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French Fairytale: Best Things To Do In Colmar Old Town


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Saraann Dizon



Colmar, a picturesque town nestled in the heart of the Alsace region in northeastern France, is like a fairytale come to life. With its cobblestone streets, half-timbered houses, and colorful flower displays, it’s no wonder that Colmar is often referred to as the “Little Venice” of France. Steeped in history and charm, Colmar’s old town is a haven for lovers of art, history, and culture.


Colmar’s history dates back to the 9th century, when it was founded as a small fishing village. Over the centuries, it grew into a prosperous trading hub and was influenced by both French and German cultures. Today, the town’s unique blend of French and German architecture, cuisine, and traditions create a truly distinctive and captivating experience for visitors.


As you wander through the narrow streets of Colmar’s old town, prepare to be enchanted by the enchanting atmosphere. Each corner reveals a new delight, from charming squares adorned with medieval fountains to hidden alleyways lined with traditional Alsatian houses. Quaint shops, cafes, and restaurants invite you to experience the local flavors and hospitality while showcasing the region’s rich culinary heritage.


Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a culture lover, or simply seeking a romantic getaway, Colmar’s old town offers a plethora of attractions to explore. From visiting iconic landmarks to immersing yourself in local traditions, there is always something to captivate and delight visitors of all ages.


Join us as we embark on a journey to discover the best things to do in Colmar’s old town. From its rich history and architectural wonders to its vibrant festivals and artistic treasures, Colmar promises a truly unforgettable experience that will leave you longing to return.


History of Colmar Old Town

The history of Colmar’s old town can be traced back over a thousand years. The town was originally founded in the 9th century, and throughout the centuries, it flourished as a trading center due to its strategic location along the Alsatian Wine Route.


Colmar’s location near the border of France and Germany has shaped its history and cultural identity. Over the years, the town has alternated between French and German control, with the border changing several times. This unique history is reflected in Colmar’s architecture and cultural practices.


One of the defining features of Colmar’s old town is its well-preserved medieval and Renaissance architecture. The town center is characterized by half-timbered houses with colorful facades and ornate carvings. These buildings showcase the influences of both French and German architectural styles.


Colmar’s rich history is also closely tied to some prominent historical figures. One of the most famous is Bartholdi, the creator of the Statue of Liberty. Bartholdi was born in Colmar, and his house has been transformed into a museum dedicated to his life and work.


From the 17th to the 19th century, Colmar experienced a period of economic prosperity and cultural growth. This era is reflected in the opulent townhouses and public buildings throughout the old town. The town became known as a hub for artists and intellectuals, drawing inspiration from its stunning surroundings.


Today, Colmar’s old town is a UNESCO World Heritage site, celebrated for its well-preserved architecture and unique blend of French and German influences. It continues to attract visitors from around the world who are captivated by its enchanting beauty and rich historical significance.


As you explore Colmar’s old town, take a moment to appreciate the centuries of history that have shaped this charming place. From its humble beginnings as a fishing village to its status as a thriving cultural center, Colmar’s old town is a testament to the enduring legacy of the past.


Exploring the Quaint Streets of Colmar

One of the highlights of visiting Colmar’s old town is simply strolling through its enchanting streets. The narrow cobblestone lanes lined with colorful half-timbered houses create a charming and picturesque backdrop that feels straight out of a storybook.


One of the must-visit streets in Colmar is Rue des Marchands, also known as Merchant Street. This historic street dates back to the Middle Ages and is lined with beautifully preserved houses. As you walk along the street, admire the intricate woodcarvings and the vibrant colors that adorn the facades.


Another street worth exploring is Rue des Têtes, or Heads Street. The name comes from the sculpted heads that decorate the buildings along the street. While wandering along this street, take in the unique architectural details and imagine the stories that these buildings hold.


Don’t miss out on Rue des Boulangers, or Bakers Street, which is known for its charming bakeries and patisseries. The enticing aroma of freshly baked bread and pastries fills the air, tempting you to indulge in a sweet treat or a warm baguette.


As you continue your exploration, you’ll come across delightful squares such as Place de l’Ancienne Douane and Place de la Cathédrale. These squares are perfect spots to rest and soak in the atmosphere while enjoying a cup of coffee or a glass of Alsace wine.


