Despite the proximity of France to western Germany, S and I have only travelled to France once before when we went to Strasbourg in 2013. We decided to rectify this situation by driving 2.5 hours from Stuttgart to Colmar, a beautiful half-timbered town along the Alsatian Wine Route. We only stayed for one night but made the most of our time in this charming French city.
Rather than describe the minute-by-minute account of our trip, I thought I’d share my top Colmar recommendations with you.
Take a boat trip through Little Venice (aka la Petite Venise)
There are two boat companies that offer 30 minute boat trips along the canals of Little Venice. Half of the boat trip goes through a quiet residential area shaded by trees while the second half takes you through more of the old town and offers stunning views of Colmar’s half-timbered buildings from the water.
Visit the Covered Market (aka le Marché couvert)
You can find all sorts of delicious French goodies in the stone and brick Neo-Baroque covered market: flowers, fruits, veggies, bread, cheese, meats, jams, you name it. I don’t know how I resisted the sugared pretzels that looked like pretzel-shaped donuts…
Stroll around the Old Town
Colmar is the perfect city to stroll through. Soak in the quaint atmosphere, pop into a café for a quick lunch and window shop to your heart’s content. The pace is relaxed and you’ll find yourself at ease as your wander down the narrow alleyways soaking in the unmistakable French vibe.
Enjoy the local specialties
French food is the stuff dreams are made of. Éclairs, macarons, baguettes, pains au chocolat – you’ll find it all in Colmar. Try some local Alsatian cuisine, including Tarte flambée (similar to German Flammkuchen) – a delightfully thin and crisp yet chewy flatbread covered in crème fraîche, thinly sliced onions and lardons (little rectuangular bacon pieces).
Don’t forget to try some Munster, a strong-tasting, soft cheese from Alsace. Better yet, try a Tarte flambée with Munster on it! Thanks Rachel from Rachel + Sanghee for the cheese recommendation!
As the capital of Alsatian wine, Colmar is an excellent place to sample some local French wines. We went to a free wine tasting at Domaine de l’Oriel in Niedermorschwihr, a town about 10km outside of Colmar. We tried a few white wines (Sylvaner, Pinot Gris, Riesling and their own special white wine blend called L’Oriel) and one red wine (Pinot Noir). We liked the Sylvaner the best and bought a bottle to take home with us as a souvenir of our trip.
Visit a French grocery store
I love shopping for groceries in other countries and could spend countless hours walking through the aisles admiring unfamiliar food products. I’d heard good things about the supermarket chain Cora and was excited to find out that there was one in Colmar. Cora is an enormous supermarket with large seafood, meat and bakery departments, home and garden goods, books, clothes, shoes and a lot more. We spent 2.5 hours in Cora marveling at everything delicious that we can’t find (at least cheaply or conveniently) in Germany. Personal highlights include the bread (29 cents for a baguette??!!), pastries (éclairs for under 1 Euro each), meat (affordable grilling steaks for S), oodles of Bonne Maman jam, the variety of French wines, cereal, soft drinks and cheese.
Thanks for the memories, Colmar!
We would both love to see more of France and Paris is on our must-visit-soon list.
Can you suggest any other charming French towns to visit? What should we do and see in Paris? Please let me know in the comments below!