Discovering the Hidden Gems of Colmar (2023 Travel Guide)

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Colmar is a charming city located in the Alsace region of France. Known for its well-preserved medieval old town, Colmar is often referred to as the “Little Venice” of France due to its numerous canals and colorful half-timbered houses. The city has a rich history dating back to the 9th century and has been shaped by various cultures, including German and French.

Despite being a popular destination for tourists, Colmar still has many hidden gems waiting to be discovered.

Here are some hidden gems worth exploring in Colmar:

  1. Little Venice: A picturesque area in Colmar with winding canals, colorful half-timbered houses, and beautiful flower arrangements.
  2. Saint-Martin Collegiate Church: A stunning Gothic-style church that dates back to the 13th century, with impressive stained glass windows and a beautiful organ.
  3. Pfister House: A well-preserved Renaissance-era house in the old town of Colmar, known for its ornate exterior decorations.
  4. The Unterlinden Museum: This museum houses a collection of medieval and Renaissance art, including the famous Isenheim Altarpiece.
  5. Bartholdi Museum: The birthplace of Auguste Bartholdi, the sculptor who designed the Statue of Liberty, this museum displays his works and personal items.
  6. Tanners’ District: A charming neighborhood with picturesque houses, narrow streets, and a history of leather tanning.

Get to know Colmar

Colmar is a charming town located in the northeast region of France, known for its picturesque canals, half-timbered houses, and colorful flowers that adorn the city streets. With a rich history dating back to the Middle Ages, Colmar has preserved its cultural heritage through its well-preserved architecture and numerous museums. Despite being a popular tourist destination, Colmar has many hidden gems that are waiting to be explored.

From the stunning views of the Vosges Mountains at Lac Vert to the tranquil beauty of the Little Venice district, and from the historic Unterlinden Museum to the delightful Saint-Joseph Market, Colmar is a town full of surprises. The town also boasts a thriving food and wine scene, with local specialties such as Alsatian tarte flambée and Riesling wine.

Whether you’re interested in exploring history, art, cuisine, or the great outdoors, Colmar has something to offer everyone. Its hidden gems are just waiting to be discovered, from the hidden courtyards and gardens to the quaint side streets and alleyways.

Let’s introduce the hidden gems…

1. Little Venice

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Little Venice is a picturesque neighborhood in Colmar that is situated along the Lauch River. It is characterized by colorful half-timbered houses that line the river, creating a charming and romantic atmosphere. The area is named after its resemblance to the Italian city of Venice, with small canals and boats that pass through the area.

Little Venice is a popular spot for tourists, but it also has a local feel with cafes, restaurants, and shops selling souvenirs and handmade goods. The area is particularly lovely in the evening when the buildings are illuminated and the reflections in the water create a magical ambiance.

In addition to its scenic beauty, Little Venice is also home to several historic landmarks, including the Maison des Têtes, a 17th-century building adorned with sculpted heads, and the Koïfhus, a former customs house that now houses the tourist office.

Visitors can take a boat ride through the canals, stroll along the riverbanks, or simply sit at a café and soak in the ambiance. It is a must-visit spot for anyone exploring Colmar.

Why it is worth visiting?

Here are some reasons why Little Venice in Colmar is worth visiting:

  1. Beautiful scenery: Little Venice features picturesque canals and colorful half-timbered buildings that create a charming and romantic atmosphere.
  2. Great photo opportunities: The area is a photographer’s paradise, with countless photo opportunities around every corner.
  3. Cultural experience: Visitors can explore the historic district of Colmar and experience the town’s rich cultural heritage.
  4. Boating tours: Visitors can take boat tours along the canals to experience the beauty of Little Venice from a unique perspective.
  5. Restaurants and cafes: There are plenty of restaurants and cafes in the area where visitors can enjoy a meal or a drink while taking in the beautiful surroundings.
  6. Art galleries and boutiques: Little Venice is also home to a number of art galleries and boutiques where visitors can browse and purchase unique items.

2. Saint-Martin Collegiate Church

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The Saint-Martin Collegiate Church is a beautiful Gothic church located in the heart of Colmar. Here are some interesting facts about this historic landmark:

  • The church was built in the 13th century, but its construction continued for several centuries.
  • The church was originally a Catholic church, but it became Protestant during the Reformation in the 16th century.
  • The church is dedicated to Saint Martin, who is the patron saint of the city.
  • The church is known for its beautiful stained glass windows, which date back to the 14th and 15th centuries. The windows depict scenes from the Bible, as well as scenes from the lives of the saints.
  • The church also has a beautiful organ that was built in 1722. The organ is one of the oldest in France and is still in use today.
  • The church has undergone several renovations and restorations over the years, but it still retains much of its original Gothic architecture.
  • The church is open to visitors, and guided tours are available. Visitors can learn about the history of the church and see its beautiful architecture and artwork up close.

