What is Colmar Famous For? 17 of Its Best Kept Secrets

Colmar is, undoubtedly, one of the most charming towns in Alsace. It’s steeped in centuries of history and culture, with a rich heritage that has been carefully preserved over time.

Since moving to the capital of Alsace, Strasbourg, in 2019, I’ve been to Colmar dozens of times. And I’m always taken aback by its beauty and fairytale-like atmosphere.

Here colorful houses line cobbled streets and centuries-old canals run through the town center. The museums house some of the most spectacular pieces in the region and the food is beyond tasty.

But what is Colmar famous for?

In this guide, I’ll take you through everything that it’s famed for and share some of its best-kept secrets.

What is Colmar Famous For
What is Colmar Renowned For?

Overview: What is Colmar Famous For?

If you’re short on time, I’ve put together a quick summary of this guide.

Here’s a list of what Colmar is most famous for:

  • Picturesque Old Town
  • Colorful Half-Timbered Houses
  • The Unterlinden Museum
  • Delicious Alsatian Cuisine
  • An Enchanting Christmas Market
  • Wine and the Alsace Wine Route

17 Things Colmar is Known For

This small Alsatian town is famous for many things. From its half-timbered medieval buildings to its hearty cuisine, there’s no shortage of things to see, do, and taste in Colmar.

Below I’ll cover 17 things that Colmar is most renowned for.

1. Charming Old Town

This is Colmar's Old Town. There are two half-timbered houses that are restaurants. People are outside on the terraces and there are trees framing the photo.
Colmar’s Old Town

Colmar’s Old Town, also known as Vieille Ville, is always my first stop when I visit this quaint town. The cobblestone streets, colorful buildings, and artisanal shops create a fairytale-like setting.

I love wandering through the winding alleys and squares. And, if the weather is nice, nothing beats stopping at Restaurant Au Koïfhus and enjoying a glass of Riesling on the shaded terrace.

Some of my favorite streets in this part of town are Grand Rue, where you’ll find the infamous Maison dite “au Pèlerin,” and Rue de l’Église, the street that leads to Saint Martin’s Church.

2. Beautiful Architecture

This is La Maison des Têtes in Colmar. It's a tall stone building with several windows, each decorated with stone heads. There are over 100 heads all over the front.
La Maison des Têtes

Colmar’s architecture is another must-see. The town boasts buildings from the medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque periods. And they are all beautifully preserved.

The most iconic are the half-timbered houses that line the canals in Little Venice (more on that later). But you’ll find tons of other examples throughout Colmar.

There’s the Pfister House, which is a Renaissance house from the 16th century, and Saint Martin’s Church, an impressive Gothic church dating back to the 13th century.

But my favorite is Maison des Têtes or House of Heads. This quirky 17th-century masterpiece is covered in over a hundred stone heads. And its style stands out more than any other building in town.

3. Unterlinden Museum

This is Matthias Grünewald's Isenheim Altarpiece at the Unterlinden Museum. It has four wooden panels and each one tells a Biblical story.
The Isenheim Altarpiece

The Unterlinden Museum is not only the most known in Colmar, but it’s also the most visited museum in Alsace.

And while it might not be obvious why. Of the museums, I’ve been to, I can honestly say that it is that good.

The museum houses a vast collection, ranging from the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and modern periods.

Over the years, I’ve spent hours wandering through its halls. There are so many fascinating exhibits to explore.

But its most famous piece is Matthias Grünewald’s Issenheim Altarpiece, which dates to the 16th century.

4. Colorful Half-Timbered Houses

These are the colorful Half-Timbered Houses on Pont Rue Turenne. There is a canal in the middle and half-timbered houses, each a different color, on either side.
Pont Rue Turenne

As I mentioned before, the half-timbered houses are a staple of Colmar’s architecture. But what makes them even more impressive is their bright color.

Each one is different and when you see them all in a row, it’s spectacular.

In the past, these colors were used to identify the owner’s profession, but now they are just a charming aesthetic that makes Colmar unique.

Some of my favorite spots are Quai de la Poissonnerie, Pont Rue des Écoles, Pont Rue Turenne, and Place de l’Ancienne Douane.

They are all extremely popular so if you want to visit without the crowds, I recommend going at sunrise or sunset.

5. The Alsace Wine Route

This is Eguisheim. It's another village not far from Colmar on the Alsace Wine Route. This is a photo of it's most famous half-timbered house. It has an arch in front of the house and it's covered in vines. There are two cobbled streets on either side of the house.

The Alsace Wine Route is the oldest in France. It starts in Marlenheim and weaves its way down to Thann, passing picturesque villages, rolling vineyards, and wineries.

