History & Culture

Visit historic Colmar, the jewel of Alsace

Discover 13th century architecture, wine tasting and one of the best Christmas markets in Europe

With plenty of well-preserved architecture from the Middle Ages and picturesque districts such as La Petite Venise, a visit to Colmar is like stepping into the pages of a medieval fairy-tale.

Where in France: Alsace, Grand Est
Distance from Calais: 625km / 7h 20m

Wine tasting

Alsace’s wine route is simply breath-taking
Alsace’s wine route is simply breath-taking

Colmar is in the heart of Alsace’s renowned wine region, making the commune extremely popular with wine connoisseurs.

A favourite spot for those looking to sample some of the region’s best-loved wines is Maison Martin Jund, an organic winery found in the centre of town. Martin Jund’s direct descendants offer visitors a bed and breakfast service, which is ideal for those who plan to make the most of their generous samples. A visit during the summer can mean enjoying the wines whilst sat outside, soaking up the sun.

There are also full and half-day tours that begin in Colmar and head out to various wineries across the region. Those that take part are talked through the production techniques that have been in use since the Middle Ages and can sample a variety of Alsatian wines, from rich and sweet Pinot Gris to complex tasting Rieslings. See the full list of wine tours available in Colmar on their tourism site.

La Petite Venise

La Petitie Venise is the epitome of tranquillity on a bright summer’s afternoon
La Petitie Venise is the epitome of tranquillity on a bright summer’s afternoon

Colmar’s sweetest spot is La Petite Venise (Little Venice), a small district characterised by a group of canals along the River Lauch. Take an afternoon to stroll along the cobbled streets and pop into the half-timbered ‘winstubs’ (old-fashioned Alsatian bars that specialise in wine), shops and gourmet restaurants.

The best way for a visitor to immerse themselves in the charming district is to enjoy a boat ride. Those who do are regaled with tales of how the canals were once used as a trade route by local gardeners, fishmongers and tanners that would float along in small, flat-bottomed boats selling their wares.

Architectural gems

Ancienne Douane is illuminated beautifully in the evenings
Ancienne Douane is illuminated beautifully in the evenings

Colmar is known for its well-preserved medieval and Renaissance-era buildings, many of which can be found in the ‘historic centre of Colmar’. One such example is Maison Pfister (Pfister House) which was built in 1537 for a hatter named, Ludwig Scherer. The building is known for its distinct two-storey corner oriel, octagonal turret and murals that depict both religious and non-religious scenes. The house’s namesake was François Joseph Pfister who bought the house in 1841; his family lived within and restored the building until 1892 and are credited for its outstanding preservation.

Ancienne Douane (otherwise known as Koifhus) is a Gothic and Renaissance-era building that has been classified as a ‘Monument Historique’ by the French Ministry of Culture since 1930. Those visiting today will find a restaurant serving homely Alsatian dishes and perhaps a temporary exhibition or fair selling local goods.

The Couvent des Dominicains de Colmar (Dominican Church) is another beautiful building in Colmar recognised as a Monument Historique. The original structure was built in 1289 and has been modified and extended numerous times throughout the centuries. Visitors today can enter for free and enjoy Madonna of the Rose Garden, the masterpiece painted by Martin Schongauer in 1473.


The former public baths that share the Unterlinden Museum’s collection
The former public baths that share the Unterlinden Museum’s collection

Colmar’s history is not only made palpable by its architecture and overall aesthetic, but with its unique museums.

The most popular and impressive museum in Colmar is the Musée d’Unterlinden (Unterlinden Museum). Housed in a 13th century Gothic convent and a public baths building which was built in 1906, the museum boasts an impressive collection of medieval and Renaissance Art. The museum’s pièce de résistance is the Rétable d’Issenheim (Isenheim Altarpiece), painted between 1512 and 1516 by Nickolaus Hagenauer and Matthias Grünewald. It is regarded as one of the most profound works of faith ever created and helps to draw in the Unterlinden’s annual 200,000 visitors.

The Musée Bartholdi is also worth a visit for those interested in how Colmar has influenced art and culture the world over. Housed in the birthplace of Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, the museum pays homage to the sculptor who is best known for designing New York’s Statue of Liberty. Visitors of the museum can marvel at a plaster model of the statue’s left ear (of which the lobe is equal in size to a watermelon) as well as the well-preserved bourgeois apartment that belonged to the Bartholdi family.

Perfect for families with children, the Musée du Jouet de Colmar (Colmar’s Toy Museum) is yet another notable museum to enjoy whilst in Colmar. Housed in what was once a cinema, the museum boasts an expansive collection across three floors, with toys dating from the early 19th century to the present day. Visitors can expect to see vintage teddy bears, scale models, miniature trains, video games and even the first ever Barbie doll.

Colmar’s Christmas market

Colmar’s Christmas market inspires the entire commune’s festive spirit
Colmar’s Christmas market inspires the entire commune’s festive spirit

A visit to Colmar during the festive period is a must. The Christmas market was voted the best in Europe in 2017 and is regarded as one of the most expansive in France. It offers a unique Alsatian take on Christmas, as well as a feast for all the senses.

A visit to Colmar is a truly enriching experience, all year round. Book today and discover the amazing commune and the unique region of Alsace in the most immersive way, via Eurotunnel Le Shuttle.