A Detailed Guide to the Colmar Christmas Markets (2023)

Colmar has been at the top of my bucket list ever since we started our annual tradition of hopping around different European Christmas markets. And, after we decided to break away from the usual German markets last year, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to finally witness the magic of the Colmar Christmas markets.

Stepping into Colmar during the festive season is like walking onto the set of a Hallmark film – only better, because you can actually smell the mulled wine and not just gaze wistfully at the screen! With its beautifully decorated half-timbered houses, cobblestone streets, and lights everywhere that make the whole place sparkle, it’s like entering a fairytale. As a matter of fact, there are rumours that this charming town was the inspiration behind the original Beauty and the Beast film, but more on this later!

If you’re looking for a place that’s straight out of a Christmas story, with a bit of French charm, you should definitely add Colmar to your travel wishlist. So, let’s bundle up, grab a hot drink, and go explore what the Colmar Christmas markets have in store. I promise you’re in for a treat!

How to get to Colmar

Colmar sits just under an hour from the world-famous Strasbourg Christmas markets on one side and the city of Basel on the other. The French railway company, SNCF, connects the area, and you can quickly grab your train tickets on their website.

When we visited, a one-way train ticket from Basel to Colmar cost €16.40. A great perk is that your ticket is valid for any TER train on the same route for the entire day. This means you have the flexibility to board any train you like, making your travel plans hassle-free.

If you’re planning to travel around Alsace, you should definitely check out the Alsa + Groupe Journee pass. It’s a steal at €39.10 on weekends and public holidays, letting a group of up to 5 people travel all over the region between Strasbourg and Basel. This pass includes everything – 2nd class trains, trams, buses, and even those special Christmas shuttles until midnight on the day of validation. And if you’re travelling on a weekday, the Alsa + 24Hr Solo pass is your go-to for €37.40 per person, covering the same area. Plus, there are even more budget-friendly options for smaller zones on the SNCF website.

What are the dates of the Colmar Christmas Markets?

If you’re planning a visit to the Colmar Christmas Markets in 2024, mark your calendars for 30th November to 21st December. There’s also a special Medieval Christmas market running from 7th to 15th December.

Now, when’s the best time to head over? From Monday to Thursday, the markets are open from 11 am to 7 pm. For weekend visitors, there’s great news! On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, the markets open a bit earlier at 10 am and close at 8 pm. The only exception is the Gourmet Market, which welcomes visitors from 11 am to 10 pm every day, including public holidays.

Where can you find the Colmar Christmas Markets?

Colmar hosts 6 unique Christmas markets, each like a little Christmas village with its own vibe, plus a festive area at Place Rapp.

Below, I’ll guide you through what to expect, enjoy, and buy at each of the Colmar Christmas markets. I’ll share them in the order we explored, as we wanted to finish our day at the carousel bar at Place Rapp.

Conveniently, all the markets are within a short walking distance of each other, forming a loop around the Old Town. This makes it easy to start at the market that catches your eye and explore from there.

Petite Venise: Children’s Market

Our first stop was the Children’s Market in Colmar’s picturesque Little Venice area. But, don’t let the name fool you – you’ll have just as much fun there as an adult!

The first thing we noticed as we walked in was the horse ride where both kids and grown-ups were having a whale of a time. I was tempted to join in, but the queue was a bit slow, and we already arrived later than expected due to 3 morning trains being cancelled (those French rail strikes can be a bit of a pain!).

The Petite Venise neighbourhood itself is absolutely breathtaking. You’ll definitely want to set aside some time to just wander and soak in the stunning views.

Surprisingly, this market turned out to be one of my favourites, thanks to its cosy and compact feel. Starting here almost felt like a mistake, as there were so many tempting dishes I wanted to try, like the classic croque madame, but I just wasn’t hungry yet.

