Situated in the Alsace region of France, Colmar features a unique mix of both French, Swiss, and German culture. The town is known for its historic homes and is a great destination to visit during the chilly winter thanks to the vast amount of activities available. It’s especially popular during the holiday season as the town is transformed into a magical winter wonderland and many of the local timber homes are covered in twinkling lights and garlands. This charming town offers a variety of amazing things you can experience while here.
14 Things to Do in Colmar During the Winter
1. Take a Stroll Through the Parc du Champ de Mars
This park is a great place to take a quick stroll while viewing ancient trees and towering fountains. While walking along the winding pathways, you’ll also come across some statues of prominent French people like Fontaine Bruat and General Rapp.
2. Wander Through La Petite Venise
La Petite Venise, which translates to Little Venice, is a unique section in Colmar. The area resembles Venice, hence its name. You’ll find colorful homes lining canals as well as cafes and restaurants you can dine at while watching boats lazily float by. In addition to this, you’ll find markets you can shop at and many stunning bridges you can explore.
One highlight of Little Venice is the Fishing Quay which is near the Rue des Tanneurs. This was once a popular spot where local fishermen would sell their catch during the day. The Covered Market of Colmar is also nearby. This market, created in 1865, still operates today and is the perfect spot in the town to find local treasures and souvenirs.
For those looking for a picturesque spot, you can stop by the Pont Saint-Pierre. Situated on the southern end of Little Venice, this bridge gives you panoramic views of the surrounding area.
3. Visit the Colmar Christmas Markets
When visiting Colmar during the winter, one should always stop by one of the local Christmas markets. Colmar offers over six different markets you can explore, all of which feature a distinct theme each year. The markets are situated beneath historic buildings which provide a dazzling backdrop as you shop for tasty treats and handmade goodies.
One of the most popular Christmas markets in Colmar is the one in the town center. You can easily walk around to the different stalls here while viewing architectural marvels. Little Venice also has a small Christmas market you can visit. In all, the town offers over 180 stalls you can browse through. The Koifhus is also festively decorated and local artisans display their goods inside it which you can shop for.
Besides the handcrafted items, the Christmas markets also offer an incredible array of traditional Christmas goods you can devour, many of which are only available this time of the year. Some of the best things to try are mulled wine, pain d’épices (a local variety of gingerbread), and Kougelhopf (a sweet bread filled with Kirsch-soaked raisins). You’ll find many other goodies as well you can try while strolling around to the different stalls.
4. Stop by the Bartholdi Museum
If you’re looking for a place to get away from the frigid temperatures for a bit, you can stop inside the local Bartholdi Museum. This museum is dedicated to telling the story of Frederic Bartholdi, a sculptor best known for creating the Statue of Liberty. You can explore this cozy structure (which was Bartholdi’s childhood home) and see some other pieces that this talented artist designed. You can even see the models he created of the Statue of Liberty before it was fully completed. After touring the interior, you can stop in its courtyard and view other interesting art pieces.
5. Visit the Toy Museum of Colmar
Another great place to get you out of the cold is the Toy Museum of Colmar. This museum rests inside a former movie theater and contains three different floors filled with toys created during the 19th century to today. Each floor contains a different era of toys so you’ll be able to see how much the industry has changed.
You’ll be able to see everything from antique miniature trains and board games to Barbie dolls and Legos while here. Sometimes the museum also hosts traveling exhibits which contain unique toys of a specific theme.
Admission is required to enter the museum and during the holiday season the regular times do change. Because of this, make sure to research before visiting the museum.
6. Explore Tanner’s District
Tanner’s District is a breathtaking spot in Colmar as it’s filled with many old houses that date back to the 17th century. The homes feature traditional French architecture and was where many of the town’s tanners lived with their families. You’ll also see many open-space galleries and balconies on them which is where the tanners would lay out the skins.
7. Walk Through the Unterlinden Museum
This art museum is one of the most visited fine arts museums in France. Situated inside a former convent, the museum offers a variety of different art pieces, like archeological artifacts to modern art you can view. One of its most popular pieces though is the Isenheim Altarpiece. This massive art piece features three different scenes of suffering which were inspired by the local monks.
8. Enjoy a Traditional Meal at Wistub Brenner
Situated in Little Venice, Wistub Brenner is a wonderful place to enjoy a traditional Alsatian meal. You can step inside this historic home where you can try local wines and many delicious dishes which are created with locally grown ingredients. You’ll be able to try many traditional dishes that this region is known for here, like foie gras.
9. Tour St. Martin’s Church
Built in 1234, this Gothic church is known for its large size and for being the site of many archeological excavations over the years. You can tour the interior of the church to view its intricate façade, towering stained glass windows, and unique gargoyles which have an interesting history behind them. You’ll also find a massive organ inside which was designed in 1755.
10. View the Schwendi Fountain
Another great treasure to view while in Colmar is the Schwendi Fountain. Created in 1898 by Auguste Bartholdi, the fountain depicts Lazare de Schwendi, a former French military commander who is known for bringing home a now-popular Alsatian grape variety after one of his military missions. This is evident with the grapevine the sculpture holds. This fountain is a replica of the original as the first one was destroyed in 1940 during World War II.
11. Go Ice Skating
During the winter, you’ll find a small ice skating rink in Place Rapp. This rink is mainly open during the Christmas season and is decorated with Christmas trees and other festive décor. After skating, you can stop by the rink’s snack shop which offers Bredele, a traditional Christmas cookie flavored with spices.
12. Visit Koifhus
As the town’s former customs house, Koifhus was an important spot for locals to visit and see imports brought to the city. The other floors of the site also served various purposes. The main floor was used as a meeting spot for politicians and eventually was turned into a theater and bank.
The building was built in the mid-1400s before eventually being neglected and fell into disrepair. It wasn’t until the 1800s that it was restored to help prevent demolition. Today, you can tour this historic structure and learn more about its intricate architecture and history.
13. Venture to See the Maison Pfister
Built in 1537, the Maison Pfister was the dwelling space of a local prominent family. It’s known today for its bold architecture which features galleries, an octagonal turret, and numerous mural paintings. The home is considered to be one of the top highlights in the town.
14. Try Some Local Wine at a Wine Cellar
A tasty glass of wine is the perfect way to end a winter’s day in Colmar. Wine is very popular in Colmar. In fact, Colmar is considered the Alsatian wine capital. You can stop by some local wine cellars and try some of their specialties, like the Sylvaner, known for its light fruity taste, and the Pinot Noir which has a soft cherry flavor. One wine cellar to consider visiting is the Cave des Vignerons de Pfaffenheim. Situated just outside the town’s borders, this cellar offers tours of its interior and a delicious wine tasting session at the end.
Colmar is a small town, but it’s packed with many things to do and see. While the temperatures might be a bit chilly, winter is a unique time to visit Colmar as you’ll be able to experience its local traditions, especially during the holidays, in a way you can’t during other parts of the year.