This post was updated 03/2019
As cliche as it sounds, a visit to Colmar is like a visit to a fairytale land. It’s no coincidence that it was the inspiration for Beauty and the Beast. Here I was, in Northeastern France, in a town that was used as the backdrop for one of the biggest Disney hits of ALL time. With both French and German influence, Colmar was fought over between France and Germany throughout WWII. France regained control of Colmar for the final time in 1945.
Famous for being a part of the Alsace region, a visit to Northeastern France has a lot to offer. Stay in Colmar, hop throughout the smaller towns close by, such as Eguisheim or Riquewihr, or taste Riesling in the multiple tasting rooms and vineyards around. The Alsace is situated on the Rhine River and in the Vosges Mountains, which makes perfect conditions for growing Riesling.
Arrival into Colmar – Day One
I arrived to Colmar by train from Paris and checked into Hotel Saint Martin. Located in central Colmar, a peak out the window lays out the town of Colmar in front of you. Colorful buildings, markets, and cobblestone street below you. Locals carrying bags of groceries, baguettes spilling out the top, bottles of wine in hand. A town that forces a smile on your face, and a yearning to explore until the sun falls.
After checking in I walked across the street to eat dinner at Le Fer Rouge. Because Colmar was once controlled by Germany, their influence is still heavy in the region and many of the restaurants serve German food instead of French. Sit on the outdoor patio and immerse yourself in the scene. A setting where it’s easy to observe the way of the French, watching them interact with each other, while enjoying a glass of the local Alsace wine.
Day Two – Wine Tasting Through the Alsace Wine Region
Day two brought me to explore the vineyards of the Alsace wine region. In Colmar you can cheaply rent bikes from a bike store by the train station in town. They’ll set you up with maps and suggestions, and navigate you out of town. Along the Alsace wine route you’ll come to many different towns. All close enough that you can bike town to town. But don’t be mistaken, I was aiming to hit five separate towns in one day, but was only able to make it to three. Each town was so uniquely different that I ended up spending more time than I was originally planning.
Biking through Alsace Wine Region
Stop #1 – Eguisheim
I biked four miles south, before I came upon my first stop – the town of Eguisheim. A charming town smaller than Colmar, but packed with just as much personality. In 2013 it was named the “Favorite French Village” and it’s no secret why. Chain up your bike and explore this medieval town on foot via the cobblestone streets.
Note: The wine tasting rooms in Eguisheim are closed from 1200-1400 for lunch.
• Between Eguisheim and Turckheim, stop at Stentz-Buecher for a taste of the different Rieslings the Alsace offers •
Stop #2 – Turckheim
A four mile bike ride north will bring you to stop #2, Turckheim. Founded in the 1300’s and situated in the Vosges Mountains, getting to Turckheim is half the treat. While you’ll be riding up big hills, and may even have to walk, take in the gorgeous scenery surrounding you. Riding through the vineyards, and lush green rolling hills. Just you and the grapes as you make your way from French town to French town.
Stop #3 – Kaysersberg
A five mile bike ride further north will bring you to stop #3, Kaysersberg. One of the most popular wine growing regions in the Alsace, specializing in Pinot Gris, the vines were originally brought from Hungary clear back in 16th century.
A final eight miles southwest, will bring you back to where you began – Colmar.
Facts About Alsace Wine
- There are only seven grapes in the Alsace region.
- They do not typically blend their grapes.
- The tasting rooms and vineyards are in separate places.
- If a winery chooses to make three different kinds of Rieslings (for example), they get the Rieslings to taste different by placing the grapes in different grounds – by the Rhine River, by the Vosges Mountains, etc.
- Instead of buying land in a certain region, the winemakers buy land all over so that they have different types of grounds to grow grapes and therefore make their wines taste different (see point #4). This is also why the tasting rooms and vineyards aren’t in the same place.
My last day was spent exploring the charming town of Colmar. I happened to be there during Easter so they had Easter markets set up around the city center. Colmar also has Christmas markets, if you can, I urge you to plan your trip around these two holidays! After wandering through the Easter markets and indulging in crepes galore, I headed to Le Petit Canal for a boat ride! Colmar has a little river known as Le Petit Venice (the little Venice), that runs right through the center of town allowing you to see the main attractions from the boat.
For a bite to eat head to the cozy L’un Des Sens for charcuterie and wine. I suggest stopping by for a drink and appetizer before dinner. Next up head to Maison Martin Jund for more wine tasting. And for dinner a stop at Le Petit Tanneur. This cozy restaurant has more of a French influence then German.
A trip to Colmar will surely leave you wanting more. It’s a town like this that allows you to appreciate a country for more than just its capital. A place full of personality and charm. And one that is sure to steal your heart.