Colmar Fachwerkbauten Altstadt

7 tips and sights for your short trip to Colmar

After spending an enjoyable weekend in Dijon last November, we had planned a short trip to our French neighbors again this November. At the top of my wish list was actually Strasbourg – I was in the capital of the Alsace-Champagne-Ardenne-Lorraine region for the last time in 2012 and at that time I was not able to visit everything I had originally planned. When I finally started planning the weekend trip in mid-October, I realized that all our desired locations (restaurants/hotels) were already fully booked. Without further ado, we discussed possible alternatives and finally decided on Colmar.

With just under 70,000 inhabitants and a compact old town centre, Colmar is much smaller than Strasbourg (which has around 277,000 inhabitants) and the sights are kept within a manageable framework. Just the right size for a really relaxed – and above all extremely enjoyable – weekend trip. And best of all, the journey by train from Zurich (or Bern) takes just two hours! Ideal for turning your back on the November hustle and bustle for two days and grounding yourself with the Alsatian cosiness. In keeping with this, I have put together seven tips for our favourite places and activities in Colmar below.

Colmar Tip #1 Follow the Statue of Liberty through the old town

“Why do Colmar’s picturesque, cobbled streets of the old town adorn golden plaques with the Statue of Liberty as a subject?” one or the other visitor to the city will probably have asked themselves before me. The answer can be found on the Rue des Marchands. This is where the birthplace of Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi is located. The French sculptor created the colossal “Lady Liberty”, which has stood as a symbol of freedom in the Upper Bay outside New York since 1886. In Colmar, the Statue of Liberty not only shows us the way to the house where we were born, which today houses the Musée Bartholdi, but also guides us purposefully to all the sights of the old town.

Colmar Statue of Liberty Symbol Round Tour
Colmar Museum Bartholdi

And there are quite a few of them – in Colmar’s old town there are contemporary witnesses from over 500 years of architectural history. The Collegiate Church of St. Martin in the centre, for example, has Romanesque origins and the magnificent half-timbered façades give an idea of how well-off the city was in the Middle Ages. In front of each historic building there is an information board that provides the corresponding background knowledge. If you look for the golden plaques on your tour of the old town, you will undoubtedly also discover the signs – and other exciting details such as one of Brussels’ landmarks – in the alleys of Colmar.

Colmar Altstadtbauten
Colmar Altstadt
Colmar Manneken Pis
Tribunal de Grand Instance Colmar
Colmar Altstadt

ps: If you follow the Route de Strasbourg in a northerly direction, you will discover a replica of the Statue of Liberty in New York at Colmar-Houssen Airport. It was erected in 2004 to mark the 100th anniversary of the sculptor’s death.

pps: Please note that the Bartholdi Museum is open from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. and closes for two hours at noon.

Colmar Tip #2: Have a leisurely breakfast

The selection of nice neighbourhood cafés is not too large – if you are staying in Colmar like us and don’t book breakfast in your accommodation, I recommend a stop at La Libellule Café on Rue de la Grenouillère. The café is located a little away from the main tourist crowds and offers comfortable sitting areas, reading material, breakfast sets (coffee, juice, bread and jam) as well as fine cakes. (Attention: Closed on Sundays!)

Colmar La Libellule Cafe

Colmar Tip #3: Visit the Unterlinden Museum

The Unterlinden Museum is one of Colmar’s main attractions. One of the most famous works in the museum is the Isenheim Altarpiece by Matthias Grünewald. Between 2012 and 2015, an extension by Herzog & de Meuron was added to the historical part of the museum, which is located in the premises of a former Dominican convent. The directly adjacent municipal swimming pool was also included in the redesign. Since its reopening, the Unterlinden Museum has presented itself as an exciting ensemble of three buildings from different eras, which are skilfully linked together. Worth seeing for both art and architecture fans! And although the art here was of secondary interest to me, to my amazement it took us over an hour to complete the tour (so allow at least two hours if you look at the collection with the audio guide).

Colmar Unterlinden Museum
Unterlinden Museum Colmar top Tipps
Unterlinden Colmar Piscine

Colmar Tip #4 Stop off at the “Marché Couvert”

Colmar’s market hall is located at a hinge point between the old town and Little Venice and is therefore one of the most visited sights. Nevertheless, it is worth taking a detour towards the “Marché Couvert” around noon. The market hall is an ideal stop for those who prefer an uncomplicated lunch to a three-course meal and don’t feel like reserving a lunch in a restaurant weeks in advance. When the weather is nice, there is also the opportunity to enjoy an Alsatian tarte flambée, local beer and sparkling wine outside in the sun.

