It’s fair to say that Colmar’s reputation as the Alsatian little Venice preceded it and in the run up to my visit, my Instagram feed seemed to be full of photos of the pretty, photogenic town. Famous for its brightly-painted old timber buildings and picture-perfect canal, I’d expected the old part of Colmar to be small, made up of a few streets that took an hour or so to look around. But on arriving, I was surprised at how big it was and how much there was to see and do. We spent ages wandering around the old town centre, going in and out of the various shops.
As soon as we arrived we made a beeline for the tourist information office to acquaint ourselves with the town’s lay out and all there was to do, then headed to St Martin’s Church, where we stopped at a restaurant opposite for lunch. There I opted for the local speciality, the tarte flambée, topped with cottage cheese, local munster cheese, bacon and lots of onions (above). The tarte was huge, much bigger than I was anticipating, and very tasty. The tarte, which was oozing with melted cheese, was really rich and I couldn’t quite manage it all – although I tried my best!
Following our lunch, we hopped across the road to St Martin’s Church, otherwise known as Colmar’s cathedral. The yellowy-pink stone church is topped with a pretty pink and green tiled roof and boasts a quaint clock on it’s right-hand side. The enormous building takes up most of the square, which makes it very difficult to photograph from the outside. Inside, the church is quite plain, but its incredibly high vaulted ceilings are magnificent and its stained-glass windows striking. There’s lots of dark wood panelling at the far end of the altar and I was particularly taken by the wooden spiral staircase near the main entrance that leads up to the organ.
Having had a good look around the church, we decided it was time to explore the town and its charming, quaint architecture. Although Colmar is now firmly on the Alsatian tourist trail, it hasn’t completely sold out to tourism and still retains a certain authenticity, despite the many shops selling gimmicky items aimed at tourists.
One of my favourite stores was a tea shop that sold some beautiful teapots and a wide range of teas. There was also a geleteria that sold fabulous meringues (we indulged in a hazelnut and plain meringue; both delicious) and a store selling all manner of caramels. There were also a couple of nice (not to mention expensive) clothes shops and a great book shop where I picked up a copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in French. One of the best parts about Colmar, though, was the quirky signs (above) that hang above many of the shops and restaurants.
Colmar’s most famous area, La Petite Venise, is delightful and it’s easy to see why this incredibly picturesque part of town is so frequently photographed. It’s absolutely beautiful, although I was a little shocked to discover just how small it is. It didn’t take long to walk the length of this section of the canal and unless I missed part of it, La Miniscule Venise, might be a slightly more accurate name. Nevertheless its size doesn’t take away from how stunningly pretty it is.
Colmar was great and definitely lived up to its hype – in fact, I’d go so far as to say it was better than I expected. While its famed canal didn’t disappoint, I hadn’t expected the old town to be quite so large or there to be so many interesting shops. We spent a full afternoon wandering around the town and I could easily have spent longer as there was so much to see and do. A thoroughly charming experience.