Colmar or Strasbourg: Which One is Better? (from a Local)

Colmar and Strasbourg are two of the most visited towns in Alsace. Each one has its unique charm and beauty, attracting millions of tourists every year.

I’ve been living in Strasbourg since 2019 and have explored both towns extensively. I know the best things to do, the top places to eat, and the must-see sights in both towns.

And I often get asked the question: Which one is better, Colmar or Strasbourg?

The truth is, it depends on what you prefer.

In this guide, I’ll dive into both towns and cover what makes each one worth visiting so you can decide which is right for you.

Colmar or Strasbourg - Which One is Better?
Colmar vs Strasbourg

An Overview: Colmar or Strasbourg

When it comes to choosing between Strasbourg and Colmar, it ultimately depends on what type of traveler you are and what you’re looking for in a destination.

Think of Strasbourg as a cosmopolitan hub that blends modernity with history, while Colmar offers a quaint and picturesque escape.

Below I’ve summarized which town is best for each travel style.

Best for History Buffs – Strasbourg
Best for Bigger City Amenities – Strasbourg
Best for Foodies – Strasbourg
Best for Art and Culture – Strasbourg
Best for Nature Lovers – Colmar
Best for Romantic Getaways – Colmar
Best Base for Exploring the Alsace Wine Route – Colmar

Which is Better Strasbourg or Colmar?

Strasbourg has a diverse, multicultural vibe, grand historical sites, and a wide variety of restaurants.

It’s known for its stunning Notre Dame Cathedral, and the city’s historical center, Grande Île, is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

It’s also home to the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, and the European Court of Human Rights.

This is a photo of me, Jen Ciesielski, in Strasbourg's La Petite France. I'm wearing shorts, a jacket, and gym shoes. Behind me are white half-timbered houses. The most famous of these is La Maison des Tanneurs.
Strasbourg’s La Petite France

But what I love most about Strasbourg is the cultural scene. From new exhibits at its Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art to its enchanting Christmas market, there’s always something happening.

And the food scene is just as good as the cultural one. I’m always finding new restaurants, cafés, and bars to try.

In contrast, Colmar, often referred to as “Little Venice,” is a picturesque town that seems to have leaped straight out of a fairy tale.

It’s known for its well-preserved old town, half-timbered houses, and serene canals.

No matter how many times I visit, I’m always left amazed at just how beautiful it is.

This is Colmar's Little Venice at sunrise. There is a row of colorful half-timbered houses stacked together. Then in the foreground there are bouquets of flowers.
Colmar’s Little Venice

Colmar is also the capital of Alsatian wine and sits right on the infamous Alsace Wine Route. So, nearby villages like Eguisheim and Turckheim can easily be added to any itinerary based in Colmar.

Then, in December, the Christmas markets come alive with festive decorations and delectable treats.

So, which is better, Strasbourg or Colmar?

The answer depends on what you value more in a visit.

If you’re seeking a lively city with a rich history and dynamic culture, Strasbourg is your destination.

If you prefer a slower pace, with idyllic landscapes, charming architecture, and fine wine, then you’ll find Colmar is the better choice.

Either way, both towns promise a memorable experience. 

An Overview of Strasbourg

Located in the Bas-Rhin department, Strasbourg is a diverse city that serves as the official seat of several European institutions.

Below I’ll touch on some of the highlights that make it a must-visit destination.

Major Attractions

This is Pont Saint Saint Martin. It's one of the most picturesque spots in Strasbourg's La Petite France. There are four half-timbered houses, each one is a different color. The one on the far left is covered in flowers and hanging vines.
Pont Saint Martin

There are so many things to see and do in Strasbourg, but here are the major attractions:

La Petite France

A charming district known for its canals, colorful half-timbered houses, and quaint cafés. It’s easily the prettiest neighborhood in Strasbourg.

My favorite spots are Quai de la Petite France, Pont Saint Martin, and Place Benjamin Zix.

Strasbourg Cathedral

An architectural masterpiece, this Gothic cathedral towers over the city.

Its intricate details and stunning spire make it one of the most remarkable landmarks in the region.

Plus, the views from its highest platform are the best I’ve seen.

Palais Rohan

This 18th-century palace was once home to French royalty and now houses three museums (Museum of Decorative Arts, Museum of Fine Arts, and Archaeological Museum).

