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13 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Colmar

Written by Lisa Alexander
Nov 17, 2020

Amid the vine-covered foothills of the southern Vosges Mountains, the picturesque town of Colmar offers an exceptional wealth of historic attractions. Colmar exudes a special old-world ambience, as it has remained relatively unchanged over the centuries. Wandering the ancient quarters takes visitors on a pleasant journey back in time.

During the medieval era, Colmar was an important marketplace, as well as a center of art and learning. The town's fascinating cultural heritage is visible in its lovely residential houses, as well as in the Catholic, Protestant, and Dominican houses of worship.

One of the most quintessential Alsatian towns, Colmar boasts quaint cobblestone streets; canal-side neighborhoods; and traditional Alsatian half-timbered houses, painted in fanciful candy colors and decorated with vibrant potted flowers. Colmar is one of the best places to visit to discover the enchantment and historic attractions of the Alsace region.

Colmar is blessed with a mild semi-continental climate and the unspoiled natural surroundings of the Upper Rhine Valley, which is lush with pristine forests and lakes. This enchanting town is the perfect starting point for exploring the Alsace region. Find the best things to see and do with our list of the top tourist attractions in Colmar.

See also: Where to Stay in Colmar

1. Old Town & Place de la Cathédrale

The Old Town of Colmar

Seemingly right out of a storybook, the charming Old Town of Colmar is a captivating maze of winding cobblestone streets lined with typical Alsatian burghers' houses. This well-preserved historic area lies between the Rue des Têtes, the Rue des Clefs, and the Rue des Marchands near the Place de la Cathédrale.

Visitors may begin a tour of Colmar at the Place de la Cathédrale, in the very heart of Colmar's old town. On this square is the Collégiale Saint-Martin (Saint-Martin Collegiate Church), originally a Gothic church that was largely rebuilt in the 18th century.

Another important historic monument on the Place de la Cathédrale is the Ancien Corps de Garde (Former Guard House) which has served many purposes, from a marketplace building to a justice hall and military housing. This historic edifice is a jewel of Alsatian Renaissance architecture.

The Maison Adolph also graces the square at 16 Place de la Cathédrale. Built in 1350 for the Adolph family, this lovely house is one of the oldest buildings in Colmar. Next to the Maison Adolph is a well featuring two lion heads that dates to 1592.

Continue sightseeing on the Grand Rue (a short walk away) and visit the Eglise Saint-Matthieu, a 13th-century Protestant church. A must-see attraction nearby is the Maison Pfister (11 Rue des Marchands), which dates to 1537 and is one of the first houses in Colmar to reveal elements of Renaissance architecture.

Steps away from the Maison Pfister, the Musée Bartholdi (30 Rue des Marchands) displays mementos of the famous sculptor Auguste Bartholdi. Nearby, the Rue des Boulangers (Bakers' street) and the Rue des Serruriers (Locksmiths' Street) are lined with attractive half-timbered buildings that house enticing little boutiques and cafés.

Not to be missed is La Maison des Têtes at 19 Rue des Têtes. This ornate Renaissance building features a facade decorated with over a hundred different personages (small busts) sculpted from stone. This elegant historic monument is now occupied by a five-star Relais & Châteaux hotel, with modern guest rooms, and a Michelin-starred fine-dining restaurant.

2. Musée Unterlinden

Musée Unterlinden | Office de Tourisme de Colmar / photo modified

This exceptional museum presents a diverse assortment of artworks in a 13th-century edifice (that was once a Dominican convent). The building is especially noteworthy for its beautifully preserved double-arcaded cloister. In 2015, the museum expanded its gallery space with an adjoining building that occupies the town's former municipal baths.

The Unterlinden Museum has an extensive collection of Romanesque and Gothic sculpture, medieval religious paintings, folk art and crafts, and decorative objects. The museum's 20th- and 21st-century art collection includes works by Claude Monet, Pierre Bonnard, Fernand Léger, Maurice Denis, Nicolas de Staël, and Pablo Picasso.

One of the highlights of the museum is the Isenheim Chapel, which contains fine paintings by early German artists. The chief treasure of the chapel is Matthias Grünewald's Retable d'Issenheim (polyptych), a masterpiece of religious art created around 1515 for the high altar of the Isenheim monastery (located near Guebwiller).

The museum's Café-Restaurant Schongauer serves refreshments, meals, and pâtisserie in a contemporary-style dining room or at the pleasant outdoor patio of a tree-lined courtyard. The museum also has a boutique that sells art-themed books and gift items.

Address: 1 Rue d'Unterlinden, Colmar

3. Eglise des Dominicains

Eglise des Dominicains

An excellent example of early Gothic architecture, the Dominican Church was founded in 1283 and construction began in the 14th century. With its simple and serene architecture, the church offers an insight into the lives of the Dominican preachers. This mendicant order contributed to the interest in mystical philosophy during the 14th and 15th centuries.