One of the unique features of Colmar’s old town is the system of canals that crisscrosses through the streets. Embark on a scenic boat ride along the Lauch River, which provides a different perspective of the town’s beautiful architecture. Admire the reflection of the buildings on the water and listen to the gentle lapping of the waves against the boat.


Whether you choose to explore the streets of Colmar on foot or by taking a leisurely boat ride, the experience will transport you to a bygone era. Every corner reveals a new hidden gem, inviting you to slow down, appreciate the beauty around you, and create lasting memories.


Visiting the Iconic Houses in Colmar

One of the most captivating aspects of Colmar’s old town is its collection of iconic houses, each with its own unique story and architectural style. These houses are a testament to the town’s rich history and cultural heritage.


One of the most famous houses in Colmar is the Maison Pfister. This stunning Renaissance building is adorned with ornate carvings and colorful frescoes. Step inside to admire the beautifully preserved interior, which showcases the opulence and craftsmanship of the era.


Another notable house is the Maison des Têtes, or House of Heads. As the name suggests, the facade of this historic building is adorned with sculpted heads. This architectural masterpiece is a true delight for the eyes, with its intricate detailing and striking design.


For a glimpse into the life of the renowned French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, visit the Bartholdi Museum. Housed in Bartholdi’s former residence, this museum showcases his life and works, including the original models and sketches for the Statue of Liberty.


A visit to Colmar’s old town would not be complete without exploring the Tanners’ District. This area is known for its distinctive tall and narrow houses, originally built by tanners who worked with animal hides. Take a walk through the picturesque streets and imagine the bustling activity that once took place here.


Another standout house is the Koïfhus, which has served as a customs house, administrative center, and trading hub throughout its history. This imposing Gothic building is a symbol of Colmar’s economic prosperity in the past. Today, it houses the Historical Museum of Colmar and offers a fascinating insight into the town’s past.


As you wander through the streets of Colmar, keep an eye out for other remarkable houses such as the Maison des Tetes d’Or, the Maison Adolph, and the Maison des Chevaliers de Saint-Jean. Each of these houses contributes to the architectural tapestry of Colmar, telling a story of the town’s past.


Visiting the iconic houses in Colmar is like stepping back in time. You’ll be transported to a world of architectural grandeur and artistic expression. Take your time to explore these remarkable structures, appreciate the craftsmanship, and imagine the stories that they hold.


Discovering the Colmar Cathedral

The Colmar Cathedral, also known as the Saint Martin’s Cathedral, is a magnificent architectural gem that graces the skyline of Colmar’s old town. This stunning Gothic masterpiece is a testament to the town’s religious heritage and a must-visit attraction for history and art enthusiasts.


Construction of the cathedral began in the 13th century and continued over several centuries, resulting in a blend of architectural styles. The intricate details of the Cathedral’s facade, with its towering spires and ornate sculptures, are truly awe-inspiring.


Step inside the cathedral to discover its breathtaking interior. The high vaulted ceilings, stained glass windows, and intricately carved choir stalls create a sense of grandeur and tranquility. Take a moment to admire the colorful rose window, which beautifully illuminates the space with its vibrant hues.


One of the highlights of a visit to the Colmar Cathedral is the opportunity to see the Isenheim Altarpiece. This masterpiece of religious art, created by Matthias Grünewald in the early 16th century, is considered one of the most important works of the Renaissance era. The altarpiece is housed in the small Chapel of the Virgin and depicts scenes from the life of Christ.


While exploring the cathedral, take a moment to visit the remarkable organ. Built in the 18th century, this pipe organ is renowned for its impressive sound and craftsmanship. If you’re lucky, you may have the chance to attend a concert and experience the cathedral’s acoustics firsthand.


Visiting the Colmar Cathedral is not only a spiritual experience but also an opportunity to appreciate the artistic and architectural wonders of the past. The cathedral stands as a symbol of the town’s cultural and religious heritage, and a visit here is sure to leave a lasting impression.


Whether you’re fascinated by Gothic architecture, intrigued by religious art, or simply seeking a moment of contemplation, a visit to the Colmar Cathedral is a must. It’s a place where the past comes alive, and where the beauty of faith and art converge to create a truly unforgettable experience.


