Last weekend, we took a whirlwind trip over to Europe.
In my usual fashion, I’d actually found cheap flights to Basel, and after a quick look at the map and realising that the adorable French fairytale town of Colmar is nearby, I hit the book button instantly. And then, despite the fact we’d be flying to Switzerland (technically), I started looking at hotels in Colmar… which is in France.
And so it was that we ended up doing one of our bonkers multi-country weekends away. (Spoiler alert: we actually ended up in three!)
First on the list though, was Colmar. Colmar has been on my radar for a number of years, owing to its array of gingerbread-house style architecture and the beautiful river that runs through it, lined with flowers and pretty much everything else that makes it the most adorable town in the God damn world.
(Main priority: making sure my camera was FULLY charged. On both batteries.)
Getting to Colmar
Colmar is pretty easy to get to from Basel and from the airport – there are regular trains (45 minutes between Colmar and Basel), but the nearest train station to the airport is quite a walk away, so I opted for a bus that would get us there at lunch time. This ended up meaning a bit of a wait because Basel airport, it turns out, is tiny, so it didn’t take long to get through.
It’s also a really interesting airport – it serves three different countries: Switzerland, France and Germany. There are exits for each country, and fences down the car park to split the countries. So despite it being the airport for Basel, it’s actually, technically, in France, but also kind of not?
Very odd, but anyway we had about an hour’s wait for the bus, as there aren’t many that run north. The bus goes all the way to Frankfurt via Strasbourg, but our journey to Colmar would be just over an hour through the French wine valleys.
And once we got to Colmar, well, it was all uphill from there. (Disclaimer: Colmar is flat.)
A photo tour of Colmar
I could write about what to do in Colmar, with a list of all the top-rated things that you could just as easily find on TripAdvisor or another blog, but here’s the thing: while there are things to do in Colmar, the best thing for me was just walking around, taking in every single building and feeling like I was in a literal scene of Beauty And The Beast.
And so I thought it would be better just to take you all on a magical photo tour of the town as we saw it.
The train station is about a ten minute walk from the old town, so it didn’t take long to start finding views like this.
And a moment later, this.
From there, it was just a short walk up towards the most famous view of Colmar, La Petite Venise – but not before walking along this adorable street to get there.
And then, The View. La Petite Venise.
Both ways, in fact! Double adorable. A-double…rable… never mind.
We actually stopped for lunch here, because right next to the bridge is an indoor food market (marché couvert) – perfect for picking up an Alsace pretzel, aka a bretzel!
It’s a great market too, full of local vendors with fresh produce and takeaway food. I found it interesting that some of it was in German, given that Colmar has passed hands between France and Germany throughout its history.
From here, we actually went to check in to our hotel, less than a ten minute walk from this gorgeous spot.
After an early start, we wanted to gather our energy and a vague plan, but we were eager to get back out and just wander.
The hotel did give us a map though, and it had a walking route that we sort of mostly followed naturally, rather than rigidly checking the map (I think we checked it once on this whole walk just to make sure we hadn’t missed anything dramatic).
Within minutes, we stumbled across a drink shop with an Orcadian whisky in the window! And not even Highland Park – it was the less mainstream Scapa!
Soon, we were back at La Petite Venise, ready to explore the rest of the old town from there.
I’d read that we needed to check out the Tanners District – but hadn’t realised it was literally thirty seconds along from the second bridge!
Yo, a biscuiterie?!? I am sold.
For the rest of the walk, I don’t have much to say – so just enjoy the photos. Literally every corner we turned, I took several. I couldn’t get enough of this place!
I absolutely love this photo of the guy cycling down here just as I was taking pictures! Perfect timing, cheers man.
An interesting building – half modern?
The walk pretty much takes you in a big loop, and realistically you could probably walk it in about ten minutes. But why would you? We slowed right down and looked at every building and just loved it.
I’d actually been considering, if we found quickly enough that we felt we had seen everything we wanted, hiring bikes and taking the short journey out to the nearby town of Eguisheim. It’s only around a twenty minute bike ride, so if we had been in Colmar for longer than a day, I would definitely have done it. Apparently Eguisheim is the actual inspiration for Beauty And The Beast, and somehow looks even more adorable than Colmar. Anyway, alas – Colmar had plenty enough to keep us occupied!
We found ourselves back at the first bridge, where the boats go from, and a twenty second walk from the place I’d booked for dinner.
We ate at Le Bistro Lavendieres, which has great reviews online and even so, I was a little apprehensive when I realised just how central it is – would it just be overpriced tourist food?
It wasn’t cheap, much like anywhere in Colmar, but the food was excellent! They have a set price for multiple courses, so we went for a main and a dessert for just under 30€. We of course opted for some Alsatian wine too because it would be rude not to, going sweet with a Reisling.
I had a traditional Alsatian sauerkraut main, which had been recommended by other bloggers to try while in the region. It came with a lot – A LOT! – of meat and sausages, and Ash actually had to help me finish it, despite having a delicious pork chop for himself.
Side note: I did book the restaurant in advance, purely as it was a Saturday night and I was fully expecting everywhere good to be booked out. I managed to book it in French… with help from my good pal Google!
Our hotel was also great – we stayed at Hotel Turenne which is less than a ten minute walk from La Petite Venise but far enough away from the “main strip” that you’re not going to be rammed by tourists getting in and out.
Our room was fine, although it was on the corner of the building so seemed quite small compared to how a lot of their rooms look. To be fair though, it’s not like we were spending a lot of time in there.
You might also be thinking Colmar didn’t seem that busy from my photos – in actual fact, most of the quieter photos required a five minute wait for crowds to go through before I even thought of lifting the camera! However it wasn’t unbearably busy, which was a relief as I was expecting it to be a lot more crowded. I suspect it gets manic in the summer.
May seemed like the perfect time to go – it was 26 degrees, brilliant sunshine; just beautiful. In fact, we missed a heatwave the day before. I’m not sure walking around all afternoon in 32 degree heat would have been quite as pleasant!
The bonus of staying in Colmar instead of doing it as a day trip like a lot of people – managing to be up early on the second day to get photos like these. Empty streets and flat water. The calm before the storm.
I really cannot recommend Colmar enough! In fact we’re tempted to go back for the Christmas markets, when I reckon it would look even MORE magical, if that’s possible!
Hope you enjoyed my picturesque walking tour of this sublime town.