What to Do in One Day in Colmar: A Perfect Itinerary

Do you fancy visiting one of the most beautiful towns in Europe? With just one day in Colmar, you’ll be able to take a boat ride on its canals, stroll its scenic streets and sample delicious Alsace cuisine.

It’s one of my favourite solo destinations in France.

Hit the ground running with my tried and tested itinerary 1-day Colmar itinerary. You’ll also find recommendations for where to stay and eat in Colmar plus other essential tips, including how to get there and how to get around.

gabled houses in colmar-france

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ONE DAY IN COLMAR AT A GLANCE
half gabled houses reflected in a canal in colmar in france

TOP 5 THINGS TO DO IN COLMAR

  • Stroll around La Petite Venise
  • Explore the Tanners’ Quarter
  • Take a canal cruise
  • Visit the Dominican Church
  • Feast on Alsace food and wine

GETTING THERE: By train. The station is a 15-minute walk from the historic centre.

GETTING AROUND: On foot

BEST MONTHS TO VISIT COLMAR: Spring & Autumn. December is also popular for the Christmas market.

What is So Special About Colmar?

Colmar looks like it has been lifted straight out of a book of fairy tales. Some believe that it was the inspiration for Belle’s village in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.

Picture cobbled streets and pastel-hued, half-timbered houses lining small canals. Add a smattering of lively cafes, historic churches and museums and you’ll have the measure of the place.

woman walking along street with gabled buildings
ochre building reflected in blue water

The city’s architecture is a legacy of the Alsace region see-sawing between Germany and France over 200 years. These fluctuations in ownership are also reflected in the region’s cuisine.

Blending German and French culinary influences, Colmar is foodie heaven. And oenophiles will not be short-changed either. Known as the Capital of Alsatian Wine, Colmar is firmly on the Alsatian Wine Route.

What to Do in Colmar: 1-Day Itinerary

As the historic hub of Colmar is spread over a small area and the list of must-do sights modest, it is easy to explore in one day. Make the most of your day in Colmar with the itinerary that I used.

Think of this as a loose framework on which to hang your day. Much of the pleasure of visiting Colmar comes from just mooching around, drinking in its beauty and capturing those Kodak moments.

  • MORNING: Self-guided walking tour of Colmar’s historic centre
  • LUNCHTIME: Covered Market
  • AFTERNOON: Canal cruise, Dominican Church, Saint Martin’s Church, House of Heads
  • EVENING: Dinner at Le Soi

MORNING IN COLMAR

COLMAR SELF-GUIDED WALKING TOUR

Start your day in Colmar with a gentle self-guided walking tour. This covers a distance of less than 1 km.

Here’s a map of Colmar to help you on your way, based on that provided by the helpful Tourist Information Office. For an interactive map, click here or on the image.

walking tour map of Colmar France
Colmar self-guided walking tour. Map Data @ 2023 Google

This suggested walking route has numbered key sights, many of which have adjacent information boards.

Helpful pavement plaques of Lady Liberty will point you in the right direction. These are a nod to Colmar’s most famous son, the sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, who designed the Statue of Liberty in New York City.

La Petite Venise (Little Venice or Petite Venice)

Your first stop is La Petite Venise.

This is the name given to the area crossed by canals of the River Launch and is where the city hits peak prettiness. As this is not exactly a well-kept secret, start early before the crowds descend.

gabled-buildings reflected in still water of canal which are the best things to see in one day in Colmar in France
La Petite Venise, Colmar

Start on Rue Turenne and then turn onto Quai de la Poissonnerie.

This is the old Fishmongers’ Quarter and, as the name suggests, was where the town’s fisherman and boatman lived and worked. The kaleidoscope of pastel-coloured buildings we see lining Colmar’s canals today is thanks to extensive restoration work that took place between 1979 and 1981.

This is also the best place to capture those images of the old town that adorn many postcards of Colmar. Set your camera to stun on the bridge at Rue des Ecoles for those Instaworthy images.

