In Eastern France, you will find the Alsatian wine route that meanders through the beautiful Alsace region within the Vosges Mountains. Along the route, there are many charming towns, but none are as picturesque as the town of Colmar. Just over 6 miles west of the Rhine River and a 30-minute drive south of Strasbourg, Colmar is very easy to get to.
Colmar has always been a popular tourist destination within the Alsace wine route as it is very accessible from not only Strasbourg but Paris, Zurich, and Basel due to the handiness of the Colmar train station. It is known as a fairytale town and the unofficial capital of the Alsatian wine route.
For most of the year, this quaint and tranquil town's evenings are known to be more for the romantics. Shallow calm canals lined by pastel colored half timbered houses, mountain sunsets, and the beautiful surrounding nature make it a perfect getaway for lovers. But there are certain times of the year that the Colmar nightlife comes alive, and you definitely don't want to miss out on any of it.
Colmar might be a smaller town, but that doesn't mean you can't find a great place to store your luggage, backpacks, or even shopping purchases while you explore. So before you get into the Alsatian wine, drop your belongings off at a safe and secure luggage locker in Colmar. Enjoy a fantastic day and come back and get your things afterward.
Quai de la Poissonnerie
Quai de la Poissonnerie, (Fisherman's Quay) is the Fishmonger District in the old town area of Colmar. This is probably the most Instagram worthy area in all of Colmar, with its array of pastel half timbered houses and buildings along the canal.
Also a terrific free activity, you will also find Colmar's covered market Hall (Le Marche Covert de Colmar), located between Rue des Ecoles, Rue des Vignerons, Rue des Tanneurs, and the Lauch River. Colmar's covered market is the perfect place to grab some fresh bread, the famous Munster cheese, and an Alsatian wine for a little late night picnic.
Quartier des Tanneurs
In the Quartier des Tanneurs (Tanners Quarter), you will find half timbered houses that are slightly taller than others. These taller half timbered houses were designed so the tanners could dry out their pelts. Today, they create a beautiful backdrop for photos. The houses were restored to their natural beauty between 1968 and 1974 and revitalized the district.
Within the Quartier des Tanneurs at the corner of Grand Rue and Rue des Marchands, you will find the Place de l'Ancienne Douane, the old Customs House (also called Koifhus). The Ancienne Douane has played an important role in the financial history of Colmar, but today is part of the cultural scene. The Douane hosts many events and festivals throughout the year.
Seasonal Celebrations, Markets and Festivals
They love to celebrate the changing of the seasons in Colmar and do so with seasonal happenings and festivals. A few have become popular not just for the locals, but for tourists too who travel from around the world to enjoy the celebrations. Check out what's going on and make sure you don't miss it! Music and art festivals are always on the calendar.
Spring and Easter Markets
The Spring and Easter Markets are when locals display authentic products of the Alsace region such as toys, beauty products, jewelry, and, of course, local sparkling wine. For three weeks, brightly colored flower beds hide cheeky rabbits while chickens and eggs are scattered around the rivers and canals. Even the trees are decorated with bright colors to chase away the winter and usher in the spring celebrations.
Colmar International Festival and Alsace Wine Fair
These are two of the biggest Colmar attractions of the year, taking place in July. The International Festival celebrates the world of classical music, and concerts are performed throughout the day and evening. Watching a classical concert performed in the 18th-century Chapelle St. Pierre or the 14th-century Eglise St. Matthieu are unique experiences.
The Alsace Wine Fair is the largest festival in the Alsace wine region and is not to be missed. It not only showcases the incredible Alsatian wines, but it is ten days of concerts, exhibitions, and entertainment. It is by far the busiest time of the year in Colmar.
During the wintertime, you will find six Christmas markets around Colmar, each with a different theme. When the snow falls Colmar is a true fairytale town and the addition of the Christmas markets only adds to the atmosphere. For five magical weeks, thousands of twinkling lights, Christmas trees, and decorations line the streets and buildings.
Whether you are looking to have a night out enjoying some Alsatian food and mulled wine, exploring the art scene, or just buying gifts these markets have it all. Spending a Christmas in Colmar with its festive and carnival atmosphere is something you will never forget.
During the day Little Venice (la Petite Venise) can be extremely busy as many tourists from Strasbourg and Paris take day tours to see the fairytale town. But when the sun goes down and the crowds disperse, Little Venice is a perfect place to be. This area of Colmar was once the merchant hub of the city.
The canal is lined with colorful houses that have been preserved throughout the years. The colors were used to indicate the type of merchant house, such as blue for fishermen and red for a butcher. While you can wander the cobblestone streets to admire the colorful houses, a better and more relaxing way is to take a canal tour.
