A reaction to Nazi cultural suppression led to the Frenchification of Alsace (and Colmar with it). Notwithstanding, you will still hear a lot of German spoken in Colmar, some because of the numerous tourists from neighbouring Germany and Switzerland, but some spoken by native Alsatians, speaking their German dialect called Alsatian. Alsatian is the local minority language, although it is endangered, with ever fewer speakers among the young generations. Alsatian is not identical with standard German, but it is to a certain extent mutually intelligible. In some parts of the city, as well as in Strasbourg, street signs are written in French with Alsatian German underneath. Among the minority languages of France, Alsatian German is the most enduring (followed by Breton, Occitan, Basque and Catalan). Many Alsatians will be delighted to be addressed in German rather than in French (though not all of them). If you do not speak French, German should be the next preference. English is unfortunately not widely spoken; however, if you politely address someone in French, they may make an effort to help you despite language barriers.
By airIf you arrive by plane you will probably use one of the closest airports: Euroairport at Basel (with a variety of low cost flights) or Strasbourg (with none). Other airports in the area are Baden Airport, Stuttgart, Zürich and Nancy.
By trainColmar lies between Basel (French: Bâle) and Strasbourg. There is a direct train connection from both cities.
By busIf you arrive from the German side, there is a bus leaving from Breisach (small border town in Germany), to which there is a direct train from Freiburg. Bus ride Breisach-Colmar takes 30-40 min, €4.3 (2018). The bus-stop is located directly in front of Breisach train station. If you are visiting from Freiburg, it is cheaper to get a RegioElsassTicket, as it is valid for this bus, as well as the entire RVF (Regio-Verkehrsverbundes Freiburg) network. For timetables and details, please refer to suedbadenbus.de's page.
All of Colmar's attractions are concentrated in its old town. For a medieval city, it is surprisingly big, but you can nonetheless get around on foot with no difficulty.
Trace operates about a dozen bus routes in Colmar. One way ticket costs €1.4, pack of 10 tickets €10.20, Alsa+ 24hrs
Colmar Agglo ticket costs €3.5 and allows unlimited rides inside the city and Colmar agglomeration for 24 hours.
Maison des TetesA Renaissance building decorated with faces.
Maison PfisterA marvellous old wooden house, one of the oldest in Colmar.
Dominican ChurchWorth visitig only because of a famous Schongauer painting. The painting is very beautiful and so is the church, but skip this if you are pressed for time.
St. Martin Churchaddress: Place de la CathédraleA large church entirely made of pink stone.
address: 1, rue d' UnterlindenIt is a most interesting museum situated in a medieval convent near the tourist information center. Entrance costs €8 for adults and €5 for children and students under age 30, but this includes an excellent audio guide for many of the paintings. The museum exhibits objects of very different types e.g. furniture, armour, paintings, knitted carpets, and silverware, but its highlight is definitely the Isenheim altarpiece by Gruenewald, a revolutionary Alsatian Renaissance painter. Even if you are not much into art it is still shocking to see how modern and inventive this painter was. The collection also includes paintings by Holbein the Elder, Renoir, and Picasso. The museum also shows some very interesting touring exhibits and also musical events. The locals are very proud of this museum and many people turn out for the openings of exhibits.
Bartholdi MuseumDedicated to the sculptor of the Statue of Liberty, who was native to Colmar.
Little VeniceEnjoy this little corner of the city; with small canals reminiscent of Venice, Italy.
Bartholdi High SchoolDating back to 1698, it is worth a sight. If you are brave enough to go inside, you will be able to see one of Auguste Bartholdi's original sculptures : "Genie funebre".
Make sure to keep an eye out for dates painted onto the side of buildings. Some of the oldest date back to the 1300s.
Tarte flambée (Flammekueche in Alsatian, or Flammkuchen in German) is the Alsatian equivalent of pizza, though extremely different. Traditionally, it is made of a thin layer of dough, covered with crème fraîche (rich sour cream), cheese, onions, and bacon (lardons in French). It is baked very quickly in an extremely hot oven so that it gets crispy. Legend has it that the dish was a solution to the extra scraps of dough left over from the bakers. Other regional specialties include the Black Forest cake (with raspberry, cream and sponge) and quiche Lorraine.
Alsace is also famous for their Bretzels (pretzels in English). They are fresh baked and soft with generous amounts of salt. Sometimes you can find them with melted cheese on top accompanied by smoked salmon or ham.
Alsace is also famous for their Sauerkraut (or choucroute in French). This is fermented cabbage served hot with boiled potatoes and a variety of meats. Choucroute aux Poissons (with fish) is becoming more widespread.
address: 9, rue des EcolesA restaurant in the touristic part of the city. The food is good, the service a bit slow. Have escargot for starter.
Alsatian wine is very unique and similar to some German wines. A popular tour is to take the Routes des Vines and sample the wineries along Alsace. Two well known wines that comes from Alsace are Muscat (fairly sweet) and Gewürztraminer (very sweet, more so than wines of the same name produced in other regions).
In any of the creperies, they will serve an apple cider, slightly alcoholic. Doux is the sweet version and Brut is the dry version. This is not an Alsatian specialty, all of the ciders come from Brittany on the Northern Coast, but it seems all French people enjoy crepes and cider so authentic restaurants catering to these foods are widespread.
Eau de Vie is a very strong alcohol, similar to a vodka but produced from fruit, which gives it a distinct flavor. It was originally produced by the monks of the region. Look for the Eau de Vie de Mirabelle, which is a regional plum unique to Alsace.
address: 12, rue de l'AngeThis small hotel is family owned and they make their own wines. The building is extremely historic and is within walking distance of museums and bike rental companies. Bathroom is shared but rooms have their own shower and kitchen furnished with utensils.
address: 19 Rue des TêtesOfficially classified as an historic monument, this 4 star hotel and gourmet restaurant is set around a beautiful medieval courtyard.
- The Massif des Vosges is nearby and offers a lot to nature lovers (in winter as well as in summer).
- Alsatian Vineyard Route passes through Colmar. Some of its medieval towns and villages are justifiedly popular among tourists (Riquewihr, Ribeauvillé (Rappoltsweiler), Kaysersberg as well as Eguisheim, Turckheim, Bergheim, all near Colmar). Others are virtually unknown, but have a charm of their own (like St. Hypolite in the mountains). All of them offer beautiful medieval architecture, wonderful wine, good Alsatian food and a lovely pastoral atmosphere. An alternative to driving or using public transportation to visit the medieval towns, is to hire a tourist taxi from Colmar.
- Haut-Kœnigsbourg (Hohkönigsburg) — a fully restored medieval castle on the top of the mountain near Sélestat (Schlettstadt).
- Strasbourg and Basel (Basle) are close by and are interesting cities to visit.
- There are also a series of charming towns ten to twenty minutes bus rideaway. Visit Turckheim for a colourful medieval escape with plenty of eateries, or Wintzenheim to get a great view of the surrounding mountains.
- Mulhouse is at the end of the Route de Vins. This town was badly damaged in WWII and consequently not as much of a tourist attraction, so skip it if you are pressed for time.
- Near Basel, Laufenburg, Germany and Laufenburg, Switzerland are another pair of beautiful medieval towns situated on both banks of the Rhine with a lovely route along the Rhine leading to them.
- Across the German side you will find Freiburg and the beautiful Black Forest (Schwarzwald).
- The historical casino town of Baden-Baden is also a short journey away.