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Colmar Travel Guide

Half-timbered houses, Colmar (© Grafissimo | iStockphoto.com)
Half-timbered houses, Colmar

Introduction

Colmar (pop. 67,000) is the capital of the Haut-Rhin Department. It is one of the best preserved historical town in Eastern France, reputed for its timber-framed architecture.


History

The Villa Columbaria was an imperial residence of Charlemagne. In 823, his grandson, Louis the Pious, granted the land of the Columbarium ("dovecote", from where the city's name is derived) domain to the abbey of Munster.

The village grew into a town in the 13th century. Various religious orders (Franciscans, Dominicans and Augustinians) settled in Colmar. Its increasing prosperity incites the Bishop of Strasbourg and the nobles of the region to wage war against the merchants who controlled Colmar. In 1261, Roesselmann, the leader of the burghers, is forced into exile. Roesselmann eventually manages to take Colmar back with the help of the future emperor, Rudolph of Habsburg.

Colmar was granted the status of Free Imperial City of the Holy Roman Empire in 1354.


Little Venice, Colmar (© Rainprel | Dreamstime.com)

Colmar is annexed to France by the Treaty of Westphalia (1648) marking the end of the Thirty Years' War. Like the rest of Alsace, it would be ceded back to Germany in 1870, then back again to France in 1919, and reannexed briefly by Germany during the Secong World War.

Attractions

The best way to discover Colmar is to stroll around its old town, especially in the so-called "Little Venice" district.

The town has five museums, the most interesting of which is the Unterlinden Museum (collection of fine arts, from the medieval to contemporary period), housed in a 13th-century cloister.

How to get there

Colmar is on the E25 motorway between Strasbourg and Basel. The E35 from Cologne and Frankfurt runs parallel to it on the other side of the Rhine.

There are frequent trains from/to Strasbourg (30min), Mulhouse (20min), Basel (45min). There a few daily direct trains to Nancy (2 hours) and Metz (2 hours), as well as a few TGV from Paris Est (2h50min). Trains from Germany usually require a change in Strasbourg or Basel.

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