How To Get Around Colmar
Colmar is a small but charming town in Northeastern France located at the base of the Vosges Mountains. It is known to be one of France's most beautiful towns and is decorated with ancient fountains, half timbered houses, historic monuments and old churches. The River Lauch runs throughout the city center creating peaceful canals that can be traversed by boat, similarly to the canals of Venice.
Many people visit Colmar to explore the scenic city and also to experience its food scene and the Alsatian wine route. Although it is a French city, Colmar has a distinct German influence as it has been under the ownership of both countries several times throughout the centuries. You may know that the sculptor Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi who designed the Statue of Liberty in New York was actually born and raised right here in Colmar.
Although Colmar is not big, it is still a good idea to understand how the public transportation system works so that you can make the most of your time in the city and not get lost. There are several neighborhoods that are all worth exploring, like Little Venice, Colmar Old Town, or the Quai de la Poissonnerie, so you will probably be moving around a lot during your vacation. Find your way to a baggage locker in Colmar to stow your stuff while you are out sightseeing. Whether it's luggage when you are in between hotels or bags of fabulous shopping purchases, you don't want to drag them along wherever you go.
How to get around Colmar by train
When you enter the city chances are that you will be traveling either by plane or by train. The train station in Colmar supports both regional and international travel and can be used to get around the entirety of France. Trains make for a great alternative to cars and have gained popularity with locals and tourists over the years. Many people use them to explore the Alsace region so if touring that area is on your bucket list then you have the option to use the trains to get around.
The TER, or Regional Express Trains, has several railway routes that arrive and leave from Colmar. The first route in the railway network begins in Strasbourg and continues on to Sélestat before reaching Colmar, and finally finishing in Mulhouse. Three other routes begin in Colmar and travel to Munster, Metzeral, Neuf Brisach, Volgelsheim and Ste Marie aux mines. If you are interested in seeing the rest of France you can easily take a day trip on one of the trains to another lovely city before returning to Colmar.
Most of the nearby cities are not far away and will only take a couple of hours to reach from the Colmar train station. For example, the trains can get you to Strasbourg in about an hour, you can visit Zürich, Switzerland in about an hour and a half, and even Paris can be reached in around four hours.
When you are taking the train it is important to make sure that you get on the right one, as you don't want to get lost or end up somewhere completely different than you were expecting. You can ask one of the people working at the train station if you are unsure about where to go, or get advice from the tourist office.
If you find yourself in the Little Venice area you will probably see the little white tourist train which can bring you around that area, specifically.
How to get around Colmar by bus
The buses in Colmar are well developed and remain an efficient and reliable way to get around the city and to other picturesque villages in the area. If used correctly, they can be the perfect way to organize day trips to other places in France or even Germany.
You can use the TRACE line, which stands for Transport de Colmar and Environs, to get between Colmar and Turckheim, or one of the trans-national routes to get to somewhere like Freiburg, Germany. There is also a bus network called Lignes de Haute Alsace which covers most, if not all, of the main villages in the area around Colmar. This is probably your best bet if you want to use the bus to explore the Alsace wine region. Overall there are 15 different bus routes that work inside the city of Colmar and they pass by most of the main attractions and landmarks. Why not grab brunch and hop on the bus to sightsee?
Tickets will cost you only 1.05 euros for an individual pass so it is quite an affordable way to get around. However, if you know that you are going to be on the buses a lot, invest in one of the other ticket options. You can save a bit of money if you buy a 10 ticket pass which costs around 7.50 euros, and children aged between 6 and 10 years old, as well as war veterans, are able to pay the reduced fare of about 6.10 euros. Consider buying a daily pass for 3 euros if you have a day full of sightseeing in your schedule, as these passes will let you ride on the buses as often as you want for the full 24 hours once the ticket is activated. Weekly passes are also beneficial for tourists and cost about 7.90 euros.
You can buy either the single passes or 10 pass tickets directly from your bus driver, but make sure that you have exact change in case they only accept cash. The daily and weekly tickets will need to be bought in certain areas around the city which should not be too hard to find. Ticket machines are located around the city at newspaper stands and near most of the bus stops.