Overall, the Saint-Martin Collegiate Church is a must-see attraction in Colmar for anyone interested in history, architecture, and art.

Why it is worth visiting

Saint-Martin Collegiate Church is worth visiting for several reasons, including:

  1. Historical significance: The church dates back to the 13th century and has played an important role in Colmar’s history. It was used as a place of worship for the town’s bourgeoisie and was also a center of artistic and cultural life.
  2. Architecture: The church boasts a beautiful Gothic architecture with its impressive bell tower and ornate façade. The interior features intricate stained glass windows and ornate wood carvings.
  3. Artistic treasures: The church houses a number of valuable artworks, including an impressive altarpiece by Martin Schongauer, one of the most famous German painters of the 15th century.
  4. Cultural events: The church hosts a variety of cultural events, including concerts and exhibitions, making it a vibrant and dynamic space within the community.

3. Pfister House

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The Pfister House is a historic building, built in 1537 by the wealthy hatter Ludwig Scherer, the house is a stunning example of Renaissance architecture. The exterior of the building is decorated with intricate wood carvings and murals, which depict biblical scenes and allegorical figures. The interior of the house features original furniture and artwork, including a large tapestry dating back to the 16th century.

One of the most striking features of the Pfister House is the ornate roof, which is adorned with statues of various figures, including a knight in armor and a goddess holding a spindle. The roof is considered to be one of the finest examples of Renaissance roof architecture in all of Europe.

Today, the Pfister House is open to the public as a museum, providing visitors with a unique glimpse into the history and culture of Colmar.

Why it is worth visiting

Pfister House is worth visiting for the following reasons:

  1. Historical Significance: The house was built in 1537 for a wealthy merchant, Ludwig Scherer, and it is one of the most impressive and well-preserved examples of Renaissance architecture in Colmar. The house is listed as a national monument of France and is considered a major landmark in the city.
  2. Unique Architecture: The house is famous for its ornate and colorful decorations, which include frescoes, sculptures, and intricate carvings. The façade of the house is adorned with biblical scenes and allegories, which give visitors an insight into the culture and values of the time.
  3. Cultural Experience: Visiting Pfister House offers visitors a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in the rich history and culture of Colmar. The house contains a museum that showcases the history and art of the city, including a collection of traditional Alsatian furniture, pottery, and other decorative objects.
  4. Location: Pfister House is located in the heart of the old town of Colmar, which makes it easily accessible to visitors. It is situated on a picturesque street that is lined with other historic buildings, charming cafes, and boutique shops, which makes it a perfect place for a leisurely stroll.

4. The Unterlinden Museum

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The Unterlinden Museum is a museum located in the heart of Colmar. It is housed in a former Dominican convent that was founded in the 13th century. The museum is best known for its extensive collection of medieval and Renaissance art, including the famous Isenheim Altarpiece by Matthias Grünewald, a masterpiece of German Renaissance art.

The museum also features a collection of modern and contemporary art, as well as archaeological artifacts and decorative arts. The building itself is an architectural treasure, with a mix of medieval and modern elements, and a beautiful cloister garden that is a peaceful oasis in the heart of the city.

In addition to the permanent collection, the museum hosts several temporary exhibitions throughout the year, showcasing a range of art and artifacts from around the world. It also offers educational programs and guided tours for visitors of all ages, making it a great destination for families, students, and art lovers alike.

Why it is worth visiting

The Unterlinden Museum in Colmar is worth visiting for several reasons:

  1. Rich collection: The museum boasts an impressive collection of artwork and artifacts, ranging from the Middle Ages to contemporary art. The most famous exhibit is the Isenheim Altarpiece, a masterpiece of Gothic art that attracts visitors from all over the world.
  2. Historical significance: The museum is housed in a former 13th-century convent, and the building itself is a work of art, featuring a stunning cloister and Gothic architecture. The museum’s location in the heart of the old town of Colmar also adds to its historical significance.
  3. Varied exhibits: In addition to the Isenheim Altarpiece, the museum has a diverse range of exhibits, including medieval sculptures, Renaissance paintings, and modern art. Visitors can also see archaeological artifacts, decorative arts, and even ancient Egyptian artifacts.
  4. Educational value: The Unterlinden Museum is an excellent educational resource, offering visitors the opportunity to learn about art and history in an immersive and engaging way. The museum offers guided tours, workshops, and educational programs for all ages, making it an excellent destination for families, students, and anyone interested in art and history.

