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Coordinates: 48°04′54″N 7°21′20″E / 48.08166667°N 7.35555556°E / 48.08166667; 7.35555556

Commune of Colmar

Colmar 2008.jpg
Old town
Colmar is located in France
Country France
Department Haut-Rhin
Arrondissement Colmar
Intercommunality Communauté d'agglomération de Colmar
Mayor Gilbert Meyer
Elevation 175–214 m (574–702 ft)
(avg. 197 m/646 ft)
Land area1 66.57 km2 (25.70 sq mi)
Population2 65,713  (2006)
 - Density 987 /km2 (2,560 /sq mi)
INSEE/Postal code 68066/ 68000
Dialling code 0389
1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km² (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.
2 Population sans doubles comptes: residents of multiple communes (e.g., students and military personnel) only counted once.

Colmar (French: Colmar, pronounced: [kɔlmaʁ]; Alsatian: Colmer [ˈkolməʁ]; German: Colmar, between 1940-1945 under Nazi rule: Kolmar) is a commune in the Haut-Rhin department in Alsace in north-eastern France.

It is the capital of the department. Colmar 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).

In 2006, the city of Colmar had a population of 65,713[1] and the metropolitan area of Colmar had a population of 120,367.[2] Colmar is the center of the arrondissement of Colmar, which has 144,700 inhabitants in 2006.[3]

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. 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 1697.

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.

The Colmar Treasure, hidden during the Black Death, was discovered here in 1863.


The canal which runs through Colmar.

Colmar is 64 kilometres (40 mi) south-southwest of Strasbourg, at 48.08°N, 7.36°E, on the Lauch River, directly to the east of the Vosges Mountains. It is connected to the Rhine by a canal.


Colmar has a sunny microclimate and is the driest city in France, with an annual precipitation of just 550 mm, making it ideal for Alsace wine. It is considered the capital of the Alsatian wine region.

The dryness results from the town's location next to mountains which force clouds arriving from the west to rise, and much of their moisture to condense and fall as precipitation over the higher ground, leaving the air warmed and dried by the time it reaches Colmar.


Martin Schongauer's "Virgin in a rose-garden" inside the Église des Dominicains
Maison Pfister. The house can easily be spotted in Howl's Moving Castle.
"Little Venice"
Musée Bartholdi

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.

Architectural landmarks

Colmar's secular and religious architectural landmarks reflect eight centuries of Germanic and French architecture and the adaptation of their respective stylistic language to the local customs and building materials (pink and yellow Vosges sandstone, timber framing).

Secular buildings

  • Maison Adolph - 14th century (German Gothic)
  • Koifhus, also known as Ancienne Douane - 1480 (German Gothic)
  • Maison Pfister - 1537 (German Renaissance).
  • Ancien Corps de garde - 1575 (German Renaissance)
  • Maison des Chevaliers de Saint-Jean - 1608 (German Renaissance)
  • Maison des Têtes - 1609 (German Renaissance)
  • Poêle des laboureurs - 1626 (German Baroque)
  • Ancien Hôpital - 1744 (French Classicism)
  • Tribunal de grande instance - 1771 (French Classicism)
  • Hôtel de ville - 1790 (French Classicism)
  • Théâtre municipal - 1849 (French Neoclassicism)
  • Marché couvert - 1865 (French Neo-Baroque). The city's covered market, built in stone, bricks and cast iron, still serves today.
  • Préfecture - 1866 (French Neo-Baroque)
  • Water tower - 1886. Oldest still preserved water tower in Alsace. Out of use since 1984.
  • Gare SNCF - 1905 (German Neo-Baroque)
  • Cour d'appel - 1906 (German Neo-Baroque)

Religious buildings

  • Église Saint-Martin - 1234-1365. The largest church of Colmar and one of the largest in Haut-Rhin. Displays some early stained glass windows, several Gothic and Renaissance sculptures and altars, a grand Baroque organ case. The choir is surrounded by an ambulatory opening on a series of Gothic chapels, a unique feature in Alsacian churches.
  • Église des Dominicains - 1289-1364. Now disaffected as a church, displays Martin Schongauer's masterwork La Vierge au buisson de roses as well as 14th century stained glass windows and baroque choir stalls.
  • Église Saint-Matthieu - 13th century. Gothic and Renaissance stained glass windows and mural paintings, as well as a wooden and painted ceiling.
  • Chapelle Saint-Pierre - 1742-1750. Classicist chapel of a former Jesuit college.
  • Synagogue - 1843 (Neoclassicism)


