The Alsace is a French region internationally known for its wine. Several of its cities and villas are part of a famous route that accounts for much of the economy of the area. One of the most important communes of this itinerary is Colmar. Being the second driest French city, it’s perfect for the production of this good. Arriving in Colmar usually means taking the train coming from one of the nearby airports (Basel or Strasbourg). That should take you just an hour. For me, Colmar was an extremely nice surprise, especially since I was there just for a conference. The village has one of the campuses of the Upper Alsace’s Academic Institute of Technology and I wasn’t planning on visiting it at all!
Visually, the feature that is most striking in Colmar is the half-timbered construction style of its houses. Such technique is very common in all Alsace and also in the surrounding regions (including Germany). If you then add houses painted with vivid colors, we have a festival of picturesque buildings from a centuries-old fairy tale. Also be on the lookout for intricate details on windows, such as the four playing cards suits!
Colmar is the birthplace of Auguste Bartholdi, the sculptor behind the design of the Statue of Liberty.
You can find the climax of Colmar in “Little Venice” (no, it’s not a block where Venetian people live!). This is, without a doubt, the touristic and propagandist ex libris of Colmar. On top of the aforementioned ambiance, Little Venice includes the course of the river Lauch. It’s so narrow that it resembles the canals of the famous Italian city. Adorning this vision are yet beautiful bridges, colorful flowerbeds, and restaurants that invite people to relax. While in this cozy atmosphere, you can enjoy some of the typical dishes of the region, such as the Alsatian sausage and flambée.
But not only Little Venice makes Colmar. The village is a pleasant labyrinth of narrow streets that open into beautiful plazas. These are filled with caffès, the best examples of Alsatian architecture and shops that sell local products. Some of the finest of these streets are Quai de la Poissonnerie, Quartier des Tanneurs, Rue des Boulangers and Rue des Serruriers. These areas are named after the ancient professions of the village: fishermen, leather-workers, bakers, and locksmiths, respectively. That gives you an idea of the type of establishments present in those quarters.
The second driest village of France, Colmar is popular for its wine culture.
Some of the buildings that stand out in those main arteries are the Market Hall, the old customs house (Koïfhus) and the Place de l’Ancienne Douane. Other highlights include the Maison des Têtes and the Maison Pfister, the Unterlinden museum (the tourism office is right next to it), the Dominican church and the Place de la Cathédrale. It’s in this last square that you can view the Gothic church of Saint Martin, a symbol in Colmar’s skyline.
Colmar has a replica (of considerable size) of the Statue of Liberty. This is because it was here that Auguste Bartholdi was born. He was the famous sculptor of that which is, probably, the biggest gift ever between two countries. There’s also a whole museum dedicated to this artist.
The region of Alsace has adopted the stork as its mascot: a symbol of faithfulness and fertility. You can see many nests decorating the chimneys of town buildings. Many souvenir shops also sell stuffed versions of this bird (a logical shopping suggestion, besides the wine!).
Colmar’s Christmas market, which is a concept that seems to go well with the vibe of the town, was considered one of the Europe’s most beautiful.