A detailed guide to one of France’s most charming towns. This is my guide to Colmar in winter…
Colmar is a fairy tale town in France and is one of the most magical places I’ve ever been. With cobbled streets, canals, and half-timbered buildings in rainbow colours, it feels like you’ve fallen asleep and woken up in the middle of a Disney movie.
But what about visiting Colmar in winter? Well, that’s the season when the magic hits a whole new level. Colmar knows how to do the festive season in style.
You only have to look up at some of those charming wooden houses to see what I mean. Wooden shutters are adorned with stars and snowflakes. Windows are dressed with felted snow and strings of lights. Wrapped-up parcels and plushy winter characters are placed on the roof, the windows, and wherever else there’s space.
It’s pretty amazing to experience Colmar during the festive season. If you love all things Christmas you will love it. And even if you’re a bit of a Grinch, it’s hard not to fall in love with it.
This is my guide to experiencing Colmar in winter…
Where is Colmar?
Colmar is located in the Alsace region of northeast France, just shy of 70 miles south of Strasbourg. To me, it resembles some of the towns in Germany that I always want to visit to experience the Christmas markets, and that’s probably because of its history.
Colmar – or rather than the Alsace region as a whole – has belonged to both France and Germany at different points in history. In the 19th century, it was part of Germany. After the first world war, it was returned to France. In the 1940s it was again annexed by Germany, before again being taken back by the French in the post-war years. This is why Colmar probably doesn’t feel quite as French as other parts of France.
Is Colmar well-known?
I mean I’d hate to use the term hidden gem… that never goes down well, does it? I think for travel bloggers Colmar is probably a pretty well-known destination. You only have to go on Google to see pages and pages of blogs about Colmar and it’s not surprising why.
However, whenever I mention it to anyone they’re like, ‘Where’s that?’ so, to me, it doesn’t seem that well known. It first came on my radar when I saw one of my favourite travel bloggers mentioned her trip there on Twitter. Thank you, The Orcadian Abroad. Then it popped up on my social media feeds when Holiday Pirates advertised a trip there. That’s when I started researching it properly – I kind of just booked it on a whim tbh.
If you’re someone who enjoys a winter city break and likes moseying around the Christmas markets, Colmar is ideal. I’ve been to Bruges, Budapest, and Edinburgh for Christmas markets but I think Colmar in winter could top them all.
OK, so what is Colmar known for?
Colmar is known for a few things…
- Its remarkably well-preserved medieval old town
- The cute and colourful half-timbered houses
- La Petite Venice – this is the money shot in Colmar
- Being home to a replica Statue of Liberty (really!)
- Alsace wine – Colmar is located in the Alsace wine region
- Christmas markets! Colmar has six markets to explore
- Rumours that it inspired Beauty and the Beast
Is Colmar inspiration for Beauty and the Beast?
Did Colmar inspire that tale as old as time, Beauty and the Beast?
Remember that “provincial town” where Belle lives in Beauty and the Beast? There are some rumours that Colmar was the inspiration for this town. However, it turns out that the villages of Riquewihr and Ribeauville are actually the Beauty and the Beast inspiration.
You read that right: apparently, there are two villages that are even more fairy-tale-like than Colmar. If you want to see them, they’re actually not that far away from Colmar…
How long should you go to Colmar for?
Well, Colmar isn’t big. It has a population of just over 70,000 which gives an indication of its size. You can visit Colmar on a day trip and whizz around it in a matter of hours. To be honest, that’s pretty much what we did, despite being there for two nights.
We flew on Friday, arrived late in the evening, had the full day on Saturday, and then left after breakfast the next day. That felt like enough time to see most of Colmar although there are plenty of things – museums and so on – we didn’t get a chance to explore.
I would say you could do Colmar in a day… but two days is better.
Is Colmar France worth visiting?
