Alsace, a region located on the eastern border of France close to Germany and Switzerland, is a magical place full of surprises. In this new series, we will take you to this very special place and give you a taste of the many wonders it has to offer.
By Alessandra Ivaldi / 7.04.2020
Today, under the persecution of the invisible threat of the coronavirus, we remember nostalgically the “good old days” when we were free to get out and to travel, crossing the borders between the EU countries with ease. At first I was hesitant about writing this article, wondering whether it was appropriate to go on with our series “Let’s explore Alsace” at this moment in time, when travelling has become a potential threat to our safety.
After some consideration, we have decided to go ahead. It will not always be like this. Soon we will see the end of this pandemic and our lives will continue from the point where they were interrupted in such an unexpected way. We will rediscover the joys of travelling. In a way, it will be even more precious than before, because, for an unnerving moment, we experienced the limitation of movement caused by closed borders which has never before been a problem for most of us.
So, here we are, ready to discover a new part of the magical region of Alsace. For now, we will have to make do with using our imagination, all the while safe in the knowledge that we will soon be free to travel again.
After discovering the secrets of Mulhouse, it is now time to move to another place, one which is a must for anyone planning a trip to Alsace. We are not talking about Strasbourg, even if it is the most famous city of the region, but the lovely Colmar. With scenery which seems to have jumped straight out of a fairy-tale book, Colmar will make every visitor fall in love.
If you still have not read the first two articles of our series “Let’s explore Alsace”, just click on the following links to discover all there is to know about Mulhouse and its attractions.
Colmar is the third city of Alsace and is located at the foot of the Vosges mountains. The first thing any tourist should do when visiting this city is simply walk around and enjoy the beauty of the ancient buildings.
Colmar is characterised by its very peculiar architecture, largely of medieval origin. Lovely half-timbered houses with wooden frameworks, sometimes finely decorated, establish the fairy-tale landscape. Each building boasts an infinite number of teeny details which the eye of the most attentive observer can notice and admire. See for example the Maison des Têtes (the House of the Heads), which actually differs slightly from the other buildings in Colmar because of the absence of the visible wooden framework, but above all because of the multitude of small heads that protrude from the walls and the balconies of this unusual house.
The many decorations used by the inhabitants of Colmar to adorn their city make these incredible buildings even more enchanting – from colourful flowers that cover the balconies and little bridges during the warm seasons, to the elaborate signboards of shops and boutiques, some veritable pieces of art in themselves.
Absolutely unmissable is the aptly named Petite Venise (Little Venice), located in the oldest part of the city. This area is named after the famous Italian city because of the breathtaking beauty of its picturesque views, its canals that recall the uniqueness of Venice and the colours of the ancient buildings reflecting in the water.
After a tour through the city streets, why not also explore the covered market of Colmar? Here visitors can find food products and handicrafts typical of this region.
Finally, here are two tips for the art lovers. Those who rely on guidebooks or suggestions found on the Internet will have surely been recommended The Unterlinden Museum. Located in a former Dominican convent, it contains many works of art of unmatchable value dating back to different historical periods: from paintings from the 1500s to the more recent Renoir and Picasso. If you want to discover every hidden treasure of this charming city, do not miss the wonderful Madonna in the Rose Garden by the painter Martin Schongauer, jealously preserved off the tourist trail in the Dominican church.
When you have seen enough of Colmar, take some time to explore its three neighbouring villages: Riquewihr, Kaysersberg and Eguisheim. Do not expect bustling tourist spots, but dainty villages every bit as picturesque as the Alsatian architecture found in Colmar. It is not by chance that these very villages inspired the sets for one of the most famous Disney movies, “Beauty and the Beast”.
If you are wondering which is the best time to explore these extraordinary places, the answer is quite simple: always! In spring and summer it is a pleasure to walk in the open air, surrounded by the colours of Colmar and its fragrant flowers, while in winter the city turns into a magical and wonderful place, where the magic of Christmas reigns over all and the delicious scent of warm pastries floods the streets of the center and invites visitors to stop to and taste one of the many local delicacies.