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Colmar: the wine capital of Alsace

This article is also available in: Italian

Colmar (about 75,000 inhabitants) is a beautiful town in Alsace, at the foot of the Vosges massif, near the border with Germany near the Rhine river, 64 km south of Strasbourg. The city is considered the wine capital of Alsace, it is in fact located along the Alsace Wine Route (Route des Vins d’Alsace), a 170 km long road that crosses the main wine-growing areas of the Alsace region.

Colmar was founded in the 9th century, and became a free city of the Holy Roman Empire in the 13th century. In 1354 Colmar is one of the cities of the Decapolis, a federation of 10 imperial cities of Alsace. In the 17th century, during the Thirty Years’ War the city was occupied by Swedish troops (1632-1634), then, in 1679, following the Treaty of Nijmegen it became part of the Kingdom of France. In 1698 the city of Colmar, with the installation of the Conseil Souverain d’Alsace, became the judicial capital of the entire Alsatian province.

In 1871, with the Treaty of Frankfurt, Colmar became part of the German Empire of which it would remain part until the end of the First World War, when it returned to French sovereignty. During the Second World War it was again annexed to Germany (1940-1945) before finally returning to France in 1945.

WHAT TO SEE: THE MAIN ATTRACTIONS OF COLMAR

Colmar is a city of art and history located in the wine area of Alsace, but the city is also known for its rich food and wine offer, its restaurants are famous. The historic center of Colmar is partly pedestrianized and is a condensation of typical Alsace styles and buildings, there are wonderful wooden half-timbered houses dating back to the Middle Ages. Colmar’s monuments are located in picturesque neighborhoods such as those of Little Venice (Petite Venise), the Tanners (tanneurs) and the Fish  (poissonnerie). Colmar is very busy during the weeks leading up to Christmas thanks to one of the most beautiful Christmas markets in Alsace, the famous Colmar Christmas Market.

The city has a large number of buildings typical of Alsace architecture, among the most characteristic and well-known we find: the Pfister house (maison Pfister), a stone and wood house from the 16th century, probably the most famous building in Colmar. The Koïfhus  is a late 14th century building which was the seat of the old customs house. The Corps de Garde building is another fine palace from the late 16th century. The Maison des Têtes is a building in typical German Renaissance style, built in the early 17th century, the house owes its name to the grotesque masks that adorn  its facade. The city also has notable religious buildings such as the Gothic church of Saint-Martin, the Protestant church of Saint-Matthieu and the Dominican Convent (Couvent des Dominicains), whose oldest part dates back to the 13th century and which today houses the famous Unterlinden museum.

Colmar has one of the most visited Fine Arts museums in France, the Unterlinden museum which houses the Isenheim Altarpiece (Retable d’Issenheim), a late Gothic work by two German masters from the late 15th and early 16th centuries: the painter Matthias Grünewald, who painted the true masterpiece, i.e. the panels of the altarpiece, and Nicolas de Haguenau who worked on the sculptural part of the work. The Unterlinden Museum is best known for displaying a rich collection of Rhenish art with paintings and sculptures representative of the art of the 15th and 16th centuries, a period during which artists and works of art flourished in the Rhine area. Much of the museum’s ancient art collection comes from the churches and convents of the Colmar region. In addition to the aforementioned Isenheim Altarpiece, the museum houses masterpieces such as the Colmar Crucifixion and the Bergheim Altarpiece.

For those traveling with children we recommend a visit to the small Toy and Train Museum (Musée du jouet et des petits trains), the Museum of Natural History and Ethnography (Muséum d’histoire naturelle et d’éthnographie) can also be a stop Interesting. The Musée Bartholdi is dedicated to Auguste Bartholdi, an artist born in Colmar and  known for being the author of the famous Statue of Liberty in New York.

The climate of Colmar.

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