The church has a narrow high-vaulted nave adorned with exquisite works of art. Splendid stained-glass windows allow light to flow into the sanctuary and offer inspiration to worshipers. The choir displays the famous "Vierge au Buisson de Roses," a masterpiece created by the atelier of Martin Schongauer in 1473.

From the Dominican Church, it is a short walk to the Rue des Clefs, the main shopping street of Colmar's Old Town.

Address: Place des Dominicains, Colmar

4. Ko"fhus (Ancienne Douane)

Ko"fhus

Near the Place du Marché-aux-Fruits (the site of the old fruit market) and at the intersection of the Grand Rue and the Rue des Marchands, the Ko"fhus had a strategic location in medieval times. This 15th-century building, also known as the Ancienne Douane (Old Customs House), was once the economic and political center of Colmar.

The ground floor functioned as a warehouse for goods and a place to collect taxes on imports and exports. The first floor was the council chamber for the Décapole, the federation of imperial cities. You can still see the coats of arms of the ten cities on the windows.

The east side of the Ko"fhus faces the Place de l'Ancienne Douane with a Bartholdi fountain commemorating the Imperial General Lazarus von Schwendi. The building also has two adjoining wings created in the 16th century and a distinctive tile roof, the result of a 19th-century renovation.

From the Ko"fhus, visitors can easily reach the Grand Rue, one of the town's main thoroughfares that is lined with shops and restaurants.

Address: Place de l'Ancienne Douane

5. Quartier de la Krutenau (Petite Venise)

Quartier de la Krutenau

Just past the Rue Saint Jean, the Krutenau Quarter is a picture-perfect neighborhood with canal-side restaurants, quaint pedestrian bridges, and colorful half-timbered houses. Lush greenery and willow trees line the river, while flourishing potted flowers decorate the houses adding to the pleasant ambience.

This quarter is known as "Petite Venise" ("Little Venice") because the houses are built right on the edge of the Lauch River canal, and small boats take passengers on scenic rides. To soak up the enchanting ambience of Little Venice, visitors may begin a walking tour at the Rue de la Poissonnerie and continue along the canal until the Rue Turenne that traverses the quarter.

From the bridges on the canal, sightseers can enjoy lovely views of the quarter's charming houses and the tower of Saint Martin's church in the distance.

6. Quartier des Tanneurs

Fountain and half-timbered houses in the Quartier des Tanneurs

A short stroll from the Old Customs House takes you to the Quartier des Tanneurs (the Tanners' Quarter). The aptly named quarter was where tanners created leather products. They would use upper floors of the houses to dry out the skins.

This beautiful neighborhood is traversed by canals and features cobblestone streets lined with wonderfully restored half-timbered houses dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries. The Petite Rue des Tanneurs and the Rue des Tanneurs are atmospheric streets brimming with lively restaurants and enticing boutiques.

Another must-see in the Quartier des Tanneurs is the Maison des Chevaliers de Saint-Jean (House of the St. John's Knights), built in the style of a Venetian palace and one of the most unusual Renaissance mansions in Alsace.

Address: Rue des Tanneurs, Colmar

7. Quai de la Poissonnerie

Quai de la Poissonnerie

The district around the Quai de la Poissonnerie is the old fishmonger's district where fishermen once lived centuries ago. At the time, professional fishermen were a powerful entity in Colmar and had a bustling business. They fished to the greatest extent possible and stored their catches in fish ponds until they were sold at the market.

This idyllic quarter of quaint half-timbered houses is between the Quartier des Tanneurs and the Quartier de la Krutenau. Like the Quartier des Tanneurs, this historic area of Colmar is another vestige of the town's ancient professions.

8. Eglise Saint Martin

Eglise Saint Martin

On the Place de la Cathédrale in the center of Colmar's Old Town, the Saint Martin Collegiate Church is a wonderful example of Gothic architecture. Constructed between the 13th and 14th centuries, the church has a High Gothic choir and other ornate decorative details.

The Saint Nicholas Doorway features an intricate design, and the choir contains splendid 15th-century stained glass and fine carved woodwork.

The residents of Colmar often refer to this church as a cathedral, however technically it was only a cathedral for ten years from 1790 to 1801. Nonetheless, the architectural style reflects the grandeur of a medieval cathedral.

Address: Place de la Cathédrale, Colmar

9. Eglise Saint Matthieu

Eglise Saint Matthieu | Spiterman / photo modified

This church was once Colmar's Protestant house of worship. Similar to the Dominican Church, the building has an austere style that is typical of the mendicant orders of Alsace. It was constructed by the Franciscans beginning in 1292 and completed over a century later.

When the Franciscan monastery closed in 1543, the building was converted into a hospital. More recently, the church has been used for Protestant worship. In addition, the church is a venue for concerts because it has excellent acoustics.

