How to spend a magical one day in Colmar old town

A guide to Colmar, France

Spending one day in Colmar old town and wondering what to see? Here’s everything you need to know.

Old town Colmar, France is the most enchanting little fairy tale town in the world. I mean, just look at those colourful houses and cobblestone streets.

Colmar is also known as the real ‘Beauty and the Beast town’. While it’s unconfirmed if this dreamy provincial French town was the inspiration for the Disney movie, I think the photos speak for themselves. 

Here’s everything you need to know to plan your one day in Colmar, including what to do, where to eat and where to spend the night.

Let’s dive in.

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Is one day in Colmar enough?

Yes, one day in Colmar is enough to see the main attractions.

If you want to soak up the fairy tale vibe and Alsatian food, you can easily spend a few days here too, though. Colmar is also eminent as an anchor for day trips to other villages on the Alsace wine route. 

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Introduction to old town Colmar

Colmar is a medieval town from the 13th century, located in Alsace. It’s one of the many picturesque villages on the legendary 170-km-long Alsace Wine Route. 

Colmar has nearly 70,000 inhabitants. For a medieval town, it’s surprisingly big, but you can get around Petite Venice (the main attraction) on foot with ease. 

Once upon a time, the canals were buzzing with butchers, tanners and fishmongers, and Petite Venice was a centre for art and learning. The town’s half-timbered houses are typical Alsace architecture, from the colourful fishermen’s houses on Quai de la Poissonnerie to the lovely old burghers’ houses of the 16th century.

How to get there

Colmar is easily visited as a day trip from Strasbourg (1 hour by train), Zürich, Switzerland (1,5 hours by train) or Paris (4 hours by train). Petite Venice is 15-20 minutes walk from Colmar train station.

How to get around Petite Venice

You can walk through Petite Venice in less than 15 minutes if you’re not stopping for photos. If you don’t feel like walking, you can take a canal boat trip (30 minutes – €7 per person). It’s very popular and seats get sold out quickly in the high season so make sure to go in the morning or make a reservation.

You can also take the Little White Train (runs every 30 minutes – €7 per person).

A guide to Colmar, France
Oh yes, it’s also pretty in the rain

12 things to do in Colmar

Here’s a list of my favourite things to do in Colmar – everything is located in a close distance from each other (a few minutes walk). If you’re looking for fun activities while you’re in town, check out these highly rated tours below.

1. Walk around Colmar old town

My favourite thing to do in Colmar was wandering the cobblestone streets, especially around the canals. There are so many beautiful alleyways with small shops, restaurants and winstubs (wine lounges).

There are of course some showstoppers around town. But make sure to also just walk around town and admire the colours and little alleys. 

A guide to Colmar, France
A guide to Colmar, France
A guide to Colmar, France
Colmar, France
What a lovely place to be a postwoman
A guide to Colmar, France

2. Krutenau Quarter (Petite Venise)

The Petite Venise is the most picturesque area of Colmar. These typical Alsatian half-timbered houses are located along the riverbanks (hence the name, little Venice).

This area starts behind the Koïfhus, goes through the fishmonger’s district and to the bridges Saint-Pierre and Turenne. 

A guide to Colmar, France
Colmar, France
A guide to Colmar, France

3. Fishmonger’s district (Quai de la Poissonnerie)

In Petite Venice, you’ll find Quai de la Poissonnerie, also known as the fishmonger’s district. This is where most of the professional fishermen and boatmen of Colmar lived and sold fish in the 17th and 18th centuries.

It’s also the most iconic place in the city. A must-visit!

A guide to Colmar, France
A guide to Colmar, France
A guide to Colmar, France
Like a fairy tale, right?
A guide to Colmar, France

4. Tanners Quarters

The tanner’s quarters or tanner’s district is an area with half-timbered houses and high wood framing houses dating back to the 17th and 18 century. 

The tanners created leather products here, and they would dry out the skins on the upper floors. The must-sees in this area are the streets, Petite Rue des Tanneurs and the Rue des Tanneurs, and the Maison des Chevaliers de Saint-Jean (House of the St. John’s Knights).

Colmar old town-3
Colmar, France
Of course Colmar wouldn’t be complete without a pancake house

5. House of Heads

The house of Heads was built in 1609, the German renaissance. It’s embellished with 106 grotesque heads on the facade and along the windows and it was originally a wealthy private house. Definitely worth finding!

Colmar old town-9

6. Saint Martin Church

Saint Martin’s collegiate church, built between 1235 and 1365, is an important example of Gothic architecture in Alsace. Notice the lantern bulb on the top of the dome. It’s quite unique.

Colmar, France

7. Old customs house (Koifhus)

Built in 1480, the Koifhus (old customs house) has had several functions. 

Originally, the ground floor was used as a warehouse and the first floor for the Alsace federation meetings, which was created in 1534. Since then it’s been a theatre, bank and several schools.  