5. Bartholdi Museum

The Bartholdi Museum is dedicated to the life and work of French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi. Bartholdi is best known for designing the Statue of Liberty, which was a gift from the people of France to the United States.

The museum is located in a beautiful Art Nouveau building and features a large collection of Bartholdi’s sculptures, drawings, and other works of art. Visitors can learn about his creative process, his influences, and the various projects he worked on throughout his career.

One of the highlights of the museum is a full-scale model of the Statue of Liberty’s hand, which visitors can climb inside to get a sense of the scale and detail of Bartholdi’s masterpiece. The museum also features a collection of personal artifacts, including Bartholdi’s tools, photographs, and letters.

The Bartholdi Museum is a must-visit for anyone interested in art, sculpture, or the history of the Statue of Liberty. It offers a fascinating glimpse into the life and work of one of France’s most celebrated artists and is sure to leave a lasting impression on visitors.

Why it is worth visiting?

The Bartholdi Museum is worth visiting for several reasons:

  1. It is dedicated to the life and work of the famous French sculptor Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, who designed the Statue of Liberty in New York City.
  2. The museum is located in a beautifully restored 18th-century house, which provides a fascinating glimpse into the architecture and design of the period.
  3. Visitors can see many of Bartholdi’s original sketches, models, and sculptures, as well as learn about his life and career through interactive exhibits and multimedia displays.
  4. The museum also hosts temporary exhibitions that showcase the works of other artists and sculptors, adding to the overall cultural experience.

6. Tanners’ District

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The Tanners’ District, also known as La Petite Venise (Little Venice), is a picturesque neighborhood in Colmar that sits along the banks of the Lauch River. The area was once home to the city’s tanners and fishermen, and it still retains its historic charm with its colorful half-timbered houses, cobblestone streets, and canals that are lined with flowers.

Visitors can take a leisurely stroll along the waterways and admire the beautiful architecture, or even take a boat ride to fully appreciate the area’s beauty. There are also several cozy cafes and restaurants in the district where visitors can sample local Alsatian cuisine while enjoying the views of the river.

In addition to its scenic beauty, the Tanners’ District is also home to several interesting museums and attractions, such as the Maison des Têtes (House of Heads), a stunning Renaissance mansion adorned with intricate sculptures of human heads, and the Musée d’Histoire Naturelle et d’Ethnographie, which displays exhibits on the region’s natural history and cultural heritage.

Why it is worth visiting?

The Tanners’ District in Colmar is worth visiting for several reasons:

  1. Historical significance: The district was once home to tanners who worked in the leather trade. It is one of the oldest and best-preserved areas in Colmar, dating back to the 13th century.
  2. Unique architecture: The district features well-preserved half-timbered houses and narrow, winding streets that give visitors a glimpse into what life was like in medieval Colmar.
  3. Charming atmosphere: The Tanners’ District has a charming, rustic feel that transports visitors back in time. The quiet streets and cozy courtyards offer a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of the modern world.
  4. Local shops and restaurants: The district is home to a variety of small shops and restaurants that offer locally-made goods and traditional Alsatian cuisine. Visitors can try regional specialties like flammekueche (a type of pizza with bacon and onions) and kugelhopf (a sweet bread similar to a bundt cake).

In conclusion, Colmar is a city that offers a unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty, and it is filled with hidden gems just waiting to be explored. Whether you are interested in visiting historic landmarks, exploring charming neighborhoods, or experiencing the city’s vibrant cultural scene, there is something for everyone in Colmar.

From the stunning architecture and picturesque canals of Little Venice to the fascinating history and artwork on display at the Unterlinden Museum, and from the beautiful Saint-Martin Collegiate Church to the unique charm of the Tanners’ District, Colmar is a city that has something special to offer. And, with its beautiful half-timbered houses and unique history, the Pfister House is a must-visit destination for those interested in the city’s architecture and heritage.

So, if you are planning a trip to Colmar, be sure to add these hidden gems to your itinerary. You won’t regret it! Whether you are a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, you are sure to discover something new and exciting in this beautiful city.


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