Colmar Tourist Attractions
Colmar, chief town of the département of Haut-Rhin in Upper Alsace and the third largest town in Alsace (after Strasbourg and Mulhouse), lies near the vine-covered foothills of the southern Vosges, in the climatically favored Upper Rhine plain.
Situated near the mouths of two major valleys in the Vosges, it is an excellent center from which to explore the High Vosges; and with its picturesque old burghers' houses of the 16th and 17th centuries and its many treasures of art it is also one of the principal tourist attractions of Alsace in its own right.Apart from the tourist trade, Colmar's economy depends on the textile industry, the production of foodstuffs and metal-working, together with market gardening (vegetables). 20km/12.5mi southeast of the town is the Rhine port of Colmar-Neuf-Brisach. The town, first recorded in 823 under the name of Columbarium ("Dovecot"), was surrounded by walls in 1220. The Emperor Frederick II granted it the status of a free imperial city, which soon became the most important market town in Upper Alsace and a center of art and learning. In 1354 Colmar joined the "Decapolis", the league of 10 imperial cities in Alsace. The town was closely involved in the Reformation. During the Thirty Years War it was occupied by the Swedes and in 1673 by the French, and thereafter shared the destinies of Alsace.Colmar was the birthplace of the painter and engraver Martin Schongauer (1445- 1491), and the painter Matthias Groenewald (1470-1528), the last and greatest master of the Late Gothic period, also worked here. Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi (1834-1904), who created the Lion of Belfort and New York's Statue of Liberty, was a native of Colmar.
Champ de Mars
On the west side of Colmar old town, extending along the busy Avenue de la République, is the Champ de Mars, a long tree-planted open space which until 1804 was a military parade ground and then became a municipal park. On its west side is the Head Post Office, to the south is the Préfecture (1869), and 500m/550yd southwest is the railroad station (1905). To the north of the Champ de Mars, in the Place du 18 Novembre, is the Municipal Theater (1849).
The Unterlinden Museum is housed in the former Dominican convent of Unterlinden, built in the 13th C. The museum displays sculptures, paintings, crafts, and contemporary art.
In the old town of Colmar, with its narrow and winding streets, are many burghers' houses of the 16th and 17th centuries. To the south of the Unterlinden Museum, at 19 rue des Têtes, is the Maison des Têtes ("House of the Heads"), a handsome Renaissance building (1609) decorated with numerous heads and figures; it is now occupied by a well-known restaurant. Farther south, in Rue des Boulangers and Rue des Serruriers (Bakers' Street and Locksmiths' Street), are other picturesque old half- timbered houses.
In Colmar, from the bridges over the Lauch, beyond Rue St-Jean, there are attractive views of Colmar's "Little Venice", with picturesque old houses and willow-trees lining the river, and the tower of St Martin's church.
In Colmar, in Rue des Serruriers is the Dominican Church (13th-15th C), a fine example of the Early Gothic architecture of the Rhineland. The interior, its roof supported on extraordinarily slender pillars, contains fine stained glass (14th-15th C) and altars from Marbach Abbey, near Eguisheim. In the choir is the famous "Virgin of the Rose Garden", a masterpiece by Martin Schongauer (1473). On the north side of the church is the former Dominican monastery, with a 14th C cloister (serenade concerts). It now houses the Municipal Library (manuscripts of eighth-15th C, incunabula). Northeast of the Dominican monastery, in Rue des Clefs (the main shopping street of the old town), is the 18th C Town Hall.
In Colmar, southeast of the Town Hall, in the Grand' Rue, is a former Franciscan church (begun 1292), which has been a Protestant church since 1575, with a rood screen and a high choir. Opposite the church, to the south, is the Maison des Arcades, with arcades and oriel windows, which was built in 1606 to house the Protestant pastor.
In Colmar, opposite St-Martin, to the southwest, is the former Guard-House (Ancien Corps de Garde, 1575), with an oriel window from which the decisions of the town council used to be announced. To the left of this building is the Gothic Maison Adolph (14th century), the town's oldest surviving private house.At the corner of the picturesque rue Mercière and rue des Marchands is the Maison Pfister (1537), one of the finest old houses in Colmar, with wooden galleries.Also in Rue des Marchands is the Bartholdi Museum, with mementos of the famous sculptor (1834-1904), who was born here.
In Colmar, a little way southeast of the Maison Pfister, in Place du Marché-aux-Fruits (Fruitmarket Square), is the Old Custom House (Ancienne Douane or Koifhus), built in 1480, with 16th and 18th century additions. This was once the economic and political center of the town: the ground floor was used as a warehouse for goods awaiting payment of duty and on the first floor is the handsome council chamber of the league of imperial cities, with the coats of arms of the 10 cities on the windows. On the east side of the Custom House is the Place de l'Ancienne Douane, with the Schwendi Fountain (by Bartholdi), commemorating the Imperial General Lazarus von Schwendi (1552-1584), who is credited with having brought the Tokay vine from Hungary during the Turkish wars and introduced it into Alsace. (This claim is disputed, since the Ruländer grape which is known in Alsace as Tokay in fact came from France.)
To the southeast of the Old Customs House in Colmar is the Quartier des Tanneurs (Tanners' Quarter), splendidly restored from 1968 to 1974, with handsome half-timbered houses. At the west corner of the Market Hall is the Fontaine du Vigneron or Wine-Grower's Fountain (by Bartholdi, 1869). Opposite the Ancienne Douane, to the southwest, is the 18th C Palais de Justice (Law Courts). Farther southwest is the Venetian-style Hôtel des Chevaliers de St-Jean (1608), one of the most unusual Renaissance mansions in Alsace.To the southeast is the picturesque Krutenau Quarter, traversed by the Rue Turenne.
Place de la Cathédrale
In Place de la Cathédrale, in the center of Colmar old town, is the church of St-Martin, originally Gothic but largely rebuilt in the 18th century It has preserved a High Gothic choir (1350-1366) and the richly decorated St Nicholas Doorway in the south transept; the choir contains 15th century stained glass and fine carved woodwork.
St Pierre Church
In Colmar, near the west end of the Boulevard St-Pierre is the church of St-Pierre, a handsome Baroque structure erected by the Jesuits in the mid 18th century on the site of a Carolingian royal stronghold. In the gardens to the west of the church is a monument to the Colmar physicist G. A. Hirn (1815-1890), by Bartholdi.
Le Jardin d'Altitude du Haut Chitelet
Le Jardin d'Altitude du Haut Chitelet contains over 2,500 species of high-altitude and cold weather plants. Many of the plants are very rare and grouped by their region of origin.The garden faces harsh climates with excessive rainfall and the chance of snow from October through to May.
The Colmar Fair began in 1948. This three-day fair takes place in early August and features an open-air theatre that seats 10,000 for various shows.
Map of Colmar Attractions