Of the three, my favorite was the Museum of Decorative Arts.

Parc de l’Orangerie

This is my favorite park in town. It’s also the largest and oldest in Strasbourg.

Parc de l’Orangerie is like a green oasis, perfect for a stroll or an afternoon picnic. You can even rent a paddle boat and explore the lake.

European Parliament

Strasbourg is one of four capitals of the European Union. It’s also home to the European Parliament.

I loved touring the visitor center and learning about how this unique government shapes policies, laws, and politics.

Cultural Things to Do

This is a traditional bedroom at the Alsatian museum. The floor and walls are made of wood. There is a rocking horse, a chair, and a bed.
Alsatian Museum

Strasbourg is a melting pot of French and German influences, resulting in a unique culture worth exploring.

Here are some ways to experience it:

Visit the Vauban Dam

This 17th-century fortification was built by Jacques Tarade and is a testament to Strasbourg’s rich history.

It also offers great views of the city and La Petite France.

Sunrise and sunset are my favorite times to visit.

Explore the Christmas Market

Strasbourg is known as the “Capital of Christmas” and for good reason.

At Christmas, the city is filled with charming wooden chalets selling handmade crafts and delicious food and drinks.

I’ve been every year since I moved to Strasbourg. I can never get enough of the festive atmosphere and decorations.

Tour a Museum

Strasbourg has tons of museums worth visiting. But, of the ones I’ve been to, the Alsatian Museum stands out.

It’s the best place to learn more about the traditions and history of the region.

Plus, you’ll get to see what a traditional half-timbered house looks like on the inside.

Go on a Batorama Boat Tour

Of the tours I’ve done, the 20 Centuries of History tour was my favorite.

It was a relaxing way to see the city’s beautiful architecture and learn more about its history.

Foodie Things to Do

These are the Madeleines du Voyage from Au Fond du Jardin in Strasbourg. There is a tray with three levels and each one is filled with Madeleines. They are all decorated with different color frosting.
Madeleines du Voyage from Au Fond du Jardin

Strasbourg is a food lover’s paradise.

Here are some must-try experiences:

Dine at Restaurant Gurtlerhoft

This restaurant is by far the coolest place I’ve eaten at in Strasbourg.

It’s set in a 14th-century wine cellar under the Strasbourg Cathedral, and they serve some of the best traditional cuisine in town.

I took the Alsatian menu, and the choucroute garnie was my main course. To date, it’s the best I’ve ever had.

Try Local Cheeses

France is famous for its cheeses and Strasbourg is no exception.

For everything cheese, La Cloche à Fromage is my go-to restaurant.

Everything from the starter to the dessert is made with cheese.

Explore the Chocolate Museum

For all the chocoholics out there, this museum is a must-visit.

You’ll learn about the history of chocolate and even try some delicious samples.

But what I loved most was the workshop.

I got to make some chocolate bars to take home!

Visit the Oldest Barrel of Wine in the World

Strasbourg is home to the oldest barrel of wine in the world, dating back to 1472.

It’s housed in an underground cellar at the Cave Historique des Hospices de Strasbourg and is free to visit.

Go for Afternoon Tea at Fond du Jardin

This charming tearoom serves the most delicious pastries and teas.

I’m not a tea person and I absolutely loved it.

I took the Formule Dégustation so I could try everything.

Sample Alsatian Cuisine

As a border city, Strasbourg has a unique blend of French and German cuisine.

My two favorite traditional Alsatian dishes are choucroute garnie and tarte flambée.

An Overview of Colmar

Located in the Haut-Rhin department, Colmar is known for its well-preserved old town and traditional Alsatian architecture.

Here are some highlights of what makes this town worth a visit.

Major Attractions

This is Quai de la Poissonnerie in Colmar's Little Venice. It's a row of colorful half-timbered houses along the canal.
Quai de la Poissonnerie

While Colmar might be smaller than Strasbourg, there are still a ton of things to do.

Here is a list of its major attractions:

Little Venice

This picturesque neighborhood is a must-see in Colmar. I’ve been hundreds of times, and I still can’t get enough of the colorful half-timbered houses.

My favorite street is Quai de la Poissonnerie.

