[Updated October 2022]
If you flip through my travel guides, most of them tend to be large metropolises that draw millions of visitors every year. I love visiting and writing about cities like Rome, Budapest, Abu Dhabi, and Rio de Janeiro because there is just so much to do and see in them. Sometimes, however, I prefer to visit a place where I can simply unwind, decompress, and take a few deep breaths in beautiful surroundings. While I love nature, I also find comfort being around strangers in beautiful places. Of all of the beautiful smaller towns I have visited, I think Colmar wins the prize of being the prettiest and calmest.
I’ll be frank: I love France. France is one of my favorite countries because of its relaxed culture, its appreciation for sights, smells, and tastes, and its pure and raw beauty. Some of the most gorgeous places I have ever visited in the world are in France. Many people will say that Paris is overrated, but I flatly deny that claim. If you read my Paris travel guide, you know exactly how I feel about that amazing city.
Colmar is not Paris, though. Colmar has the beauty and serenity of some of Paris’ quieter neighborhoods, but lifted up and transported hundreds of miles away. Colmar doesn’t even feel entirely French, as it sits right on the borders of France, Switzerland, and Germany!
This post will lay out why I think Colmar is one of the best small towns to visit in all of Europe, provide a list of the best things to do while you’re there, and discuss logistics for your trip, like how to get to Colmar and how to get around.
Why Should You Visit Colmar?
There are many different kinds of trips you can go on. You can go to a resort in Tulum, Mexico, to indulge. You can go to Dubai to experience urban glamour. You can go on trips that open your eyes to a whole new terrain or aspect of the world, like visiting the fish market in Chittagong, Bangladesh. Or, if none of those, you can visit a place that is small, beautiful, quiet, calm and normal – much like Rothenburg ob der Tauber, in Germany.
Colmar is the most beautiful expressions of normalcy that I have ever seen. The city is not flashy, and if it weren’t for an uptick in tourism, people wouldn’t even know about it. However, a walk through a tree lined park, a coffee and a pastry in one of its adorable cafes or a calm gondola ride through one of its canals are all great ways to simply unwind and enjoy the sights, smells, and sounds around you without having to jam an itinerary with things to do.
Best Things to Do in Colmar
1. Visit Little Venice
Little Venice, or Petite Venise in French, is easily the most mesmerizing of views in Colmar. This little stretch of paradise lines part of the Lauch River with beautifully colored wooden buildings that are filled with shops, restaurants, and homes. This is the biggest tourist attraction in Colmar, and it is one of the few parts of the city where crowds gather.
2. Stop in at St. Martin’s Church
As a devout Catholic, I absolutely love visiting churches when I travel. There is just something so beautiful about the time and effort that a community puts into building up its places of worship, whether we’re talking about Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, or any other faith. To me, you can’t visit a place like Colmar without stopping by its Cathedral.
St. Martin’s Church has been standing for around 700 years, and it has hosted and witnessed countless events and changes. Esteemed artist Caspar Isenmann was commissioned to paint several pieces on the life of Christ to display at the altar in 1435. In the 1800s, the surviving paintings were moved to Colmar’s Unterlinden Museum, which I recommend checking out as well!
3. Relax in a Park or a Cafe
To me, one of the best things to do in Colmar is to do nothing. I love just sitting in a cafe or a park and looking around, soaking in the crisp air and the friendly conversation. If you don’t speak French, socializing with locals in the cafe might be challenging, but nevertheless I recommend just soaking in the culture and life of this beautiful French town.
I love French culture, and Colmar feels like a purely cultural, less eroded-by-tourism kind of place. I thoroughly love watching leaves fall from the trees while I sip my coffee and read my book. If you want to take a few deep breaths and unwind from the stressors of life, there is nowhere better.
4. Check out a Piece of Home at the Musée Bartholdi
You can’t pass through Colmar without paying homage to the town’s most famous artist, Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi. What? That name doesn’t sound familiar? What if I just call him the guy that designed the Statue of Liberty, which has a copy standing in both Paris and New York City! There is actually a third Statue of Liberty in Colmar!
- DID YOU KNOW? - There are three Statues of Liberties in the world. One is in New York, the second is in Paris, and the third is right here in Colmar!
Bartholdi did more than just create the Statue of Liberty, though, and his other works are very interesting and worth checking out as well. Admission for adults at the Musée Bartholdi is just €5, and the museum is open every day from 10-12 and 2-6, with the exception of Mondays, when it is closed. Also, it closes down for all of January and February.
5. Visit Some Wineries Along the Alsace Wine Route
If coffee isn’t your thing, maybe wine is! The Alsace region of France is known specifically for cranking out two kinds of wine: Gewürztraminer and Riesling. Both of these wine varietals are known for being very sweet, and you can’t visit Colmar without stopping into at least one wine bar and trying at least one glass of local wine.
Colmar sits right along the Alsace Wine Route, and you can explore other places nearby in the region if you have the time. There are countless great places to explore in and around Colmar if you are willing to go and find them!
How to Get to Colmar
Colmar doesn’t have its own international airport, as it is a small city. EuroAirport in Basel, Switzerland (BSL) is the closest option, at just 45 minutes away. While it is the closest, it probably won’t provide the most affordable or direct routes due to its smaller size. If you prioritize affordability and directness, consider flying into either Paris (CDG), Stuttgart (STR), Frankfurt (FRA), or Zurich (ZRH). All four of these cities are less than 3 hours away from Colmar. While switching to a train after your flight may sound inconvenient, it can shave hundreds of dollars off of your airfare and even hours off of your travel time, as it can eliminate layovers. In fact, Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport is the best airport to fly into in France for cheap airfare due to its massive size.
How to Get Around Colmar
BY FOOT | RENTALS | UBER
Colmar is very walkable, and you do not really need any transportation within the city itself. If you want to go to attractions that are outside of the city, I recommend either renting a car or sticking to Uber. Uber is available in France just like it is in the United States. If you’re worried about using Uber abroad, be sure to read my post on using Uber in foreign countries.
Renting a car is an option as long as you can drive a manual transmission, as most cars in France are not automatic. There are sometimes automatic cars available, but they come at a much higher price. If you are not comfortable driving a stick shift, I don’t recommend renting a car. Walking and using Uber will be sufficient to get around Colmar. While Colmar has a network of buses, figuring out the system is usually more hassle than it is worth, as the city is so small.
What Is the Best Time of the Year to Visit Colmar?
Depending when you visit, Colmar can either be extremely tranquil or fairly hectic. While the weather is at its best in July, I recommend visiting in the late spring or the early fall instead. You will avoid the crowds of summer and the busy season’s elevated prices, while still getting plenty of sunshine and great weather. May and September are the two best months to visit Colmar if you want a pleasant, calm experience. If you don’t mind the crowds or you want to visit while more events are going on, visit in the summer.
How Many Days Should You Spend in Colmar?
Colmar is not all that big, and most tourists only allot one or two days to it on their itinerary. If you go to Colmar for just one day, you can see most of what there is to see, but not quite everything. If you spend two full days in Colmar, you can definitely see it all without feeling like you missed out on anything. However, if you want to really absorb the sights, sounds, and smells of this French city, I recommend visiting for three or four days. Taking your time in Colmar and staying for more than just a day or two is a really enriching way to experience French culture at its finest in a relaxing atmosphere.
That’s all we have for you about Colmar! I hope this post has been helpful for you as you plan your trip to Northeastern France. Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube Channel and follow us on Instagram @the.present.perspective.
If you’re planning a trip to Colmar, let us know! We’d love to chat ahead of time and answer any questions you have. Otherwise, have a wonderful day and stay present!