  • Fontaine de l'Amiral Bruat - 1864 (Statue by Bartholdi)
  • Fontaine Roeselmann - 1888 (Statue by Bartholdi)
  • Fontaine Schwendi - 1898 (Statue by Bartholdi)


  • Monument du Général Rapp - 1856 (first shown 1855 in Paris. Statue by Bartholdi, his earliest major work)
  • Monument Hirn - 1894 (Statue by Bartholdi)
  • Statue "Les grands soutiens du monde" − 1902 (in the courtyard of the Bartholdi Museum)


  • Unterlinden Museum - one of the main museums in Alsace. Displays the Isenheim Altarpiece, a large collection of medieval, Renaissance and baroque Upper-Rhenish paintings and sculptures, archeological artefacts, design and international modern art.
  • Musée Bartholdi - the birthplace of Frédéric Bartholdi shows his life and work through paintings, drawings, family objects and furniture as well as numerous plaster, metal and stone sculptures. A section of the museum is further dedicated to the local Jewish community's heritage.
  • Musée d'histoire naturelle et d'ethnographie - the zoological and ethnographical museum of Colmar was founded in 1859. Besides a large collection of stuffed animals and artefacts from former French and German colonies in Africa and Polynesia, it also houses a collection of ancient Egyptian items.
  • Musée du jouet - the town's toy museum, founded 1993
  • Musée des usines municipales - industrial and technological museum in a former factory, dedicated to the history of everyday technology.


The Municipal Library of Colmar (Bibliothèque municipale de Colmar) owns one of the richest collections of incunabula in France, with over 2,300 volumes.[4] This is quite an exceptional number for a city that is neither the main seat of a university, nor of a college, and has its explanation in the disowning of local monasteries, abbeys and convents during the French Revolution and the subsequent gift of their collections to the town.


Colmar shares the Université de Haute-Alsace with the neighbouring, larger city of Mulhouse. Of the approximately 8,000 students of the UHA, circa 1,500 study at the Institut universitaire de technologie (IUT) Colmar, at the Colmar branch of the Faculté des Sciences et Techniques and at the Unité de Formation et de Recherche Pluridisciplinaire d'Enseignement Professionalisé Supérieur (UFR P.E.P.S.).


Since 1980, Colmar is home to the international summer festival of classical music Festival de Colmar (also known as Festival international de musique classique de Colmar). In its first version (1980 to 1989), it was placed under the artistic direction of the German conductor Karl Münchinger. Since 1989, it is helmed by the Russian violinist and conductor Vladimir Spivakov.


Colmar: capital of Alsatian wines.
Liebherr in Colmar

Colmar is an affluent city whose primary economic strength lies in the flourishing tourist industry. But it is also the seat of several large companies: Timken (European seat), Liebherr (French seat), Leitz (French seat), Capsugel France (A division of Pfizer) ...

Every year since 1947, Colmar is host to what is now considered as the biggest annual commercial event as well as the largest festival in Alsace [5], the Foire aux vins d'Alsace (Alsacian wine fair).

Notable people

The following personalities were born in Colmar:

Twin towns

Colmar is twinned with:


See also


External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Colmar is a city in Alsace, France. It was the last town in France to be freed after the second World War, on February 2nd, 1945.

Get in

Colmar lies between Basel (French: Bâle) and Strasbourg. There is a direct train connection from both cities. If you arrive from the German side, there is a bus leaving near the border at Breisach (to which there is a direct train from Freiburg). Driving the car to Colmar will lead you along the same route. Even the comfort of the journey is comparable to that of public transport: There is a toll-free Autoroute (motorway) connecting Basel and Strasbourg but only a normal road from Freiburg.

By air

If you arrive by plane you will probably use one of the closest airports: Euroairport at Basel (with a variety of low cost flights) or Strasbourg (with none). Other airports in the area are Baden Airport, Stuttgart, Zurich and Nancy.