Absolutely. It’s all kind of magical. It’s one of those places where you can’t help but wander around with your head tipped upwards towards the sky (a sign of a tourist if there ever was one) taking in All. The. Views. The beautiful timbered houses. The canals. The cobbled streets. Around every corner, there somehow appears to be a view that’s even more stunning than the one you’ve just seen. I loved it, especially Colmar in winter. I think you will too.
How do you get to Colmar?
If you’re flying from the UK you will fly into Basel airport. Known as Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg airport, this airport is unusual in the sense that it’s one of the only airports in the world that is jointly operated by two countries, France and Switzerland. It is located in France, really close to the border, and so it is administered under French law.
Is Colmar in Switzerland or France?
Colmar is in France. It’s located in the Alsace region just south of Strasbourg.
What airport do you fly into for Colmar?
You fly into Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg airport. The airport is located in the Alsace region of France and is located at the border tripoint between France, Switzerland, and Germany. It has three different exits depending on which country you’re visiting. Don’t pick the wrong one! I’m sure it’s not a biggie, but I’d be worried about getting back in!
How far is Colmar from the airport?
Colmar is located just short of 60km from the airport. It doesn’t take long to get there though. There are good public transport facilities or you can drive.
- By public transport
It’ll take you around an hour and 20 minutes to get from the airport to Colmar using public transport. First of all, get the bus to Saint-Louis station from directly outside the airport. We just walked outside the airport and the bus was there. This will cost you five euros and you’ll have to pay in cash – make sure you have cash on you because we didn’t!
From the Saint-Louise train station, you’ll be able to catch a TER train directly to Colmar. You can buy your tickets at the station but there are only one or two machines – we ended up doing it on the Trainline app while we waited, which I would recommend.
The train takes around 45 minutes and will take you to Colmar.
- By car
It’ll take you around 40 minutes to get from Basel-Mulhouse-Freidburg to Colmar by car.
Is it expensive to visit Colmar?
If you’re visiting Colmar in winter then the flights are pretty cheap. I just had a look and found some flights from Edinburgh to Basel for £48 for a roundtrip, which is pretty reasonable at the moment. I spent a bit more on the hotel, which I’ll mention later, but there are more affordable options too.
In terms of attractions in Colmar, there are museums and so on that you can pay to enter. Or you can just simply walk around, take in the views, and soak up the atmosphere. You also don’t need to spend a lot at lunchtime – just grab some of the yummy street food, such as a bretzel. Overall, I’d say Colmar in winter is a pretty budget-friendly trip from the UK.
When is the best time to visit Colmar?
Colmar in spring/summer
I see a lot of bloggers visiting Colmar in spring. And why wouldn’t you want to, really? With blue skies and puffy white clouds offsetting the traditional wooden-beamed houses, along with rows of colourful flowers fringing the canal, Colmar really suits the spring.
I can imagine it would also be nice to wander around when the temperatures are a little bit warmer. There is also a spring festival in Colmar, Fete Le Printemps. Held during Easter, there are exhibitions, street performers, and even farm animals in the city. It’s not quite on the same level as the Christmas markets apparently but it does look very cute.
Colmar in autumn/winter
The cooler months are also a popular time to visit Colmar. Don’t let yourself think that it’ll be all chill and quiet in the out-of-season months – in fact, December is one of the most popular times to visit Colmar. This is of course due to the Christmas markets in Colmar, which just add another little sprinkle of magic to this already delightful town.
The Christmas markets open in the last week of November and are there until the end of December. Add in the potential of the city being frosted with a layer of snow and making it even more like a fairytale-like and you can see why Colmar wins Christmas.
Colmar at Christmas
Of course I’m going to be a n advocate of visiting Colmar in winter, particular Christmas. I went to Colmar in the last week of November, the Christmas markets were newly opened and everything was dressed up in its festive attire. My reasoning is if you’re going to go somewhere when it’s cold it might as well have a side of festive cheer to go with it.
However, it does get busy! There was a point in the afternoon on Saturday when the crowds became exhausting– just too many bodies in a small space. If you’re not fussed about the markets, leave December and go in October or November.
