Colmar, the beauty of Alsace

Colmar? A perfect weekend destination, in any season. In spring and summer, the terraces, cobbled streets and canals of this Alsatian town of 68 inhabitants invite you to stroll to take advantage of sunny days ... very numerous because the town is proud to present itself as the driest in France, the Vosges shielding the rain-bearing clouds. In the fall, the surrounding vines, which punctuate the famous Alsace wine route, are adorned with warm colors. And in winter, the Christmas markets enliven the city. Colmar then becomes a city of craftsmanship, which can already claim to be a city of art and architecture, but also a city of water and wine!

From August 5 to 15, don't miss the Alsace wine fair, one of the flagship festivals of the summer!

The Unterlinden museum, star of Colmar

The star of Colmar, it's the Unterlinden Museum. It sums up, in itself, the architectural and artistic prestige of the city. The richness of its collections, which cover 7 years of history, from prehistory to the 000th century, is immense.

Its extension, completed at the end of 2015 after three years of work to improve the scenography of the exhibitions, is the work of internationally renowned Swiss architects, Herzog & de Meuron. They built an astonishing annex, in copper and brick, connected, in the basement, by a vast luminous corridor: a sort of gallery of the evolution of art, which starts from the medieval cloister, with works from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, to arrive at the contemporary wing, bringing together creations by Monet, Picasso, Fernand Léger, Otto Dix, Dubuffet, Nicolas de Staël, etc.

But the essential piece of the museum is the fabulous Issenheim altarpiece (1512–1516), beautifully showcased in the XNUMXth century chapel. A real giant book in relief, comprising several painted and sculpted wood sections that show the crucifixion in an expressive and touching way. The sick, who came on pilgrimage before this strikingly realistic Christ, had to put their suffering into perspective. They hoped for healing, symbolized by the Resurrection, represented on other parts of the polyptych.

Another specific feature of the museum is its large collection of major works by Martin schongauer, originally from Colmar and whose work greatly influenced Germanic art. You can admire the altarpiece of Orlier, while her Virgin with the rose bush is exposed not far from there, in the old Dominican church. Finally, the museum, which takes several hours to visit, anchors its identity in regional know-how, through the decorative arts and popular traditions of Alsace.

Hansi, the native child

At the end of 2015, another museum opened to the public, near Unterlinden. On a smaller scale, but emblematic of the history of Colmar and Alsace, it is devoted to Hansi, nickname of Jean-Jacques Waltz. This caricaturist and illustrator, who was the pioneer of the clear line, then popularized by Hergé, defined himself as a popular picture artist.

The pleasant scenography allows to discover the multiple talents of Hansi: watercolors of landscapes, paintings and etchings of Colmar, postcards or even advertisements for medicinal dragees, banks and the company of potasses of Alsace, with its iconic stork, logo created in 1929.

Hansi is also the author of the famous History of Alsace, in 1912 (a book which earned him twelve days in prison), and of Mon Village, in 1913, where he depicts traditional rural scenes and mocks arrogant Prussians. Its simple and effective images can be read at different levels.

Hansi left his mark in the streets of Colmar, through six wrought iron signs that he had designed: to unearth during a walk in the old center, the opportunity also to contemplate the superb architectural heritage of Colmar.

Architectural walk in Colmar

Signs from the XNUMXth to the XNUMXth century, half-timbered houses from the Middle Ages, mansions of character with statues and sculpted medallions, or even oriel windows on the facade, these glazed projections that bring light into the interiors ... the nose-up walk reveals full of surprises, sublimated, at night, by the illuminations, daily in high season.

La Head Street, rich in Hansi signs, is bordered by the admirable Heads House, from 1609, listed as a historical monument: German Renaissance style, it is adorned with more than a hundred masks, a beautiful oriel window and a cooper sculpture, designed in 1902 by Bartholdi, the other native of the country.

A museum is also dedicated to the creator of the Statue of Liberty, in the rue des Marchands. It also houses two splendid adjoining buildings, Zum Kragen (XNUMXth century half-timbered architecture) and the Pfister House (built in 1537 and richly decorated), to end with a croquignolet building: the old customs or Koifhus, XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries.

