Two and a half hours from Kaiserslautern is the absolutely adorable town of Colmar, France. Colmar epitomises France’s Alsace region, a unique blend of German and French culture, along with a climate that is perfect for winemaking. With their half-timbered houses and uniquely decorated homes, it is no wonder why Disney chose this area as inspiration for Beauty and the Beast.
We visited during mid-summer 2021, and the weather was perfect to spend all day leisurely strolling through the town. It felt like taking a step back in time, with so much walkable space, little traffic, and over a thousand years worth of history. We enjoyed an informative walking tour that featured the city’s churches, landmarks, and all sorts of other neat things tucked into the city. We spent just under 48 hours in Colmar, leaving Friday after lunch and returning Sunday evening. Colmar quickly became one of my favorite European destinations, and I hope this post encourages you to check it out soon!
What We Did
It can be relaxing to wander through a picturesque town, but it also can be overwhelming if you don’t know where to start. Picking up a city map is always a great place to start, as they usually are informative and give you a great walking route to see the city’s greatest hits. We planned to pick one up at the tourist office, but we found a perfect map in the lobby of our hotel.
The city map featured almost 30 highlights to see in the city and a path to see them all. We got so caught up admiring the city that we didn’t make it to half of the landmarks. There are also markers on the ground and informative signs at each landmark written in English, German, and French.
Along the tour, we stopped at an iconic spot in Colmar, Little Venice. Here we admired a canal with stunning half-timbered homes lining the quaint La Lauch river. We followed the path to the Covered Market, and since we were there Saturday morning, it was an experience seeing locals grab fresh produce for the day. We paused by some famous former residences such as Voltaire’s former apartment, as well as the birth home of Auguste Bartholdi, designer of the Statue of Liberty. We admired the city’s churches, most notably St. Martin’s Church, a Gothic-style Church built in the 1200s.
While we enjoyed seeing the city’s greatest hits on foot, we hopped on the Petit Train ride near the tourist office. You’ll be impressed watching the train driver squeezing through the tightest alleyways, as you enjoy the tour of the city. You wear headphones during the tour, and it is offered in over a dozen languages. It is only €7 per person, and well worth the half-hour experience!
We also took a boat ride on La Lauch, beginning in Little Venice. The boat ride is also only €7 per person for a 20 minute tour in English and French. We had a witty guide named Olivier, that made it worth every cent. If you want to take a boat ride, I recommend you reserve or arrive early. We arrived at 4pm, and fortunately they were able to squeeze us in for a 6pm tour.
If you have time, take the short drive out of the city to see the Statue of Liberty. It is a mini-replica of New York harbor’s iconic landmark, but erected just outside of Colmar in honor to the designer Auguste Bartholdi. We parked in a nearby store parking lot to quickly snap pictures of the statue.
Where We Stayed
If you do Colmar as a day trip from Kaiserslautern, no need to worry about the parking situation. Most of the parking is outside the town center, and there is plenty of streetside parking available. If you park where you see “Payant,” just go to the nearest kiosk, enter your licence plate number, and pay for your trip duration. A whole day is €35.
We stayed at the Novotel Colmar Centre Hotel, and parked there for €10 a day. The staff was very friendly and helpful, and we never had trouble finding someone who spoke English. I booked the hotel because of the amazing reviews it had on Booking and Expedia. I ended up booking through Expedia, paying $307 total for two nights, including an incredible breakfast each morning. The hotel is immediately outside the city center, so it is easy to drive up to, outside of the area with late-night noise, and a quick walk to anywhere you want to see. We came back and forth to the hotel a few times, including after lunch for a quick siesta.
The hotel rooms are about as comfortable as it gets in Europe. They are air conditioned and about as large as an American sized hotel room. Since our room had a sofa, we could have easily fit in another person. Now, I’m not saying you should bring an air mattress into a hotel room, but I will just make the observation that you could bring in an air mattress and easily fit in a family of five.
Where We Ate
We had a variety of dining experiences, and no matter what you are looking for, you will find plenty of restaurants and cafés throughout the city. Before heading out, I recommend you make dinner reservations, as we noticed that restaurants quickly filled up around 7pm.
We ate at a Japanese Restaurant, Sushia, when we got there Friday night. We called and made a reservation ahead of time. My favorite part was the great vibe inside the restaurant, spending only €50 for two meals and Asahi beer from Japan.
While walking around on Saturday afternoon, we ate at Restaurant La Romantica for lunch. We didn’t have a reservation, but the restaurant just happened to have a table for four available on the terrace (by this time, our friends from Kaiserslautern had joined us). We also spent about €50 here for pasta, pizza, wine, and beer for two people.
Saturday evening we ate at L’Epicurien. We chose to eat here for our first Michelin plate experience. The restaurant is actually not very assuming, but it we absolutely enjoyed our meal and experience here. We called the day before for reservations, and were able to get a table for four adults on the terrace. As a couple, we spent just over €100, which apparently isn’t too bad for a Michelin restaurant. We had a Patagonia shrimp entrée, ribeye steak, fish of the day with scampi, dessert, and a few glasses of wine and beer. It was well worth the experience!
After dinner, we went to JJ Murphy’s Irish Pub for a drink to close out the night. We walked up and immediately were able to sit on the terrace as we enjoyed mojitos and Irish stout. It started to rain, so we scurried inside to finish our drinks. It also was a place for a great vibe, but in these days of pandemic, I didn’t really want to hang inside a crowded bar for long.
A Few Other Things
There were a few other things I found interesting while in Colmar. They have a neat display established to commemorate the city’s 1945 liberation. The display has patches from the Allied units involved in the campaign. My favorite was seeing the patch from the U.S. Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, a unit I served with years ago.
As you stroll throughout the city, you’ll notice storks displayed everywhere. Of course, I had to look up real quick what was the deal with all the storks, and found an interesting, yet sobering, explanation. The region used to be a summer destinations from the birds flying north from Africa. The locals saw the storks as a sign of good luck and fertility. Unfortunately around 50 years ago, there were noticeably less storks in the region. I guess all the stork displays are a way of remembering past times.
Why You Should Visit
Colmar is a very vibrant town, hosting festivals each year from an International Festival, Jazz Festival, and Christmas Market. In fact, if you visit between mid-August to late-September this year, you can check it out during the Jazz Festival.
But honestly, you don’t need a specific reason to visit Colmar. Just jump in your car and check it out! You’ll find the city exceptionally friendly to tourists, which is great with lots to see and eat while you are there. When you check it out, you can also bundle it with visiting nearby picturesque villages of Eguisheim and Riquewihr. At under 3 hours from Kaiserslautern, you should definitely block off a weekend to check it out!