Herbst Klein Venedig Colmar
Colmar Marche Couvert
Bester Flammkuchen Colmar

If you google the “best tarte flambée in Colmar”, you will discover the Soi restaurant as an alternative to the market hall. Since this (like some of the smaller restaurants, by the way) will be closed between November 5th and 21st, we unfortunately did not have the opportunity to compare the tarte flambée of the market hall with those in the soi. Either way, the sun terrace of the market hall is a good choice.

Colmar Tip #5: Glide through Little Venice by boat

The charm of “Little Venice” is something that no visitor to Colmar will miss. The colourful half-timbered façades stretch between Boulevard Saint-Pierre and Rue des Tanneurs to the left and right along the Lauch. The thirty-minute commented boat trip is guaranteed to slow you down. This allows you to experience Colmar’s most photogenic district from a different perspective. According to the information on the official tourist site of Visit Colmar, the boats only operate during the summer months, from March to October. During our visit in mid-November, however, there was also a boat on the Lauch – thanks to the beautiful autumn weather. The cost of the round trip is 6 euros – the pier is in front of the restaurant Le Caveau Saint-Pierre.

Colmar Bootstour Lauch
Colmar Little Venise

Colmar Tip #6: Treat yourself to a sweet break

Colmar scores with some tempting patisserie and chocolate shops. For example, L’Atelier de Yann on Cathedral Square is very well frequented. Our favourite, on the other hand, is the shop of chocolatier Thierry Mulhaupt.

Mulhaupt Patisserie Colmar

Colmar Tip #7: Enjoy Michelin-starred cuisine

In addition to traditional wine bars and cosy pubs, Colmar also offers a nice selection of gourmet restaurants. There are a total of two 1-star restaurants and one 2-star restaurant in the city. All three restaurants are open for lunch and dinner and offer à la carte and set menus. At l’Atelier du Peintre, for example, the 3-course lunch menu costs 35 euros.

But my favorite is the vegetarian menu at Restaurant Girardin. The 8-course menu costs 105 euros and offers a perfectly coordinated, seasonal journey through the plant world. From sweet potato gnocchi to a caramelized onion cake to smoked celery, a true feast for vegetable lovers! Only those who value a coordinated wine accompaniment have to make compromises here. The wine list includes a wide selection of Alsatian wines, but they must be ordered by the bottle.

Less convincing was the two-Michelin-starred JY’s. Chef Jean-Yves Schillinger is committed to traditional French cuisine. Foie gras, crab, filet mignon… admittedly, we were a bit bored with the menu. That’s why our tip: Secure a table at the Girardin and enjoy the cleverly prepared vegetables!

Our hotel tip for Colmar

We have found a stylish and attractively priced base in the James Boutique Hotel (partner link) on Rue Saint-Eloi. The hotel is within walking distance of the old town. From Colmar train station, you can reach it either by a 20-minute walk or by bus line 1 (Colmar, Vauban stop). The standard rooms cost from 150 euros per night (prices as of 2023). All rooms are equipped with a coffee machine (coffee included) – which is convenient if you skip the hotel breakfast.

Colmar James Boutique Hotel

Note on the Christmas market in Colmar

Attention – the well-known Christmas market of Colmar starts at the end of November (this year on November 22nd). When the time comes, Colmar will be busier again. If you want to escape the hustle and bustle, you can set your travel time for the first three weekends in November. And if you want to experience Colmar in its full pre-Christmas splendour, you should ideally coordinate your short trip with the start of the Christmas market, which is spread over six locations in the old town and is rightly considered one of the most beautiful Christmas markets in Europe.

More inspiration for your short trip to Colmar

During our visit in mid-November, Colmar was pleasantly “little” going on. The small Alsatian town is a popular city break destination both in the summer months and in the run-up to Christmas. Accordingly, it is important to choose the time of the trip wisely. You can find more impressions and tips about Colmar on these pages:

The most important questions about your city trip to Colmar:

What country/region is Colmar located in?

Colmar is located not far from the Swiss border in the French region of Alsace.

What language is spoken in Colmar?

The official language is French. Part of the local population also speaks Alsatian, a dialect with German-speaking influences.

How big is Colmar?

With around 70,000 inhabitants, Colmar is the third largest city in Alsace after Strasbourg and Mulhouse.

How much time should I allow for a trip to Colmar?

It’s worth allowing two days. The highlights of Colmar can also be explored in one day.

When does the Christmas market take place in Colmar?

The Christmas market in Colmar lasts from the end of November (last weekend in November) to the end of December and is spread over five to six locations in the city centre.

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