A woman sitting on a red velvet sofa inside a Christmas-themed photo booth setup with a Christmas tree and a fireplace backdrop, featuring the text 'Colmar L'âme de Noël' (Colmar, the soul of Christmas)

Other than that, you could find stalls selling warm apple juice laced with honey, gingerbread (or ‘pain d’epices’ as the French call it), various liquors, nougat in all sorts of flavours, and handcrafted wreaths and decorations.

Plus, there’s a special mailbox for sending your letter to Santa!

And for those of you chasing the most Instagram-worthy spots in Colmar, you can’t miss the nearby Hotel Le Maréchal and its gorgeous festive display!

Gourmet Market – Rue de la Montagne Verte

As we were strolling around Quai de la Poissonnerie, we stumbled upon the Gourmet Market quite by chance. In the past, this market used to be at Place de la Cathedrale, nestled under the shadow of St. Martin’s Church. It’s now found a new home on Rue de la Montagne Verte, where you can also enjoy children’s rides or take a spin on the Ferris wheel.

Here’s a little fun fact about Colmar: in response to the recent energy crisis, both the light displays and the Ferris wheel are solar-powered! A ride on the Ferris wheel costs €9 per person, but you can amp up the experience with a VIP ticket that includes champagne. It’s an incredible way to see Colmar’s festive decorations and stunning views from above – the city looks like a postcard, even on a rainy day!

An aerial view of Colmar from the top of the Grande roue de Colmar Ferris wheel

If you’re keen to try something different from the usual Christmas market food, the Gourmet Market in Colmar is your go-to spot. You’ll find 9 cabins, each hosted by a chef serving up a variety of Alsatian specialties and gourmet dishes. Think black truffle risotto, chestnut soup, or fresh oysters. On Thursdays and Fridays, the market even hosts live cooking shows starting at 5 pm, right in the heart of the action.

And for those with a sweet tooth or in need of a warm drink, there are stands opposite the Gourmet Market offering pretzels, gingerbread, and a range of hot beverages, including the intriguingly named pirate’s potion – definitely worth a try! 😉

Place de l’Ancienne Douane

If I had to pick my top 3 Christmas markets in Colmar, the one at Place de l’Ancienne Douane (Old Customs Square) would definitely be on the list. This market, winding along the canal and around the stunning Schwendi Fountain and nearby streets, boasts around 50 chalets offering a diverse range of goods.

You’ll find everything from tourist favourites to a wide array of handicrafts, Alsatian food, and wines. It’s definitely got the most extensive selection of all the Christmas markets in Colmar. The only drawback? It’s also the busiest, which made me think twice about stopping at more stalls – that, and the limitations of hand luggage!

A must-visit here is Mireille Oster’s stall, where you can try some Pain d’épices, or gingerbread. We had a delightful chat with the vendor about the differences between Polish and Alsatian gingerbread. This one is more similar to what you’d find at the Basel Christmas Markets than the Christmas market in Gdańsk, making it a unique gift from your travels. And don’t forget to look up while you’re there – each stall has a picture from the local toy museum at the top!

But the real gem of this place is the magnificent Schwendi Fountain. Remember the fountain where Belle reads in the opening of Beauty and the Beast? It’s said to be inspired by this very fountain! Plus, Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, the designer of the Statue of Liberty and a native of Colmar, is commemorated with his statue on top of this fountain. And, as a nod to Bartholdi, there’s even a replica of the Statue of Liberty on the outskirts of Colmar!

Koïfhus

Right next to the bustling Place de l’Ancienne Douane market, you’ll find the historic Koïfhus building, dating back to the 15th century. This former Customs House played a crucial role in medieval times, as all imported and exported goods were taxed there. Fast forward to today, and it’s keeping its trade spirit alive as the home of Colmar’s only indoor Christmas market.

Inside, you’ll find around 20 local artisans showcasing their talents. From ceramicists to potters, sculptors, jewellery makers, and bakers, it’s the perfect spot for unique, high-quality regional handicrafts.

