Exploring a town which is not part of a usual tourism package helps in really broadening one’s point of view about the entire country. It’s usually the inner regions of any country which reflects the real lifestyle and the culture of that country. People are lesser exposed to outside world and one really experiences the difference in behavior and approach, when they see foreigners. As an Indian, rarely comes a time when you don’t spot another Indian/ Colored/ Asian tourist in the city or town that you are exploring. We experienced that rarity in Colmar.
Alsace region lies in the north-eastern region of France bordering Germany and Switzerland. Colmar is a town situated in this region. While exploring Europe, we have most often covered the capitals of all the countries, but exploring a comparatively small town of Alsace region was a brand new experience. So, after exploring Paris for three days, we took a train from Paris to Colmar and stayed for a two days/1 night.
How to reach Colmar by train from Paris
To book a train from Paris to Colmar, we used the Rail Europe website. It took us about 2 hours and 20minutes to reach Gare de Colmar from Paris EST train station by TGV high-speed train (300+km/h). TGV is France’s high-speed rail service operated by SNCF which is the state-owned rail operator. After reaching Colmar we realised that waiting for 20 minutes at Taxi Stand did not assure us a taxi and hence decided to walk till our hotel. I am glad we did that as it helped us explore old town Colmar before we even reached the town. Specifically we passed through a beautiful park called Parc du Champ de Mars.
Other ways of reaching Colmar
Colmar can be reached by train from Strasbourg in 35 minutes. It is easily reachable from cities of nearby countries. It takes about 45 minutes from Basel or 2 hours from Zurich. It takes about two hours to reach from Freiburg (Germany) to Colmar.
What to do in Colmar?
Since we were visiting in Colmar only for a day, we resorted to do the most touristy to-do’s of the town. We walked around the town, took a train ride within the town, took the boat ride from stunning canals, shopped Alsatian wine and enjoyed Alsatian food.
Walk in the old town
As expected, general vibe of the town is in quite contrast from a metropolitan city like Paris. It is calm yet quaint and offers many visuals which would be typical of a small town.
Streets are narrow, cobbled, occasional presence of horse carriages, small cute shops and restaurants and flowers decorating charming water canals. Finally walked through a shopping street which only had local produce or local brands of clothing. Buildings had an influence of both German and French architecture styles. Half timbered houses which indicate the German architecture style are present all along the town and specially around the canals.
Locals speak mainly French and may be German as their second language, since Germany lies so close. Lot of German delicacies can be spotted in cafes and patisseries.
Boat ride in Colmar
Of the many activities that are highly recommended in Colmar is to take this boat excursion on River Lauch. This tour is called La petite Venise or Little Venice boat tour. We took the trip with Sweet Narcisse and booked our tickets at Colmar Tourist office. As you might have already guessed from the name Venice that this boat cruises through canals within the Little Venice part of Colmar.
Boat ride costs: 6 euros per person, Children below age 10 have free rides
Time: Half an hour
Opening times: Daily from March to October from 10.00 to 18.30
Languages: Tours are given in French, English or German
This part of the river canal passed through butchers, tanners and fishmonger’s quarter and was formerly used by market gardeners.
While aboard a flat bottom boat, one tends to notice the numerous half-timbered houses used as either hotels or restaurants, lined with flowers. It is absolutely serene and charming, I must say!
If you want to see the entire boat tour video, please visit my YouTube channel to watch this half an hour boat ride via this link.
The train ride within Colmar
It almost looked like a toy train for kids, but it was meant for both adults and kids. Earphones are provided to listen to guided tour in English as the train takes you around the town. Personally, if I had time, I would have explored the city on foot. Train ride goes very fast and difficult to retain what you really saw during the ride.
Train ride costs: 6.50 euros per person, 3.50 euros for kids below 10.
Time: Half an hour
Opening times: Daily
Languages: Guided tapes are available in 16 languages
Alsatian Food experience
We asked for some Alsatian specialties while in Colmar. Hence, we ended up eating Tarte Flambee, Choucroute, Kronenbourg beer and Gewurztrami wine. I would like to specify that Tarte Flambee is a Alsatian German speciality, quite similar to Pizza, yet very different from it. It’s almost paper thin ad costly for the price if you are looking for a heavy meal. Vegetarians beware, be ready to be almost looked at ridiculously because of your food preferences. Choucroute is kind of traditional Saurkraut recipe made of cabbage and meat. All the food was once a try but may be explore more options for restaurants before you settle on one. Also small town means cafes and restaurants close early even in summer, hence find a table before everything gets occupied or closed.
Alsatian wine is famous, hence it is worth knowing that the town also offers hiking trails to large vineyards nearby. There is a museum dedicated to Bartholdi – creator of Statue of Liberty, as it’s his birthplace. Colmar is also a beautiful place to visit in winter as the entire town looks absolutely cute in Christmas lights and special markets
In the end, if you are a fan of canal side cities with pastel colored medieval half-timbered houses covered in pretty colorful flowers, wooden shutter windows, cobbled twisty streets, scenic canals and fairy tale like vibe, then Colmar is the place to visit!! 🙂