Colmar is situated in the Grand Est region of France and is also the seat of the highest jurisdiction in Alsace, the appellate court. It is situated along the Alsatian Wine Route and considers itself to be the “Capital of Alsatian Wine” (capitale des vins d’Alsace). Colmar is the home town of the painter and engraver Martin Schongauer and the sculptor Frédéric Bartholdi, who designed the Statue of Liberty. The city is renowned for its well preserved old town, its numerous architectural landmarks and its museums, among which the Unterlinden Museum.
Colmar was founded in the 9th century. This was the location where Charles the Fat held a diet in 884. Colmar was granted the status of a free imperial city of the Holy Roman Empire in 1226. In 1575, the city adopted the Protestant Reformation, long after the northern neighbours of Strasbourg and Sélestat. During the Thirty Years’ War, the city was taken by the armies of Sweden in 1632, who held it for two years. The city was conquered by France under Louis XIV in 1673. In 1679 (Treaties of Nijmegen) Colmar was ceded to France. With the rest of Alsace, Colmar was annexed by the newly formed German Empire in 1871 as a result of the Franco-Prussian War. It returned to France after World War I, was annexed by Nazi Germany in 1940, and then reverted to French control after the battle of the “Colmar Pocket” in 1945. Colmar has been continuously governed by conservative parties since 1947, the Popular Republican Movement (1947–1977), the Union for French Democracy (1977–1995) and the Union for a Popular Movement (since 1995), and has had only three mayors during that time. The Colmar Treasure, hidden during the Black Death, was discovered here in 1863.
Mostly spared by the destructions of the French Revolution and the wars of 1870–1871, 1914–1918 and 1939–1945, the cityscape of old-town Colmar is homogenous and renowned among tourists. The area crossed by canals of the river Lauch, and which formerly served as the butcher’s, tanner’s and fishmonger’s quarter, is now called “little Venice” (la Petite Venise). Colmar’s cityscape (and neighbouring Riquewihr’s) served for the design of the Japanese animated film Howl’s Moving Castle.
Maison des Têtes is a majestic German renaissance decorated house and boasts 111 faces and a beautiful oriel window on three floors. This ornate house was built for a very wealthy merchant in 1609.
Marchands Street. Going under the porch of Koïfhus into the Rue de Marchands brings you to the famous 16th century Maison Pfister a medieval house but of renaissance design it is built of wood and stone with a beautiful corner oriel window, rich mural paintings and a long gallery.
At the corner of Place de l’Ecloe stands Colmar’s smallest house nicknamed “Fly Box”.
Place de la Cathedrale. Situated in the historic heart of Colmar is St Martin’s church built 1235-1365. Also on the square is the 14th century Maison Adolph regarded as one of being Colmar’s oldest houses, built approx. 1350. And also the old Guardhouse from the 16th century with its stunning architecture.
Église Saint-Martin is a late 13th century example of Gothic architecture. It has two beautiful stained glass oriel windows.
“Petite Venise” district. This picturesque area owes its name to the houses lined up on either side of the small canal running through Colmar.
- Take a flat bottomed boat tour along the water in the district known as “Little Venice”.
- Or take the train on the little train that tours through Colmar.
- In the summer enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride from the Place de la Sinn.
- the famous Unterlinden Museum
- the enchanting Toy Museum
- Hansi Museum – filled with artworks
- Le Musée du Pain d’épices et de l’Art Populaire Alsacien
- Natural History and Ethnographical Museum
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