Exploring the Unterlinden Museum

The Unterlinden Museum is a cultural treasure nestled in the heart of Colmar’s old town. Housed in a former convent dating back to the 13th century, the museum showcases an impressive collection of art and artifacts that span centuries of history.


One of the museum’s most renowned attractions is the Isenheim Altarpiece, a masterpiece of religious art created by Matthias Grünewald in the early 16th century. This altarpiece is widely regarded as one of the most significant works of the Renaissance era and is a must-see for art enthusiasts.


The museum’s extensive collection also includes works from other periods and styles, ranging from medieval sculptures and Renaissance paintings to contemporary art. Take your time to explore the various galleries and be captivated by the diversity and beauty of the artwork on display.


In addition to its impressive art collection, the Unterlinden Museum offers insight into the region’s history and culture through archaeological artifacts and historical objects. Learn about the rich heritage of Alsace and Colmar as you discover treasures from the past.


Besides the permanent exhibits, the museum also hosts temporary exhibitions that showcase national and international artists. These exhibits provide a fresh perspective and add a dynamic element to the museum’s offerings, ensuring there’s always something new to discover.


As you wander through the museum, don’t miss the opportunity to explore the cloister garden. This peaceful oasis offers a tranquil retreat where you can reflect on the art and history you’ve encountered during your visit.


The Unterlinden Museum is more than just a collection of art; it’s a place where history, culture, and creativity converge. Whether you’re a dedicated art enthusiast or simply curious about the world around you, a visit to the museum is an enriching experience that will leave you with a deeper appreciation for art and its role in shaping our understanding of the world.


Take your time to soak in the beauty and significance of the artworks, allowing yourself to be transported to different eras and artistic movements. The Unterlinden Museum is a cultural jewel that showcases the power of art to inspire, educate, and ignite our imagination.


Enjoying the Local Cuisine in Colmar

Colmar is not only a feast for the eyes but also a paradise for food lovers. The town’s culinary scene is deeply rooted in Alsatian traditions, offering a delightful blend of French and German influences. From hearty regional dishes to delectable pastries, Colmar’s local cuisine is a treat for the taste buds.


One iconic dish you must try in Colmar is choucroute garnie. This hearty dish features sauerkraut cooked with various cuts of meat such as sausages, ham, and pork. The flavors meld together beautifully, creating a satisfying and comforting meal that pairs perfectly with a glass of local Alsatian beer or a crisp white wine.


If you’re a fan of tarte flambée, Colmar is the place to indulge in this Alsatian specialty. Also known as flammekueche, this thin and crispy flatbread is typically topped with a creamy sauce, onions, bacon, and cheese. It’s the perfect dish to share with friends over a relaxed evening in one of Colmar’s cozy restaurants.


For seafood lovers, a visit to Colmar wouldn’t be complete without tasting the freshwater fish specialties. Trout, pike, and carp are commonly found in the region’s rivers and lakes and are prepared in various delicious ways. Whether grilled, pan-fried, or served in a rich Alsatian sauce, these dishes showcase the freshness and unique flavors of the local fish.


Make sure to save room for dessert because Colmar is home to some mouthwatering sweet treats. Sample the famous Kugelhopf, a traditional Alsatian cake made with yeast dough, almonds, and raisins. Another must-try dessert is the tarte aux quetsches, a delectable plum tart that captures the essence of the region’s seasonal fruits.


As you explore the streets of Colmar, you’ll also come across charming patisseries and bakeries offering a wide selection of pastries. Indulge in a buttery croissant, a delicate macaron, or a fruit-filled tart to satisfy your sweet cravings.


To truly immerse yourself in the local culinary culture, consider visiting one of Colmar’s vibrant farmers’ markets. Here, you’ll find an array of fresh produce, cheeses, meats, and local specialties. Engage with the friendly vendors, learn about their products, and create your own culinary adventure with the freshest ingredients.


Enjoying the local cuisine in Colmar is an experience that goes beyond satisfying your hunger. It’s an opportunity to connect with the traditions and flavors that have shaped the region’s cultural identity. Whether you’re savoring a traditional dish, indulging in a sweet treat, or exploring the local markets, let the culinary delights of Colmar take you on a journey of gastronomic bliss.


