Colmar, France, is incredibly photogenic and rich in historical architecture. The city is also very walkable, with the historic area easily reached from the train station. By train, Colmar is only 30 minutes from Strasbourg, and an ambitious but doable 2.5 hours from Paris. The accessibility, history, and beauty make a Colmar day trip ideal.
For more information on how to reach Colmar by train, and other cities in the Alsace region, this Day Trips from Strasbourg post will get you started.
Top Things to See on a Colmar Day Trip
I chose Colmar as one of my top two picks for a day trip from Strasbourg, France because of its long and rich history. But honestly, another of the primary reasons I chose to visit was because every picture I saw of the city was arrestingly beautiful. So, here, in roughly an order that will take you on a beautiful stroll through the historic area, are the sights I enjoyed seeing the most:
Just a few doors down Rue Berthe Molly from Rue Jean Baptiste Fleurent is an unassuming shell pink building. But if you are looking for it, you will see a sign on the first floor noting that the French Enlightenment writer and historian resided at this address.
For 13 month, from 1753 to 1754, François-Marie Arouet, better known by his pen-name, Voltaire, made this his home while working on his Annales de l’Empire. Voltaire had been forced to leave the royal court by Frederick II. The royal had been a friend and admirer of Voltaire, but then ordered all copies of Voltaire’s Diatribe du Docteur Akakia burned. This was followed up by sending royal guard after Voltaire to collect a book of satirical poetry that Frederick had lent to him. Yeah, Voltaire was out.
As Voltaire moved from city to city, he stayed in Colmar for 13 months and used the extensive libraries of lawyers and councilors of the Sovereign Court to complete his book.
The Pfister House is one of the most famous buildings in Colmar. Built in 1537 by hatmaker Ludwig Scherer, the Renaissance architecture stands out on a street of beautiful buildings.
Perhaps most interesting about the building are the paintings on the façade. The entire building is covered with these representations of the evangelists, the fathers of the church and allegorical and biblical figures. This historic monument of Colmar has been called the “Jewel of Alsace architecture.”
The Adolph house is believed to be the oldest building in Colmar. First mentioned as early as 1371 in documents, it is estimated it was built in 1350. The truly fascinating part is that this house was not identified as such until the 1800s when the owner of the time uncovered the Gothic windows during renovations!
Since then, the house was made a Historic Monument in 1929.
Former Guard House
Just beside the Adolf house on Place de la Cathedrále is the Former Guard House. Originally St. James’ Chapel, this building was converted to a Guard House in 1575. The Portal and Loggia are excellent examples of upper Rhine Renaissance architecture.
Seat of Plowman’s Guild
The Seat of the Plowman’s Guild, which was the meeting hall for the farmer’s guild, has an intricate and beautiful Renaissance entrance. Over the entry are the words “En Venracht Als Gemacht” which means “faster undone than done” – which I can’t read without thinking about trying to keep our house clean with kids. Maybe I should crop out that saying from the photo and frame it in our living room.
Koifhus Former Customs House
the former Custom’s House, or “Koifhus”, completed in 1480, was the old commercial and economic center of Colmar and the oldest local public building in the city. Originally the ground floor was used to levy tax on imported and exported merchandise. The first floor meeting room was also used for representatives of a federation of the ten Imperial towns of Alsace, created in 1354.
The building has both Gothic and Renaissance elements and was declared a historic monument in 1930 by the French Ministry of Culture. The flower-laden Renaissance balustrade was only recently restored. It’s a gorgeous addition to the Tanner’s District.
A remarkable little tidbit about the building: On April 27, 1771, in the Koifhus, a son was born to the janitor of the building. He named his son Jean. He grew up to be Jean Rapp, a French army officer during the French Revolutionary wars and the Napoleonic wars, and adjutant of Napoleon Bonaparte.
Today, be sure to take a look in to the first floor while you are in town. If you are lucky, you may get to see works by local artists or other displays.
This area of Colmar became a historical monument in 1966 and underwent a thorough renovation from 1968-1974. The half-timbered houses date back to the 1600-1700s, and were originally used by tanners who would dry out their skins on the open upper floors of the high houses.
Today the half-timbered homes make for excellent photos, and the cafes in the area are a great place to stop in for a rest and a bite to eat.
Within the Tanner’s district is the Schwendi Fountain designed by Bartholdi and completed in 1898. Lazare de Schwendi was a warlord who fought for the empire. He fought against the Turks in Hungary and is depicted holding a “Tokay” vine stock, a Pinot Gris grape, that he is supposed to have brought back from his campaigns.
