifully decorated homes meet the city’s old covered market.
If you would like to learn more about the district’s history or admire the views from another point of view, you can hop on a guided boat tour. These brief boat trips are available all along the river and typically take about 30 minutes.
4. Maison Pfister in Colmar, France
Sitting along the charming street Rue des Marchands, you’ll find the beautiful Maison Pfister. This lavishly decorated Renaissance house was built in 1537 and features many impressive biblical paintings.
It’s known as one of the symbols of Colmar, originally built for a silver trader back in the day. However, its current name is dedicated to the Pfister family, who restored the building about 200 years ago. When visiting this fairytale house, make sure to look at the beautiful corner window, wooden gallery, and 16th-century frescoes.
A second note-worthy house in Colmar is the customs house called Koïfhus. You’ll easily recognize this stunning medieval building by its mostly green ceramic tiles on the roof. The building, which previously served as a warehouse, dates back to 1480 and is one of the oldest houses in the city.
Perched on a beautiful square with restaurants on either side, the Koïfhus makes a surprisingly wonderful thing to do in Colmar. Relax in the shade while musicians play live music, and admire the diamond pattern of the varnished tiles on the roof—a perfect example of renaissance architecture in eastern France.
6. St Martin’s Church
Right in the center of the old town, the grand St. Martin’s Church (Église Saint-Martin) towers above all the other gorgeous buildings. Even though you can spot the church from many points around the city, the highly-detailed facade and decorated interior make it worth seeing from up close. Admire the beautiful Gothic architecture and watch as the sun glitters onto the colorful diamond pattern of the roofs.
The 13th-century church is often referred to as the Colmar Cathedral, despite not actually being a cathedral at all. Instead, it’s earned this nickname due to its remarkable size of 78 meters tall!
7. Maison Adolph
On the same square as the church, you’ll find the Adolph house. Consisting of two merged buildings in typical Alsatian architecture, this is most likely the oldest building in the city.
Built approximately around the year 1350, the half-timbered house differs from Colmar’s later constructions with its beautiful Gothic features, such as the arched windows. When strolling through the winding alleys of the old town, take a moment to look up at the ancient remains of this iconic building.
8. Visit Eguisheim or Kaysersberg (Alsace Villages)
Along the foothills of the mountains, there are numerous little villages, named the Alsace Villages, that make a great destination for a day trip from Colmar. Travel back in time as you walk through cute alleyways of Alsatian towns, looking out over hillside vineyards.
The beautiful village of Eguisheim lies southwest of Colmar and is a great place to visit, especially on a sunny day.
To get to Eguisheim, you can either drive or hop on the bus. Alternatively, you can rent a bike in Colmar, which costs about 7 EUR (7 USD) and is a great way of seeing the beautiful countryside. The journey takes no more than one hour and allows you to stop whenever you want to take some photos. When you get to Eguisheim, you can explore the impressive history and architecture of the town on foot.
Kaysersberg is another picturesque village that lies in the lush countryside to the north of Colmar. The town is dotted with beautiful half-timbered houses, has a stunning fortified bridge, and a castle ruin that you can climb for the best views. It’s an 11-kilometer journey to get to Kaysersberg, so the best way to get there is by car or bus. Alternatively, you can explore all the Alsace villages on a tour from Colmar (or another city nearby).
Besides its beautiful historic towns and cities, the Alsace region is known for its 170-kilometer-long wine route. Dive deep into wine culture by meeting farmers, visiting storage caves in the mountains, and tasting some of the most delicious wines in the area.
The local vineyards specialize in Riesling and Gewürztraminer grapes, which are used to make white wines. The best way to try this local delicacy is to visit one of the towns within the region or to make a stop at one of the vineyards. Drive, walk, or cycle through wine countryside, stopping at the pretty villages and castles in between the beautiful green landscape.
About 30 kilometers north of Colmar, high up on a mountain, stands an impressive red-colored fortress. Overlooking the lush green valley below, this 12th-century structure is as enchanting as the rest of northeastern France. Its simple exterior, and much more intricate detailed inner walls, make this one of the best things to do when visiting Colmar.
Walk through the fortress’ gardens and along the ramparts, taking in the beautiful vistas of the surrounding countryside. The best way to reach this fairytale castle is to travel by car or join an organized tour.
Entrance fee & Opening times: Tickets to the castle cost 9 EUR (9 USD), and the doors open every day of the week from 9:30 AM – 4:45 PM.
Best Cafes and Restaurants in Colmar
Colmar has quite a good selection of restaurants in the half-timbered houses along the canal and on the many cozy squares. The Alsatian food is a delicious blend of French and German flavors, from braised sauerkraut with sausages and potatoes to tarte flambée (flammekueche) and meals in white wine sauce.
During the day, stop at a local bakery to try the famous ‘bretzel’ – a pretzel with melted cheese. At night, dine al fresco on a nice terrace overlooking the beautiful sights of the city. Discovering the region’s food and wine scene is one of the best things to do in Colmar. Some of our favorite places were:
- Restaurant La Soï
- Tabula Rasa (Vegan)
- Au Croissant Doré (Café)
- La Stub
- Le BaR à JuS (Vegetarian options)
- Muang Thai
- Island Poké
Where to Stay
Visiting Colmar can easily be done within a day; however, we recommend staying at least a night or two to be able to explore the surrounding Alsace region. There are many accommodation options in Colmar, from stunning riverside hotels to lovely B&Bs just outside the old town. Note that Colmar is a popular destination, especially during the summer, meaning that the prices might be a little higher when you visit during this time.
How to Visit Colmar, France
By Plane: To get to Colmar, fly to Basel airport. This is the biggest and most convenient airport, which is only an hour’s drive away.
By Bus/Train: Situated close to the borders of Germany and Switzerland, you can easily travel to Colmar by public transportation, such as the train or bus.
By Car: If you’re looking to have a bit more flexibility on your journey, opt to rent a car in France. Driving a car allows you to make up your own itinerary, and you won’t have to depend on other schedules.
As most of the highlights are all within walking distance from one another, the best way to explore the city is on foot. Within the old town, you also have the option to hop on the Colmar tourist train.
If you’re planning on visiting some of the lovely little towns or ancient castles in the surrounding countryside, you’ve got a few options to get there. You can cycle, hop on public transport, join an organized tour, or simply drive yourself. For each option, you can get a map and more information at the tourist office in the center of Colmar.
Best Time to Visit Colmar
Visiting Colmar, France, is a great experience any time of the year. During the summer months, the weather is nice and warm, and there are lots of events happening around the city. However, this is also the busiest and most expensive time to visit Colmar.
Instead, visit in the shoulder seasons between May – June or September – October. During these months, the weather is still nice, but the city is much calmer. Early fall is especially a great time to visit if you’re coming for the vineyards and the wines.