A Day in Colmar

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Even though Freiburg is only a few kilometers from the French border, I don’t go into France very often. Colmar is a pretty Alsatian town directly across the Rhine from Freiburg. Despite being so close, the difference between France and Germany is definitely noticeable. My best friend from home came to visit for a bit so he, Ali and I went to Colmar for the day.

Watch Your Step

Colmar is a very walkable city. In just the few hours we had, we walked across the city center several times. Amongst the shops and restaurants are also these. Canals drain water through town. Although much bigger, they are reminiscent of the Baechle in Freiburg. The canals in Colmar run in a rough line from top to bottom in town and are open in certain places in the streets.


Colmar has several museums, including the Unterlinden Museum in this impressive former convent. It is near the theater bus stop and the tourist information office, so makes a good stop if you are interested. So museums are not my thing really and given the time limits of really only half a day in Colmar, we skipped it.

History Abounds

Although arranged museums are not my favorite, I love history in the open air. The customs house in Colmar is this in spades for me. This entire region, including both Strasbourg and Freiburg, once were ruled by the Hapsburg family. This is the same family that ruled the Austro-Hungarian empire from Vienna. I don’t actually know why they decided to hold onto this area, but evidence is everywhere. The shield above the door to the customs house is the Hapsburg sign of the double eagle. I have seen it in Strasbourg too.

Little Venice

Pretty much anywhere in Europe where houses are built against a canal packed together and attractive, it will be called little Venice. Colmar has one of these as well. It is one end of the center of town and roughly where the small underground canals meet the main river. A few restaurants hover over the water and offer a spot for boats to tie up. The bridge over the canal offers some nice pictures, but overall I was not impressed. Partly due to the overcast day we had and partly because we were just in Venice a few months ago and nothing compares to the real thing. It is still worth walking down this far if you are in Colmar.

Timber Frame Houses

The architecture in Colmar is a bit of a mix. There are certainly modern buildings and a fair number of the late 1800s Art Nouveau style houses that you might associate more with Paris. But what Colmar is better known far are the timber frames. And they are everywhere. Modern shops selling handbags can be in the ground floor of a timberframe building. This is probably the best reason to put away your map and just wander.

Of course there are churches

What kind of European town would Colmar be without a cathedral. In addition to several other larger churches, the central square in Colmar definitely has a cathedral. There is even a water canal that runs alongside it. Although predictably expensive, the square is also home to cafes and restaurants. Even though it was rainy and a bit cold when we were there, there were still plenty of people sitting out watching people go by.

Covered Market

Our last sightseeing stop before heading to find a hot chocolate and warm up in a cafe was the covered market. The market is near Little Venice and on the river canal as well. I remember from a guided trip here that I took years ago, that they used to use the canal to deliver things to the market. Now the market looks still well taken care of and houses a number of market stalls selling all manner of, what looked like mostly, imported specialty food. Definitely a neat place to walk through, but didn’t really feel historical.

Other reasons to come to Colmar

We only had a few hours to wander, so we took it easy seeing what we were up for. It was a bit rainy and cold, so we didn’t do too much. Many streets in the city center are lined with shops and restaurants, so I can well imagine that it would be a lovely place in the summer to wander and shop.

Though if you are here in the winter, Colmar has a big spread for Christmas. The last time I was here was at that time of the year and they had 5 different Christmas markets spread around town in different squares. Even without the markets to entice, Colmar was worth a day to wander and take in Alsatian charm before heading back to Germany.

Getting there from Freiburg

From Freiburg, take the BSB to Breisach and then the bus from Breisach across the river to Colmar. Reverse this to get home. There is a specific ticket that lets you on the entire region of Freiburg local transport as well as the bus to Colmar for up to 5 people. We found that the bus stop called Theater in Colmar was more convenient to the city center. Just be sure to check the return schedule, it does not go so late at night.


This is my submission to Andrea’s Carnival of Europe.

22 thoughts on “A Day in Colmar

  1. We will be in Breitach on a river cruise and we would like to bike to Colmar. Can you tell me how long a trip it is and what the terrain will be like, hilly or flat?
    Look forward to your answer. Thanks

    • For the length, you need to check out the map. I think it is relatively flat, but I have only ever done the route on the bus, so I don’t know for sure.

  2. Stumbled on this post as I was exploring your site. Colmar is a beautiful little town! We were there on a Sunday, so it was practically shut up, but beautiful nonetheless. I love your photos!

    • Thanks. Sunday can be a bit of a problem if you want to shop, but the all of the restaurants should still be open. Find a cafe on a sunny square and watch people go by.

  3. Pingback: Breisach, Germany - Ctrl Alt Travel

  4. Pingback: Colmar, France - Ctrl Alt Travel

  5. I believe this old city is one of the most well-preserved in all of Europe. Home to buildings made in German gothic style, architecture of the early Renaissance, and several historic churches, Colmar is a place where tourists can go to bask in the sun. I want to visit it someday.

  6. Oh, how pretty! I love the timber-framed houses along the canal. Makes me think of some of the little villages in the south of the UK.

  7. How I would love to visit Colmar! It looks so beautiful. This coming december I might visit it.

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  9. Like much of Alsace, Colmar looks beautiful. I’m going to try to visit for the Christmas markets this year. It’s cool that you can just pop over to France like that. 🙂

    • “Pop”ping to France is about an hour and a half total in transit, though relatively quick in the grand scheme of things. The christmas markets are nice. If you do make it this Christmas, let us know and hop over the border to join for a beer.

  10. I’ve never been to Colmar either, but it looks beautiful. i love it when friends visit, it gives you motivation to explore places you haven’t been to yet. I wish I would have spent more time in France when I lived in Stuttgart.

    • I’ve been a few times over the years. It is actually kind of nice at Christmas time with the multiple markets, though much colder.

  11. It was a nice town, and I wouldn’t mind going back sometime when it’s warmer. It was just too cold and rainy that day. It is fun to be able to go to France for the day though!

  12. I’ve been reading your blog for some time. Since I am planning a move to Germamy this August, your blog has been helpful and entertaining. I’m learning a lot.

    I am narrowing down places to live. One place I have my eye on is Breisach. In your opinion, what do you think of this town?

    I realise this post is about Colmar, but I am reaching out to people in the area who can give me their opinion.

    • We stopped in Breisach on the way, and I probably have another post on it in my pictures and mind. As a small town it is ok, though it is a small town. I have only spent afternoons there, but it strikes me as not such a great place for expats. Small towns often (of course not always) have a more closed mindset. And unless you already know German you will need to find classes, which are less likely/flexible in those towns. As for transport, it has decent links to Freiburg, but it is still a half hour out. Personally, as an expat I would look for a much bigger town. More people to meet and more things to do. Why are you looking at Breisach? Do you have a job opportunity?

  13. I love that third picture– SO beautiful! I am always fascinate by the ways in which towns just barely across the border can be so distinguished in their nationality– how these seemingly arbitrary lines between countries can mean so much in terms of culture, architecture, politics, etc. I know it was so surprising for us to cross the English Channel in just 30 minutes, and to arrive somewhere so… very French! Ha!

    • This was more striking in its difference because the history has so much in common with Freiburg. It just happened to be that side of the river so was swapped back and forth a few times.

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