Colmar does wear Christmas well though, it has to be said!
Christmas markets in Colmar
There are five Christmas markets in Colmar…
- Gourmet Market – Place de la Cathedral
- Place des Dominicans
- Place Jeanne d’Arc
- Place de l’Ancienne Douane
- Christmas Market Place des Six Montagnes Noires
Where should you eat in Colmar?
We’ve talked about Christmas, now let’s get to the next most important part of any trip away – the eating part. You may be wondering what the food is like in Colmar, right?
There’s a solid mix of places to eat in Colmar with everything from Michelin-star restaurants to street food. We walked past the Michelin-starred restaurant in Colmar, but there are also indoor markets where you wander around, grab street food, and eat on the go!
Foods Colmar is famous for:
- Choucoroute, which is the Colmar take on Sauerkraut
- Baeckeoffe – pork, lamb, and beef plus potatoes and vegetables
- Tarte flambee – flatbread with creme fraiche, lardons, and onions
- Munster cheese – a semi-soft local cheese with a nutty flavour
- Bretzel – the humble pretzel, Colmar style!
- Alsace wine – mostly white wines with a German influence
- Vol-au-vents! The 80s called but, seriously, these were delicious!
Best things to do in Colmar in winter
1) Follow the Colmar tourist trail
When you’re in Oz you follow the yellow brick road. In Colmar, it’s gold triangles.
Once you start wandering around the centre of Colmar keep an eye on the ground. You’ll hopefully spot one or two gold triangles embossed with the Statue of Liberty.
These are not, as I first thought, directions to the replica Statue of Liberty in Colmar. Not unless there are about a million of them! I’ll talk more about that later. No, these gold triangles actually mark out a self-guided walk, or discovery trail, created by the tourist office that takes you around all of the most popular sights in the historic centre of Colmar.
According to the map, the tourist trail covers a total distance of just over 6km and will take you around two and a half hours in total. On it, you’ll see things such as Little Venice, the Fishmonger’s District, the natural history museum, and the intriguing House of Heads.
We used it as a rough starting point and then just did our own thing. It’s a great way to check you haven’t missed out on anything important at the end of the day.
2) Visit La Petite Venise
As I mentioned earlier, Little Venice in Colmar is where you’ll be able to see slash photograph the money shot in Colmar. This area is the real jewel in the crown of Colmar, with beautifully characterful half-timbered houses in an array of pastel shades.
In summer you’ll see the canal fringed with flowers. In winter you may get snow. We got neither, but we did get wisps of mist casting a calm and stillness over the scene.
The Little Venice district starts behind the Koïfhus, and goes through the fishmonger’s district and to the bridges Turenne and Saint-Pierre. Most of the houses here were built between the 14th and 18th centuries and it’s one of the most well-preserved districts in Colmar.
So, if you want to experience peak Colmar prettiness, head to Little Venice. It doesn’t really resemble Venice but it’s so quaint and traditional you can practically see Belle from Beauty and the Beast wandering around with her basket while trying to dodge Gaston.
On the subject of dodging, it does get busy in this area and you will find yourself battling the crowds. If you want to get pictures without 3000 other tourists in them then try and get here early… or just play the waiting game.
When Colmar in winter looks like this, it’s worth it.
3) House of Heads
One of the most intriguing buildings to see in Colmar is the House of Heads.
The Renaissance-style bourgeois residence was built in 1609 by a wealthy merchant, Anton Burger. There’s a beautiful oriel window covering two floors – a kind of bay window that protrudes from the building but doesn’t touch the ground – but the real star of the show is the masks. The 106 grotesque masks decorate the façade of the building, that is.
Some are smirking in amusement. Some are poking their tongue out. Others are frowning down at you on the street below. I can’t seem to find any information anywhere as to why these masks are part of the building, but they certainly make it interesting!
There is also a bronze statue of August Bartholdi on the gable at the top of the building, which was added in 1902. Who’s August Bartholdi? He’s the person who designed the Statue of Liberty, and was born in Colmar. I will talk about him in more detail in a bit.
