French fairytale: Best things to do in Colmar old town

French fairytale: Best things to do in Colmar old town

Picture a quintessential French fairytale town complete with colourful half-timbered homes, flowers spilling out of window boxes and tranquil canals, and you’ll understand why the Colmar old town is just so darn perfect.

Colmar, France
Colmar

Colmar, France is a highlight of a visit to the famous Alsace region, a postcard-perfect area of eastern France near the German border that seems frozen in time.

The town is absolutely magical when the Christmas markets pop up around the holiday season, and its charm inspired the backdrop for Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.

Petite Venice in Colmar
Petite Venice in Colmar

From the most romantic spots to quirky, unexpected attractions, here are the best things to do in Colmar, France.

Admire historic buildings in the Colmar old town

Colmar is the kind of place where you want to just simply wander around the cobblestone streets in the walkable town centre, soaking up the lively atmosphere of visitors popping into the boutiques and admiring the sunshine-yellow, sky blue and blush-pink streetscapes.

During the day the outdoor cafes are packed, and in the evening sunset casts a mesmerizing glow over the city as the clink of cutlery and wine glasses rings out from Michelin-starred restaurants.

Some of the prettiest spots in Colmar old town are The House of Heads, Pfister House, and the Koifhus which is a pink Gothic and Renaissance-style building built in 1480 that once served as Colmar’s business and political hub.

Keep an eye out for cutouts in many of the windows of the famous Alsace heart.

Colmar, France

Book one of these popular Colmar tours with Viator:

 

 

Browse the Covered Market

The Covered Market–also known as the Permanent Terrior Market–is one of the most bustling spots in Colmar.

The building dates back to 1865 and features intricate brickwork on the exterior, while the inside hosts a market hall with local produce, meat and dairy products, fresh fish and baked goods.

Nab a seat at one of the restaurants which have patios right along the water, to enjoy a coffee or glass of rose while watching the boats glide by.

The Covered Market in Colmar, France
The Covered Market

Go on a boat ride through Little Venice

Little Venice and The Fishmonger’s District are the most picturesque districts, and a must-do for those who visit Colmar.

Nestled along the Lauch River, the half-timbered houses are where boatmen and fishermen used to live, and they’re painted different colours depending on who lived there (red houses for butchers, blue for fishermen, etc).

Petite Venice in Colmar

One of the top things to do in Colmar, France is to enjoy a boat ride along the serene waterways. Tickets cost €7 for adults, can be purchased right at the dock in front of Restaurant Le Caveau Saint-Pierre, and tours last about half an hour.

Colmar, France

Walk through the Tanner’s District

One of the most charming areas of Colmar is called the Tanner’s District, which dates back as far as the 17th century.

The Tanners District in Colmar, France
The Tanners District

The tall, narrow half-timbered buildings were built on a stone base with no foundation or cellars, and used as tanners’ houses. Entire families lived here, and skins were often dried on the upper floors.

Colmar, France
Colmar

See the Colmar Statue of Liberty

One of the most unexpected, quirky Colmar attractions proudly stands in the centre of a roundabout on the outskirts of town: a 12-metre high replica of the Statue of Liberty.

French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi was born in Colmar, and best known for creating the iconic monument in New York City.

Head north along the D83, and you’ll come across the Statue de la Liberté–a nod to the hometown hero, and a way to commemorate the 100th anniversary of his death.

Statue of Liberty in Colmar, France
The Statue de la Liberté in Colmar 

Get into the holiday spirit at the Colmar Christmas market

Colmar has one of the best Alsace Christmas markets–in fact, people make a special trip here every holiday season from around the globe to soak in the festive atmosphere.

Even the biggest Grinch can’t help but get into the spirit, when the streets are transformed with twinkling lights, wreaths and rows of stalls selling ornaments, handicrafts and traditional French food.

READ MORE: 5 tips for visiting the markets during Christmas in Europe

Alsace Christmas markets

Live music sets the festive scene, and the smell of fresh-baked biscuits and steaming vats of mulled wine (vin chaud) wafts into the air–a hallmark of the Alsace Christmas markets.

There are half a dozen different markets set up around Colmar which are usually open from the last week of November until Christmas Eve, as well as ones in Eguisheim and Turckheim (both a 15 minute drive away).

Book a guided tour to different Alsace Christmas markets:

 

 

Take day trips around the Alsace region of France

While there are so many things to see in Colmar, it’s an absolute must to make time to visit some of the other Alsatian villages in eastern France.

Strasbourg

Hilltop castles, winding cobblestone streets, vineyards and medieval clock towers await, and it usually takes less than 10 minutes to drive between towns so it’s possible to visit a few each day.

Read this complete guide to the 10 best places to visit in Alsace, France–spoiler alert, my favourites are Ribeauvillé, Riquewihr and Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg.

This day trip from Colmar is a great option, since it includes visits to four of the best Alsace towns and wine tasting.

Book a day trip through the Alsace from Colmar with Viator:

 

 
Book with GetYourGuide:

 
Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg
Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg
Riquewhir, France
Riquewhir
Hiking up to a castle in Ribeauvillé, France
Hiking up to a castle in Ribeauvillé

Budget about a week for an Alsace visit, which allows for full days to explore Colmar and Strasbourg and a few extra to do day trips to the surrounding Alsace towns.

Book a guided tour to towns in Alsace, France:

 

 

Alsace map of the best towns to visit:

Where to stay in Colmar, France

James Boutique Hotel: I loved this gorgeous boutique hotel so much that I ended up changing my Alsace itinerary so I could stay here even longer!

James Boutique Hotel in Colmar

The four-star James Boutique Hotel is just a couple minutes’ walk from the Colmar old town, so it’s close to the action but away from the crowds.

The modern, cozy rooms boast lots of storage, luxe linens and amenities straight from Paris. The daily breakfast buffet is an event in itself, and there’s also an onsite bar and lounge.

James Boutique Hotel in Colmar

Guests can easily park on-site, and the hotel’s location has quick access to the highway when you want to head out and explore the Alsace region.

As a special offer for Globe Guide readers, get 10% off your stay at the James Boutique Hotel by booking here and using the code GLOBEGUIDE10 at checkout.

James Boutique Hotel in Colmar
James Boutique Hotel

How to get to Colmar, France

The closest airports are in Strasbourg, and EuroAirport Basel Mulhouse Freiburg near the Swiss border. Both are about a 45 minute drive from Colmar.

By train it’s about 2 ½ hours from Paris and 3 ½ hours from Lyon, or 45 minutes to Basel and two hours to Zurich in Switzerland.

A great option is to combine a trip to the Colmar, Alsace region with cities in western Germany like Stuttgart which is famous for its auto museums and car-themed hotel, and romantic Heidelberg which is just a two hour drive from Colmar.

Heidelberg Castle
Heidelberg Castle

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