Unterlinden Museum

Housed in a former 13th-century Dominican convent, here you’ll find a stunning collection from the Middle Ages to the present day.

But its most famous piece is the Isenheim Altarpiece.

Saint Martin’s Church

This 14th-century Gothic church was where Caspar Isenmann’s painting stood until 1853.

He painted a series of panels that depicted the life of Jesus Christ.

They are, now, stored at the Unterlinden Museum, but the inside of the church is still worth visiting.

La Maison des Têtes

This 17th-century building is one of the most unique buildings I’ve been to in Alsace.

There are over 100 sculpted heads on its façade, each representing a different emotion or character.

Maison Pfister

Another well-preserved historic building, this Renaissance house features intricate frescoes and beautiful bay windows.

You can’t tour the inside, but it’s worth the photo opportunity.

Parc du Champs Mars

If you want to take a break from the bustling streets of Colmar, this park is the perfect spot.

It’s a peaceful spot with lovely sculptures and a fountain.

On more than one occasion I picked up a few snacks from the local market and had an afternoon picnic here.

Cultural Things to Do

This is Colmar's Old Town. There are two half-timbered buildings and people are in front of them eating and drinking. There is a canal in the foreground and it's covered in baskets of flowers.
Colmar’s Old Town

Like Strasbourg, Colmar has a mix of French and German influences. Here are some of the best cultural things to do:

Wine Tasting

Colmar is in the heart of the Alsace wine region, making it the perfect place to sample some of France’s best wines.

There are tons of nearby wineries, but, if you’re visiting in summer, I recommend stopping by the Alsace Wine Fair or Foire Aux Vins d’Alsace.

Ride in a Gondola

Of the activities I’ve done in Colmar, taking a ride in a Gondola on the Lauch River was my favorite.

I got to see Colmar from a different perspective and learn about the city’s history and architecture.

I booked my ride with Sweet Narcisse. Their tours are easily the best in town.

Explore the Old Town

Colmar’s Old Town is a maze of narrow cobbled streets lined with colorful half-timbered houses.

My favorite street in this part of town was Grand Rue.

There are tons of cafés, restaurants, and quaint shops. I loved walking around and checking out all the beautiful buildings. The Maison dite “au Pèlerin” was my favorite.

Visit the Christmas Market

In December, Colmar transforms into a winter wonderland with its famous Christmas market.

Enjoy festive decorations, traditional food and drinks, and holiday shopping.

Compared to the one in Strasbourg, I thought it was far less crowded.

Bike the Alsace Wine Route

If you’re looking for a base to explore the Alsace Wine Route by bike, Colmar is it.

Some of my favorite nearby towns are Eguisheim, Turckheim, and Kaysersberg.

I’ve visited all three by bike. And the route was easy, well-marked, and very scenic.

Foodie Things to Do

This is Colmar's covered market. There is a huge vegetable and fruit stand with tons of options. People are shopping in front of it and picking what they want.
Colmar’s Covered Market

When you think of Colmar, you don’t think of food. But there are still some foodie things worth checking out.

Here are the best experiences:

Try a Tarte Flambée

Originating from Alsace, this thin pizza-like dish is a must-try in Colmar.

And, while you can try it at any restaurant, the best I’ve had is at La Terrasse du Marché.

Tour Choco Story Colmar

This museum was very similar to the one in Strasbourg.

I learned about the history of chocolate and how it’s made.

I also got to take some treats home with me.

But the major difference was accessibility. It was far easier to get to the one in Colmar than the one in Strasbourg.

Visit the Covered Market

The indoor market in Colmar is a food lover’s paradise and my favorite place to shop for local snacks.

They have everything from pretzels to fresh fruit. There are even a few stands selling souvenirs.

Comparing Strasbourg and Colmar

Now that I’ve highlighted some of the top things to do in both Strasbourg and Colmar, let’s compare the two.

Architecture

This is Strasbourg's Saint Paul's Church at Sunset. It's made of a pinkish stone and has two spires. I took this picture from across the street so you can see the entire front of the church. It's surrounded by tall green trees and you can see the reflection of the church in the water below.
Saint Paul’s Church

Both Strasbourg and Colmar are known for their stunning architecture.

But they each have their unique style.