During the day, a canal tour allows you to escape the crowded streets, and at night it adds a little romance to your evening. The tours last about thirty minutes and depart from the bridge Saint Pierre beside the Le Caveau Saint Pierre restaurant.
If you want a truly magical moment in Little Venice, go for a walk at either dusk or dawn, when the lights of the street lamps reflect off the canal's smooth still water. It will transport you to another world.
There is no possible way to visit Colmar and not do a little wine tasting. The Alsace region is widely known for its great white wines, like Pinot Gris and Riesling, but they also produce fantastic Pinot Noir Rose. There are plenty of day trips from Colmar that will take you through vineyards and other charming towns to sample the wine. But in the evening, the best way to try out the excellent Alsace wines is by hitting the wine bars.
One of the best wine bars is Japadeunon, the friendliest owner and staff, live music, and an outstanding wine menu. And the wines are complemented by an excellent food menu, including foie gras and Camembert with fruit filling. If you are more into great local craft beer on tap, Les 3 Singes Colmar (The 3 Monkeys Colmar) is a ton of fun, and they have a good selection of Alsace wine too.
If you need an early evening activity before heading out to your dinner reservations, visit one of the interesting museums in Colmar. The museums here are different than the larger cities of France, but they are just as relevant and maybe even more intriguing in the way they present history and the world. Try the two below.
Colmar Toy Museum
If you think that going to a toy museum might just be fun for the kids, think again. The Musee Du Jouet Colmar is a fascinating adventure through time and your childhood. The museum is housed in an old cinema theatre and holds a toy collection that spans from the 1800s to present day.
The toys in the collection will make your kids smile and giggle with delight and give adults a sense of nostalgia looking at toys that they most likely grew up playing with. Dolls like Barbie, LEGO, toy trains, science sets, and video games are just a few of the cool items you will find here.
The museum shows how society has advanced and changed over the past two centuries through toys. The present temporary exhibition chronologically details the advancement of aviation with toy planes dating from 1908 to the present, and it really is a neat way to look at history.
Looking for some evening culture will take you to the 13th-century former Dominican convent, Musee Unterlinden. In 1906 the convent was linked to the former municipal baths building, which holds the contemporary exhibits. There is even an underground area for exhibitions below the Place Unterlinden and the canal.
Just as interesting as the artwork and encyclopedic collection that spans nearly seven thousand years is the architecture itself. You can also relax and enjoy a coffee in the cloister garden or the museum's orchard.
The Pfister House, or Maison Pfister, looks like something out of a Disney movie. You can picture Belle from Beauty and the Beast looking down from a window in the high turret. Even though this national monument looks like it is straight from medieval times, it is actually the first of the Renaissance architecture that is found throughout Colmar.
The nearly five-hundred-year-old house, with its Biblical scenes and portraits of Germanic emperors painted on the facade, has become a symbol of the Old Town in Colmar. The house is located on Rue des Marchands, right in the heart of the Old Town.
Saint Martin's Church
Saint Martin is considered the patron saint of Colmar, and this beautiful Gothic church, dedicated to the saint, towers over the town. Sometimes it is called the Cathedral of Saint Martin (Collégiale Saint Martin), but it was only an official cathedral for ten years during the French Revolution.
If you are Catholic and visiting Colmar during Christmas, attending Midnight Mass in the eight hundred-year-old church is a wonderful experience. And even if you are not religious, visiting the magnificent Saint Martin's Church is a must.
When most people think about going shopping in France, they think of big name designers and expensive stores, but you won't find much of that in Colmar. Here you will find more handmade crafts, local works of art, and cute boutiques. And the best time to visit the shops is in the early evening.
During the day these shops can be very busy with tourists that have come for only one day in Colmar, but in the evening you don't have to fight the crowds. You can take your time and check out an entire shop without bumping into anyone. It is very calming when wandering through shops at night in this lovely town.
Colmar Old Town
The Old Town of Colmar in the evening is an absolutely beautiful place to wander around. There are plenty of cafes, restaurants, shops to check out, and wine lounges to relax in. But one of the best things to do is simply go for a walk along the cobblestone streets.
Whether you walk along the calm waters of the canal or decide to do a little exploring down the many enchanting alleyways, you will have picture perfect views.
Visiting Colmar, France After Dark
As you can see, there is so much to do and see in Colmar, that you don't want to just spend one day here, you need to spend several days and evenings here, too. Colmar is the perfect place to enjoy a relaxing holiday in a fairytale town, sipping on some of the best wine in the world.