In total, it’s 170 kilometers (105 miles), which means you’ll need quite a few days to see everything.

But if you only have a few days, then Colmar is the perfect base. It sits right in the heart of the Alsace Wine Route.

You can rent a car or a bike, take the train, or even walk.

I, personally, love exploring this part of Alsace by bike. I’ve ridden from Colmar to Eguisheim, Turckheim, and Kaysersberg. The routes to all three are well-marked, mostly flat, and doable as a day trip.

Helpful Tip: Colmar has several shops that rent bikes, but the most convenient is Lokabike Colmar. Their website is in English, and you can make reservations online.

6. Bartholdi Museum

This is a famous statue outside the Bartholdi Museum in Colmar. It has three people holding up the world.
The Bartholdi Museum

The Bartholdi Museum is dedicated to the sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, who was born and raised in Colmar.

While he is most known for designing the Statue of Liberty, this museum showcases his other works as well. There are sculptures, paintings, and photographs.

They even have his original drawings and models for some of his most famous pieces.

And it’s all housed in his former childhood home.

It was fascinating to see how his vision and ideas came to life and walking around his home added another layer to understanding the artist.

It helped me picture him growing up in Colmar and how it influenced his work.

7. Statue of Liberty Replica

This is a Statue of Liberty replica. It's a lady wearing a crown. She's holding a tablet and a torch.
Statue of Liberty Replica

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi’s death, the city commissioned a mini version of the Statue of Liberty.

This beautiful 12-meter (39-foot) replica stands at the northern entrance on the road between Strasbourg and Colmar.

It pays tribute to the artist, his work, and France’s link with the United States.

You can’t go inside like the one in New York, but you can get a close look and take some great photos. It’s also free to visit!

8. Schwendi Fountain

This is the Schwendi Fountain in Colmar. It's a circular fountain with a statue in the middle. There are white houses in back of it.
Schwendi Fountain

Located in the heart of Colmar’s old town is the infamous Schwendi Fountain.

The statue in the center was designed by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi.

It features Lazarus von Schwendi, a military commander in the Imperial Army who played a vital role in developing Alsatian wine.

The statue was first shown at the 1897 Paris Exhibition and was moved to this fountain the following year.

But today it’s most known as the Beauty and the Beast Fountain.

When I was younger, I loved watching Beauty and the Beast. It was my all-time favorite Disney movie.

So, if you’re like me, then you’ll know that this fountain looks like the one that Belle is sitting on while reading a book and surrounded by her sheep.

9. Little Venice Neighborhood

This is the view from my  Gondola Ride in Colmar. There is the front of the boat. Then in the back you can see colorful half-timbered houses on either side of the canal.
View from my Gondola

The most beautiful and famous neighborhood in Colmar is Little Venice.

Here you’ll find winding canals, picturesque half-timbered houses, and flower-covered bridges.

While I love exploring the area on foot, taking a boat is much more relaxing.

I’ve tried different tours but Sweet Narcisse offers the best ones. Their guides are local to the region, and they share some of the most fascinating stories.

I also recommend having lunch or dinner on the canal.

There are a few restaurants with a terrace over the water. And, of the ones that do, Les Bateliers is the best.

I loved the cozy atmosphere, the friendly waiters, and the tasty food.

My table was right next to the water and the setting couldn’t have been more perfect.

10. Enchanting Christmas Market

These are Christmas market stalls in Colmar. There are three stalls in total. They are wooden and decorated with Christmas ornaments.
Colmar’s Christmas Market

In December, Colmar transforms into a magical winter wonderland and plays host to one of the best Christmas markets in the country.

The streets are covered in decorations and there are stalls selling everything from local crafts to mulled wine.

I’ve been to tons of Christmas markets in Alsace, and Colmar’s is one of my favorites.

Compared to the one in Strasbourg, which is the most famous, it’s much smaller but cozier and more intimate.

It’s worth adding to your itinerary if you’re in town for the holidays.

11. Alsatian Wine

This is a bottle of wine from Alsace. It's surrounded by vineyards.
Wine from Alsace

There’s no denying that Alsace is most known for its wine. And of all the towns along the Alsace Wine Route, Colmar has been dubbed the capital of Alsatian wine.

You can try a glass at any restaurant in town, buy a bottle at a cave à vin, or go on a wine-tasting tour.

Two of my favorite wineries in Colmar are Domaine Martin Jund and Domaine Robert Karcher et Fils. Both offer tours of their facilities and wine tastings.

Colmar even hosts a wine fair, Foire Aux Vins d’Alsace, every summer. It’s an amazing event with music, food, and, of course, wine.