A personal highlight was Marketa Macudova’s stall, where the gingerbread houses and cookies are a feast for the eyes, each one adorned with the most delicate icing sugar designs. They’re so beautifully crafted, you’ll almost feel guilty eating them. The artist gets this dilemma and cheekily suggests buying two of everything – one to eat and one to keep! 😉

A gingerbread house under a glass dome, intricately decorated with white icing, and a festive tree

Just behind the Koïfhus, there’s an extension of the previous market, complete with free public toilets – a real lifesaver after a day filled with exploring and enjoying the local mulled wine!

Place Jeanne D’Arc

The Christmas market at Place Jeanne D’Arc may be one of Colmar’s smaller ones, but it’s an absolute gem for anyone after a taste of authentic Alsatian specialties. It’s designed to resemble a traditional Alsatian village, with stalls selling everything from foie gras and homemade jams to a selection of cheeses, meats, honey, eco-friendly wines, and a variety of baked treats. And a little tip – you can enjoy the mulled versions of these wines at the same price as the regular vin chaud elsewhere!

As it’s less busy than the other markets, it’s a great place to stop for a quick bite or to stock up on some treats to take back home. It’s also where we got to try a traditional Alsatian pastry named Kougelhopf – they sell mini versions in multiple different flavours, so you can buy a few to share and taste the variety!

Place des Dominicains

The last Christmas market we checked out was at Place des Dominicains, nestled under the shadow of a majestic 14th-century Dominican church. As evening falls, the church’s stained glass windows light up, adding an extra layer of festive cheer to the city. I’m already thinking about staying in Colmar overnight next time, just to do another round of the markets and see them all lit up at night!

Right at the entrance, we stumbled upon a cart selling roasted chestnuts – a classic French treat we couldn’t wait to try. The market itself was a lovely blend of food, ornaments, and various handicrafts. For those who love preserves, there was this one stall with the biggest jam selection I’ve seen in Colmar – and I always keep an eye out for good jams for my mum! They had all sorts of sizes, from little jars that are perfect for squeezing into your hand luggage to bigger, festive sets shaped like Christmas trees.

Bonus: Rotating carousel bar at Place Rapp

Place Rapp isn’t officially a Christmas market, but you absolutely can’t miss it when you’re in Colmar. This square, right next to Parc du Champ-de-Mars, is just a 10-minute stroll from the Colmar train station. If you’re in town just for the day, it’s the perfect spot to swing by for some final drinks. Plus, there’s an ice rink and even a mini rollercoaster for those feeling a bit more daring.

The best thing about Place Rapp? As soon as we got there, it felt like the crowds just disappeared. With most people flocking to the main Christmas markets, you get to soak up the festive vibes in a much more relaxed setting, which is pretty rare on a Friday night!

Now, the real gem of Place Rapp is the rotating carousel bar – yes, a carousel that’s a bar! You can jump on, grab a drink, and gently spin around, all while belting out Christmas tunes. It’s such a quirky, unique experience. And you’ve got to try the warm cranberry juice; it’s a special treat that I didn’t spot at any Christmas other market in Colmar.

Just a little heads-up about the Colmar Christmas markets: they serve all drinks in reusable plastic cups. If you’re after a ceramic mug, you’ll need to buy it outright – there’s no returning it for a deposit. If you’re looking to add one to your collection, the rotating carousel bar at Place Rapp was the only place I saw selling them on the day we visited!

What other places should you see in Colmar?

With around 180 stalls, you’ll definitely want to set aside a good few hours for the Colmar Christmas Markets. But if you’ve got extra time, or if you’re planning a longer stay (which I totally would have loved, but heads up – hotels can get pricey, so book early!), there’s no shortage of Instagrammable places in Colmar. Here are some of my favourite ones:

Quai de la Poissonnerie

Quai de la Poissonnerie is a charming street located in the old fishmonger’s district. This is where the city’s fishermen and boatmen used to live centuries ago. Tragically, a massive fire in 1706 destroyed 40 of the original houses. But, thanks to restoration work from 1978 to 1981, we can now enjoy these vibrant half-timbered houses once again.

