Colmar France – Half Timbered Wonderland

Looking as if it has been plucked directly from some book of children’s tales, Colmar France is a fantasy playground where wandering the almost totally traffic free streets of the old city center transports you back to age of tanners and fishmongers.

This town is so enchanting that it is hard to believe that it hasn’t always been squeeky clean, flower bedecked, and inviting as it currently is.  The history of Colmar France, like most places from the middle ages, is considerably less pleasant.

This is one of those places that taking a small day tour that includes parts of Strasbourg, Colmar, and several small villages, is well worth the small cost involved.  Without it, we wouldn’t have heard the stories about Rue de Poissonerie and Rue de Tanneurs, Street of Fisherman and Street of Tanners. Learning where the term “piss poor” originated, and other little tidbits, adds so much to the experience.

Maison des Têtes

As you amble, and I mean slowly, keep your eyes open for interesting little adornments found on many of the buildings.  Also, make sure that you take in Maison des Têtes.  It’s hard to miss.

Maison des Têtes, Colmar France

This historic structure, maybe Colmar’s most renowned mansion, is situated at 19, rue des Têtes. The street gets its name from the 106 miniature human heads carved on the exterior of a 1606 home. This Renaissance-style mansion, designated as a historical monument, is one of Colmar’s icons. Look up to see a miniature pewter cooper on the house’s gable, another work by Auguste Bartholdi, the designer of the Statue of Liberty.

Food is a major sightseeing, smelling, and tasting opportunity.  Do not forget to sample lots of food.

Colmar France: Places to Stay

We chose to stay in Colmar rather than in one of the smaller villages, because we wanted to be a more central location.  We also wanted the variety that a bigger town offers.

There are any number of places to stay in this great town, as you would expect. Hotels and B and B’s are available to suit everyone.

Bed and Breakfast Chez Leslie

Chez Leslie is a remarkable hotel, run by the very capable and hospitable hostess, Leslie Collins/Pivard, an expat American that has lived here now about 20 years. We had a lovely and spacious room with a beautiful balcony over looking one of the squares in a quiet residential neighborhood.
in the morning. There was always a fresh baguette too, jams, fruit, yogurt, cereals, coffee, tea, milk, juice. A double room goes for 82€’s – 89€’s/night at the time of this update. (1/1/15)

About the only complaint that we can come up with, a very minor one indeed, is that Chez Leslie is not in the center of things as we like.  This can make for a fair amount of extra foot pounding getting back and forth to the old town. But, as I say this is pretty minor.

Hotel Saint Martin

As much as we liked Chez Leslie, the being out of the way part just doesn’t suit us well. We spent some time checking out other options in the center, and think that Hotel Saint Martin is a good, though the rooms are more expensive and breakfast is not included, choice, right in the heart of things.  As their map shows it doesn’t get much more central than this.

The decor is a sort of traditional German style so not elegantly modern.  Though two of the rooms have been recently renovated in a more modern style.

What is Colmar France known for?

Colmar, noted for its colourful residences, is a lively old town with examples of mediaeval structures, Art Nouveau and Alsatian Renaissance architecture at its finest, an astounding network of subterranean passageways, and stunning open-air art shows. Colmar is said to have inspired the hamlet in the Disney picture Beauty and the Beast, and it’s easy to understand why. It’s like walking through the streets of a childhood fairy tale come to reality. There’s a wooden tower where Rapunzel could let her hair down, little cottages where the seven dwarfs might live, and a candy-colored bakery where Hansel and Gretel could indulge their sweet tooth.

Its pathways twist and meander into little lanes before opening into small squares utilised centuries ago by tradesmen and merchants. Its primarily pedestrian-only downtown is a riot of brilliantly tiled roofs and even brighter storefronts that welcome the inquisitive. Colmar’s many fountains, old churches, and Alsatian Renaissance buildings have made it a popular tourist destination.

The Musée d’Unterlinden, previously a monastery, features the masterpiece of German religious painter Matthias Grünewald, the 16th-century Isenheim Altarpiece. The residence of Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi, the sculptor of New York City’s Statue of Liberty, who was born in Colmar in 1834, is now a museum.

What food is Colmar France known for?

To get a taste of the food without going overboard, we ate typical Alsatian tarte flambées and quiche lorraines for breakfast and lunch, and attempted to locate a few places with lighter or more “green” alternatives for supper. Fortunately, we discovered a couple wonderful places that are absolute must-tries while in Colmar, resulting in some of the nicest meals we had on our whole trip. When you eat in Colmar, you get a taste of both French and German cuisines, as well as a third version of the two cuisines together. Some of my favourite Colmar cuisine specialties. Tarte flambée, the Alsatian version of pizza, but very different.

It’s created with a thin layer of dough that’s topped with crème fraîche, cheese, onions, and bacon. It is roasted fast in a very hot oven to become crispy. Flammekueche in Alsatian or Flammkuchen in German will appear on menus. Choucroute Alsacienne is traditionally served with various pieces of meat, but I was fortunate to locate a seafood version. A protein is served on top of sauerkraut, with peeled potatoes on the side. It took me a bit to discover that “choucroute” is almost an exact translation of “sauerkraut!” Alsace is located on France’s easternmost border, right adjacent to Germany.

Why is there a statue of Liberty in Colmar?

Visitors visiting the New York monument may have seen the designer’s name, Auguste Bartholdi. But how many people know anything more about this gifted man? You can find out in Alsace, where you can also see the other Statue of Liberty. Auguste Bartholdi was born in the ancient city of Colmar, in the heart of the Alsace Valley in northeast France (1834-1904). Colmar was happy to commemorate its local son on the anniversary of his death in Paris.

Bartholdi was preoccupied with liberty throughout his life. After Germany annexed his home Alsace in 1871, he realised what it meant to be deprived of liberty and the value of liberty.  He began his career as an artist at a young age and went to Yemen and Egypt for inspiration.
Seeing the gigantic antique sculptures in Egypt inspired him to make his own massive sculpture.


I’m a writer, new mom and foodie. I love sharing what I know while making others feel beautiful. On this blog, I share my healthy lifestyle, simple meals, fitness tips and experiences.

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Kara Bout It