Get around

All of Colmar's attractions are concentrated in its old town. For a medieval city it is surprisingly big, but you can nonetheless get around on foot with no difficulty.

Please note that there is no luggage storage in the train station, nor anywhere else in town according to the Colmar Tourist Bureau.


Colmar's old town is the main attraction if you come to Colmar. It is stunningly beautiful and well preserved. You should allow yourself a day to stroll along Colmar's old streets and many many shops.

  • Maison des Tetes (House of the Heads) - a Renaissance building decorated with faces, and the Pfister House, a marvellous old wooden house, one of the oldest in Colmar.
  • Dominican Church worth visitig only because of a famous Schongauer painting. It costs 4.50 euros (2006) to get in. The painting is very beautiful and so is the church, but skip this if you are pressed for time.
  • St. Martin Church a large church entirely made of pink stone.
  • Unterlinden Museum [1]It is a most interesting museum situated in a medieval convent near the tourist information center. It exhibits objects ov very different arrays, but its highlight is definitely the Isenheim altarpiece by Gruenewald, a revolutionary Alsatian Renaissance painter. Even if you are not much into art it is still shocking to see how modern and inventive this painter was. The museum also shows some very interesting touring exhibits and also musical events. The locals are very proud of this museum and many people turn out for the openings of exhibits.
  • Bartholdi Museum [2], dedicated to the sculpture of the Statue of Liberty who was native to Colmar.
  • Little Venice, enjoy this little corner of the city; with small canals reminiscent of Venice, Italy.
  • Bartholdi High School, near the Little Venice. Dating back to 1698, it is worth a sight. If you are brave enough to go inside, you will be able to see one of Auguste Bartholdi's original sculpture : "Genie funebre".

Make sure to keep an eye out for dates painted onto the side of buildings. Some of the oldest date back to the 1300's.


Wandering about Comar's old streets is the best way to explore it. There is a variety of shops of different sorts. The Alsatian cuisine is also omnipresent (in restaurants as well as specialist stores).


Most recommended is to buy clothes and shoes in Colmar. The variety is satisfactory and the prices lower than in neighbour Germany, Switzerland and even Strasbourg. Apart from these you could find typical crafts which can be bought as souvenirs. Notable is the typical Alsatian pottery. It comes in a coloured variety, usually blue, green or cream coloured, and decorated with motifs of storks (the regional bird) and flowers. Pottery is also available in a pale blue style, but this type has a stronger German influence. Typical wine glasses for the region are short glasses with green stems. Look for tablecloths, tinware and other such households reproduced with depictions of children and adults in typical Alsatian dress. Food and wine are also major components of the Alsatian production, so look below for relevant tips.


Alsace is known for its pastries. Kugelhopf is a well-known cake similar in shape to the American Bundt cake and has raisins with powdered sugar on top. You can buy traditional ceramic Kugelhopf pans in any tourist shop with recipes to make at home. During Easter, small cakes molding from lamb-shaped pans are made. They are served with a ribbon around their necks and topped generously with powdered sugar. Macaroons are also found in specialty sweet shops and also in the frozen isle of the supermarket (try the Monoprix in the center of the town), which can be eaten straight from the box frozen. Note that they are not like American macaroons (coconut haystacks) but are the French version composed of two small, pastel colored cookies made from almond flour (which has a melt-in-your-mouth quality) with an icing in between. In sweet shop you will also find Meringues, made from whipped egg whites and sugar, dyed in pastel colours and then baked. Make sure to try the tarte aux poires, which is a pear tart with an eggy custard filling with baked pears. Tarte flambee (or Flemkusch in Alsatian) is an Alsatian concurrence to the Pizza, though extremely different. Traditionally, it is made of a thin layer of dough, covered with crème fraîche (light fresh cheese that doesn't truly have an American equivalent), cheese, onions, and bacon (lard in French). It is baked very quickly in an extremely hot oven so that it gets crispy. Legend has it that the dish was a solution to the extra scraps of dough left over from the bakers. Other regional specialties include the Black Forest cake (with raspberry, cream and sponge) and quiche Lorraine. Alsace is also famous for their Bretzels (pretzels in English). They are fresh baked and soft with generous amounts of salt. Sometimes you can find them with melted cheese on top accompanied by smoked salmon or ham. Alsace is also famous for their Sauerkraut (or choucroute in French). This is pickled cabbaged served hot with boiled potatoes and a variety of meats. Choucroute aux Poissons (with fish) is becoming more widespread.