Taking a Boat Ride on the Lauch River

Exploring Colmar’s old town from a different perspective is made possible by taking a delightful boat ride along the Lauch River. This picturesque waterway winds its way through the heart of the town, offering a unique vantage point to admire the captivating scenery and charming architecture.


Board one of the traditional flat-bottomed boats known as “barques” and embark on a leisurely cruise along the tranquil Lauch River. As you glide through the calm waters, you’ll be surrounded by the beautiful half-timbered houses, flower-decked bridges, and lush greenery that line the riverbanks.


The boat ride allows you to appreciate the intricacies of Colmar’s architectural wonders up close. The reflection of the colorful facades on the water creates a mirror-like effect, adding to the enchanting atmosphere. The gentle swaying of the boat and the soothing sounds of the water lapping against the sides create a serene and relaxing experience.


Along the way, the boat captain will provide interesting commentary, sharing tales and legends that are intertwined with the town’s history. Listen attentively as you learn about the significance of the buildings, the stories behind the bridges, and the role of the river in shaping the town’s identity.


As you pass under the quaint bridges, you’ll get a glimpse of the intricate carvings and designs that adorn them. The Pont de Turenne, the Pont Saint-Pierre, and the Pont de la Monnaie are just a few examples of the beautiful bridges that span the Lauch River. Each one has its own unique charm and story to tell.


Keep an eye out for the picturesque “Little Venice” area, where the river canal widens and small terraces of houses seem to float on the water’s edge. This area is particularly enchanting, and capturing a photo here will provide a lasting memory of your boat ride.


A boat ride on the Lauch River is not only a scenic experience but also a moment of tranquility and reflection. It offers a break from the hustle and bustle of the streets, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the beauty of Colmar’s old town.


Whether you’re traveling solo, with a loved one, or as part of a group, a boat ride on the Lauch River is a must-do activity in Colmar. It offers a unique perspective and a chance to observe the town’s captivating architecture and scenery from a different angle. Prepare to be immersed in the romantic ambiance as you glide along the gentle waters, creating memories that will last a lifetime.


Shopping for Local Crafts and Souvenirs

Colmar’s old town offers a delightful shopping experience, with a plethora of boutiques, galleries, and shops filled with unique crafts and souvenirs. Whether you’re searching for a special memento or simply browsing for handmade treasures, you’ll find a wide variety of local crafts to choose from.


One of the standout crafts of the region is the intricate art of woodcarving. Visit a local woodcraft shop and marvel at the skill and artistry displayed in the wooden sculptures, figurines, and decorative items. From charming figurines of traditional Alsatian characters to intricately carved cuckoo clocks, these pieces are true works of art that reflect the rich cultural heritage of the region.


Another popular local craft in Colmar is pottery. Discover beautifully crafted ceramics adorned with vibrant colors and intricate patterns. From decorative plates and bowls to unique vases and figurines, these pieces offer a touch of Alsatian charm to any home.


To savor the flavors of Colmar long after your visit, consider purchasing local food specialties. The region is renowned for its delicious jams, honey, and traditional Alsatian spices. Pack these treats in your suitcase to enjoy a taste of Colmar’s cuisine in your own kitchen.


Exploring the old town’s streets, you’ll also come across charming boutiques offering handmade jewelry. Admire the exquisite craftsmanship of earrings, necklaces, and bracelets made with precious metals and gemstones. These pieces showcase the talent of local artisans and make for meaningful and unique souvenirs.


As you stroll through the marketplaces and gift shops, keep an eye out for Alsatian textiles and fabrics. Delicate lacework, embroidered linens, and traditional Alsatian costumes are all popular choices for those seeking to bring a touch of Alsatian culture into their homes.


Don’t forget to browse the local art galleries, showcasing the works of talented painters, photographers, and sculptors. These galleries offer a glimpse into the artistic spirit of Colmar and provide an opportunity to acquire an original piece of art to adorn your walls.


Shopping for local crafts and souvenirs in Colmar is not just about acquiring beautiful items, but also about supporting local artisans and preserving the cultural heritage of the region. Each piece tells a story and is a reminder of your time in this enchanting town.


