At the heart of the Alsace Wine Route, Colmar is very well located and while it may not be the capital of Alsace, it remains one of its top tourist destinations. The old town comprises of a charming district made up of colourful half-timbered houses neatly lining cobblestone streets and walkways, set along a peaceful canal giving it its reputation of the “Little Venice of Alsace”.
Colmar’s “Little Venice” District
In the Krutenau district, the city gives way to the village atmosphere that is typical of traditional Alsace. Those with an affinity for half-timbered houses will once again be charmed by the sight of the district, which is adjoined by a stream – the Lauch – which earned it the name of the “Little Venice of Alsace”.
In reality, it would be more accurate to call it “Little Bruges” because, unlike in Venice, there is only one river serving the neighbourhood: the picturesque Lauch. The little 45 km long river runs from the Vosges and crosses the town of Guebwiller, before entering the Alsace Plain. It flows into the River Ill in the outskirts west of Colmar.
At the crossing of the Krutenau district, the Lauch used to be used by the market gardeners, fishmongers and tanners who passed through there in small, flat-bottomed boats.
The first stop in the tour of the Little Venice of Colmar is the Quai de la Poissonnerie (Fishing Quay), which is accessible by a small bridge that crosses Rue des Tanneurs. Fishermen used to sell fresh fish here that had been caught in Colmar’s waters.
The brightly coloured, little half-timbered houses belonged to the members of the powerful fishing corporation.
The Quai de la Poissonnerie leads to Rue de Turenne, site of the old “Krutenau” (the fruit and vegetable market).
The little Krutenau district, beginning in Rue de Turenne, features a strong village atmosphere, and was once inhabited by the market gardeners corporation.
Continue the tour by walking along Rue de la Herse, then along the boardwalk at the edge of the Lauch. In summer, otters can often be seen here!
The flat-bottomed boats that once cruised along the Lauch allowed market gardeners to display their fruits and vegetables. Today, the small gondolier boats pay homage to this long-forgotten activity, giving Colmar a Venetian feel. You can board boat tours of the Little Venice district from underneath the Saint-Pierre Bridge. The boat tour is a wonderful opportunity to discover the string of beautifully restored houses dating from 1350 to 1609.
The stunning view of the district from the Saint-Pierre Bridge, to the far south of Little Venice, is one of the most photographed views of Colmar. Busloads of tourists stop here to allow visitors to admire the view of the river reflecting the old half-timbered houses.
At the Saint-Pierre Bridge, turn right and follow Saint Pierre Boulevard until the intersection with Rue du Manège. Take the road to the right until you reach Place des Six-Montagnes-Noires and the Old Customs House.
Colmar Tourist Office: http://www.ot-colmar.fr