There’s a restaurant inside which does ‘very French’ food according to Trip Advisor, which sounds right up my street. Otherwise, you can just take some pics and go on your way.
Which one of the masks is your favourite?
4) The Pfister House
What’s this? Not another amazingly quirky building in Colmar?
This building will catch your eye because of its quirky octagonal tower and medieval vibes. Oh, and because of the tiles on the turret that look like they’re made out of dragon scales. Just me? It feels like it’s been pulled straight out of a fantasy franchise, like Willow or The Hobbit. Either way, it sums up the magic of Colmar pretty well.
The Pfister House owes its name to the family that owned it between 1841 and 1892. But it was built in 1535 for Louis Scherer, who was a milliner or, in other words, a person who made women’s hats. There are also paintings on the side of the building, that blend characters from the Old and New testaments to portraits of emperors.
We came past here a few times, once in the middle of the day when it was absolutely rammed and then the next morning on the way to the train station. Everyone says this but if you can get out a bit earlier in the morning you’ll get the place to yourself.
And that’s quite special when everything looks like this.
5) The Dominican Church
Dating back to 1345, this gothic church is definitely worth a visit.
The church is home to Martin Schongauer’s masterpiece, Madonna of the Rose Garden. I can’t say I was familiar with this piece when I stepped into the church, but I do love a bougie altarpiece. I did study History of Art and I love this kind of work.
The painting is raised on a platform in the centre of the altar, with ornate gold doors opening out to reveal the painting on the Virgin Mary holding a rather unimpressed-looking Baby Jesus. Dated to 1473, it’s considered Schongauer’s most famous work and it’s full of symbolism, which I love. The white rose in the painting, for example, is the symbol of death. This is apparently that could possibly allude to the future death of Christ.
We headed in here to take a break from the crowds and I was so glad we did. Have I mentioned Colmar in winter gets pretty crowded? Outside is a busy Christmas market. Inside is calm and silent, but spectacular in equal measure.
The ceiling height is crazy. I found myself craning my neck and just staring at it for ages. I enjoyed padding around in the stillness away from the thrum of tourists outside and the interior is as impressive as the exterior.
It cost two euros which I think was well worth the money.
6) St Martin’s Church, Colmar
Only a couple of streets away is another church in Colmar that is just as spectacular.
Eglise Saint-Martin, also known as St Martin’s church is an enormous church located in the old town of Colmar. As I said, it’s enormous. I couldn’t get over the scale. Everything in Colmar is so cutesy and little, almost Liliputian in stature. But this is the opposite.
In fact, because of its large dimensions, it’s also known as the cathedral of Saint-Martin, although Colmar has never been the seat of a bishopric – an office or rank of a bishop. In other words, it’s never had a bishop, which would make it a cathedral officially.
So what else is important to know about Saint Martin’s church in Colmar? Well, it’s a Roman Catholic church and it was built between 1235 and the late 14th century. It’s also considered to be an important example of gothic architecture in the Alsace region.
The building has beautiful stained-glass windows and inside there a few notable features, including a massive baroque organ and a life-sized Last Supper mural. It’s a pity we didn’t go in, which I’m slightly bummed about. It’s one for the return visit, for sure!
7) Drink mulled wine and eat bretzels
After all that sightseeing you’re probably going to be hungry.
I’d read about bretzels before I arrived in Colmar. I always seem to be up to speed on the food, it’s just everything else that’s often a little bit seat of your pants. A bretzel is basically a pretzel covered either with cheese or cheese and lardons. As someone who loves cheese and typically finds pretzels a bit dry, this seemed like the perfect levelled-up version.
After a busy morning of walking, we made a pitstop at the Christmas markets. It was already getting much busier by that time but we didn’t have to wait too long, thankfully. I ordered my bretzel warm along with a glass of vin chaude – mulled wine to you and me. It came in a cute branded cup that you hand back once you’re done to get your euro back.
