Located in the Alsace region of France, Colmar is just as beautiful as its much more famous neighbour, Strasbourg and is just as worth visiting during any time of the year. Though best-seen towards the end of the year when the Christmas markets are in full swing, there’s a whole unusual side of Colmar worth discovering, if only you know where to look. Here’s your ultimate guide to the best of hidden gems and secret spots in Colmar!
If you’ve not already placed Colmar on your French bucket list, then now is the time to do so (before it’s just as discovered by the rest of the world as some of the other large cities in the region). Close to the border with Switzerland and not far from the border with Germany, the Alsace region itself has a rich history and, as such, has frequently changed hands between France and Germany over the centuries.
The resulting towns and villages that have since grown up in the foothills of this mountainous region are a delightful mix of history meets gastronomy meets various languages and the likes of timber-framed houses are to be found in abundance. As well as fairytale-like settlements, lovers of wine will be pleased to discover that Alsatian vin is some of the best French tipple out there!
The Colmar Statue of Liberty
You may well not know this, but there are more Statues of Liberty (full name: Liberty Enlightening the World) than simply that of Ellis Island in New York City. In fact, in Paris alone, there are several, including a quarter-sized scale replicate at Pont de Grenelle in the 15th arrondissement of the city.
Other cities which boast their very own Statue of Liberty include Nice, Bordeaux… And Colmar. In fact, the very first hidden gem of Colmar you’ll likely spy if approaching the timber-framed town via car is that of the Statue of Liberty of Colmar.
The statue was created in 2004 to commemorate the centenary of Auguste Bartholdi’s death. After all, the designer of the Statue was born in the city in the 19th-century and died of Tuberculosis in Paris in 1904. Standing at a height of 12 metres in the centre of a busy roundabout, the monument is to be found on the D83.
Considering that such an illustrious figure was born in Colmar (i.e. the man who designed the Statue of Liberty), it may well not surprise you that the artist’s birthplace has since been transformed into a museum celebrating his life and works.
Situated in the very heart of Colmar and surrounded by Christmas markets come the end of the year, the Museum is to be found at 30 rue des Marchands. Situated over three levels, key exhibits feature the likes of preparatory models for works by Bartholdi, as well as a preparatory model for the ear of the Statue of Liberty.
Au Croissant Doré
Hands down, one of our favourite finds in Colmar was that of a quaint café which goes by the name ‘Au Croissant Doré’ (which is literally translated into English as ‘the Golden Croissant’). Situated steps away from the Collegiate Church of Saint Martin, you’ll know you’re in the right place when you spy the baby pink façade and welcoming entryway.
The interior of the Colmar coffee shop is just as charming and the menu offers no fewer than ten types of coffees, all at ever-so-reasonable prices. Meanwhile, there are also beers on offer, as well as a small selection of local traditional foodstuffs, making this one of the best secret spots in Colmar. Before visiting, just be warned that big groups aren’t well accommodated due to the layout of the restaurant!
Le Marché Couvert de Colmar (Les Halles)
Like every other major French city, Colmar too has its own covered marketplace. Traditional in style and constructed during the latter half of the 19th-century, Les Halles sits in the very heart of the historic city centre, somewhere between the Collegiate Church of Saint Martin and La Petite Venise (i.e. one of the most picturesque places in the city).
Step inside during open hours and you’ll soon feast your eyes on a selection of fresh produce from the nearby region and beyond. From artisanal tipples to fresh fruit and vegetables, locals and visitors mingle between the delectable eats and treats for sale.
One particularly interesting feature is a bronze statue fountain of a winegrower which was designed by Auguste Bartholdi in the late 1860s. Though the original statue has since been moved to the Musée Bartholdi for safekeeping, a replica has stood in its place since 1986.
Take a day trip to Eguisheim
Of all the secret spots in Colmar, several are to be found a little way outside of the city limits themselves. And so, if you’re looking to discover the best of the Alsace region, then you simply must head beyond the larger towns of Colmar, Strasbourg, and Mulhouse, and visit the smaller villages in the region.
For example, the charming small town of Eguisheim is just a fifteen-minute drive away from Colmar and makes for the perfect day trip from the city. Home to a Christmas market during the end of November and December, other highlights of this Alsace town include strolling through the many cobbled lanes of old-town Eguisheim (which is centred around a historic château).
Other highlights of Eguinsheim include sampling the many local wines produced in the region, and taking the time to discover the ruinous sandstone three castles of Eguisheim, which are located just a short drive from the historic town centre and date all the way back to 1006.
Discover the story of the ‘Hercules of Colmar’
One of the best-kept stories of Colmar is not a place per se, but more a location where one of the more iconic figures in Colmar’s rich history lived and worked. You see, Martin Stockmeyer is now a local legend among the people of Colmar and is often referred to as the ‘Hercules of Colmar’.
You see, the skipper, who lived in the 18th-century, is often credited as being largely responsible for the French Revolution in this part of France in February of 1791. Today, you can visit the Little Venice of Colmar for a glimpse into how the town would have looked all those centuries ago.