Colmar boasts that it is the most beautiful city in the world! It has certainly had a colorful history, and its status as a UNICEF-certified “child-friendly city” makes Colmar an excellent vacation destination for families with young children. Older folks may appreciate that Colmar is along the Alsatian Wine Route.
Located in north-eastern France, Colmar is in the Alsace region, which lies on the western bank of the Rhine River in this area. Although everyone agrees that Colmar is a beautiful medieval town, in fact, we are all wrong! First mentioned in 823, Colmar originated in the Dark Ages. The Middle Ages started in 1000 AD, or so I was taught in college. Modern scholars do not like the term “Dark Ages” and now call that period the “Early Middle Ages” and the period starting in 1000 AD is the “High Middle Ages.” Whatever; Colmar has really nice half-timbered buildings that are way older than I am, and that is what counts (to me)!
Tourists flock to Colmar to admire the “Petite Venice” section of the Old Town, which borders two canals that are heavily decorated with beautiful flowers. In fact, the entire Old Town is alive with flowers and guaranteed to brighten anybody’s spirits.
If you or your kids are fans of Studio Ghibli, then you will love Colmar. The Old Town provided inspiration to Miyazaki, who adapted the setting for one of his films. You will recognize several buildings in Colmar that are featured in “Howl’s Moving Castle” even though the author of the original book is British.
Chris and I arrived in Colmar by train, from Zurich via Basel. The “Gare de Colmar” was built in 1905 and is probably the best-looking brick train station anywhere! Built in 1886, the neo-Gothic, German-style water tower of Colmar is also an attractive structure that is missed by most tourists because it is outside of the Old Town area.
We stayed at the Grand Hotel Bristol for six nights and loved the place! It is directly opposite the train station and exudes “old world” charm. Alas, it is a fifteen-minute trek to the Old Town, but you can walk through a nice park for most of the way.
The half-timbered buildings are the most curious of any I have seen. Although almost all of them have been restored to more-or-less original specs, they have all been painted with subdued pastels that look rather tired and faded in real life. Your photographs, however, will show vivid, saturated colors that are magnificent without the need to enhance them in Photoshop. There is obviously something magic in the air! After several days, I began to appreciate the subtle beauty of Colmar’s Old Town and felt quite at home by the time our stay was finished.
During our stay, we made day-trips to “Petite France” in Strasburg, the “City of Trains” in Mulhouse, and Haut-Koenigsbourg Castle near Ribeauville. These are all fantastic attractions. The castle is the most stunning that I have every seen!
So, is Colmar really the most beautiful city in the world? In reality, no, but through the magic of photography and some mystical quality of the local air, you might be charmed into thinking it is! Why not go find out for yourself?