This post is all about my long weekend in Colmar, Alsace! For those unfamiliar with the region, Alsace is the Germanic region of France lying on France’s Eastern border next to Germany. Throughout history the Alsace has switched off between French and German rule and as a result, the Alsace retains its own culture, food and even language that is not quite French but not quite German, either. In any case, I have been wanting to visit Alsace for years! Actually since college, when a French professor that I didn’t particularly like went on and on and on about her time in Strasbourg (Alsace’s capital). I always envisioned staying in Strasbourg, the biggest city in Alsace and home of European Union offices, but in planning my trip I kept reading about Colmar, the picturesque town a short train ride from Strasbourg.
Since the first part of my trip consisted of two large cities (Stuttgart and Munich, Germany), I opted to stay in Colmar over Strasbourg, and it was the perfect decision for my trip (although Strasbourg is pretty fabulous, too). I mean, look at these canals lined with timber-framed buildings, which were everywhere (!):
True to the pictures, I loved (LOVED) Colmar from my first morning stroll around town (after a brief snafu at Hotel Turenne the night before…). The timber-framed buildings, the canals running through the town, the vibrant flowers – Colmar seriously looks like Belle’s village from the Beauty and the Beast (there is no way Belle’s village is not based off Colmar!) If you are looking for fairy tale Europe, Colmar is a must-visit!
Ah, gorgeous!! Dan and I used Colmar as a base to spend 3.5 days to scratch the surface of the Alsace region. And I say scratch the surface because we could have spent an entire week (or more) in the Alsace. Despite being a small land area, there is a lot of see in the Alsace and I would recommend spending a week exploring its charming towns, vineyards and trails!
What Did We Do In And Around Colmar?
On our first day in the Alsace, we stayed in Colmar and slowly strolled around town to see the main tourist sites, which only take a couple hours, and took lots of pictures! Aside from the gorgeous town itself, I really enjoyed Colmar’s covered market, which is a great place pick up picnic supplies or culinary souvenirs, le Petit Venise (Little Venice) and the Pfister House!
After spending the morning walking around, we lunched at one of Colmar’s premiere restaurants – JY’S! JY’S is a Michelin starred restaurant right on the banks of Colmar’s canals. The meal was excellent and Dan and I got engaged there!! Aside from getting engaged, the highlight of the meal was the dessert tapas spread. So.much.dessert. Highly recommended.
After our large and exciting lunch, we did some shopping at Monoprix (the Target of France!) and had drinks and charcuterie at L’un des Sens, a tiny wine, cheese and charcuterie bar a bit outside of the hustle and bustle of Colmar’s old town.
Saturday Wine Tour
Our second day in the Alsace consisted of a wine tour through small towns of Gueberschwihr, Eguisheim, Turckheim and Riquewihr. Alsace makes some tasty white wines, much drier than their German counterparts, and sampling Alsace’s wines should be on every traveler’s bucket list! Our tour was with Ophorus wines and included so much wine and a great overview of the countryside! Here are a few pictures from our fabulous tour – full post to follow!
Day Trip to Strasbourg
We took the train to Strasbourg on our third day in Alsace and spent the majority of the day touring around the city, which is by far the largest city in Alsace and one of the European Union’s capitals. Visiting Strasbourg made me happy that we stayed in small-town Colmar. Strasbourg, while enormously charming, has more of a big city, busy feel. However, it does have an old town that is well worth a visit, including the Strasbourg Cathedral. We also took a boat tour that took us through various locks, gave the history of Strasbourg and allowed us to see the European Union buildings, at least from the outside! Strasbourg reminded me a lot of Amsterdam.
Our Sunday night ended back in Colmar with dinner at Weinstub Brenner, which offers a very fairly priced prix fixe dinner. While its in all the guide books, Weinstub Brenner is one of the only restaurants open on Sundays in Colmar! I would eat there again.
On our final morning, I finally got to take a flat-bottomed boat tour through Colmar’s canals! While it was extremely touristy, it was so much fun! And gives visitors an interesting perspective on the the town. The boat tours leave from le Petit Venise, travels away from town through a “quiet zone,” and then the turns around and goes back through town with a commentary (lots of languages offered). Be sure to take your camera!
We ended our lovely boat tour with a quick lunch at Winstub la Kratenau for Colmar’s most famous food, tarte flambée, a thin crust pizza made of cheese, onion and ham, and a glass of Crémant d’Alsace, Colmar’s Champagnesque wine! A great way to end the trip!
STEAL OUR TRIP
Hotel Turenne: 10, Route de Bâle, 68000 Colmar. T: +33 3 89 21 58 58 E: firstname.lastname@example.org. Reservations can be made on Hotel Turenne’s website. Dont make the same mistake as us; call if you are arriving after 5:00 p.m. We arrived after and they gave away our room…
SNCF: France’s national railway’s website. You can buy tickets online, but tickets can also be purchased at Colmar’s only train station. You will almost always need to connect in Strasbourg. Trains running at least hourly to Strasbourg and back during the day.
L’un des Sens: 18 Rue Berthe Molly, 68000 Colmar, France. T: +33 3 89 24 04 37. Tuesday – Thursday 16:00 – 22:00, Friday – Saturday 10:00 – 22:30. Upscale wine bar. Limited seating so reservations are recommended, although we walked in on a Friday evening…
Weinstub Brenner: 1 Rue Turenne, 68000 Colmar, France. T: + 33 3 89 41 42 33. Sit down, traditional restaurant serving a value prix fix menu. Come hungry. Open daily 11:45 – 16:00 and 18:45 – 22:00. Reservations highly recommend (restaurant is tiny, especially if outdoor seating is not open) and can be made online here.
Winstub la Kratenau: 1 Rue de la Poissonnerie, 68000 Colmar, France. T: +33 3 89 41 18 80. Very casual restaurant serving tarte flambées and not much else. Also a good place to get German steins of beer. Open daily, including Sundays, 11:30 – 22:30. Reservations not required.
Ophorus Tours: The company we used for our wine tour. High recommended, and the tour was wayyyy better than their outdated website. Reservations should be pre-made online.
ON A BUDGET
Overall, Colmar was not that expensive, especially compared to larger cities, such as Paris, and more popular French vacation destinations. Local wine is cheap, as is their version of champagne, Crémant d’Alsace. If you are looking for super budget options, Strasbourg is better, as there are more hostels and budget food spots, and you do not have to pay the €12,00 per way to transfer to and from Colmar. Of all of the food mentioned, Winstub la Krateneau was by far the most budget friendly. The boat tour is also a budget option; it only cost €5,00/person for the boat ride and a guided tour in English.