Read more about my Self Care Sabbatical and the other places I’ve visited!
I had been dying to come to this part of France since I was in French class many years ago learning about the Alsace-Lorraine region. Colmar has blown up as an Instagram darling because of its storybook charm. And it really is that charming in real life. The minute I walked into the center of town, I thought I had gone back into some live-action version of Beauty & the Beast.
At first, you cannot stop taking photos. Every building is more precious than the last. But then, take a break, put the phone down, and immerse yourself in this beautiful little town.
Getting There: My trip to Colmar was not easy. This was my own fault as I was traveling from Brussels and decided I wanted to stop in Cologne for a few hours. This choice resulted in me taking a total of 6 trains in one day: Brussels to Cologne, Cologne to Mannheim, Mannheim to Offenburg, Offenburg to Strasbourg, Strasbourg to Colmar. It was terrible. Traveling from Cologne to Colmar took about 5 hours, but that’s on FIVE DIFFERENT TRAINS. I was basically transferring EVERY HOUR. And with my stupid luggage, it was a real pain (literally). Also, this meant I had to make my connections (which were pretty short). My train from Cologne was a bit delayed, as was the train in Mannheim. Thus, I was dangerously close to not making my train to Strasbourg (Deutsche Bahn had even sent me an email to let me know that which I received hours later). I raced off the train in Offenburg, scrambling down the stairs with my heavy-ass bag, running up the next set of stairs to the other platform (damn these stations without escalators). Huffing and puffing all the way. I felt like a lunatic. I’m sure I looked like one. The train to Strasbourg was there, it was waiting for a few of us apparently to make our connection. I found a seat, sweaty and out of breath and cursing my luggage. I’m sure I had a few new bruises on my legs from this connection. Then I quickly realized that this train between Offenburg and Strasbourg goes back and forth all day long, stopping off in a few smaller towns in between. And so missing my train would not have been a huge deal really. Oh well. I still had another train in Colmar to make (which I did).
Would I do it again? No. Nor would I suggest this to anyone else! The few hours I spent in Cologne were really not worth it for all of the hassles. The easier option would have been traveling through Paris to Strasbourg which would have gotten me there directly. You can also fly into Strasbourg and take the train to Colmar. Or get a car. Seriously, anything would be easier than what I did.
Where to stay: I opted to stay in a rental apartment while I was in Colmar. When I was first looking for places, I had trouble finding something I liked that was around the center of town (ie not near the train station) and within my budget. Fortunately, I happened upon a cute little 1 bedroom apartment that was cheaper than some of the hotel options I was considering. Deal! This apartment was perfect. It was cozy and charming in the way that West Village apartments are cozy and charming (Translation: Small, quirky, but cute enough that you look past all of that and with a great location).
The apartment was great just for me, I felt like I had so much space to hang out (especially after being in hotel rooms and hostels) and I was happy to have a kitchen for myself. I picked up some groceries the first night and managed to stretch them through the 3 days I was there for all of my meals. It was great for saving money and, in theory, being a bit healthier (though I bought some sausages and cheeses so not really healthier). I loved being able to make breakfast in the mornings, throw together a quick salad for lunch and dinner, and just relax.
After 2 weeks of traveling and going out to eat all the time (by myself), this was a quite welcome change. It also inspired me to book an apartment for my upcoming stay in Toulouse because I loved having space (and the kitchen!). There was also a washing machine in the apartment, perfect because I was just nearing the end of my clean clothes!
I would definitely recommend staying in the center or close by. The charm of Colmar is really in this area – once you get out of there, you could be in any town in France. Look for an apartment if you can, this is the kind of town where well-placed hotels will likely be more expensive. There is a local market and a few supermarkets in the center of town so it’s easy to pick up groceries.
What to do:
- Wander around the town and enjoy how charming it is. Check out the area called Little Venice, take some photos with everyone else!
- Visit the Covered Market, open every day except Wednesday. There is also an open-air market on Thursdays next to the Covered Market.
- Check out part of the Route du Vin and taste Alsatian wines. There are also a few wineries and places to taste the wines in Colmar (the Martin Jund winery had a stall set up in the center of town where you could try wines for 2 euro each). This is probably easiest done in a car, but I rented a bike and rode to Eguisheim to see the town and drink some wine. It was really fun.
- Seriously, rent a bike and ride to Eguisheim. I rented the bike from the train station from Velodocteurs for 6 euro. The ride to Eguisheim was about 30 minutes. At first, you ride along the street in the bike lane, no problem. But then you must veer off the main road and through some dirt roads passing through giant cornfields. TRUST ME, it’s amazing. I was a little nervous at first (mostly that the bike wouldn’t survive the dirt road), but it felt so freeing riding through here with no one around (I saw 3 other bikes the whole time). The views are incredible. It was so unexpected and so much fun, probably one of my favorite moments of my trip so far. I really had no idea where I was going (thank goodness for Google maps because I didn’t really prepare for the route before I rented the bike), but I made it to Eguisheim in one piece.
- If you do go to Eguisheim, check out the wine at Pierre Henri Ginlinger. Maybe get a snack (a pastry or a bretzel perhaps?).
- If you’re a big fan of the Statue of Liberty, you may know it’s sculptor Auguste Bartholdi. He was born in Colmar and created some of the famous statues and fountains around the city. There is a museum dedicated to Bartholdi in his old home. It’s not super exciting so skippable unless you really have an interest.
- There is a lovely park, Champ du Mars, just outside the center of town. I came here to relax one afternoon and it was really nice. (And also nice for running!)
- To be honest, I didn’t do much eating in Colmar because I stayed in an apartment and mainly cooked at home. There are many restaurants around the center of town offering Alsatian cuisine; a few recommendations included Cour des Anges and Wistub Brunner.
- Alsatian cuisine is a bit heavy and was not super appealing to me when it was so hot in mid-August. Tarte flambee is very popular here, as well as a lot of meat dishes like choucroute (basically sauerkraut with five different types of meat on top), baeckeoffe (a meat and potato casserole). For pastries, you can try the kugelhopf which is a cake with raisins (can be big or small).
- L’un des Sens – This wine bar was just around the corner from my apartment, but I never made it there. Had been recommended by a few sources but, as I was there during a holiday, the one day I tried to go, it was closed! Bummer.
- Alsatian wine is not really my favorite – it is very sweet and I found only a few that I liked (Pinot Blanc was my favorite type which I picked up in Eguisheim). But definitely give it a try at one of the wineries or local bars.