France’s Fairytale Town: 14 Amazing Things to Do in Colmar, France

Steve Cummings

Colmar France

Colmar in France is a beautiful place you may not have considered before. It is a place often only visited by people on a day trip. However, there are enough things to do in Colmar to call for repeated visits or even stay in this town known for its half-timbered buildings, snaking canals, and vibrant colors. 

There are so many streets that become tiny alleyways and then small squares. The center is pedestrian-friendly, with bright facades and tiled roofs on the buildings, which are a warm and welcoming treat. If you are heading to Colmar or will spend some time in that part of France, this guide to the best things to do there will help you get the most out of your visit. 

1. Petite Venise

Petite Venise
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One of the best things to do in Colmar, whether you are there for a more extended period or just a day, is to visit Petite Venise (Little Venice). The Italian floating city inspired this fairytale-like part of town and features a full line of half-timbered buildings that line a pretty canal. With sherbet tones, all homes and businesses look like they are taken from history books because nothing has changed for at least 400 years or more. 

In terms of its history, the River Lauch that runs through it was redirected into Colmar's center to provide water for the town. Its surrounding area was home to all the fishmongers, tanners, and butchers, and they used the water. In addition to the visual feast and step back in time, there are many great little shops where you can try local charcuterie and traditional Alsatian biscuits. 

2. St. Martin's Church

Of the many things to do around Colmar, there is something unavoidable if you are in the center – St. Martin's Church. This impressive and intimidating Gothic building was constructed between 1234 and 1365 and is made up of golden and red stones topped with green, yellow, and red riled roofing, similar in design to many of the older buildings around town. 

Many unique treasures are inside, including the Baroque organ casing from 1755 and the 13th-century stained glass.

3. Colmar Christmas Market

Colmar Christmas Market
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Many people who want to do something different at the tail end of the year are interested in things to do in Colmar at Christmas and things to do in Colmar in December. The temperature is favorable, and while it is still popular, it is less popular at the end of the year than in summer. One of the best reasons to visit Colmar during Christmas and December is the Colmar Christmas market, which takes up the whole town. 

Across the town, you will find carnival rides and attractions, Christmas trees, thousands upon thousands of glittering, sparkling lights, and many cooking demonstrations. Like other Christmas markets, many great stalls sell gifts, decorations, and delicacies like sweet and savory snacks, mulled wine, and hot chocolate. It runs from the last week in November to December 30th, so there is plenty of time to check it out. 

4. Pfister House Paintings

Among the many half-timbered houses, Colmar is famous for, one building stands out: Pfister House. This was constructed in 1537 and has a painted façade, octagonal turret, and wrap-around wooden gallery. In terms of art, many of the best things to see in Colmar are the paintings housed within, along with the spectacular exhibits of wealth from the 16th century. On the ground floor, a wine store sells some of the best examples of Alsatian wine. 

5. Statue of Liberty

No, we've not got our destinations mixed up. We do mean The Statue of Liberty, and we do mean Colmar. As you may know, The Statue of Liberty, which stands proudly in New York City, was gifted to the United States by France and was sculpted by renowned artist Bartholdi. In the middle of a roundabout in the north of the town, one of Colmar's best free things to do is gaze at the 39-foot-tall replica of the iconic NYC landmark. This is easy to spot at the intersection of Rue Curie and D83. 

6. Toy Museum of Colmar

You may be forgiven for thinking the town is a sleepy place to visit with a relaxed attitude and not much going on, but there are many fun things to do in Colmar. In particular, one of the best things to do in Colmar with kids is the Toy Museum of Colmar. This is a real treasure trove of modern and nostalgic toys that the kids will love, but you adults will love, too, as many exhibits will bring back fond memories. 

Housed within a former movie theatre, this collection of toys offers insight into their history and has exhibits from the last 100 years. There are puppets, cars, dolls, original Barbies, board games, vintage teddy bears, and even video games. If you love trains, there is a half-mile-long train set display on its second floor. The best thing? The exhibits can be played with, making it an engaging and interactive experience.

7. The Customs House

When you have a tight budget or are trying to balance out the pricier experiences and sites with more affordable ones, one of the best cheap things to do in Colmar is visit The Customs House. This was a busy area during the Middle Ages when it was the town's trade and business center. Constructed in 1480, the Customs House is now a home for local craft vendors. 

Once you have toured the exterior and gazed in wonder at the striking glazed tiles, you will want to stand at the top of its stairs and get one of the most amazing views of Colmar. To look at the back of the building's exterior, walk to Place de l'Ancienne Douane . 

