With half-timbered buildings, winding cobblestone lanes, and leafy canals, Colmar is worthy of its reputation as one of the most attractive towns in the Alsace wine region, known locally as the Haut-Rhin. You’ll spend two hours wandering through its medieval district on this privately guided tour, led by a local.
Along the way, you’ll see all the main sights, including the grandly Gothic Église Saint-Martin and the canal-riven Little Venice district. Learn about the town’s long history, from its role as a wealthy member of the Décapole during the Renaissance all the way through to World War II, when the town’s beauty helped save it from Allied bombing.
You’ll also hear about France and Germany’s perpetual tug-of-war over Alsace, which has given the region a distinctive character that’s reflected in the language, the wine, and the architecture.
Your guide will meet you at your hotel for this two-hour tour of Colmar’s most important sights. Your exact route will vary, but you’re likely to start in Little Venice, with its winding canals and half-timbered houses painted in bright pastels. These were built during the town’s 16th-century heyday, when it was an important member of the Décapole. This league of independent cities and towns helped control the wine trade throughout the region, amassing great wealth.
One of the most impressive sights is Maison des Têtes, a step-gabled hotel with more than 100 faces grinning out from its mustard-yellow façade. You’ll also visit the Koïfhus (the Custom House), located at the corner of the two biggest streets in town. And, for a look at the earliest Renaissance architecture, you’ll stop at the Pfister House, built for a hatter in 1537, which includes an octagonal turret, galleries, and a two-story corner oriel.
Église Saint-Martin is located on Place de la Cathédrale, an imposing Gothic masterpiece with a copper-banded spire and airy, soaring interior. It’s worth lingering here to admire the glittering stained-glass windows. You might also opt to include at stop at the Unterlinden Museum, where you can see the Isenheim Altarpiece. This massive polyptych work by Matthias Grünewald is known as one of the most terrifying depictions of the Crucifixion in Western art.