Alsace is a traditional area of wine production and its wine is widely esteemed in France and outside it. In Christmas time try the cooked orange juice with honey and spices and also the spiced (or mulled) wine served hot in many of the creperies or bars. Alsatian wine is very unique and similar to some German wines. A popular tour is to take the Routes des Vines and sample the wineries along Alsace. Two well known wines that comes from Alsace are Geurwertraminer (very dry) and Muscat (very sweet). In any of the creperies, they will serve a apple cider, slightly alcoholic. Doux is the sweet version and Brut is the dry version. This is not an Alsation specialty, all of the ciders come from Brittany on the Northern Coast, but it seems all French people enjoy crepes and cider so authentic restaurants catering to these foods are widespread. Eau de Vie is a very strong alcohol, similar to a vodka and lightly flavoured with fruits usually, originally produced by the monks of the region. Look for the Eau de Vie flavoured with Mirabelle, which is a regional plum unique to Alsace.

  • Maison Martin JUND, 12, rue de l'Ange 68000 COLMAR, 00333., [3]. This small hotel is family owned and they make their own wines. The building is extremely historic and is within walking distance of museums and bike rental companies. Bathroom is shared but rooms have their own shower and kitchen furnished with utensils. 28-50 euro. (48° 4.718'N,7° 21.611'E) edit


Although Colmar was French for most of its modern history (as all of Alsace and also Lorraine), its population used to be predominantly German. Alsace changed nationalities many times in the course of history between France and Germany. During WWII Hitler reclaimed Alsace (it was annexed to France after Germany lost WWI) and it is quite shocking to see photographs from the time with Nazi flags hanging through the streets. Cultural supression of local culture led to the francification of Alsace (and Colmar with it). Notwithstanding, you will still hear a lot of German spoken in Colmar, some because of the numerous tourists from neighbouring Germany and Switzerland, but some spoken by native Alsacians, speaking their German dialect called Alsatian. Alsatian is the local minority language, although it is endangered, with ever fewer speakers in young generations. Alsatian is not identical with standard German, but it is to a certain extent mutually intelligible. In some parts of the city, as well as in Strasbourg, streetsigns will be written in French and Alsatian German underneath. Among the minority languages of France, Alsacian German is the most prosperous one nowadays (followed by Breton, Occitan, Basque and Catalan), and many Alsatians will be delighted to be adressed in German rather than in French (though not all of them). If you do not speak French, German will always be the next preference. English is unfortunately not widely spoken, however if you politely address someone in French they may make an effort to help you despite language barriers.

Get out

You can use it as your starting point for travels in Alsace.

  • The Massif des Vosges is nearby and offers a lot to nature lovers (in winter as well as in summer).
  • Alsatian Vineyard Route passes through Colmar. Some of its medieval villages are justifiedly popular among tourists (Riquewihr, Ribeauville (Rappoltweilen), Kaysersberg...) whereas others are virtually unknown, but have a charm of their own (like St. Hypolite in the mountains). All of them offer beautiful medieval architecture, wonderful wine, good Alsatian food and a lovely pastoral atmosphere.
  • Hochkoenigsburg, also spelled Haute-Koenigsberg, a fully restored medieval castle on the top of the mountain near Selestat(Schallstadt).
  • Strasbourg and Basel (Basle) are close by and are interesting cities to visit.
  • Across the German side you will find the beautiful Black Forest.
  • Mulhouse is at the end of the Route de Vins. This town was badly damaged in WWII and consequently not as much of a tourist attraction, skip if you are pressed for time.
  • Near Basle Laufenburg is another beautiful medieval town situated on both banks of the Rhine with a lovely route along the Rhine leading to it.
  • The historical casino town of Baden-Baden is also a short journey away.
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