8. Drive or Hike Along the Alsace Wine Route

Winemaking and drinking are an integral part of the culture of Colmar and its surrounding towns and cities. If you want to understand its history and heritage and enjoy wine, one of the most interesting things you can do in Colmar is the Alsace Wine Route. One of France's oldest and a best-known in Europe, the Alsace Wine Route was first set up in 1953 and takes you through Alsace wine-growing spots.

You can cycle, walk, or drive along this route and visit an incredible array of little towns like Eguisheim. There are more than 33 wineries, and many offer free tastings. Other cities like Riquewihr and Kaysersberg are worth stopping at, too. 

9. Unterlinden Museum

Among things for students to do in Colmar, one of the must-visit places is the majestic Unterlinden Museum. This offers extensive insight into almost 7000 years of human history. The exhibits range from prehistoric artifacts to more contemporary works. You can learn more about ancient winemaking processes and gaze at centuries-old mosaics, Alsatian cultural pieces, and art by renowned artists like Monet, Martin Schongauer, and Lucas Cranach.

By far, the biggest draw of the museum is the Isenheim Altarpiece. This dates back to 1515, and it is a two-sided painting done on hinged panels, so priests could change it depending on the season. The resulting piece is a deep, stunning painting that feels like a Jesus-based “choose your own adventure.” 

10. Try Alsatian Food

Alsatian Food
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There is an evident German influence over everything in Colmar, including the exciting and curious Alsatian cuisine. Think sausage, sauerkraut, pretzels and potatoes. Therefore, one of the best things to buy in Colmar is the food itself. There are plenty of places around the city that sell rosti (a famous cheese and baked potato dish made in an oven) and Alsatian Baeckeoffe (a rich and filling casserole made from potatoes, meats, onions and a selection of different vegetables, often seasonal) and the kind of spätzle that wouldn't be out of place in Austria or Germany. 

For more traditional French cuisine, you will also find foie gras, quiche, poulet au Reisling, and chicken cooked in Riesling wine. 

11. The Tourist Train

Although you can walk around the city without hassle or getting too tired if you have good fitness and health, you may want to do something different. One of the most fun things to do in Colmar is take the Tourist Train tour. There are two trains, one in vibrant green and one in white, that every day, every 30 minutes, take passengers around a loop of the most essential parts of the town. The journey takes around 35 minutes and features narration as a guide in various languages. 

12. Alsace Wine Tasting

We have already discussed the Alsace Wine Route, but if you want to get a little more hands-on and experience the wonder of Alsace wine firsthand, wine tasting is one of the best things to do in Colmar. The region has been known for beautiful white wine for over 100 years. If you head to Colmar in the summer, many wine tastings are available, and you can visit many of the wineries in the town center. 

13. Musee Bartholdi

Musee Bartholdi
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The most famous resident of Colmar is Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, who was a renowned sculptor. His most well-known and celebrated work is The Statue of Liberty, gifted to New York City. However, during his 50-year career, the artist created various large-scale and smaller-scale pieces like fountains and sculptures. 

To get an insight into his body of work and his skill and talent, one of the most interesting things to do in Colmar is to visit the Bartholdi Museum. Set on three floors, it features sketches and models of the most important works like the Lion of Belfort, the Statue of Liberty, and the Schwendi Fountain. You can actually visit the fountain at Place de I'Ancienne Douane. 

For more insight into the man and his history, you can also visit the Bartholdi family living quarters and look at the artist's and his loved ones' personal items and furniture. 

14. La Maison des Têtes (House of Heads)

One of the best things to see in Colmar is also one of the most intriguing and bizarre. La Maison des Tetes is found in the Old Town part of the city, and its name translates to House of Heads in English. This was built by a distinguished and wealthy merchant, Anton Burger, in 1609 and stands out from the rest of Colmar. One hundred eleven masks, faces, and heads are carved into the building’s exterior. There are three levels, and it has a gable created by Bartholdi. 

It is as inspiring and magnificent as it is bizarre and sinister, but it is something you need to see to believe.

Final Thoughts

We hope you've enjoyed our guide to some of the best things to do in Colmar. Many people make the mistake of not paying too much attention to this area. But we are sure you will agree there are many great sites and landmarks as well as great shops, food, and wine to try there. The town has a significant history as a winemaking area and was the central hub for business in the Alsace region. The people are also very warm, friendly, and welcoming to visitors. 

Whether you go in the heat of the summer or the cold of the winter, you will be treated to an unforgettable experience that offers unique delights thanks to Austrian and German influences that blend with the overarching French atmosphere. 

With our guides, we always try to create the most detailed and best pieces possible, but we sometimes miss out on things. If you believe a landmark, place, or activity in Colmar still needs to be included 

 please let us know in the comments section below.

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