Nestled in the heart of the Alsace region lies the charming and picturesque town of Colmar. With its small size and undeniable beauty, it feels like a scene from a fairy tale. Colmar is a perfect town to visit with kids, small enough to explore on foot and packed with beautiful scenery and attractions to visit. You will want to take a photo at every corner you turn!
Where is Colmar?
Situated about 64 kilometres (40 miles) southwest of Strasbourg in the Alsace region of northeastern France, Colmar is nestled amidst a captivating backdrop of vineyards and the Vosges Mountains.
Throughout its rich history, Colmar has experienced numerous transitions between French and German control, influenced by the intricate political dynamics of the region. Following the Franco-Prussian War in 1871, the town fell under German rule, only to be returned to French governance after World War I. During World War II, Colmar was temporarily occupied by Germany before ultimately being reclaimed by France in 1945. These historical events have contributed to the unique cultural fusion that defines the town’s character today.
Things to do in Colmar with kids
Colmar is a popular day trip, but I recommend spending two full days immersing yourself in Colmar’s charm. Here are some highlights of what you and your kids can enjoy during your stay in Colmar:
1. Walk in La Petite Venise
Translating to “Little Venice,” this is one of Colmar’s most picturesque neighbourhoods. Boasting colourful half-timbered homes along the lovely canals, it dates back to the 14th century. It primarily served as a market gardeners’ district, where produce was transported via boats on the canals. Simply walking around allows you to soak in the vibrant atmosphere and marvel at the stunning half-timbered houses adorned with flowers.
A leisurely boat ride with kids along the canals is a fantastic way to explore Colmar. These guided tours in small boats depart at the foot of the Saint-Pierre Bridge and take about 25 minutes.
2. Explore Old Town
Stroll through the centuries and admire the many monuments dating from the Middle Ages to Renaissance. Here are some of the more remarkable houses to admire:
The Adolph House is a notable historical and architectural landmark. Constructed in 1350, it is the oldest standing house in the town and features the characteristic half-timbered design typical of the Alsace region. With its striking Gothic-style buttresses and rich history, including its acquisition by the Adolph family in the late 16th century, the Maison Adolph offers visitors a unique insight into Colmar’s architectural heritage and evolution.
House of Heads (Maison des Têtes)
Built-in 1609 and designed by architect Albert Schmidt, this building is named after the 106 heads or masks that adorn its façade, illustrating the creativity and craftsmanship of the era. If you look up, you will see the house’s gable decorated with a statue made by Auguste Bartholdi, the creator of the Statue of Liberty.
The Pfister House:
A stunning timber-framed house that dates back to 1537, the Pfister House is undoubtedly one of Colmar’s most iconic landmarks. Impeccably preserved, this building boasts an elaborately carved exterior and stunning frescoes that depict biblical scenes.
The Koïfhus building:
Over the years, the Koïfhus evolved to serve various roles in the history of Colmar. It housed the town’s administration and the city’s courts and served as the site of an array of public events. In 1848, the building became home to the Colmar Chamber of Commerce, and between 1870 and 1923, it was used as a courthouse.
3. Visit the Toy Museum (Musée du Jouet)
The perfect destination in Colmar for kids and kids-at-heart, the Toy Museum boasts a collection of more than 2,000 toys from the 19th century to the present day. From antique dolls to vintage cars and train sets, there’s something here to amaze every child.
A great doll collection exhibits antique porcelain dolls alongside the first Barbie dolls. Their fashion style was very different to modern times!
Kids who love trains will be in for a treat at this museum. There are several large-size displays with running toy trains that kids will love. There are also areas where kids can play arcade video games, giant board games and puzzles.
4. Visit Hansi Museum (Musée Hansi )
The Hansi Museum is dedicated to the life and works of famed Alsatian artist and illustrator Jean-Jacques Waltz, who went by the pseudonym Hansi. His colourful and charming illustrations depicting Alsace’s rich culture, picturesque villages, and cheerful people continue to captivate the hearts of both tourists and locals.
5. Visit Unterlinden Museum
If your kids like art, take them to the Unterlinden Museum, which houses a collection of Renaissance and contemporary art and medieval religious works.
The crown jewel of the Unterlinden Museum is the Isenheim Altarpiece, created by the renowned German Renaissance artist Matthias Grünewald between 1512 and 1516. This vivid and remarkably well-preserved artwork depicts various scenes from the Bible.
6. Relax in the Parc du Champ de Mars
When the kids need a break in Colmar, take them to Parc du Champ de Mars, between the city centre and the train station. There is a playground, carousel and fountains to cool off so kids can run around during the summer months. Bring a towel to dry them after!
Colmar is the birthplace of Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, the sculptor who designed the Statue of Liberty.
The French gifted the Statue of Liberty to the United States as a symbol of friendship and to commemorate the alliance between the two nations during the American Revolution. It was intended to honour the ideals of liberty and democracy that both countries cherished. The statue was seen as a gesture of support for the United States’ commitment to freedom and a tribute to the shared values between the two nations.
In selecting her depiction, Bartholdi decided to portray Liberty in the likeness of the Roman goddess, Libertas. He incorporated a crown adorned with seven spikes, symbolising elements such as the sun, the seven seas, and the seven continents. The purpose of the torch held by Liberty was to symbolise the illumination of Liberty across the globe. At the same time, the presence of a broken chain served as a powerful representation of the end of slavery.
After its creation and exhibition in France, the statue was carefully dismantled and transported to New York in 214 cases. On June 17, 1885, it reached its destination in New York City. The process of reassembling the statue proved to be a lengthy endeavour, spanning over a year to complete.
In Colmar, you will find a 12-meter-high replica of the Statue of Liberty which was placed to mark the centennial of the death of Auguste Bartholdi. You will not see it walking around the old town because it’s about 3 kilometres away from it in a traffic roundabout. However, if you’re interested, you can drive there or take a bus to see it. You can visit the sculptor’s former residence, now a museum called the Bartholdi Museum to learn about his life and works.
How to get to Colmar
Colmar is an excellent destination for a weekend getaway or an extension of your Paris vacation. The high-speed TGV train, operated by SNCF – France’s national rail company, will get you from Paris to Colmar in approximately 2 hours and 20 minutes.
Alternatively, a regional train can take you to Colmar in about 30 minutes if you are coming from Strasbourg.
A car is unnecessary for exploring Colmar, as the small city is easily walkable. Access to vehicles in some areas is even prohibited. However, renting a car is strongly recommended if you intend to visit other sites within the Alsace region or the Alsace Wine Route. You can use RentalCars or similar car rental platforms for travel across France.
Where to stay in Colmar
With my kids, I stayed at Novotel Suites Colmar and was happy with the hotel’s choice. We took a train from Paris to Colmar and could easily walk from the Colmar train station to the hotel. It was about 10 minute walk to the old town. The hotel was simple, modern and convenient for exploring the city on foot with kids. They even had strollers to rent with oversized wheels for navigating the cobblestone streets.