Some places just seem to be made for photographers, and Colmar, France, is one of those cities. With its canals, cobblestones, and medieval lanes, it is a dream to explore. The historic buildings in Colmar are what truly push it over the top. Their bright facades and half-timbered construction make the whole city feel like it came straight from a storybook, as these Colmar photos show.
We’ve visited Colmar numerous times in different seasons, uncovering all the fun things to do there and discovering the nuances of the city in all its glory. No matter the month or the time of year, it’s a stunning place to spend time and to explore the beauty of Alsace.
The heart of the Alsace wine route, Colmar has existed since at least the 9th century, and many of the prettiest things to see around town are a product of its long and varied history. Over the centuries, the city has changed hands several times between France and Germany leading to a culture that has elements of both countries’ heritage and lots of things that are unique to Alsace.
Thanks to a mixture of good fortune and strategy, Colmar survived the ravages of major wars including the French Revolution and both World Wars. That means that it is filled with buildings from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance that make walking through the city streets a colorful lesson in history and architecture.
There are lots of attractions and unique places to take photos in Colmar. If your plan is to sight see, by all means, come with an agenda. If your plan is to enjoy and take in the beauty of the city, all you have to do is open your eyes—it will be all around you.
If you arrive by train and walk toward old town Colmar, Petite Venise is likely the first place you’ll come to. It’s also what most people know as the postcard view of the city. With the colorful buildings and the boats that glide by on the River Lauch, it’s my favorite spot and a major landmark in this beautiful country.
Quai de la Poissonnerie
Following the river through Petite Venise takes you deeper into town on Quai de la Poissonnerie. Years ago, this area by the river was the quarters of the fishmongers and the tanners. The river helped power the equipment they needed to work and got rid of the waste, so it was the perfect area for the craftsmen and people doing some of the town’s smellier jobs.
Today, Quai de la Poissonnerie is the prettiest place to walk in Colmar. It is often full of people shopping, taking photos, and staring in wonderment at the half-timbered houses.
Old Town Center
As you head toward the center of the old town, the gorgeous buildings continue.
Half-timbered structures are everywhere–some are as much as 300 years old. The Schwendi Fountain, which honors a general in the Imperial Army of the Holy Roman Empire, is decorated at certain times of the year and is always surrounded by restaurants with outdoor cafes serving traditional Alsatian dishes.
Don’t miss the unique green tiled roof of the Old Customs House.
Unique Buildings and Attractions
Turning down Rue de l’Eglise takes you by even more of the unique places to see in Colmar. The Maison Adolph, which dates from about 1350, is one of the oldest buildings in the city. Its arched windows show how elements of religious architecture were sometimes incorporated into building private homes. Just a few steps away, the painted wood gallery and octagonal turret of the 16th-century Maison Pfister grab the attention of visitors.
Colmar also has prominent religious sites including St. Martin’s Church, which was built in 1234. The massive reddish building with its green tiled roof is one of the centers of fairs, festivals, and gatherings throughout the year. A few blocks away, the Unterlinden Museum houses centuries’ worth of religious artwork in its converted 13th-century cloisters.
Beyond the historic sites and gorgeous buildings, Colmar also has a thriving food culture. There are numerous Michelin-starred restaurants and plenty of places to sample Alsatian specialties.
Christmas in Colmar
For five weeks every winter, the center of Colmar turns into one giant Christmas market. There are lights, rides, and hundreds of chalets selling gifts, decorations, and traditional foods. The air smells like cinnamon and everything glows in the colors of Christmas. It’s magic.