Discover the best things to do during one day in Colmar, France.
Worthy of its coveted inclusion in Conde Nast’s list of the ten most beautiful towns in France, Colmar looks like it has been lifted straight out of a book of fairy tales. So much so, that some believe that it was the inspiration for Belle’s village in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.
Due to its compact size, it is easy to explore Colmar in one day and to sample delicious Alsace cuisine. Whether you are visiting as a day trip or staying overnight, here are the best things to see in Colmar, woven into a tried and tested itinerary.
To help you make the most of your time there, 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.
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Why Should You Visit Colmar?
Colmar is a feast for the eyes.
Picture cobbled streets and pastel-hued, half-timbered medieval buildings lining small canals. Add a smattering of lively cafes, historic churches and museums and you’ll have the measure of the place.
The city’s architecture is a legacy of the Alsace region see-sawing between Germany and France over a 200 year period. 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. The so-called Capital of Alsatian Wine, Colmar is firmly on the Alsation Wine Route.
With good train connections to major cities such as Strasbourg, Paris and Basel, Colmar is not only easy to get to, but also makes a great base from which to explore the region. I did exactly that, basing myself there for four nights.
What is the Best Time of Year to Visit Colmar?
Colmar is a year-round destination and the best time to visit will depend on what you would like to do there (and your tolerance for crowds!).
- 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 until the end of 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
- Unless you want to visit the markets or attend these festivals, Spring or Autumn are probably the best times to visit Colmar. I went there in September which was a perfect balance of pleasant weather and, although busy, Colmar wasn’t rammed with visitors.
The Best Things to Do in Colmar in One Day
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. To help you make the most of your day in Colmar, take a look at the itinerary that I used, which includes recommended places to eat.
But much of the pleasure of visiting Colmar comes from just mooching around, drinking in its beauty and capturing those Kodak moments. Therefore, just think of this itinerary as a loose framework to help plan your day in Colmar.
Colmar One-Day Itinerary
MORNING IN COLMAR: WALKING TOUR
Why not start your day in Colmar with a gentle walking tour? Colmar’s streets are made for wandering without a set agenda, but if you fancy something a little more structured, here’s a map to guide you.
This is based on a map provided by the friendly tourist information office.
The suggested walking route has numbered key sights, many of which have adjacent information boards.
Helpful pavement plaques of the Statue of Liberty will point you in the right direction. These are a nod to Colmar’s most famous son, the sculptor Frédéric Bartholdi, who designed the Statue of Liberty.
La Petite Venise (Little Venice)
Your first stop is La Petite Venise, an unmissable thing to see in Colmar.
This is the name given to the area crossed by canals of the River Launch and is where the city hits peak prettiness. But with beauty comes popularity, so my advice is to start early before those visiting Colmar on a day trip descend on the town.
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. Half-timbered houses mostly date from the 17th and 18th Century line Rue des Tanneurs at its epicentre.
Now 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.
The Pfister House
Once you have admired the Old Customs House’s Renaissance-style exterior, turn down Rue des Marchands 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.
LUNCH AT COLMAR’S COVERED MARKET (MARCHÉ COUVERT)
By now you should have worked up a good appetite.
To make you salivate more, check out the cheeses, fruit & vegetables and jars of mustard in Colmar’s airy 14th Century covered market. You will find entrances on Rue des Vignerons and Rue des Écoles.
AFTERNOON: COLMAR’S CANALS AND CHURCHES
A boat ride along Colmar’s canals
Sated, it’s now time to take to the water.
Six euros of your hard-earned cash will buy you a 30-minute gentle journey along Colmar’s canals. This allows you to get close up and personal to the town’s medieval buildings before venturing into a more verdant, residential area.
Remember to duck your head when going under those stone bridges!
Your Colmar boat trip over, it’s now time to check out a few churches.
Admire an artistic masterpiece in the Dominican Church (Église des Dominicains)
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).
Gaze upwards at the Gothic splendour of St Martin’s Church (Collégiale Saint-Martin)
From the Dominican Church, it’s a two-minute walk along Rue des Serruriers to St Martin’s Church.
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.
The House of Heads
If you have enough time and energy, make a small detour to the House of Heads before dinner. 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.
DINNER IN COLMAR
It is possible to visit Colmar on a day trip, and many people do. However, I recommend staying at least one night.
This will give you the opportunity 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.
The perfect end to a perfect day in Colmar.
What to Eat in Colmar (Alsation Food)
A perfect marriage of French and German cuisine, here’s 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.
One of my favourite wine regions for some years, the Alsace produces mostly white wines: Reisling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris and Muscat. However, I also tried an Alsace Pinot Noir – a perfect pairing with a slice of Tarte Flambée – which was excellent.
In my opinion, Alsace wines are criminally underrated, and one of the best things to do in Colmar is to sample a few different grape varieties.
How to Get to Colmar
- I visited Colmar as part of an Interrail trip through Switzerland and France.
- Colmar’s train station is conveniently located on the edge of the old town. Colmar has excellent train connections to both French and other European cities. Thanks to a direct high-speed train link, it is possible to visit Colmar as a day trip from Paris (2h 17 mins).
Colmar is equidistant from Strasbourg and Basel international airports.
You can also easily include Colmar as part of 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. Colmar’s train station is around 15 minutes’ walk from the old town.
Where to Stay in Colmar
Hotel choices are limited in Colmar’s old town. However, there is a decent selection of apartments from which to choose.
My Sweet Homes Appartements avec SPA – I stayed at this well-equipped apartment which is centrally located.
Here are two other places to stay in Colmar that I have found that may suit different budgets
James Boutique Hotel– Close to the Old Town, this boutique hotel has superb reviews.
Ibis 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
Top Tips for Visiting Colmar
Stay overnight! Yes. I know that I am repeating myself but it’s important enough to reiterate.
The best time to wander Colmar’s streets is when they are free of day-trippers and you will also have the opportunity to try more the city’s fantastic 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.
Day Trips from Colmar
The Alsace region is stuffed with other charming towns that you can visit on day trips from Colmar.
Although it is easier to visit these towns by car, tours operate in peak season or you rent a bicycle. These towns on the Alsace Wine route include Eguisheim, Riquewihr and Ribeauville.
Strasbourg‘s treasures are easy to explore on a day trip from Colmar. It is also home to one of the best Christmas markets in Europe.
For a more unusual day trip, take the train from Colmar to Basel and walk the Rehberger Weg, an art trail between Switzerland and Germany.
Visit the Alsace on an organised day trip from Colmar
My one regret is that I didn’t visit any of the villages on the Alsace wine route when I was in Colmar, largely because these places aren’t well served by rail. Given another opportunity, I would take one of these day trips.
GetYourGuide is my go-to platform for organised excursions when I am travelling, due to their broad choice and generous cancellation terms.
One Day in Colmar, France: Final Thoughts
What Colmar lacks in must-see attractions it makes up for in sheer beauty. Around every corner, there seem to be twisting cobbled streets, impossibly scenic canals, candy-coloured buildings adorned with window boxes bursting with blooms.
And as much as it is a destination in itself, 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 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 gems.