How to get around Colmar by car
Using a car to get around cities in Europe, like Colmar, can be beneficial. Having your own wheels to get around means that you can be flexible as you won't have to rely on any of the bus or train schedules. Cars can often get you to where you need to go faster and without the time restrictions that the public transport system has. If you don't want to bring your own car you can always rent one from a car rental company in Colmar, either from an independent company or using the services offered at the airport.
Of course, there are always downsides to driving yourself around a foreign city, which you will need to consider. If you are unfamiliar with the area it can be easy to get lost so you might want to bring a GPS or make sure that you have access to the internet on your phone. As well, you will need to pay to rent the car, to buy gas and for parking in the city.
Those who have visited Colmar mention that it has some small streets that can be difficult or impossible to navigate using a car, so you might want to park somewhere outside of the city limits and either walk or use the public transportation options to get around from there.
Overall, the cars will be the most useful if you are hoping to explore areas like the Alsace Wine route which brings you between different villages and through the countryside, perfect for hiking. If you are planning to stay inside the city limits then you probably won't need your own vehicle since the city is not very big and the trains and buses can get you to most of the places that you want to go with ease.
Colmar may have different road rules than you are used to and since it is a popular tourist destination you can expect the city center to be pretty busy with pedestrians. Because of this, it is important to always remain attentive and drive safely in order to avoid any accidents.
Can I get around Colmar by foot?
A benefit of visiting a city like Colmar is that it can easily be explored by foot. The city is not too big and places like the town center or Little Venice can be walked from one end to the other in under half an hour if you don't stop for sightseeing or pictures. Even though it is not France's biggest city there is still so much to do in Colmar, and if you walk around the city you will have no problem finding fun things to do.
If you are visiting in the winter, you will no doubt find one of the famous Christmas markets set up somewhere in the area. Places like Grand Rue will definitely have something festive going on, and these markets can be a great place to meet new people and try traditional dishes. If you want a similar experience during the rest of the year you can walk around Colmar's covered market, and Easter markets are also set up in the springtime.
If you are traveling in the summer, take advantage of the nice weather to do a half day tour or full day tour of the main attractions around the city. These tours will bring you by foot to some of the best landmarks in Colmar, like the Pfister House, Place de L'Ancienne Douane, and to different museums, like the Unterlinden Museum. Travelers who enjoy being active will love taking a walking tour of the Alsace wine route. This will bring you through some of the most scenic landscapes around the city and might even give you the opportunity to sample Alsace wines. The peak season for the wine route is during the summer when the weather is the nicest.
Another alternative to walking in Colmar is taking a bike, which can be just a bit faster and also a nice way to experience the city. If you don't have your own bike you might be able to find a place to rent them out for a day. Always be aware of your surroundings and check for cars before crossing at intersections.
Thanks to the River Lauch you can even take a boat trip down the Colmar canals in one of the small flat bottomed boats. This can be a fun activity as well as a nice way to see the city, and they can also be used to get from one end of the Little Venice to the other. If you are interested in taking a boat ride you should head to the Bridge Saint Pierre since that is where they usually take off from.
Making the Most of Your Time in Colmar, France
This charming city is one of the country's most beautiful so be prepared for peak prettiness when you step off of the plane or train. The cobbled streets and architecture from the Middle Ages are said to be the inspiration for the town in Disney's Beauty and the Beast, which gives you a hint as to how stunning the city really is. If you choose to stay at a hotel that is centrally located, you can most likely walk to most of the top attractions, and if not then the buses and trains should be able to get you to where you need to go.
If you are hoping to do some wine tasting when you are visiting Colmar, you might want to rent a car or bring your own so that you can explore the Alsace region at your own pace. Make sure to sample some of the local sparkling wines made from the different grape varietals, like the Pinot Gris or white wines.
Walking around the city can save you money and also give you the freedom that you might need to experience Colmar to its fullest. If you get the chance you can explore the different festivals and events that happen regularly in the city, like the Colmar International Festival or the Alsace Wine Fair. Whether you are going to visit the city for a couple of days or just have plans to stay overnight we hope that these travel tips help you to make the most out of your time in this gorgeous city.