Since this street leads to the covered market and the new Gourmet Market on Rue de la Montagne Verte, it can get super busy during the day. So, if you’re after some great photos or just want a more relaxed stroll, my tip is to get there early to dodge the crowds!

Marché Couvert

If you’re in Colmar and love good food, you absolutely have to check out Marché Couvert. This covered market is filled with all sorts of local goodies. Think fresh fruits and veggies, mouth-watering cheeses, a variety of meats, and, naturally, some fantastic local wines and craft beers. As you walk around, you’ll rub shoulders with locals doing their daily shop and tourists on the hunt for tasty treats.

It’s a brilliant change of pace from the usual festive food, especially if you’re in need of a warm-up after a morning spent exploring the markets. We popped into the La terrasse du marché restaurant, where we had a delicious tarte flambée, some mulled wine, and a glass of Cremant d’Alsace wine.

La Terrasse du Marché restaurant located inside the covered market of Colmar
An Alsatian tarte flambée with diced bacon on top, next to a glass of Cremant D'Alsace wine and a cup of mulled wine

Here’s a fun fact: Cremant is made in the same way as champagne (though it might use different grape varieties), but ‘champagne’ is a protected name. So, for a similar sparkling wine experience without the hefty price tag, Cremant is your go-to. And the best part? Our meal cost us €18, which is pretty much what you’d spend at the markets, but with the cosy bonus of sitting indoors.

The building itself is pretty cool too – it’s got this old, classic look that just adds to the whole experience. So, whether you’re a serious foodie or just in for a quick bite, Marché Couvert is a spot you don’t want to miss out on!

Brasserie des Tanneurs

Next up, if you’re on the hunt for that perfect Insta shot, you’ve got to swing by Brasserie des Tanneurs. This place isn’t just for the holiday snaps; its rustic wooden decor looks stunning all year round. And if you’re keen to try some local Alsatian dishes, it’s got some fantastic reviews.

The facade of Brasserie des Tanneurs in Colmar, festively decorated with hearts, hanging greenery, and quirky figurines

Just a heads up though: it’s super popular, especially during the festive season, so make sure to book your spot early. As a matter of fact, the place is so busy over Christmas that they close for about three weeks in January to give the team a well-deserved break!

Maison Pfister

Tucked away on Rue des Marchands, leading off from St Martin’s Church, you’ll find Maison Pfister, a place that seems like it’s been lifted straight from a storybook. Dating back to 1537, this building is actually the first example of Renaissance architecture in Colmar and has become one of the city’s symbols. Originally built for a silver trader, the building got its name from the Pfister family who restored and lived there in the late 18th century.

The facade of Maison Pfister in Colmar

When you’re wandering around this area, you really must take a moment to stop and admire Maison Pfister’s breathtaking facade with a two-storey corner bay, a wooden gallery, a turret, and frescoes that bring together biblical and secular scenes. While you can’t tour the inside of the building, there’s a little shop on the ground floor selling all sorts of Alsatian products – perfect for a quick browse or to pick up a souvenir.

Maison dite “au Pèlerin”

Maison dite “au Pèlerin” is hands down the most famous photo spot in Colmar. It’s one of those places that’s all over Instagram, and you just can’t seem to avoid it when you’re scrolling through travel feeds or doing your research. And yet, believe it or not, I almost completely missed it when I was there!

We approached it from the opposite direction, so the building was actually behind me. It wasn’t until I noticed the crowd and turned around that I realised I was standing right near Colmar’s most Instagrammable spot. You’ll find it at the intersection of Grand Rue and Place de l’Ancienne Douane, just beside Hôtel Saint-Martin.

During the festive season, they deck it out with absolutely stunning decorations and place a Christmas tree out front, making it the go-to spot for photos. But a word of advice: unless you’re there bright and early in the morning, getting a people-free shot is pretty much a game of luck – we managed to snatch maybe a 5-second window at most!

