Here we are in the second part of the Basel-Colmar trip. This time, I will talk about France’s Alsace villages. We spent only 1.5 days there. But this shouldn’t mislead you; it definitely offers many things to do. I will probably pay another visit there again in the following years.
As I said in the previous post, you could go to Colmar either by train from Basel or Strasbourg, or by plane from Euroairport or Aeroport de Strasbourg. Since we were in Basel, we preferred going by train. There is a train every 30 minutes, so you don’t need to buy tickets in advance. The price of a one-way ticket is 16 euros, and it takes 45 minutes from Basel SBB. Unfortunately, I don’t have any information about plane tickets.
There are many hotels in the city center of Colmar. However, we used Airbnb this time because it was cheaper than hotels. Our host’s apartment was 10–15 minutes away from the city center, and it was in an entirely residential area. The only downside was that it took 20 minutes from the train station to get there by walking. And there is no Uber or Bolt there (We haven’t checked if there were any buses, though). Anyways, my suggestion is that check the distances: the place you want to stay <> train station, the place you want to stay <> city center. Another thing is that Colmar is quite touristic, especially at Christmas market times. Booking in advance makes more sense than last-minute pricy hotels. You could go there at the end of November like us, as it might be annoying to visit this small city and villages at peak times. You might need to wait in queue for everything.
Little Venice of Colmar
We had only one goal when planning this trip: visit as many Christmas markets as possible and try mulled wine in all of them 🍷. In 2022, markets are open between November 24 and December 31. Each village has a different schedule, though. For example, markets at Riquewihr opened on November 26.
This is the map of Alsace. We were always in the picturesque Colmar, the hearth of Alsace wines.
Since this was not an art, history, or city-focused trip, I’ll share my random notes about Alsace. But before doing that, I want to define Colmar better. This is how they describe in the tourist guides:
“Colmar is a condensed version of Alsace in all that is most typically”. This superlative is still echoed today by you, visitors of the thousand-year-old city. Nestled amongst the vineyard-dotted foothills at the crossroads of major European routes, has such a rich cultural and architectural heritage that it delights newcomers. The city center, which has miraculously survived the vagaries of history, is a veritable mosaic of half-timbered houses, multi-colored façades, statues, finely crafted shop signs, impressive churches, refreshing canals and fountains.. is an invitation to stroll in a wide pedestrian area, immersing yourself in the heart of history from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance.
Old town of Colmar
Some notes about Colmar:
- There are 5 Christmas markets in the old town. They more or less offer the same products.
- The markets close at 8 PM, which is very early, in my opinion. When we asked our host, she said it comes from their old German-time traditions. They open and close shops early.
- Even though we were not there at the peak times, it was already very crowded. Colmar attracts 3.5 million tourists yearly, half of whom come for the Christmas markets! This is unbelievable if you think of the size of the city.
- Mulled wines are 2.5 or 3 euros and they have white/red options. However, I wouldn’t say I liked the taste of it. It was too fruity taste for me.
- Don’t drink coffee there. I was disappointed a few times. They give you burnt, very-hot coffee.
- If you feel like visiting museums, you can check these ones: Unterlinden, Toy, and Bartholdi.
- You might wonder, who the heck is Bartholdi? He is the artist that designed the Statue of Liberty! Since he was born in Colmar, there is a replica of the statue and a museum.
- There are many Michelin-starred restaurants in Colmar (and more in the Alsace region). Still, we couldn’t even find an average restaurant to dine at. All of them were packed out. It is a must to make a reservation.
You can buy a daily bus ticket for L’âme de Noël (the Christmas soul) tour for 10 Euros. We got on buses number #1 and #2, which go to the villages in the north. All of them start their rides from the train station. If you want to go south, then #3 and #4 are for you. You can find the schedules and stops of the busses in every village’s ticket office (a small booth). These villages are called Villes et Villages de Noël (Christmas Cities and Villages).
When you get on the bus, please look out the window. You will pass through lots of vineyards and see castles. There are more than 1600 vineyards in Alsace! If you like, you can join wine tasting or follow wine routes:
Taken from https://www.visit.alsace/en/’s amazing Alsace guide
In Christmas markets, they sell Alsace wines as well. A bottle starts from 20 euros. But it’s possible to find cheaper ones online or in the stores. 7 grapes are identified & approved in this region (They call it A.O.C). The most famous ones are Pinot Blanc and Gewurztraminer. The bottles are unique; they are taller than usual wine bottles. They produce primarily white wines in Alsace.
We had a limited time, so we only managed to visit 2 villages: Riquewihr and Kaysersberg. The latter one was bigger and more beautiful. The mulled wine in both villages tasted perfect, unlike Colmar. The prices were the same as Colmar's markets.
Even the inside of a church was decorated delicately. As far as I remember, this is the first time I’m seeing something like this.
We talked about wine, but what about the food? Their most famous dish might look very familiar to Germans. It’s called Tarte flambée, which is exactly the same as flammekueche. The main ingredients are onions, bacon, and cream cheese. They said that they use Alsace cream cheese. This might be the explanation why it tasted yummier than Berlin’s flammekueche-s.
Pretzels and other German dishes with lots of bacon are also famous here.
Tarte flambée with mushrooms
Let’s finish this post with one lovely photo from Riquewihr:
If you read this post until here, thank you so much ❤️. See you in another post!