The Tanners’ Quarter & Place de l’Ancienne Douane

From here, make your way to the Tanners’ Quarter, named after the tanners who used to live and work in this district. The half-timbered houses lining Rue des Tanneurs mostly date from the 17th and 18th Centuries.

gabled-buidlings-in-tanners-quarter-colmar-france
Rue des Tanneurs, Colmar

Walk back to the Place de l’Ancienne Douane, the location of one of Colmar’s famous Christmas markets. This is also where you will find the Old Customs House (Koïfhus), dating back to 1480.

medieval square viewed through stone arch
Place de L’Ancienne Douane, Colmar

The Pfister House (Maison Pfister)

Once you have admired the Old Customs House’s Renaissance-style exterior, turn down Rue des Marchands and across the town’s main street – Grand Rue – to take a look at the Pfister House. It is named after the family who restored it and lived there between 1841 and 1892.

Built in 1537 from soft Vosges sandstone, this Colmar landmark is known for its delicate mural paintings representing biblical and secular scenes. Look out also for the wooden oriel window adorned with medallions depicting emperors of the Roman Empire.

LUNCHTIME IN COLMAR

COLMAR’S COVERED MARKET (MARCHÉ COUVERT)

By now you should have worked up an appetite. You will find entrances to Colmar’s 14th Century Marché Couvert on Rue des Vignerons and Rue des Écoles.

fruit and vegetable stall in covered market
The Covered Market, Colmar

LUNCH RECOMMENDATION

Break for lunch at Légumez-Moi, in the centre of the market, for one of their delicious gratins, a glass of local Reisling and quick service with a smile. Cheap too.

AFTERNOON IN COLMAR

Eight euros of your hard-earned cash (2024 price) will buy you a 30-minute cruise along Colmar’s canals. This gives you a close-up view of the town’s medieval buildings before venturing into a more verdant, residential area.

Remember to duck your head when going under those stone bridges!

people on  a boat on a canal lined with half gabled buidlings

I bought my boat ticket from La Krutenau restaurant, where Rue Turenne meets Quai de la Poissonnerie. The embarkation point is adjacent to the restaurant.

Dating mainly from the 14th Century, the Dominican Church’s airy interior is illuminated by sublime stained glass windows. However, its star turn is Martin Schongauer’s masterpiece, Madonna of the Rose Bush (1473).

You will find the church on Place des Dominicains. A small entrance fee applies.

painting of madonna and child
Madonna of the Bush, Dominican Church, Colmar

From the Dominican Church, it’s a two-minute walk along Rue des Serruriers to Saint Martin’s Church.

exterior of church
St Martin’s Church, Colmar

Built between 1234 and 1365 from local pink limestone, locals may refer to it as a cathedral. However, it was a cathedral for less than a decade at the time of the French Revolution.

Its 71-meter-high tower is notable for its lantern shape. Other noteworthy features are its extravagant Baroque organ and two exterior anti-Semitic images – Judensäue – that bear testament to the troubled history of Jews in Alsace.

Admission is free.

If you have enough time and energy, make a small detour to the House of Heads. Built in the 17th century for the shopkeeper Anton Burger, this German Renaissance building owes its name to the 106 heads that adorn its façade.

tall gabled building adorned with wooden windows with carvings of heads
House of Heads, Colmar

EVENING IN COLMAR

FEAST ON ALSACE PIZZA & WINE

My favourite place was the cosy and exceptionally friendly Le Soi at 17 Rue des Marchands. They only do one dish – Tarte Flambée – but, boy oh boy, they do it well!

I sat at the counter, chatting to the other diners, and the owners let me polish off the bottle of excellent Alsace Pinot Noir.

In my opinion, Alsace wines are criminally underrated. This part of France has been one of my favourite wine regions for some years and produces mostly white wines: ReislingGewurztraminerPinot Gris and Muscat.

The perfect end to a perfect day in Colmar.

pink and red exterior of la soi restaurant in colmar france

Alsatian Food is a perfect marriage of French and German cuisine. Here are a few things that you can expect to find on the menus of Colmar’s restaurants.

Tarte Flambée – This is an “Alsace Pizza”, with cream ham and cheese topping a wafer-thin flatbread.

Bæckeoffe – A slow-cooked casserole of sliced potato, onions, mutton, beef and pork.

Choucroure Garnie – Wine-braised sauerkraut, cured pork, and sausages, flavoured with juniper berries, garlic and cloves.