Strasbourg has a more grandiose feel with its towering gothic cathedral and imposing government buildings. There’s La Petite France, which shows off its beautiful half-timbered houses.

Then, there’s Neustadt, the new town with German-styled buildings like Palais du Rhin and Saint Paul’s Church.

Colmar has a more charming and intimate atmosphere with its colorful half-timbered houses.

And, of the streets I’ve walked down, Quai de la Poissonnerie is easily the prettiest in Alsace.

Food

This is a plate of choucroute garnie. It's a typical Alsatian dish with sauerkraut, potatoes, and sausages. You can find dishes like this both in Colmar and Strasbourg.
Choucroute Garnie

Strasbourg and Colmar are in the same region, so their food is very similar. But there are far more restaurants in Strasbourg.

I found Strasbourg’s food scene far better than Colmar’s. It’s more varied and not just heavy Alsatian dishes.

There are international restaurants as well as those that serve modern takes on traditional food.

Accessibility

This is a tram in Strasbourg. Even though Strasbourg is bigger than Colmar it has lots of public transport to help you get around.
Strasbourg’s Tram

In terms of getting around, I found Colmar to be more accessible on foot.

The town is smaller and easier to navigate.

It’s also closer to the Alsace Wine Route, so taking day trips to towns like Kaysersberg and Eguisheim is very easy.

But Strasbourg has better public transport with trams and buses connecting different parts of the city.

There are also direct trains to and from Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport.

Most importantly, traveling from Colmar to Strasbourg and vice versa is simple, fast, and convenient.

There are tons of options whether you want to drive, take the train, or bike.

Helpful Tip: There are trains from Paris that go to Colmar, but not from either of its airports.

Size

This is a bird's Eye View of Strasbourg from the Strasbourg Cathedral's platform. You can see just how big this city is compared to Colmar. You can see the roof of the houses.
View of Strasbourg

Colmar is a lot smaller than Strasbourg, so there is more of an intimate feel. It’s easy to see in a day, and, during peak tourist season, it’s far less crowded.

That also means there are a lot less big city amenities.

Strasbourg has a bigger selection of shops, restaurants, and entertainment options.

There is always something open, even on Sundays. But you’ll need at least two or three days to see everything.

Cultural Experiences

This is the Isenheim Altarpiece from the Unterlinden Museum in Colmar. It has 4 wooden panels (3 on top and one of the bottom) and each one shows a scene from the Bible.
The Isenheim Altarpiece at Unterlinden Museum

Both Strasbourg and Colmar have a rich history and culture.

Strasbourg is home to the European Parliament, making it more diverse with cultural experiences.

It also has renowned museums showcasing various art styles and the history of the region.

Colmar has preserved its traditional Alsatian architecture and charm, so you’ll get to see what it looked like long ago.

It’s also home to the region’s most visited museum, the Unterlinden Museum, and a replica of the Statue of Liberty.

Accommodation

This is a popular hotel in Strasbourg's La Petite France. On the left is the terrace looking out onto Benjamin Zix Place. There are half-timbered houses and green trees in the distance.
There’s More Accommodation in Strasbourg

Both Strasbourg and Colmar offer a range of hotels and apartments.

But Strasbourg has more options for different types of travelers. Whether you want to stay in a quiet area or next to the cathedral, there are tons of places to choose from.

Colmar has fewer options, especially for budget travelers. And, if you don’t book in advance, you could find yourself without a place to stay.

There are, however, lots of boutique hotels, spas, and guesthouses, which makes for a more unique experience.

Conclusion

Both Strasbourg and Colmar have their unique charm and attractions.

While Strasbourg may offer more options for accommodation, food, and activities, Colmar provides a quieter and more intimate experience.

Either way, both towns are worth a visit and offer something special for every type of traveler.

So why not plan a trip to both and experience the best of what the beautiful Alsace region has to offer?


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Jen Ciesielski
Jen Ciesielski

Jen Ciesielski is the creator of Dabbling in Jet Lag. She has lived abroad for over ten years, traveled to more than 50 countries, and speaks French and English fluently. Her areas of expertise include moving abroad, learning languages, and travel planning. Originally from the United States, she now lives in France, where she has been for more than six years. She has also traveled extensively around the country. She shares her experiences as an expat living in France and helps thousands of people plan their trips every month.

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