Both were really delicious and I scoffed the lot in a matter of minutes. Colmar in winter makes you hungry!
8) Go on a boat tour
Get a different perspective of the town by taking a boat trip in Colmar. If you’ve been pounding the pavements all day then nothing is better than just being able to sit down and mindlessly bob along on the water for half an hour or so – at least I thought so. It’s also fun to go under the low bridges – as long as you remember to duck, that is.
However, it also pays to be organised. Continuing the theme here, we could’ve been better at this part. If you plan to take a boat trip in Colmar, I would advise booking it in advance. We rocked up on the fly, as per, and there was a big queue. There wasn’t a tour, period, available for another 45 minutes and there wasn’t a tour in English for two hours.
I did consider holding off for the tour in English. However, the boat trip only lasted 25 minutes and the next one was in French. I was a little excited about doing a tour in French having whipped out a few phrases over the trip so far. How much would I understand?
Well, the answer was: not very much at all. Barely a bean, to be honest. However, despite not being able to understand very much I did enjoy the tour. It was just really nice to quietly float along the Lauch River and see what Colmar looked like from a riverside perspective.
I would also go to the pick-up location at Saint-Pierre Bridge, Saint-Pierre Boulevard. It was slightly quieter here than the crowds at Little Venice. It also meant we could explore some new angles of Colmar as we moseyed around waiting for our time slot.
9) Go shopping
From perfect presents to sweet treats to interior accessories, Colmar has it all.
If you’re an interiors fan, then you might be interested to know that Colmar has its own Maisons Du Monde shop in the centre. I’ve managed to wean myself off it in recent years so I was beyond excited when we turned a corner in Colmar and saw the store in front of us.
I couldn’t help myself and immediately went in for a nose around. Considering that it was the shipping costs that often put me off buying things from here I was really excited. It’s definitely got me back in the Maisons Du Monde zone. And that is dangerous.
If interior design isn’t your bag then apologies for the detour. There are plenty of places to pick up Christmas presents. I picked up some macarons from a charming biscuit shop on our way home. The shop in question was Maison Alasacienne De Biscuiterie, which has been around for over 20 years and is known for its signature biscuit: the macaroon.
Confusingly, I mean a coconut macaroon-style biscuit, rather than a cylindrical macaron. They even gave us a couple of samples of tropical-flavoured macarons as we browsed which were delicious, even though I wasn’t exactly hungry after the hotel breakfast.
I’d noted the shop the previous day specifically because thought that macarons would make the perfect present for my mum and sister. And by that I mean the cylindrical ones rather than the samples we had. Lol. Unfortunately, these got a bit smashed up on the flight home, so didn’t look quite as pretty on arrival. The less said about that the better.
10) Go for dinner by the canal
A trip to Colmar in winter definitely calls for a dinner by the canal.
It’s probably best to make dinner reservations in Colmar. We didn’t. I guess that’s me reverting back to my old ways of just winging it. However, despite wandering around for a while we did manage to luck out on TWO very delicious meals during our stay.
The first one was at Le Comptoir de Georges, which is located right on the water at La Petite Venise. It’s a butcher shop by day and a restaurant by night, and you have to walk through the butcher shop part to get to the restaurant, which I kind of liked. If you’re lucky (we were) you’ll be seated at one of the tables with a view of the canal. Not only can you see the twinkly lights outside but there are also swans swimming around on the canal. Magical!
It’s not exactly big inside, at least not in the section we were in, but the slightly crammed-in vibe just adds to the cosiness. There are faux furs draped over the chairs and wood panelling which all adds to the traditional charm. It felt like the perfect place to be on a cold wintery night – especially with a large glass of red wine which I swiftly ordered.
What we ordered (and how!)
That was a slight challenge however as there wasn’t a menu in English, which the server alerted us to before she seated us. We muddled along with Google maps before Chris went outside to take a picture of the menu that was in English outside – much better!
A lot of traditional Alsace dishes, and certainly the ones here. are pretty hearty. Perfect if you’re visiting Colmar in winter.