    What is the Best Time of Year to Visit Colmar?

    Unless you want to visit the markets or attend its festivals, Spring or Autumn are the best times to visit Colmar. It was warm and sunny when I visited in September and, although it was busy, Colmar wasn’t rammed with visitors.

    The quieter months are January / February and early to mid-November.

    At the end of November, Colmar becomes a lot busier with the arrival of its famous Christmas markets, which are open from the end of Novement until late December.

    Visitor numbers peak again during the summer, particularly during the Colmar International Festival, showcasing classical music, in early July, and during the Alsace Wine Fair in late July / early August.

    Easter can also be a busy time in Colmar when it hosts Easter markets

    man riding bike along medieval street in colmar france

    How to Get to Colmar

    Colmar is in eastern France, close to the border with Germany, 40 miles southwest of Strasbourg and around 235 miles from Paris. I used it as a base to explore the Alscase region, staying there for four nights.

    It has excellent train connections to other European cities, including Strasbourg and the Freiburg in Germany. The train station is around a 15-minute walk from Colmar’s old town.

    • Paris, France: 2 hours 17 minutes
    • Strasbourg, France: 32 minutes
    • Basel, Switzerland: 45 minutes
    • Zurich, Switzerland: 2 hours
    • Luxembourg, Luxembourg: 2 hours 30 minutes

    Colmar is equidistant from Strasbourg and Basel international airports.

    You can also easily include Colmar in a road trip through Europe.

    How to Get Around Colmar

    As Colmar‘s main attractions are close to each other, walking is your best option.

    pastel coloured houses and a stone bridge with flowers by a canal in colmaw

    Top Tips for Visiting Colmar, France

    Stay overnight

    Many people visit Colmar on a day trip. However, I recommend staying at least one night.

    This will allow you to enjoy the streets of Colmar in the evening when they have emptied of day-trippers. It also means that you will be able to sample Alsace food and wine in one of Colmar’s many excellent restaurants.

    Make dinner reservations in advance.

    Even though I visited Colmar out of peak season, its restaurants were still busy. I dread to think how difficult it would be to get seated without a reservation in peak season.

    Where to Stay in Colmar

    Colmar hotel choices are limited in its old town. However, there is a decent selection of apartments from which to choose.

    Mid-range My Sweet Homes Appartements avec SPA 

    I stayed at this well-equipped apartment which is centrally located.

    >>> CLICK HERE TO CHECK RATES & BOOK

    Here are two other places to stay in Colmar that I have found that may suit different budgets

    SplugeJames Boutique Hotel

    Close to the Old Town, this boutique hotel has superb reviews.

    >>> CLICK HERE TO CHECK RATES & BOOK

    BudgetIbis Budget Colmar Centre Gare 

    Budget options in Colmar are scarce and this may be your best bet.  A modern chain hotel within 15 minutes walk of both the city centre and train station.

    >>> CLICK HERE TO CHECK RATES & BOOK

    >>> None of these places takes your fancy? Discover other great accommodation choices in Colmar here.

    half gabled houses reflected in a canal in colmar in france

    Thank you for reading my guide to spending one day in Colmar

    As one of the most beautiful towns in France, Colmar is well worth visiting. Around every corner, there are twisting cobblestone streets, impossibly scenic canals and candy-coloured buildings adorned with window boxes bursting with blooms.  

    Colmar is also a great base from which to explore the Alsace region of France and is a worthy inclusion in a broader European itinerary. Why not add it to a visit to Paris, just over two hours away by train? 

    Better still, include it in a trip to Germany and Switzerland. Colmar was the final stop of my Interrail train itinerary from London. This started in the lovely Swiss capital of Bern and the Bernese Oberland, before taking the Glacier Express from St. Moritz to Zermatt and exploring the Locarno region.

    However you choose to visit, I hope that these fabulous things to do in Colmar help you have the very best time in one of France’s loveliest towns. If you’ve enjoyed this article, take a look at some of my other France guides:

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    About Bridget

    Bridget Coleman has been a passionate traveller for more than 30 years. She has visited 70+ countries, most as a solo traveller.

    Articles on this site reflect her first-hand experiences.

    To get in touch, email her at hello@theflashpacker.net or follow her on social media.

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