Colmar old town-7

8. Former guard house

It was originally a chapel, but converted into a guard house in 1575. Notice the Renaissance loggia from 1582 and its decorative repertoire and portal. It’s very beautiful.

9. Unterlinden museum

The Unterlinden museum houses the famous Issenheim Altarpiece. The museum was first located in the 13th century convent, but was connected with the next building in 1906.

Colmar old town-5

10. Dominican church

Entrance fee: 2 Euro

The Dominican church dates back to the first half of the 14th century. It’s an important piece of mendicant orders architecture, which was a new approach to sacred space.

Colmar old town-8

11. The Pfister house

The Pfister house was built in 1537 for the hatter Ludwig Scherer, and it’s the first example of architectural renaissance in Colmar. It got the name from the family who restored it in 1892. 

Notice the murals and wood gallery.

Colmar old town-2

12. Take a boat trip

Colmar old town is walkable and easy to get around. You can, however, also take a boat trip on the canals. It’s a different and fun way of exploring the town.

The departures are at the foot of the bridge Saint Pierre and the tour lasts 30 minutes. 

Tickets: 7 € per person (sold at the dock)
Free for children under 10

Colmar old town-6

Best restaurants in Colmar old town

Colmar prides itself of being the capital of Alsatian wine; a white delicious variety. It’s really, really good.

So is the food! Some of you good people might not be delighted with French food and right now you’re thinking about snails and frog legs and you’re tempted to run straight for the hills.

But this is not your average French food. No sticky animals.

With Alsace food, we’re talking about a whole different beast: rich and buttery French-German meat (mostly pork or chicken) that is bathing its little self in a sizzling hot pan of Riesling or truffle sauce. And don’t get me started on the creamy, handmade and beyond BEAUTIFUL pastries. If there was ever a place to try French food, Colmar would be it.

Excellent restaurants in Colmar (make a reservation).

  • Kuifhus restaurant (next to the former guard house)
  • L’Epicurien (Michelin)
  • Restaurant La Soi
  • La Nouvelle Auberge
  • Le Stam
  • Les Racines
  • Le Petit Bidon
  • Le Comptoir de Georges
Colmar, France
Millefeuille (a thousand layers) with vanilla
Colmar, France
Strawberry tart – the no. 1 French deliciousness!
Colmar, France
Dinner at Kuifhus restaurant

Tips for visiting Colmar old town

  • Make a reservation for dinner
  • Get there in the morning to avoid the crowds
  • Colmar is prettiest from May to August when the flowers are in bloom
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Where to stay in Colmar

If you’re spending the night, I recommend staying in Colmar old town (remember, Colmar is a big city and you’ll want to be near the attractions and restaurants).

Beauty & The Beast – Old Town Cosy Apartments has a great location and city view, it’s super comfortable and the host is helpful. Find the latest prices here.

Hotel Le Marechal – Les Collectionneurs is a four-star hotel from 1565, located in Little Venice. Reasonable prices for air-con rooms overlooking the canal. Find the latest prices here.

Day trips from Colmar

Colmar Region has several nearby villages that are also ultra-charming. If you have a car, you can drive to nearby Ribeauvillé (17 km from Colmar), Riquewihr (14 km), Kaysersberg (11 km), and Eguisheim (8 km) all in one day.

You can also visit Strasbourg, which has a beautiful old town. Strasbourg itself is a large town without the little-fairy-tale-village charm, though.

Strasbourg, France
Strasbourg

Now, over to you! What’s the cutest town you’ve visited? Is it as charming as Colmar old town?

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47 Comments

      1. Thanks for this post very detailed and full of very nice tips. I am surprised though that you did mention Strasbourg without writing a word about the breath-taking small towns of Riquewihr and Ribeauville. They are closer to Colmar than Strasbourg and certainly must see places.

    1. That’s what I thought when I first saw photos of Colmar. And I tell you, it’s even prettier in real life – totally has that fairytale feel.

    1. Oh, how lovely! It’s such a beautiful little town. Make sure to make reservations if you plan to go out for dinner. They’re quite busy.

      Have a great trip, Ginnee.

  1. Thanks for your post. Very detailed and informativ. By the way there are a lot of interestings things to do in the Grand Est, as now the region around Colmar is called. There are also many legends told in this aerea. A good source for new informations is always searching for the town together with ‘office de tourisme’. Mostly several languages can be chosen. Have a nice visit.

    1. Thanks for the additional info, Bou! And you’re absolutely right; the tourism office has lots of great information about restaurants, activities and history.

  2. I’m teaching english in the west of France, and I have a spring break coming up and I’m going to visit Colmar! Do you think 2 days there is enough time? I’m also hoping to go to Strasbourg right after for 2 days. I love your post by the way, it’s been really helpful!!

    1. Oh sure. I visited Colmar on a day trip from Strasbourg and toured the old town (the main attraction) in a couple of hours. Colmar is very small, and apart from all the amazing restaurants you’ll probably want to visit, 2 days are more than enough to see everything.