12. Hearty Cuisine

This is a plate of Choucroute garnie. There is sauerkraut topped with three different kinds of pork. And there are two potatoes.
Choucroute Garnie

There’s no better way to experience the culture in Colmar than to try its traditional food. It perfectly blends the best of German and French cuisine.

One of the most popular dishes is tarte flambée. It’s a thin pizza-like dish topped with cream, onions, and bacon. And the best ones are cooked in a wood-fired oven.

I’ve tried hundreds of different recipes, but the tarte flambée from La Terrasse du Marché in Colmar was the tastiest I’ve ever had. The cheese was gooey, and the crust was crispy. It was beyond perfect.

Another must-try is choucroute garnie. It’s a simple dish that consists of sauerkraut and various types of meats such as pork and sausage.

And, while it might not sound appealing at first, it’s a favorite among locals for a reason.

13. Rue des Marchands

This is Rue des Marchands in Colmar. There are several white half-timbered houses in a row.
Rue des Marchands

Rue des Marchands, also known as Merchants Street, is a historic street in the heart of Colmar. It offers a unique blend of old-world charm and modern-day buzz.

As you wander down the cobblestoned path, you’ll pass by perfectly preserved half-timbered houses. Most of these are, now, home to boutique shops, cafés, and restaurants.

It’s also where you’ll find the Bartholdi Museum and the Pfister House.

Needless to say, with so much going on, Rue des Marchands can get quite busy during the day.

So, rather than get overwhelmed by the crowds, I head to Chez Hansi. They have a huge terrace that is perfect for people-watching.

I love hanging out here and enjoying the ambiance with a glass of Alsatian wine.

14. Covered Market

This is the inside Colmar's covered market. There is a fruit and vegetable stand with rows and rows of fresh products. Then there are people shopping and choosing their fruit.
Colmar’s Covered Market

I’ve been to a lot of local markets in Alsace. Most towns have one during the week and on weekends. But the covered market in Colmar sits at the top of my list.

I love the variety of vegetables, fruits, and cheeses. They are always fresh and locally sourced.

It’s also a great place to pick up some snacks for a bike ride on the Alsace Wine Route or a picnic in Parc du Champ de Mars.

The market is open every day, but I recommend going early in the morning when there are fewer people.

15. Toy Museum

This is an exhibit at Colmar's Toy Museum. It's an old Sega. There is a TV, the console, and games on a stand.
Colmar’s Toy Museum

The Toy Museum in Colmar is one of the most unique museums I’ve been to. And I can guarantee there’s not another one like it in the area.

Here you’ll find a huge collection of toys and games that go back nearly 200 years. From Barbie dolls and Legos to Candyland and Atari, they have everything you can imagine.

And, while you might think it’s for kids, as an adult, I had a blast. I loved seeing all the things I played with as a kid and reminiscing about my childhood.

16. Koïfhus

This is Colmar's Old Customs House at Christmas. It's a stone building with a terrace on the second floor. There wooden stalls decorated with ornaments and lights. Then there's an archway that connect the two adjacent streets and people are walking through it.
Old Customs House

Koïfhus or Old Customs House is one of the oldest administrative buildings in Colmar. It dates to the 15th century and was used for storing goods that would later be taxed and for governmental meetings.

Today, it sits at the intersection of the two busiest streets, Grand Rue and Rue des Marchands, making it impossible to miss. It’s also a restaurant and exhibition center.

My favorite time to pass by the Old Customs House is during the Christmas market. With its festive ornaments and lights, it’s beyond photogenic, even Instagrammable.

17. Pfister House

This is a close-up of Colmar's Pfister House. There is a wooden terrace on each floor as well as bay window. There are also wooden panels with paintings of Biblical scenes.
Pfister House

One of the most iconic attractions in Colmar is the Pfister House. This grand, ornate house was built by a wealthy hatter in 1537 and has become one of the symbols of the city.

It’s easy to see why with its beautiful bay windows and intricately carved wooden terraces.

But the real reason people flock here is to check out the panels. Each one is like a mini fresco with detailed paintings of Biblical scenes.

You can’t tour the inside, but the exterior is so spectacular, it’s worth stopping by.

Conclusion: What is Colmar, France Known For?

Colmar is the perfect blend of history, art, food, and festivities.

There are so many things that this little town is famous for, it’s difficult to choose my favorite.

I love that it has maintained its medieval charm while offering modern amenities.

But if I had to pick one thing that makes Colmar truly special, it would be the Little Venice neighborhood.

It’s everything Colmar represents – a charming, picturesque town with an enchanting atmosphere.

Now, that you know what Colmar is known for it’s time to start planning your trip. Why not start with a four-day itinerary in Alsace?

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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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