My partner ordered a steak with garlic butter and when it came out I was kind of jealous – it looked amazing! But then I tasted mine… and just wow. I can’t remember the name of what I ordered but it was kind of like a giant vol-au-vent with a filling made from chicken and a creamy sauce. It came with spaetzel, a kind of Alsation pasta.
Oh my goodness, it was amazing. The food at Le Comptoir de Georges is hearty but incredibly rich. It feels really French, even though it comes in hefty portions. Is classical French cuisine supposed to be small and delicate? I’m not sure. But either way, I could taste the generous amount of butter. It was decadent and completely delicious.
11) Eat tarte flambee in Colmar
I read about tarte flambee on a blog before visiting Colmar and I knew it was going to be right up my street. It’s a thin pizza-like flatbread that is local to the Alsace region in France. It’s topped with crème fraiche, sliced onions, and lardons. Sounds good, right?
So where should you get tarte flambee in Colmar? Numerous blogs recommend the restaurant La Soi as having the best tarte flambee in Colmar. We certainly walked past it a few times and I think if we had longer in Colmar I would’ve loved to book a table there. That would have involved being a bit more organised than we were though!
We just went for a wander and ended up at Les Bateliers in Colmar, which is one of the restaurants looking out onto the water Little Venice in Colmar. Not only that, it also has a really cosy atmosphere which is perfect if you’re visiting in December like we were.
It certainly is busy though and I thought we were going to get turned away at the door. We stood at the entrance (inside) for about ten minutes while numerous servers scuttled past us with piles of plates, saying they’d be with us in a minute. It looked jam-packed so I thought there wouldn’t be room but, luckily, they managed to squeeze us in.
There were a lot of varieties of flambee to choose from. One with goat’s cheese and honey, local Munster cheese and cumin, smoked salmon and dill, and more. In the end, I opted for a fairly classic option: the gratinee flambee. This came topped with cream, onions, bacon, and grated emmental and it was really delicious. Again, it maybe doesn’t look like a huge amount of food but again it’s so rich that it’s maybe more filling than it looks!
Honestly, I’d visit Colmar in winter again just for the food.
12) See the buildings all lit up after dark
If you think Colmar is gorgeous in the daytime then just WAIT until you see it in the evening.
Colmar in winter is seriously cute. The buildings are chocolate box cute already, obviously, but when they’re lit up as they are at night they’re a whole other level. They’re aglow in shades of purple, blue, pink and green with the pointed rooftops fringed with hundreds of twinkly lights.
I also loved the attention to detail in Colmar. At the risk of sounding like that old Marks and Spencer advert from a few years ago, these aren’t just any old Christmas lights. The buildings at La Petite Venice in Colmar have Christmas imagery projected onto them, like rows of Christmas trees and strings of baubles, which are super charming and cute.
Add to that Christmas trees, stars, and a human-scale Santa or two and it’s just a wonderful place to soak up all those festive vibes. Nearby, trees are lit up in glowy white with additional lights that almost look like melting snow is dripping from their branches.
13) Walk to the replica Statue of Liberty
Looking for something slightly more unusual to do in Colmar in winter? Do this.
Your first question is probably: why is there a replica Statue of Liberty in Colmar? It probably seems a bit random, right? Well, the statue was made to commemorate the sculptor August Bartholdi, who created the Statue of Liberty. He was born in Colmar and the replica statue was built to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of his death.
The statue stands at 12 metres in height, a quarter of the size of the full-scale version, and has the same copper-green resin finish. It’s maybe not as glamorous as some of the Statue of Liberty replica statues around the world, however. Its location in the middle of a roundabout on the motorway on the outskirts of town puts paid to that.
How long does it take to get there?
How long does it take to get to the Statue of Liberty from Colmar? It takes around an hour each way, so you’re talking two hours of walking to get there and back. It’s also not a particularly picturesque route and it includes traipsing along the side of the road without a proper path. By the time we finally arrived, I was just relieved to have finally got there. The light was starting to drop and so we got there just before it was too dark to see.
