Colmar is a place where Germany and France collide and the city is made of a combination of the two cultures. It is located in the Alsace region and some people say that it is one of the most picturesque villages in the world. It almost feels as though you are in a fairytale as you walk through the streets with half timbered houses and small bridges going over the canals. It is the birthplace of the man who sculpted the Statue of Liberty and also the capital of Alsace wines, which are only some of the reasons that you should pay Colmar a visit.
If you have saved up enough money to go on vacation to Colmar, France then you should consider yourself lucky. You will have an amazing time exploring the city and its different neighborhoods, and if you want to save some money, there are lots of affordable things to do. To fully enjoy the free things to do in Colmar, drop your things off at a Colmar suitcase storage locker. Explore this wonderful area without the weight of bags slowing you down. You'll be able to carry more souvenirs that way, too!
Walk Around the Colmar Grand Rue
A great place to begin your journey in Colmar is the Grand Rue. This is the city's main street and where you can find most of the main attractions, restaurants and things to see. Cafes and bars are also located here in case you wanted to buy a drink or get something to eat. This is also where you can take advantage of the Colmar nightlife.
There are colorful half timbered houses and stunning buildings to admire, so even if you don't want to spend any money in the cafes you can have a great time just wandering around. Bring your camera to take pictures while you do some sightseeing.
View the Customs House
One of the things that you don't want to miss is a visit to Colmar's Customs House. This house was a busy spot back in the Middle Ages since it was one of the biggest trading spots and the center of business. The Colmar Customs House was built in 1480 and was used as a warehouse, customs office and market.
After you are finished admiring the glazed tiles on the exterior of the building you should stop at the top of the stairs to see one of the best views of the city. Afterward, head to the Place de L'Ancienne Douane where you can see the building from behind.
Drive the Alsace Wine Route
We talk about hiking this route here, but you can also drive and enjoy it too! If you have your own car then the Alsatian Wine Route is completely free to visit. It will take you through picturesque towns and sprawling vineyards in front of mountains that are absolutely beautiful. Make sure you pack your camera!
If you don't have a car, it is possible to use the public buses to see some of the Alsace wine regions, or even rent a bike from the Colmar train station. One of the best options is to hike the area by foot if you are up for it. If you get the chance for some wine tasting you should try some of the Alsatian wines. There are several kinds made here, like the Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Riesling wine.
Stop by the Pfister House
Head to the Rue des Marchands in the gorgeous Colmar Old Town, which is a charming part of the city and great for sightseeing. The first place that you should stop by is the Maison Pfister which was constructed all the way back in 1537. It is a Renaissance styled building that is absolutely beautiful from the outside.
There is even more to see in the interior of the building so step inside if you get the chance. On the walls, you will find paintings from the bible as well as artwork of German emperors, and on the ground floor, there is a store selling Alsace wines.
Stroll Around Little Venice
The Lauch River runs through the city and this area is where most of the canals are located. This is why it is called Little Venice, or La Petite Venise. This is one of the most beautiful areas in the city and the perfect place for a romantic walk. The whole area is open to the public for free so you can stroll around for hours without paying a cent.
The area used to be a fishmonger's district, or Quai de la Poissonnerie, and small boats still travel down the river all of the time. If you don't mind paying a couple of dollars you can take a boat trip down the canals yourself, which is definitely worth it.
Visit the House of Heads
Another great landmark to visit in the Colmar Old Town area is the eccentric La Maison des Têtes, or the House of Heads in English. The building was constructed for a wealthy merchant named Anton Burger back in 1609 and is unlike any other building that you will see in Colmar.
On the exterior of the building, there are a total of 111 heads, faces and masks carved into the structure. The house is three stories tall and has a gable that was carved by the famous sculptor Bartholdi himself. This building stands out against the half timbered houses in the rest of the neighborhood so you can't miss it. Taking the kids here is a fun activity if you are in Vieux Colmar.
Browse in a Market
If you want to do some Colmar shopping you will find several markets around the city. One of the best is the Market Hall which is a big covered market from 1865 and is located on the outskirts of Little Venice. Just visiting it is a great experience, even if you don't want to buy anything.
If you happen to be in town during the holidays you just have to stop by one of the Christmas markets. They are a highlight of the city and the reason why some people come to visit Colmar. These festive markets are open for 6 weeks from November until just after Christmas in December.
