Before the world changed, one of the must see towns of Europe for 2020 was Colmar, France. Situated in the Alsace region, Colmar is situated near France’s border with both Switzerland and Germany, which makes it a nice base to visit areas in all 3 countries. Another perk of Colmar is its proximity to the many wineries in the region. A picturesque village with an abundance of day trips at your disposal makes this an obvious choice for a vacation.
Sonia and I visited Colmar in 2018 as part of our 2 week European vacation. Had we known then what we know now, we would have planned for more than 2 days there. Regardless, we were still able to enjoy a day of wineries and some good food in the village.
For us, we traveled to Colmar from Dijon via train, and upon arriving in Colmar, we were able to walk from the station to our hotel. The walk was mostly flat, but once we got closer to the village center, it did slope slightly downward and switched from paved sidewalks to cobblestone ones. This made our walk a little more difficult as our bags did not roll well on the cobblestones. Eventually we made it to the hotel, got checked in, and relaxed before exploring the village.
Colmar is very walkable with several pedestrian-only streets which makes the walk to the center of the village easy and enjoyable. Surrounding the center are several restaurants and cafes, so if you can get a table at any of these, it lends to good people watching. There is a canal that goes through the village, and people are able to book small boats that will take them along the canal. One of the highlights is taking a ride through the neighborhood known as “Little Venice” to see the multi-colored buildings along the canal.
Alsace Cuisine – Tarte Flambee (Flammekueche)
The one dish from the region that I was most excited to try was the tarte flambee. As a pizza lover, I was curious to see how this cheesy flatbread measured up. To be clear, tarte flambee, also known as flammekueche, is not a traditional pizza; rather, it is similar in that it is a dough rolled out flat and customarily topped with onions, lardons and cheese. In Colmar, you will find several places serving this specialty, and in 2018, we were told that the go to place for this specialty was Restaurant La Soi. Unfortunately, we were unable to get a reservation for either night while we were there.
As previously mentioned, the dish can be found at several other restaurants in Colmar. Sonia and I tried the version at La Cour des Anges which is topped with onions, country bacon, a white cheese cream, and a mountain cheese from the region. To note, going in thinking this was a pizza may have been a problem. It’s similar to pizza, but the taste and texture are quite different. The crust was more cracker-like and the cheese was not as melty and stringy as a mozzarella; however, the crisp of the crust still provides a nice mouth feel and the saltiness and creaminess of the cheese and country bacon were nice as toppings to complement the crunch.
Alsace Food Culture – Winstubs
For other Alsatian specialties, we would recommend eating at one of Colmar’s winstubs. Winstubs in Alsace are akin to pubs and taverns and are great places to get some regional comfort food. For our second and last night in Colmar, we opted to have dinner at Wistub Brenner.
Sonia and I opted to each do a starter and a main dish for our meal. Sonia ordered the Munster cheese salad with the smoked duck breast to start and followed that with the pork knuckle with the spaetzle. For me, I started with the onion pie and then moved to the skirt steak and potatoes for my main. The food was nicely prepared and presented and had good flavor. There wasn’t a bad bite for either of us, and we both highly recommend Wistub Brenner for the diverse and tasty food options as well as the value.
Alsace Wineries – More than just Rieslings
The primary reason Sonia and I picked Colmar as a stop was to take advantage of the wine offerings of Alsace. As a big Riesling fan, I knew this was a must. There are plenty of tour options on the internet as well as opportunities to book a tour once in Colmar. We opted for a 1/2 day tour that we found on Viator.
1st Stop – Vins Xavier Wymann
Xavier Wymann was the smallest of the 3 wineries we visited, but it was also my favorite Riesling – the Riesling Steinacker. The wine was crisp but not too sweet and was the perfect balance for me and Sonia. Normally, we have very divergent tastes. Xavier Wymann is a family run affair with family inspiring the wine names and bottle labels. If we were to make it back to the region, this would be my first stop.
2nd Stop – Wunsch et Mann
Our next stop was Wunsch et Mann. I felt this was the biggest of the wineries we visited and had the biggest and most interesting tasting room. While we did not purchase any wine at this stop, the tasting had a nice variety of wines with good flavors. Our walking away empty handed was more a function of us not having room in our suitcases to take any home.
Wunsch et Mann
3rd Stop – Lunch in Eguisheim
Before hitting our last winery for the day, we stopped for lunch in the village of Eguisheim. No matter where you opt to stay when in Alsace, one added benefit of doing a wine tour is that you are able to visit the other villages in the region. All our unique and picturesque so we appreciated the time we got to spend in Eguisheim.
4th Stop – Domaine du Bollenberg
Our last stop for the tour was Domaine du Bollenberg. This is another family-owned and operated winery that includes a restaurant on site. My favorite part of the tour happened here. We had completed our tasting when the family shared how they were able to produce an ice wine for the first time ever the previous year. Ice wines are not produced in Alsace since it does not get cold enough. In order to produce this ice wine, the timing had to be perfect with help needed from other wineries in the region to ensure the grapes were gathered in time. As an added treat to our tasting, we were able to taste this wine. It was a sweet dessert wine fitting of the story underlying it. To this day, I regret not purchasing a bottle of it to take home.
Colmar was an amazing destination with so much to experience in 2 days for us. Our biggest surprise of the trip was the diversity of grapes in the wines. After this trip, it’s no surprise why Colmar has been picked as a must-see destination in Europe.