Colmar is located in the Alsace region of eastern France – near the German border. About 500 km from Paris – or just 2.5 hours by train from Gare de l’Est.
This region is known for their wines, cute towns and traditional Christmas Markets – which was the reason for my visit.
I was traveling with a friend that I had met on a travel forum – and a friend of hers, whom she met the same way. Luckily the three of us got along well – as well as 3 people can when spending so much time together.
By planning ahead we were able to find a reasonably priced and spacious apartment. And because 3 of us were traveling together we qualified for the MINI PREMS TGV train tickets from the SNCF. This is where if you buy 2 tickets you get one free. That's my kind of deal.
Since our main focus was going to the Christmas Markets we really didn’t do any other sightseeing. We spent 3 nights in Colmar which gave us an evening and a full day to explore in Colmar and one day to take the shuttle bus to nearby Kaysersberg.
After our foggy train ride from Paris, it was an easy, but noisy - due to sound of our wheeled suitcases on the cobblestone streets - 15 minute walk from the train station to our apartment in the center of the old town.
Upon arrival, two of us went shopping for necessities while the other waited for a local friend who was gracious enough to drive down from Strasbourg to show us around Colmar – and to provide some local insight into things to look for at the Christmas Markets.
The two of us, who are usually excellent navigators, managed to get completely turned around in our search for a grocery store - both going there and coming back. At least we had a nice little introductory tour of Colmar.
On Friday evening we explored the markets with our local friend and then had dinner at Au Fer Rouge - which was literally steps from our front door. The restaurant was recommended by the owner of our apartment.
We all had the Jambonneau - which is a huge pork knuckle - as our main course. It was impressive and quite good. Service was good, but dessert was a disappointment.
The highlight of the evening was seeing Colmar all lit up at night. I was concerned about it being too touristy and too cute. Instead, it felt like stepping into a Christmas card. It was surprisingly authentic and just what we were hoping for.
After breakfast at home on Saturday morning, we headed out for some shopping. I was also on the hunt for some violette candies at the Christmas Market that our friend had told us about. More on those later.
I enjoyed shopping and the overall atmosphere in Colmar. Maybe it was the cool weather, and the over-dose of Christmas cheer that helped put me in a holiday mood? Whatever the reason - it was much-needed after all of the sadness of the previous weeks in Paris.
While my friends went in search of a café, I did some Christmas shopping at the markets, buying what I thought was plenty of the violette candies, some local eau de vie and boozy confitures.
After a late lunch-snack at the apartment we headed to see a free concert at the Saint Matthieu Church. The concert was enjoyable - and well worth the admission price.
We had dinner at Wistub Brenner - another typical Alsatian restaurant. The only memorable things from the meal were the disappointments and the funny photo I took of our waitress popping the cork on a bottle of Cremant de Alsace.
We later learned from our local friend that the quality of food is usually much better. It declines during holidays due to the high number of tourists to feed.
On Sunday, based on the suggestion of our local friend, we took the shuttle bus to Kaysersberg.
Finding the shuttle stop was easy - now that we sort of had our bearings - it was just past the Monoprix, where we we had been on our arrival day.
Even on a gray and drizzly day the vineyards surrounding Kaysersberg were beautiful - as was Kaysersberg. It felt even more authentic than Colmar.
The vin chaud (hot mulled wine) was served in glass mugs - not paper cups. I love my souvenir mug and wish I had gotten more.
The town was comfortably crowded. There weren't a lot of Christmas markets - but that was okay. The one of local crafts was very high-quality, and the town was so pleasant it didn't need more markets.
We wandered through Kaysersberg, eventually stopping for lunch which was better than expected. We even made "friends" with our waitress over our recognition of some "rude" diners who refused to respond to her "Bonjour Madams".
After some more wandering, and drooling over the kugelhopfs stacked up in the bakery windows, it was time to head back to Colmar. We wanted to hit the Christmas market one more time to get more of the violette candies.
On our bus ride back to Colmar we passed by Riquewihr - one of the most beautiful villages in France. Seeing all of the tour busses parked there made me very happy that we had chosen to visit Kaysersberg instead. It was plenty beautiful for me.
Because of our late and filling lunch we decided pick up some things at the Monoprix and just have dinner at home. Then our next stop was at the Confiserie des Hautes Vosges booth at the Christmas market.
The vendor remembered me from the day before - and even gave me a free bag of candy based on my total purchases over the 2 days.
I thought that buying nearly 40.00€ worth of candy would be more than enough - until I got back to Paris and found out how addicting the violette candies were. I'm afraid to try the other flavors. But I can always get more on a return trip to Colmar. Which I hope to make next December.