I always joke to my partner that whenever we go anywhere beautiful we always end up in the back of beyond. If we go to one of the pretty coastal towns in the East Neuk of Fife we end up nowhere near the cutesy colourful houses and somehow end up clambering over rocks in some random part of the village or something ridiculous like that.
The same goes for this. We left behind the period charm of Colmar to trail along the motorway in search of a statue. But it was still pretty cool to see and good fun to finally arrive. Roundabout or not, it’s a nice tribute to a local lad from Colmar done good.
14) Get a photo with the Colmar sign
If you’re anything like me then you’re not going to pass up a good photo opportunity. The big Colmar letter sign is ideal! If you want one last selfie before you get on the train to the airport then leave yourself an extra five minutes and grab a pic at the Colmar letters.
Of course, I didn’t leave myself enough time before the train arrived. That’s why there are I’m nowhere near it and I haven’t even waited for other tourists to move out of the way. Lol.
However, I distinctly remember banging my head on one of the letters in Amsterdam as I tried to manoeuvre myself into place, so maybe keeping a distance is a better idea.
Anyway, I’m not going to pretend that this is the number one thing to do in Colmar in winter. But it does make a fun pic that will commemorate your time in the prettiest town ever!
Where should you stay in Colmar?
If you’re visiting Colmar in winter you need somewhere cosy and charming to stay.
We stayed at the James Boutique Hotel in Colmar. It was excellent. It did probably spend a little bit more than I usually would but I like to have a cute and cosy base to come back to after traipsing around all day. For some people it’s only a bed to sleep in, for me, it’s part of the experience. As we were only there for two nights it felt like I could totally justify it.
So why did I choose the James Hotel in Colmar? The first thing that grabbed my attention was the fact that it’s located pretty centrally. I loathe being miles out from the centre, particularly if you’ve been out walking day and especially when you have to go back into town to grab dinner. The James Hotel isn’t wham-bam in the centre but it’s only a five-minute walk from all the main hotspots, and that was good enough for me.
What else did I enjoy about the James Boutique Hotel?
What else did I like about the James Hotel? Well, the next thing that caught my eye was the décor. I’m nothing if not predictable but I really love a nicely designed hotel. The James Hotel ticked all the boxes when it came to décor in both the shared spaces and the rooms. I’ll be keeping some of the pics as inspo for when I come to updating rooms in my house.
The reception at the James Hotel has a cosy living room vibe with sofas and a fireplace. We arrived pretty late on our first night and after dinner we didn’t really have a ton of energy for wandering around to find a bar. So we just headed back to the hotel and unwound with a drink on one of the sofas instead. Red wine and a roaring fire, what’s not to like?!
The family-run feels
The staff are super lovely here. It’s a family-run hotel and there was always a friendly face at reception to say hello – it just felt really welcoming. They were also really helpful and gave us a map which pointed out where all the Christmas markets in Colmar are located – and what restaurants to try. We ended up just winging it but it was great as a back-up.
The reception at the James Hotel has a cosy living room vibe with sofas and a fireplace. We arrived pretty late on our first night and after dinner we didn’t really have a ton of energy for wandering around to find a bar. So we just headed back to the hotel and unwound with a drink on one of the sofas instead. Red wine and a roaring fire, what’s not to like?!
Breakfast at the James Boutique Hotel
Call me excessive but the breakfast warrants a whole section to itself…
I read great reviews about the breakfast at the James Boutique Hotel so I knew we were in for a treat. But it was honestly even better than I expected. Flaky croissants and pain au chocolate piled in baskets. Huge salted pretzels draped over wooden stands. A freshly baked hunk of artisanal brioche bread just waiting to be sliced into thick, doorstep slices.
That’s before you even get to the fresh fruit, local cheeses and charcuterie, teeny tiny pots of jam with red and white gingham lids, and jug of freshly squeezed orange juice. Oh, and the coffee pot wafting a delicious aroma around. Honestly, it looked amazing.
