With only a couple of days in the Alsace region of France, I didn't have much time to spend in Colmar but in the few short hours I was there, I quickly realised why it is such a popular town with tourists from all over the world - it is absolutely gorgeous!
Thanks to its history as a major trading post and river port in the 16th Century, Colmar is one of the prettiest cities in France.
Wealthy merchants built spectacularly colourful houses alongside the canal, and even today, centuries later, they ooze charm. With a mix of French (the window shutters) and German (half-timbered facades) architecture, the houses of the former trading areas of Colmar are a reminder of the heady days when wine from the neighbouring Alsatian vineyards was shipped along the canal.
The 'Petite Venise' area is the place to enjoy your own cruise on the waterways with gondoliers transporting guests past the picturesque Quai de la Poissonerie. Even though it was so typically touristy, I couldn't resist joining the queue for my own canal trip in Colmar.
Gondola-style boats are steered along the canal, giving visitors the chance to admire the town from the water. Being powered by battery, the boats make no noise which helps add to the relaxing ambiance. There was no commentary but our gondolier was happy to answer any questions we had.
Rue de la Poissonerie (street of the fishmongers) and the Tanneurs Quartiers (tanner's quarter) are where you'll find most of the tourists oohing and aahing at the buildings, with an abundance of shops, restaurants and cafes ready to serve them. We bought some bretzels from a vendor to eat whilst wandering the streets but next time I'd love to dine canal-side at one of the inviting cafes.
Eglise St-Martin (St Martin's Cathedral) takes centre stage at place de la Cathedrale. Based on the famous Hotel Dieu in Beaune, its green and red tiles and single tower give it a regal air.
If you're lucky, like I was, you might also see another addition to the roof - a stork's nest. Storks are the symbol of the region and until a breeding program in Alsace was introduced a few years back, they were a dying species. Thankfully numbers are now increasing and you'll often see their nests perched on rooftops around the region.
Colmar's Cathedral had a stork in residence the day we visited, too!
If you've got more time to spend in Colmar than I had, the Unterlinden Museum and Bartholdi Museums come highly recommended. Frederic Bartholdi was a local boy who sculpted the Statue of Liberty that was given to America as a gift from France, and this musuem honour the local lad.
If you're driving into Colmar from the north, you'll probably pass by a mini-Statue of Liberty at one of the roundabouts on the way into town. The statue was built in 2004 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the death of Bartholdi.
Getting to Colmar:
Colmar is located 560 km from Paris, 76 km from Strasbourg and 67 km from Basel. You can get to Colmar by TGV (fast) trains from Paris (via Strasbourg) in around 3 hours. Driving time from Paris is about 5 hours.
Where to eat in Colmar:
Sadly I didn't try out any of the delightful looking cafes or restaurants but you'll find many to choose from in town. The 'Petite Venise' area is home to many outdoor, canal-side cafes and the pedestrian-only area around the Cathedral also gives you plenty of options.
Need to know:
A gondola ride on Colmar's canal lasts 30 minutes and costs €6 per adult. Two main launching points are situated close to the bridge near Rue de la Poissonnerie. Purchase your tickets from the ticket window and you'll be given a time for your gondola ride.
The 'Rick Steves' France' guide includes a great walking tour which guides you around the city's most important sights.
Are you planning a visit to Colmar or have you already been? I'd love to hear what you thought of the town in the comments below.