Whether you’re searching for a one-of-a-kind piece of artwork, a traditional Alsatian souvenir, or a unique gift for a loved one, the shops and boutiques of Colmar’s old town have something to cater to everyone’s tastes and desires. Take the time to explore and discover the hidden gems waiting to be found.


Participating in Festivals and Events in Colmar

Colmar is a town that knows how to celebrate, and throughout the year, it is home to a vibrant calendar of festivals and events that bring the streets of the old town to life. From music and art festivals to enchanting Christmas markets, there is always something exciting happening in Colmar.


One of the most popular events in Colmar is the Colmar International Festival, which showcases a wide range of music genres, including classical, jazz, and world music. Renowned musicians from around the world come together to perform in various venues throughout the town, creating an atmosphere of musical magic.


Art enthusiasts will be delighted by the Colmar Fine Arts Market, which takes place during the summer months. The streets of the old town transform into an open-air gallery, featuring the works of talented local and national artists. Stroll through the market, interact with the artists, and perhaps even find a masterpiece to adorn your home.


Colmar really comes alive during the Christmas season, with its enchanting Christmas markets. The town takes on a fairytale-like atmosphere, with festively decorated stalls offering a variety of crafts, delicacies, and warm winter drinks. Embrace the holiday spirit, listen to carolers, and find unique handmade gifts for your loved ones.


The Alsatian Wine Route Marathon is another exciting event that draws participants and spectators from far and wide. This scenic marathon takes runners through the stunning vineyards and charming villages along the Alsatian Wine Route, offering a unique experience for both athletes and spectators.


For those interested in history, the Historical Parade of Alsace is a must-see event. This colorful procession features participants dressed in historical costumes representing various periods of Alsace’s past. Witness the fascinating reenactments and immerse yourself in the rich heritage of the region.


During the summer months, the streets of Colmar come alive with the Sound and Light Show. This impressive spectacle combines projections, music, and storytelling to showcase the town’s history and culture. Watch as the facades of the buildings become a canvas for vibrant visuals, providing a mesmerizing experience for all.


Participating in festivals and events in Colmar is not only a chance to celebrate but also an opportunity to connect with the local community and immerse yourself in the rich culture of the town. These events allow you to create lasting memories and experience Colmar’s vibrant spirit in a unique and memorable way.


Whether you’re enjoying the sounds of the music festival, reveling in the festive atmosphere of the Christmas markets, or being transported to the past in the Historical Parade, participating in the festivals and events of Colmar adds another layer of magic to your visit.



Colmar’s old town is a place of wonder and enchantment, where history, art, and culture come together in a truly captivating way. From its charming streets lined with half-timbered houses to its iconic landmarks and vibrant festivals, Colmar offers a multitude of experiences that will leave you with lasting memories.


As you explore the narrow cobblestone lanes and soak in the beauty of the architecture, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a fairytale. The town’s rich history is palpable in every corner, and the blend of French and German influences in the culture, cuisine, and traditions create a unique and fascinating tapestry.


Take the time to visit the iconic houses, such as the Maison Pfister and the Maison des Têtes, and discover the stories they hold. Explore the Colmar Cathedral, with its stunning Gothic architecture and exquisite artwork, and find moments of tranquility and reflection.


Immerse yourself in the vibrant art scene at the Unterlinden Museum, where centuries of artistic treasures await. Indulge in the local cuisine, savoring dishes such as choucroute garnie and tarte flambée, and delight in the flavors that reflect the region’s culinary heritage.


Experience the charm of a boat ride along the Lauch River, allowing the gentle waters to guide you through the heart of the town. And don’t forget to shop for local crafts and souvenirs, supporting local artisans and taking a piece of Colmar’s charm home with you.


Finally, immerse yourself in the lively festivals and events that bring Colmar to life throughout the year. Whether you’re enjoying the music at the Colmar International Festival or getting into the festive spirit at the Christmas markets, these events showcase the town’s vibrancy and cultural heritage.


Colmar’s old town promises a journey of discovery and wonder, where every turn reveals a new delight. It’s a place that captures the essence of France and Germany, blending them into a harmonious fusion that is uniquely Colmar. So, pack your bags, wander the picturesque streets, and let the magic of Colmar transport you to a world of beauty and charm.