It was only when I started wandering around that I clocked the hot breakfast options and, in particular, the scrambled egg. I don’t know about you but I’m generally pretty disappointed by scrambled eggs at the hotel buffet. It’s typically lukewarm and pretty tasteless, right?
Not the scrambled egg at the James Hotel though. There was a sign on the wall that said the eggs were made by a Michelin-star chef. And if you were in any doubt, they absolutely tasted like they were made by a Michelin-star chef. They were so rich, buttery, and decadent it was unreal. I had them alongside the buttered puff brioche and while it possibly doesn’t look like a lot of food I was absolutely stuffed. French food is a little bit of me.
8 dos and don’ts for visiting Colmar in winter
1) Do bring cash
Whether you’re visiting Colmar in winter or summer, bring cash.
The airport bus only takes cash, not card. This was a little unexpected for me, especially in somewhere like Basel, but there you go. We were turned away from the first airport bus because we don’t have any cash on us and had to head back to the airport to find a cash machine. Luckily there was another bus by the time we reappeared so there wasn’t too long to wait.
2) Don’t rely on the ticket machines
When we arrived off the airport bus at Saint-Louis station we needed to buy train tickets. However, there didn’t appear to be any people at the ticket desk and there were only one or two ticket machines that had a lot of people crowding around them. I decided to have a look online while we waited and I ended up buying our tickets using the Trainline app. It was easier and meant we made our train, which we wouldn’t have done otherwise.
3) Do make reservations for dinner
In case I haven’t mentioned it already, a quick reminder that Colmar in winter is busy.
We managed to find a couple of great places to eat in Colmar but I would put that down to luck rather than anything else. It also involved a lot of wandering around, examining menus, and being turned away at the door because there wasn’t any room. I think if I was going again I would like to do a bit more research and plan where to go for dinner each night. There’s really nothing worse than wandering around when you’re starving!
4) Don’t overpack
This is probably a bit rich from me because half the time I end up taking a massive suitcase for only a couple of days away. But in Colmar, I tried to pack light. You’ll have to wheel your suitcase over the cobbled streets of Colmar once you get off the train and that may be a bit frustrating if you’ve got a cumbersome suitcase to drag around. A smaller case also makes it a bit easier to manage when you catch the bus and the train from the airport.
5) Do practise your French
I’ve not been on a trip for a while where I’ve heard the native language spoken so prevalently. There also aren’t always English-speaking menus in the restaurants available which meant we had to use Google Translate… which was interesting. And fun! Overall, I liked using my high school French and I felt pretty proud when I was able to use a few (albeit limited) phrases. It inspired me to get back onto Duolingo and get using it again.
6) Don’t worry about skipping the Statue of Liberty
I know I talked about going to see the replica Statue of Liberty in Colmar above. I’m glad I saw it… but I’m not sure if the payoff was worth the journey. It was a LOT of walking to see a statue in the middle of the motorway. I know myself and if I hadn’t gone I would’ve gotten the FOMO and felt like I’d missed out. But if you’ve only got one day in Colmar then I’d probably just skip it and spend the time soaking up the traditional old-town charm.
7) Do wear comfy shoes
One thing I can guarantee you’ll do a lot of in Colmar in winter is: walk. The streets are just begging to be explored and you’ll want to see every corner: every cobbled street and every wooden beam. I would therefore steer anyone against heels. Low-heeled boots maybe, but even they can hurt your feet after a while. I opted for trainers and I was delighted about it. Even though it was a bit chilly they were super comfy for exploring the town.
8) Don’t forget a portable phone charger
So we’ve covered that Colmar is pretty photogenic. You are going to be taking photographs from the moment you step outside your hotel to the moment you get back, and probably inside as well if you’ve got a breakfast that’s worth remembering. I would therefore try and make sure you pack a portable charger. Stick it in your pocket and charge as you go, that way you don’t risk running out of juice and missing out on a photo opp!