Colmar is located in the Alsace region of France, which straddles the French-German border and for centuries has swapped back and forth between the two countries, incorporating pieces of both cultures to create a uniquely Alsatian language, heritage, and way of life. Colmar is often eclipsed by its larger sister city in the north, Strasbourg, but offers its own unique charm and has fewer tourists than the more popular capital. Renowned for its natural scenery, enchanting old town, and award-winning wines, Colmar is one of France's best-kept secrets.
Trains from Paris get you to Colmar in under three hours, either direct or with one change of train, but prices vary drastically depending on the train you choose. Buses may be significantly cheaper, especially if you're making last-minute plans, but you'll be on the bus all night long. Driving your own car isn't as speedy as the train, but gives you much more flexibility to explore more of the Alsace region. Colmar doesn't have an airport, and from Paris you would have to fly to Basel, Switzerland, and then take a bus from there.
How to Get from Paris to Colmar
- Train: 2 hours, 57 minutes, from $20
- Bus: 8 hours, 40 minutes, from $22 (overnight)
- Car: 5 hours, 30 minutes, 332 miles (535 kilometers)
- Flight: 1 hour, 5 minutes, from $88 (plus additional 1 hour, 15 minutes by bus)
There are two types of direct trains that leave from Paris to Colmar: the high-speed TGV train and the low-cost Ouigo train. The TGV gets you to Colmar in about 2 hours and 20 minutes, and prices start at $55 if you buy your tickets in advance. The Ouigo train only takes 30 minutes more, and the price is often a fraction of what you would pay on the standard high-speed train. However, the experience of riding on Ouigo is like taking a budget airline, meaning you have to pay extra for amenities like full-size luggage and a power socket. There is no food cart and the seats are not as comfortable, but for a three-hour trip, the price difference may be worth it.
If the departure times for the direct trains don't work for you, you can also choose from one of several trains that have a short changeover in Strasbourg and still get you to Colmar in under three hours. All trains to Alsace—whether to Strasbourg or direct to Colmar—leave from Gare du Est in Paris.
One daily bus leaves from Bercy Seine station at night and arrives directly in Colmar early the following morning, for a total trip duration of 8 hours and 40 minutes. Other buses stop in Strasbourg, where you have to get off and change. The perk of the bus is that travelers on a budget can forgo a night of accommodations in a hostel or hotel and sleep in the overnight bus—a potentially significant saving with the cost of rooms in France. However, the speed of the train and the comparable price of the Ouigo line means the train is almost always the better choice for travel to Colmar.
If you have your own vehicle, the drive from Paris to Colmar takes about 5 hours and 30 minutes without stopping. But of course, the best part of having a car is that you get to stop. The drive takes you through historical cities like Reims and Strasbourg, each one worth a trip of its own. The route also cuts directly through the famous Champagne region, an obligatory pitstop for lovers of this legendary sparkling wine. After visiting Colmar, you can easily cross the border into Germany or continue south to nearby Switzerland for an extended Euro-trip.
Most highways in France are toll roads, and you'll see the pay stations with the word péage as you're driving. On most highways, you'll get a ticket from a machine when the toll road starts, and then pay the corresponding amount when you exit the highway. Foreign credit cards aren't always accepted, so carry euros on you when driving just in case.
The closest airports to Colmar are in Strasbourg or Basel, Switzerland (confusingly, Basel is on the Swiss-French-German border and the airport is technically in France). There aren't direct flights offered to Strasbourg from Paris, so the quickest way to arrive is to take the hour-long flight to Basel and then the bus from Basel Airport to Colmar. The total time on the plane and bus is only 2 hours and 20 minutes, but once you factor in traveling to the airport and waiting for your transfer, the total travel time is significantly more.
If you do decide to take a flight, ideally you can stop in Basel for a night or two and see the city before heading out to Colmar. Another option to see an additional city is to fly from Paris to Zurich, instead. Direct flights to Zurich are generally cheaper than Basel—starting at $66—and from Zurich there are several daily trains to Basel and then onto Colmar.
What to See in Colmar
Colmar is in Alsace, part of the Grand Est Region of Champagne-Ardenne-Alsace-Lorraine. It is a delightful old city with half-timbered houses, narrow streets, and Venetian-style canals. It’s famous for the spectacular Issenheim Altarpiece in the Musée d’Unterlinden, one of Europe's greatest religious masterpieces. But Colmar has plenty of other attractions as well, including the Musée Bartholdi, a museum dedicated to the Colmar-native and designer of the Statue of Liberty; a magical wintertime Christmas market; and a massive wine fair every year in July that celebrates the renowned Alsatian wine region.