  3. Hi Miram, absolutely love you posts. I’m planning to visit Paris in early September for 5 nights, and then train to Strasbourg for 2 nights, and then Colmar for 1 night before taking a train to Interlaken. Or is it better just to stay the 3 nights in Strasbourg?

    1. So glad to hear that, Priscilla. Thanks 🙂
      Well, it depends on how relaxed an itinerary you want. I’d probably just take a day trip to Colmar since you don’t have more time – it can easily become a bit stressful to move hotel every other day. Plus, Colmar is an easy and quick train ride from Strasbourg.

    1. Hi Claudia! Yes, 6 hours will be fine. Colmar is not that big – well, the city is, but the old town where all these photos are taken, is quite small. You can have lunch there and still have time to see everything.

  4. Hi
    We are traveling to France in the beginning of June. We will stay in Paris for 3 days and then to the Alsace area for 2 nights. I will be traveling with my husband and 12 year old son. I have researched for hours where is the best place to stay and still can’t make a decision. Ideally we would like to make one place our home base and rent a car to see the entire region. We are fast moving travelers and we like to see lots of sites. Question: should we make Strasbourg or Colmar our home base? Thanks

    1. Hi Leslee,
      I recommend having Colmar as your base. It’s a smaller town than Strassbourg, but it’s closer to the medieval fairy tale villages like Riquewihr, Eguisheim and Turckheim.

      Have a great trip!

  5. Hi Miriam,

    Me and my mother are traveling to France at this end of April. We are planning to stay in Paris for 3 days and then to Strasbourg – Colmar for 3 days, after that we are going to Lourdes. Do you think we better stay in Strasbourg and day trip to Colmar or otherwise? I am aiming for the easiest transportation to Lourdes. Thank you.

    1. Hi Hils,
      Personally, I would prefer to stay in Colmar and visit Strasbourg on a day trip. Colmar is much smaller and cosy, and you could visit some of the nearby fairy tale villages, like Riquewihr, Eguisheim and Turckheim. It only takes 30 minutes from Colmar to Strabourg by train, and you can reach Lourdes from both cities, also by train.

      Have a great trip with your mom.

  6. I am going this May. My base will be Basel but I’ll make it a 1-day trip to Colmar. Is it easy to walk around and how close is the center from the train station?

    1. Yes, very easy! It takes about 15-20 minutes to walk from the train station and it’s fairly easy to find (otherwise ask someone where the old town is). Make sure to have lunch in Colmar, they have such great food!

  7. Hi Miriam, we are travelling in late Dec and early January from Australia. I have been told we must see Colmar, and after a bit of research it looks just gorgeous. I am keen to see the Christmas market and have time to wander the streets and just relax. How many days would you allow? We are then heading to Paris, and I am undecided where to spend Christmas. We will be travelling with our 2 kids ( 19 and 21 year olds) . Having never been to Europe or UK I am not sure how much time to allow for things.Thanks

    1. Hi Kylie,

      It sounds like a wonderful idea to visit Colmar during Christmas. It’s one of the most magical towns in Europe so you won’t regret going there. Colmar old town (where you’ll find the colorful, medival houses) is fairly small and you could explore in a day. I went there on a day trip from Strasbourg.

      I’d say two days in Colmar is enough; it’ll give you time to wander the streets and enjoy the Christmas market. Maybe you could add an extra day and visit Strasbourg? You should go early in the morning so you have enough time. It’s just 30 minutes by train from Colmar and definitely worth the trip. You can see some photos and things to do there: https://adventurousmiriam.com/strasbourg-on-a-budget/

      Have a great trip with your family.

  8. I’m in Colmar right now. 42 Grand Rue. The most delightful house, still looks medieval from the outside, but completely modern inside. We’re right next to Ancienn Douane. Colmar is everything you said it was and more. Absolutely beautiful and steeped in history.

  9. Great post! Looks amazing beautiful and sooo pretty! I will be going there in 2 weeks time for a day trip from Zurich 🙂 I know it’s winter time but hoping to have a great experience in this beautiful town.

    Any recommendations on whether to travel on a Saturday or Sunday? I am afraid most shops/bakeries/restaurants might be closed due to low season over the weekend?

    Thanks alot!

    1. I’m sure you’ll have a great trip. And I bet it’s really magical in the winter (especially if there’s snow). I’m not sure about opening times, but I’m pretty sure you can find something that’s open.

      Have fun!

  10. Love your post and photos. Is it doable to take a train from Paris to Colmar for the day?
    Thank you,
    Toni O

    1. Yes, absolutely! Trains leave every 30 minutes. The quickest route is 2h50 minutes. The first train leaves Paris at 06:23, the last at 20:25.

  11. Thanks for Your Great post, because it is very nice article for everyone.
    Thank you very much for sharing this blog.

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