Colmar is an adorable small French town that looks like a preserved medieval village. There are traditional half-timbered houses, abundance of overflowing flower pots, and uneven cobblestone streets. If you have ever seen Beauty and the Beast, this is the city that inspired most of the looks in the movie.
With just little under 70,000 residents, Colmar feels more like a quaint country village than a city. All of the architecture and the street layout add to the charm. And those are the reasons why this small city is considered one of the most beautiful cities in France. And it is quite a touristic draw.
Many people looking for a city that looks like it was pulled straight from the 16th or 17th century, visit Colmar. It even has its own Little Venice part, at the south end of the historical district.
With that in mind, here are some little known facts regarding the fairy tale city.
Colmar is exceedingly walkable. At the center of the city you have the main train station, and all of the sights of the old town are within a mile walk. Basically, you can walk the entire city in half a day. Of course, you should spend more time there, so you can properly visit the museums and enjoy the charm of Colmar. The main place to be is the Grand Rue, and three of the five markets in town during the holidays are located along a 600 meter stretch.
Between German and French tradition
Both French and German forces have laid claims to the territories of Alsace and Lorraine. French nationalism led the country to extend its territory outside of its natural boundaries, and in the northeast, Alsace was first conquered by Louis XIV in the 17th century. Meanwhile, after Napoleon’s rise to power and French occupation of Germany, Germany sought to re-take all German-speaking areas of the former Holy Roman Empire. This included Colmar as well, a city where many of the local inhabitants still spoke various German dialects.
During World War I, France made it a goal to retake the Alsace- Lorraine region, while Hitler took full control of it during World War II. Today, the region is part of France, but many of the local people speak German, and they can switch between the two languages with ease.
The Unterlinden Museum
Many people go to Colmar to stroll the beautiful streets. But the city is also home to some remarkable historic and culture pieces. In the Unterlinden Museum, there are more than 7,000 artifacts of the culture and history of the Alsatian region. You can find many sculptures and paintings in the Gothic archways, among which is the Issenheim altarpiece, a colorful moving German painting depicting biblical scenes.
Border between three countries
Colmar is not only a border between France and Germany, it is also very close to Switzerland. Because of its great location, it is easy to travel to and from Colmar to many cities in Germany and Switzerland, including Basel, Strasbourg, Zurich, and many more.
Driest city in France
There is rarely rain in Colmar. It is one of the driest cities in France, with an annual precipitation of just 607mm, or 23.9”. The climate makes the area ideal for producing Alsatian wine, with the two most popular including Muscat, a fairly sweet wine, and Gewürztraminer, very sweet wine.
Home of Bartholdi
Frederic Auguste Bartholdi was a French sculptor, one who was responsible for designing the Statue of Liberty. He was born in Colmar, and the city has the Bartholdi museum at the heart of the old town. The museum houses some of the most important works. They were preserved thanks to the legacy that the artist’s widow surrendered into the hands of the city.
Bartholdi originally named his most famous statue Liberty Enlightening the World, which was then shorten to Statue of Liberty.