Things to Do in Colmar
Wonderfully preserved from the ravages of time, Colmar , in north-east France, is a medieval dream world, with original timber-framed houses, paint-box facades and cobbled streets at almost every corner.
Anything that has crumbled has been lovingly restored to its former splendour, offering visitors a fascinating insight into thousands of years of European history. From the romantic Little Venice to the historical Tanners’ Quarter, you’ll find plenty of things to do in Colmar when you take a P&O ferry to France.
History of Colmar
Founded in the 9th century, Colmar has an illustrious past that spans two millenniums. Plenty of museums can be found in town with historical artefacts on display, namely Unterlinden Museum, where you can see the famous Isenheim Altarpiece – an intricate religious polyptych with two folding wings and carved wooden statues.
On entering Colmar, it may be a surprise to see the Statue of Liberty - but this sculpture belongs in Colmar just as much as it does in New York. Frédéric Auguste Batholdi, creator of the legendary landmark, was born in the French town, and this 12-metre high replica was put in place to commemorate the centenary year of the sculptor’s death.
While he died in Paris, he leaves a legacy in his home town, where the family townhouse still stands on Rue des Marchands. Now a museum, visitors can see artefacts from the artist’s early work, as well as his original living quarters and personal memorabilia.
Food and Drink in Colmar
Conveniently placed along the Alsatian Wine Route, Colmar is where wine fans and makers along the route often meet to enjoy the region’s produce. In contrast to the more well-known wine areas of Bordeaux and Reims, Colmar is the only wine capital not to proclaim their viticulture finesse – you’re unlikely to see any inkling of its status on road signs or local maps, making it feel like a real hidden gem, but we have a wine tasting and cellar visit where you can discover the world of the winemaker, taste the wines made and even take some home with you!
Due to its close proximity to Germany, Alsatian food isn’t typical of traditional French cuisine, with a liking for sauerkraut and cured meats over sweet patisseries. Lesser-known dishes include bretzels, which are shaped like pretzels but are more of a savoury, brioche-like treat, and flammekueche, a type of savoury tarte which is garnished with cream cheese and bacon lardons.
Explore Colmar’s Old Town
The majority of Colmar's attractions can be found in its old town. While it’s surprisingly big, you can get around easily on foot, and you’ll find plenty of walking tours dotted around its vicinity.
If you don’t feel like stretching your legs though, you can tour the town by canal boat, or via the Petit Train line, which runs 7km across the town during peak times, and takes in Colmar’s most famous monuments.
Within the old town, you’ll find lots of quarters which hint to Colmar’s industrious past. The water-lined Little Venice, on Quai de la Poissonnerie, is where the wine producers of the region settled. This area covers the route of the Lauch River, reaching as far as the bridges of Turenne and Saint-Pierre.
Because of its close proximity to water, Colmar’s seafarers congregated in the Fishmonger’s District, within the borders of Little Venice, and would often store the catch of the day here. In 1706, a fire gutted almost 40 of these historical houses, but restorations were so successful that there’s little evidence of such destruction today.
Yet Colmar’s industries stretched far beyond food and drink - Tanners’ Quarter at the nearby Rue des Tanneurs is where the leathersmiths lived and worked. Because the tanning process called for hides to be hung at great heights, the houses here are taller and narrower than the rest of Colmar.
Colmar acts as the perfect base for exploring the Alsace countryside with a half day tour to Kaysersberg, a village famous for its quaint half-timbered, cobbled streets; Riquewihr, a magnificent small town surrounded by vineyards, and Hunawihr, the last stop and one of the most beautiful villages in France, known for its numerous artisan shops and multiple cultural landmarks.
Discover the beauty of Colmar with our Dover to Calais crossing today.
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