The Little Venice of Colmar seen from Pont St Pierre © French Moments
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Last Updated: 25 April 2018

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 Colmar Little Venice district in the old town gathers colourful half-timbered houses neatly lining cobblestone streets and walkways, set along a peaceful canal.

What to see in the Colmar Little Venice

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 was used by the market gardeners, fishmongers and tanners who passed through there in small, flat-bottomed boats.

Quai de la Poissonerie, Colmar Little Venice © French Moments
Colmar Little Venice on the banks of the Lauch River © French Moments

A little discovery walk in the Colmar Little Venice

  • Distance: a little over 1 kilometre
  • Duration: approximately 1 hour

Start the walk at Place de l’Ancienne Douane. The fountain is from Bartholdi and represents Lazare de Schwendi (1522-1583), a general of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor.

Colmar old town Alsace
Place Schwendi, Colmar © French Moments

Follow the canal that borders rue des Tanneurs where tanners used to work and live.

The Little Venice of Colmar © French Moments
Canal on rue des Tanneurs, Colmar © French Moments

Observe the tall half-timbered houses topped with attics where animal skins were put to dry.

The Little Venice of Colmar © French Moments
Rue des Tanneurs, Colmar © French Moments

Cross the bridge and turn right on Quai de la Poissonnerie.

Quai de la Poissonnerie

The first stop in the tour of the Little Venice of Colmar is the Quai de la Poissonnerie (Fishing Quay), accessible by a small bridge that crosses Rue des Tanneurs. There, fishermen sold fresh fish that had been caught in Colmar’s waters.

Quai de la Poissonnerie, Colmar © French Moments
Quai de la Poissonnerie, Colmar © French Moments

The brightly coloured, little half-timbered houses belonged to the members of the powerful fishing corporation.

Across the canal stands the Covered Market hall of Colmar (1865), one of the best of its kind in Alsace.

The Little Venice of Colmar © French Moments
The covered market of Colmar © French Moments

The Quai de la Poissonnerie is continued by the rue de la Poissonnerie.

The Little Venice of Colmar © French Moments
Rue de la Poissonnerie, Colmar © French Moments

The narrow street leads to Rue de Turenne, site of the old “Krutenau” (the fruit and vegetable market).

The Krutenau district

The little Krutenau district, beginning in Rue de Turenne, features a strong village atmosphere, and was once inhabited by the market gardeners corporation.

The Little Venice of Colmar © French Moments
Rue de Turenne, Colmar © French Moments

Admire the view from the nearest bridge: Pont de l’Abreuvoir.

Continue the tour by walking along Rue de la Herse.

From the past, Rue de la Herse has still kept intact a village atmosphere.

The Little Venice of Colmar © French Moments
Rue de la Herse, Colmar © French Moments

At the end of rue de la Herse, turn right at Passage de la Petite-Venise. You’ll walk 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.

The Little Venice of Colmar © French Moments
The Little Venice of Colmar © French Moments

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. We recommend the cruise by Sweet Narcisse.

Pont Saint-Pierre

The Little Venice of Colmar seen from Pont St Pierre © French Moments
The Little Venice of Colmar seen from Pont St Pierre © French Moments

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.

Place des Six Montagnes Noires

Place des Six Montagnes Noires, Colmar © French Moments
Place des Six Montagnes Noires, Colmar © French Moments

The square of Place des Six Montagnes Noires features the Roesselmann fountain from sculptor Bartholdi (1888). The name of the square (Six Black Mountains) refers to an old inn that once bordered the square.

Continue walking on rue Saint-Jean.

Maison des Chevaliers de Saint-Jean

At number 3 stands the St. John’s Knights House (Maison des Chevaliers de Saint-Jean) with its refined galleries evoking an Italian palazzo.

Maison des Chevaliers de Saint-Jean, Colmar © French Moments
Maison des Chevaliers de Saint-Jean, Colmar © French Moments

Reach Place du marché aux fruits.

Place du marché aux fruits

Colmar Old Town Alsace
Kern House, Colmar old town © French Moments

The square is bordered by two major buildings:

  • the Kern house, a beautiful Renaissance edifice built in 1594 with a fine Dutch gable.
  • the Regional Court (Tribunal de Grande Instance), a Neo-Classical building (1754-1771).

The Old Customs House is at the other end of the square. Reach rue des Marchands and continue exploring the old town of Colmar around the Pfister House!

To find out more about the Colmar Little Venice district


Gems of Paris by French Moments
About the author

Pierre is a French/Australian who is passionate about France and its culture. He grew up in France and Germany and has also lived in Australia and England. He has a background teaching French, Economics and Current Affairs, and holds a Master of Translating and Interpreting English-French with the degree of Master of International Relations, and a degree of Economics and Management. Pierre is the author of Discovery Courses and books about France.

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  1. I and my wife saw the Colmar’s photos. They were dreamy for us. I can’t stop imagining the town even before going to sleep at night and after waking up in the morning. We are really sad not able to visit such a dreamy town. We live in Mehrshahr, Karaj in Iran. My town is also beautiful but Colmar is something else. Thank you for your nice photos!

    1. Thank you for taking the time to write a little feedback on Colmar! Have a pleasant day and hope to see you soon on our website!

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