It’s time to add Colmar, France to your travel bucket list! Check out our guide and a few key reasons why everyone should visit Colmar during Christmas time, experience their culture and history, and bask in the beauty of shared appreciation for Christmas goodness. Come for the markets and charming small village vibes, and stay for the tarte flambée, crêpes, & gourmet market.
FIVE RAPID-FIRE FAQ’S
- Should I use card or cash? Mostly cash. Find an ATM to take out euros in cash in advance. (Read more about this later in the blog.)
- What are the hours of the Christmas Markets? Colmar’s markets are open 11 am-8 pm daily during the Christmas season. Smaller nearby cities are typically only open on weekends. (More on this later in the blog.)
- Can you walk from one Christmas Market to the next? Yes! It’s easy and highly encouraged.
- Do I need to eat before I come? No! Christmas markets are basically a food crawl.
- What should I wear? Check the weather before, but typically a sweater, pants, a good jacket, and comfy shoes will do just fine. There’s very little places to sit, so you’ll be on your feet a lot.
NAVIGATING THE LANGUAGE
French is the national language. We found most people we encountered spoke excellent English. If you encounter any language barrier, this can always be quickly remedied using Google Translate. While you definitely don’t need to know French to enjoy Colmar, here are a few words that are helpful to know while exploring during Christmas:
- Bonjour/ Bonsoir – pronounced bohn-joor / bohn-swah – means hello / good evening
- Merci – pronounced mare-see – means thanks/thank you
- Vin Chaud – pronounced vahn showd – means mulled wine
THE BEST PARTS
- The multiple markets are small but take over the town, turning the whole community into a sort of Christmas village.
- The walkability. It’s an accessible city overall. Though there are cobblestones, it seems like a relatively accessible city for those that are disabled. We saw multiple people with crutches, walkers, canes, and even a few wheelchairs getting around town just as easily as anyone else.
- The architecture of the city can’t be beaten. It feels like a German/French crossover and has such a charming feel.
Best Places To Stay In Colmar For Christmas Markets
Planning on enjoying the Colmar Christmas Markets? Check out our list of the best hotels in Colmar around the Christmas Markets!
WOAH, THAT’S DIFFERENT!
- On Saturday evenings at 5:00 pm, head to Petite Venice Canals to watch local kiddos sweetly caroling on boats along the canal. It’s as darling as it is impressive.
- The gourmet market! We’ve never seen a Christmas market quite like this one. Entirely dedicated to food, this Christmas market serves gourmet dishes that are a welcome change from the typical sausage, hot dog, or fried market foods. We ate here three times over two days. We enjoyed things like foie gras, Alsacean tapas, pasta, and (french) onion soup, along with lovely french wines and desserts.
- Only a mere few European Christmas market locations can boast their own local wine regions like Colmar’s own Alsace region can! Not only was white or red mulled wine offered, but multiple options and stalls offered bottles or cups of the delicious local wine.
- During the day, the town is full of colorful pastel buildings. At night, the lights brighten up the city walls, churches, and buildings with mixtures of intricate light projections and colorful can lighting.
COLMAR’S CHRISTMAS MARKETS
In our opinion, Colmar might be less about the number of individual markets and more about the city itself. Being a smaller town, the markets take over the older parts of the city. They technically have six Christmas markets, but as most of them are so close, they kind of all run together. A few feel distinctly different, such as the Gourmet Market, which is entirely full of food, and the Children’s market, which hosts multiple mechanical rides, but most connect smoothly throughout the city. But instead of counting markets to make sure you stop at each one, ditch the map, wander for a few hours, and enjoy the views along the way.
The markets are typically open from 11 am – 8 pm daily from around the last Friday in November until a day or two before New Year. Visiting on a weekday will have far less crowded than on the weekends. You can go on the weekend, but as the alleyways are often compact, expect Disney World on Christmas Day level of crowds. (Hint – think of sardines in a can.) The crowd levels were better on a Sunday evening than a Saturday afternoon. However, there were still pretty heavy bottlenecked crowds in some areas.
In France, you’ll need euros when you visit. If you’re wondering if you should bring cash or card to the Christmas markets, the answer is yes – both! Some vendors take cards, but you’ll almost always need cash for smaller purchases (less than $20).
Before you go, you need to know how “deposits” work at Colmar’s Christmas Markets. When you want to buy mulled wine (vin chaud), you’ll approach a stall that says the drink is 3 euros (for example). However, it will typically cost an additional 3 or 4 euros when it’s time to pay. This essentially covers the cost of the mug. If you’d like to take the mug home as a souvenir, congrats! It’s yours. If you’d like to return it to the stall, hand it back to them and say you’re returning it, then they’ll give you a 3-4 euro deposit back!
How much cash do you need?
It’s best to assume about $15-20 per meal for markets in France. Hot drinks typically cost between 3-7 euros with an additional average 3 euro deposit for mugs. Dishes such as tarte flambe cost around 9-10 euros. Hot dogs of most kinds cost between 5-10 euros, depending on the type. Sweet treats and desserts, on average, range between 3 and 12 euros.
If you’re looking to buy a more precious and pricier souvenir, you’ll be glad to have your card on hand, so you’re not limited by your small bills. Always make sure to ask the vendor before ordering or deciding to purchase anything which payment method they will take. (Even if your german language skills are poor and your English is limited, this question can be easily communicated by holding up your credit card and asking, “do you take card?” They will quickly answer with either hand gestures or a verbal yes or no.) If you can, use your traveling expenses to rack up those travel credit card reward points when you can, y’all! We love that the Capital One Venture X card gives us 2x points on everything from glüwhein to ghost tours.
A helpful note about taking out foreign currency in cash:
The best practice (and cheapest) for having cash on hand in a new country is to go to your bank 5-10 business days before your trip and ask them for the new currency. Depending on your bank, this transaction will either be free or just a few dollars.
If you’re like us and realize the airplane tires hit foreign soil that we forgot to do this, then find an ATM to take out euros in cash! Yes, you can do this even with an international debit card and even some credit cards. There will typically be a small transaction fee along with the exchange rate. It’s still cheaper to take out cash this way than to go to a money exchange or Western Union.
FOODS & DRINKS TO TRY
- Tarte Flambée – imagine a flat, savory crepe with a creamy sauce, ham, and onions. It’s a local specialty!
- Alsace wine – we mentioned earlier that this area boasts its own wine region, and it does not disappoint! Our favorite local wine was the pinot blanc.
- Crêpes – can’t leave France without trying one of these favorite french desserts made right before your eyes at a market stall!
- Foie gras – in case you’re a little more adventurous, the Gourmet Market offered this, and we found it to be absolutely delicious…even though it’s duck liver. Trust us! The French know their flavors.
HOW TO GET AROUND COLMAR
Get your walking shoes on! The only ideal way to navigate the city is by foot. You could rent a bike, but why not take the opportunity to stroll around town and visit the sites? Much of the city is blocked off to cars during Christmas to ensure the markets are safe for pedestrians. The best way to get to Colmar from other cities is by train or car. If you’d like to rent a car, keep in mind that you will only use it a little while in the city. The central train station in Colmar is about a 5-15 minute walk from just about everywhere in the city. It’s a doable walk, even with small suitcases!