Built by Parisian architect Louis-Michel Boltz from 1863-1865, this may be your tastiest stop in Colmar. There are stands of fresh fruits and vegetables, bulk spices, and fish and meat stands. Maybe most helpful if you are on Colmar day trip, are the dine in options and a number of stands. You can choose a quiche stand, an asian restaurant, a sandwich place, or others.
Be sure to check out the exterior of the building. There is a recessed spot on the southwest corner with a station of a winemaker. This is a sculpture by Bartholdi, the same man who created the Statue of Liberty.
If you happen to visit on a Thursday, market stalls pop up in the surrounding area.
The Fishmonger’s District is the link between the Tanner’s District and Little Venice. As you can imagine from the name, traditionally this was the home to the fisherman of Colmar. Even up to the beginning of the 20th century, locally caught fish would be sold right on the side of the water. This whole area was thoroughly restored between 1978-1981.
Little Venice follows Rue Turenne through the historic area of Colmar. The street is named after a French Marshall General, Henri de La Tour d’Auvergne, the vicomte de Turenne. Apparently, after one of his many battles, he marched victoriously down this street in 1674. Historically this area housed the wine-producers, market gardeners, and boatmen.
If you follow Rue Turenne to the bridge over La Lauch, the view is particularly picturesque, so be sure your camera is ready!
The Roesselmann Fountain honors Provost Marshal Jean Roesselmann who defended Colmar against the Bishop of Strasbourg in 1262. This Bartholdi statue was created in 1888. Since Roesselmann was hardly around after 600 years to model for the fountain, Bartholdi made the statue resemble Hercule de Peyerimhoff. Peyerimhoff was a former mayor of Colmar who was kicked out of office in 1877 for refusing to submit to German authorities.
Parc du Champ de Mars & Place Rapp
These two side by side areas blend into one open space in the center of Colmar. The Place Rapp is a large open space with ground fountains in the summer inviting children and adults alike to get splashed and play to cool off. There is also a Bartholdi statue of General Jean Rapp, who served in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars.
Colmar’s Parc du Champ de Mars is a large green space with many large trees shading the benches that line the walks. It is a cool and inviting space after a walk through the historic area. Locals lounge and picnics dot the grass. In the center if Bartholdi’s Bruat Fountain.
Yet another Bartholdi site in Colmar is the Bruat Fountain. This fountain was inaugurated in 1864 and is composed of a statue of Armand-Joseph Bruat and four statues surrounding him that are allegories of the four continents.
This fountain was destroyed by Nazis in 1940, but rebuilt in 1958. However the original sandstone heads are in the Bartholdi museum. Another great little tidbit is the Alfred Schweitzer credits the African statue for inspiring him to be a doctor in Africa.
Here’s a handy-dandy map of the top sites in Colmar. Go to the Colmar Tourism Map page to download a PDF of this map or other useful guides.
Colmar Day Trip Sites Labeled for Map
- 5 – Voltaire’s Residence
- 7 – Maison Pfister
- 8 – Adolph House
- 9 – Former Guard House
- 12 – Seat of Plowman’s Guild
- 17 – Tanner’s District
- 18 – Schwendi Fountain
- 19 – Koifhus Former Customs House
- 22 – Colmar Covered Market
- 23 – Fishmonger’s District
- 25 – Little Venice
- 28 – Roesselmann Fountain
- 37 – Bruat Fountain
- 38 – Place Rapp
- SNCF – Train Station
Other posts like this one:
- Day Trips from Strasbourg
- 10 Best Things To Do in Strasbourg, France
- 10 Non Touristy Things To Do in Madrid
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11 thoughts on “Colmar Day Trip: Historic Sites Guide (with Map!)”
Cute post! I’d love to have a day trip or even longer here!!
This looks like an absolute fairy-tale town! I love it and your pictures are fabulous. I wonder, how easy is it to get around if you only speak English? Would this make it hard to enjoy the town?
Not at all. I do not Spsak French at all, and I managed just fine. Learning to say a greeting and please and thank you is nice, but they are used to a lot of English -speakers. You’ve got to check it out!
I agree to these pictures being fabulous! There are so many adorable corners in the French country side to discover. It doesn´t always have to be Paris! And wow, you really did your research! Reading this I learned so much about the local history. Lovely post!
Such a picturesque place to be and never heard of it, thanks for sharing!
I simply loved the pics. Colmar looks like a great place to explore. I so wanna visit France.
I enjoyed reading your article about Colmar and it’s famous residents. I liked the history behind these old houses and how the lives of its residents were connected and epitomized by the famous architect Bartholdi. I learned facts that I did not know before about Voltaire, General Jean Rapp and others. I love these stories. Photos are very beautiful too.
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