Au Vieux Pignon

As the final place on your Colmar adventure, make sure to swing by Au Vieux Pignon. They keep this souvenir shop decorated all year, switching up the display with the seasons. In winter, it’s all about snowflakes, teddy bears, and cute seals in the windows.

A half-timbered building in Colmar adorned with snowflake decorations and Christmas garlands, with the sign 'Au Vieux Pignon' and a crowd of market-goers in front

It’s smack in the middle of Colmar, right where all the Christmas markets and tourist spots meet. So, as you can guess, it was the busiest place out of all those we visited. And a little heads-up for my fellow Instagram lovers: those perfect, people-free photos you see online? They’re probably snapped super early in the morning, or a result of some serious photo editing skills! We tried our luck in the afternoon, but there was just no chance of getting a clear shot, no matter how long we waited. Still, it’s totally worth checking out – just something to keep in mind for your visit.

Map of the Colmar Christmas Markets

What food should you try at the Colmar Christmas markets?

Alsatian food is a fascinating mix of French and German influences. Here’s a little guide to the must-try treats at the Colmar Christmas markets that’ll make your taste buds dance with joy.

  1. Vin chaud: The classic French mulled wine. Unlike German or Swiss Christmas markets, the Christmas markets in Colmar serve it in plastic cups, and the deposit is €2.
  2. Jus chaud: For a non-alcoholic warm drink, try jus chaud – it’s essentially a hot fruit juice, often apple or orange, spiced up with cinnamon and cloves.
  3. Tarte flambée: This Alsatian pizza-like delicacy is a thin, crispy crust topped with cream, onions, and bacon. You can order 3 versions: traditional tarte flambée, tarte gratinée with gruyère cheese, and tarte Munster with Munster cheese.
  4. Croque monsieur: This isn’t your average ham and cheese sandwich. It’s made the French way, with gruyère cheese, ham, and béchamel sauce, then toasted to perfection. You can also get croque madame with a fried egg on top – my go-to breakfast food!
  5. Kougelhopf: This is a brioche-like cake with raisins and almonds. It’s a festive and traditional Alsatian treat. And for all of you raisin haters like me, they sell lots of different varieties at the Colmar Christmas markets!
  6. Bredele: These little cookies come in various shapes and flavors. From almond to cinnamon, they are a Christmas market staple and great for taking home.
  7. Beignets: There are many different kinds of these fried donuts in Alsace alone, but they’re often dusted with sugar and can be filled with jam or chocolate.
  8. Mannele: These are adorable little brioche men, traditionally baked for Saint Nicholas Day.
  9. Pain d’epices: This is the French version of gingerbread, but with a unique mix of spices. It’s often made into cakes or loaves and is wonderfully moist and flavourful.

Are the Colmar Christmas markets worth visiting?

Absolutely, the Colmar Christmas markets are 100% worth visiting!

From the moment we set foot in Colmar, I instantly regretted not staying overnight – unfortunately, the hotels were too expensive. The entire city buzzes with the best atmosphere, a blend of joyous Christmas cheer and the quaint, cosy charm.

It’s the kind of place where you want to linger, to soak in every detail, from the scent of mulled wine wafting through the air to the sound of music echoing off the cobblestone streets. You can easily lose track of time, just wandering from one gorgeous alley to another.

So, to sum up – Colmar is a dream destination for anyone who loves Christmas. It’s a place that captures the essence of the holidays, where every corner is a postcard scene. It was definitely one of my favourite European Christmas market experiences of all time, and I’d love to go back both during winter and summer to see everything the city has to offer!

Planning a visit to other cities in the area too? Don’t miss my guides to the Basel Christmas Markets and the Strasbourg Christmas Markets. They cover everything you need to know – including what to expect from each of the markets (with 13 different Christmas markets in Strasbourg alone!), what foods you must try, and how much everything costs. I also prove that you don’t need a massive budget to visit Switzerland and show how to save money on accommodation and transportation!

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