Though this historic town in the Alsace region of France boasts just 67,000 inhabitants, Colmar attracts international attention because of its well-preserved architectural heritage and antique beauty. The town was founded in the 9th century and declared an imperial town by Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II in 1226. After being annexed by France in the late 17th century, it continued to change ownership between France and Germany for the next three centuries. The diverse influences throughout the years are apparent in the town’s unique buildings and landmarks, which show a mix of French and Germanic styles in its architectural influence. An open-air museum, the city is a pleasure to wander through, and there is no shortage of culture and fun to indulge in.
Location: The Capital of Central Alsace
Colmar is situated 40 miles south-west of Strasbourg and close to the German and Swiss borders, between the Vosges Mountains and the Rhine River. Travellers usually arrive at the town either through the Gare de Colmar train station, which connects many French, German, and Swiss cities to the area, or through the regional Colmar Airport.
Business: Tourism and wine
Though at first glance this quaint town may seem far-removed from the modern business world, it actually functions as the French seat of many successful European companies, such as Liebherr and Leitz. Today, its economy is sustained mostly by its bustling tourism industry and wine production. Since 1947, the town has hosted the annual Colmar Wine Fair, the biggest commercial event in Alsace.
Culture: Architectural landmarks and 1000 years of art
With over 1000 years of history, there is no shortage of cultural treasure in this French town. The protected Old Town displays over 1,000 years of various European influences, from the Holy Roman Empire to more modern German and French styles. Check out centuries-old landmark buildings, such as the House of Heads, the Koifhus, Saint Martin Church, and the Dominican Church. Tourists are also awed by many of the historically significant neighbourhoods, such as Little Venice, the Tanner’s District, and the Fishmonger’s District that provide plenty of opportunities for leisurely strolls. History and art enthusiasts must stop at the classic Unterlinden Museum with its enormous collection of medieval, Renaissance, and baroque works of art.
Activities: Explore the neighbourhoods
After soaking up the cultural history, take a stroll through Little Venice and indulge in coffee and cake in one of the welcoming patisseries by the scenic canal. The city is host to numerous music festivals throughout the year, including a jazz and international classic music festival, so check the town’s calendar before your visit. Lastly, try not to miss the magical light show on Fridays and Saturday nights, when the whole town is intricately illuminated to best display its famous landmarks and historic districts.