Address: 9 Grand Rue, Colmar

10. Musée du Jouet de Colmar

Musée du Jouet de Colmar | (vincent desjardins) / photo modified

The Colmar Toy Museum displays over 1,000 toys created from the 19th century to the present day. Visitors are delighted by the assortment of dolls, stuffed animals, miniature train sets, model cars, rocking horses, and tricycles. There are also more modern items, such as robots, LEGO creations, and toys that encourage the discovery of science concepts.

Children will especially appreciate the games area, which allows interactive play. For many kids, one of the most amusing things to do at the museum is playing a game of giant checkers.

The museum hosts events, concerts, and temporary exhibitions throughout the year. At the museum's boutique, visitors can purchase toys, books, and games for kids of all ages. Favorite items include the Bukowski teddy bears and Norev model cars.

Address: 40 Rue Vauban, Colmar

Official site: www.museejouet.com

11. Ancien Corps de Garde (Former Guard House)

Ancien Corps de Garde (Former Guard House) | Guy MOLL / photo modified

Built on the site of the Chapel of Saint-Jacques that dates back to 1286, the former Guard House was established in 1575. The building has an oriel window, where the decisions of the town council used to be announced. Another interesting feature of the building is the ornately decorated loggia, which is considered a gem of Renaissance architecture in the Upper Rhine area.

Nearby is the 14th-century Maison Adolph, the town's oldest surviving private house.

Address: Place de la Cathédrale, Colmar

12. Chapelle Saint Pierre

Near the Quartier de la Krutenau past the Grand Rue is the lovely Baroque church of Saint Pierre. The church was built by the Jesuits in the mid 18th century on the site of the 10th-century Saint Pierre priory.

The church stands beside a peaceful garden. At the center of the garden's courtyard is a monument created by the local sculptor Bartholdi dedicated to the Colmar physicist G. A. Hirn (1815-1890).

Address: Boulevard du Général Leclerc, Colmar

13. Festival International de Colmar

The Festival International de Colmar gives classical music lovers a reason to visit Colmar in July. This renowned festival includes daytime chamber music concerts by composers such as Bach, Beethoven, Schumann, and evening soirées (orchestra performances or piano recitals) presenting pieces by Berlioz, Mozart, Brahms, Mendelssohn, and others.

Performances take place at the 18th-century Chapelle Saint Pierre and the 14th-century Eglise Saint Matthieu.

Where to Stay in Colmar for Sightseeing

The best area to stay in Colmar is in or near the Old Town, which is within walking distance to most of the top attractions, including the Musée Unterlinden, Eglise des Dominicains, Ko"fhus, and Little Venice. Here are some highly rated hotels in this convenient and central location:

  • Luxury Hotels: In Petite Venise, the chic four-star Hôtel Le Colombier occupies a Renaissance-era building that has been renovated in sleek contemporary style. Guest rooms feature minimalistic decor and modern amenities such as Nespresso coffee machines and flat-screen televisions.

    The boutique four-star Hôtel Le Maréchal in Petite Venise occupies a 15th-century Alsatian house adorned with potted flowers on the windowsills. In keeping with the traditional style of the building, the guest rooms are outfitted with old-fashioned bedding and decor.

    La Maison des Têtes is a listed historic monument in the heart of the Old Town. The Renaissance-era building has been converted into a five-star Relais & Châteaux hotel with a Michelin-starred restaurant. Guest rooms feature modern decor and original wood-beamed ceilings.
  • Mid-Range Hotels: A renovated 14th-century townhouse was converted to the three-star Hôtel Saint-Martin, at the center of the Old Town near the Grand Rue and the Ko"fhus. Most of the guest rooms are decorated in traditional Alsatian style with updated bathrooms.

    In the Old Town, just a five-minute walk from Petite Venise, the three-star Hôtel Turenne provides stylish modern guest rooms. Amenities include a lounge area and a wellness center with saunas and spa services.

    About a 10-minute walk to the Old Town, the sleek and modern Ibis Colmar Centre offers clean, compact rooms. This three-star hotel has a 24-hour front desk and a lounge area.
  • Budget Hotels: For travelers who are touring the region in a car, the Comfort Hotel Expo Colmar is a good choice. This modern three-star hotel is only a five-minute drive to the Old Town. The decor has an artistic flair.

    The Hôtel Centre Gare (Paul & Pia - Welcome Home Hotel) is within walking distance to the Old Town, as well as the train station. This three-star hotel offers a 24-hour front desk and an on-site restaurant.

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Colmar is an ideal place to begin a tour of the beautiful Alsace region in eastern France bordering Germany. Tourists will enjoy visiting the important historic towns, such as Strasbourg, Obernai, and Sélestat. It's also delightful to experience the region's quaint country charm, by venturing out into the hills, where storybook hamlets and picture-perfect villages dot the idyllic landscape.

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