The oldest house in the town is not far from there, facing the Collegiate church of Saint-Martin, Gothic church erected between 1235 and 1365: it is the Adolph House, dating from the mid-XNUMXth century, whose pointed windows recall those of the Collegiate Church. Right next door, the old one Guard house from the XNUMXth century is decorated with a charming ornate balcony.

More austere, the buildings of Tanners district, from the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries, have a particular structure, all in height: on the sixth and last floor, the attics, well ventilated, were used to dry the skins, washed in the neighboring stream. Because Colmar is crossed by several rivers, to the point that one of its districts is called the Little Venice...

Colmar, city of water and wine

La Little Venice (but then really small!) was the nickname given to Colmar by a Prussian railroad poster, in order to entice travelers to come there. Around Quai de la Poissonnerie, the colorful half-timbered houses house restaurants that have replaced the stalls and warehouses where the fishing was stored.

The fish were also kept alive, prisoners of traps submerged in the canals, spanned by pretty little bridges. Boatmen, on traditional flat-bottomed boats, now offer a half-hour ride on the leek, to enjoy a different point of view.

If the fishmongers stayed in a well-defined sector, adjoining that of the market gardeners, the winegrowers did not really have one. It is in fact over the whole city that they reigned, so much Colmar owes its prosperity to the vineyards.

The Haut-Rhin prefecture remains the Alsace wine capital, a few kilometers from the very famous wine route. To be tasted on site, in the wine estates, and in the winstubs or wistubs, literally "the wine rooms", which flourish in the city.

A festival not to be missed in August: the Alsace wine fair (August 5 to 15, 2016), commercial and general public event, with tastings, culinary demonstrations provided by chefs, concerts, entertainment for children and other happy festivities ...


Consult our Alsace online guide

Official website for tourism in Alsace

Colmar tourist office website

How to get there ?

- By train: Direct link Paris-Gare de l'Est / Colmar (2h30 journey) 3 times a day by TGV Est Européen. Colmar is also connected to many French cities by train.

- By car: Colmar is 525 km from Paris, 422 km from Lyon and 70 km from Strasbourg.

- By plane: Strasbourg and Bâle-Mulhouse airports are approximately 70 km from Colmar.

Where to sleep ?

- Hotel Turenne: 10, rue de Bâle. A little out of the way in an area without much charm, this hotel with around fifty comfortable and functional rooms is only ten minutes walk from the charming district of Little Venice. It has the double advantage of having reasonable prices and a friendly welcome. Double room: 65-99 €, without breakfast.

- Hotel 14:14, rue des Augustins. This central 4-star has ten rooms and suites, some of which have a jacuzzi. Suffice to say that it is a cozy, warm and refined cocoon at the same time. The modern and designer setting is perfectly suited to the pretty renovated house, with a pleasant terrace in the courtyard and a hammam-sauna area. Double room: from 150 €, without breakfast.

Where to eat ?

- Winstub Le Flory: 1, rue Mangold. Phone. : 03-89-41-78-80. Every day, noon and evening. Since the end of the 23th century, this very old winstub has served Alsatian specialties in a rustic decor of exposed beams and old enamel advertising plaques. The meat and sauerkraut are prepared by the owner, who also runs a charcuterie in a neighboring town. Menus € 27,30-8,70. Tarts flambées € 13,40-17,20. Sauerkraut € XNUMX.

- Wistub Brenner: 1, rue Turenne. Every day, noon and evening. A little more modern decor for this other Colmar institution, but the menu is just as traditional and local: sauerkraut, onion tart from Papi Lucien, presskopf (pork head in jelly), Alsatian snails, munster salad breaded or the cheese specialty bibalakas. Formulas € 24,20-29,40. Sauerkraut € 19,20.

- L'Épicurien: 11, rue Wickram. Daily except Sunday and Monday. Proof that the wine route is close, the restaurant offers more than 300 references! To accompany the good bottles, chef Nicolas Groell likes to combine the terroir with more distant influences: foie gras or crabmeat, coriander and hummus, as a starter € 28.

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