See the Schwendi fountain
Located right outside of the Customs House in Place de L'Ancienne Douane is the gorgeous Schwendi Fountain. In the center of the fountain is a statue of the general who introduced a new variety of grape, the Tokay, to Alsace. This sculpture was also designed and created by Bartholdi.
There are some great restaurants in the area in case you want to try some of the foods that are a favorite in the Alsatian culture and cuisine. You can stop by some other landmarks that are just a short walk away, or take a Colmar Tourist Train ride if you don't mind spending a bit of money.
Admire the Colmar Cathedral
The stunning Colmar Cathedral is also known as St Martin's Church and is an incredible piece of architecture located in the city center. It is big and one of the impressive buildings worth seeing up close, even though it can be spotted from afar in most places around the city.
The Gothic style church was constructed sometime between the years of 1234 and 1356. It is made of red and gold stone and a tiled roof that is a combination of green, yellow and red. On the inside, the cathedral is furnished with a Baroque organ dating back to 1755, as well as the seven remaining wooden panels displaying the artwork of Jesus' life, created by Caspar Isenmann. The cathedral's altarpiece is now found at the Unterlinden Museum.
Go Hiking in the Vosges Mountains
Aside from being a beautiful town, Colmar is also situated in an area with a gorgeous landscape. There are valleys with grapevines, the Lauch River and Rhine River as well as mountains in the area, and if you are up for it you can take a hike just outside of the city.
You can easily spend an afternoon enjoying the natural landscape and it is the perfect activity for nature lovers. The Vosges Mountains are one of the best places to hike and there are several trails running through them.
Visit the Statue of Liberty
Found not too far away from the historic town center is Colmar's very own Statue of Liberty. It should be one of your top places to visit when you explore Colmar. It was constructed in remembrance of Auguste Bartholdi who was a citizen in Colmar, France and the creator of the huge Statue of Liberty in New York.
Although it is not as big as the original statue since this one is only 12 meters tall, it is still impressive and the perfect place to take a picture for your photo album. It is open to the public every day and free to visit!
Stop by a Local Festival
Although Colmar is usually a quiet city, it does get lively when there are festivals and celebrations going on. There are many events that happen regularly and chances are that something will be going on while you are visiting Colmar.
Aside from the Christmas markets, there are also Easter markets from mid-March to April. If you are in the city in July, you should stop by the Colmar International Festival which has live music and dancing. There are other celebrations happening throughout the rest of the year, like the Alsace Wine Fair.
Go to the Colmar Museums
One of the best Colmar attractions is the museums, and the city has several. Check out the Musee Bartholdi which can tell you more about the famous sculptor and show you some modern art, or the historic Unterlinden Museum which has all sorts of exhibits, including the Issenheim altarpiece from the St Martin's Church.
Another option is the Toy Museum which is great if you are traveling with kids. Although most of the museums require that you buy a ticket, many of them offer free entry to children under a certain age.
Marvel at the Dominican Church
This old church is an amazing display of Gothic architecture and was built sometime between 1283 and 1346. The very first stone was actually placed by Rudolf I of Habsburg and the finished building was quite big and impressive.
The outside of the church has intricate carvings and inside there are beautiful works of art. The building's most prized masterpiece is Madonna of the Rose Bush which is a depiction of the Virgin and Child and is filled with symbolic details. There is an entrance fee to get inside the church but you can always admire it from outside for free.
Take a Walk in a Public Park
The Colmar city center has a few public parks and greenspaces that are great for walking around or getting in some exercise. If you want to relax you can grab some food from a nearby cafe or market to make your own picnic. Enjoy the fresh air and nice weather and then head back out into the city for more sightseeing!
Some of the best parks in Colmar include the Square de la Montagne Verte which is just a short walk from the Grand Rue and is decorated with benches and sculptures. Not too far away from the Colmar train station is the Champ de Mars Park which has a fountain, playground and carousel that kids love.
Visit Colmar, France on a Budget
Everyone who has visited Colmar has agreed that it is an unforgettable vacation spot. You will fall in love with the Medieval styled houses and ambience, and although the city is small there is definitely lots to do. Take a scenic boat ride along the canals, go on an Alsace day tour around the vineyards or hang out around the cobbled city streets. Traveling can be expensive, which is why it can be a good idea to find free things to do so you can save some money. You can have an amazing vacation on Colmar, even if you are traveling on a budget.