a brief history of old town Colmar // France

February 9, 2018

On our second day of our Rhine River cruise (when we docked in Breisach, Germany) we had the amazing opportunity to go on two excursions. In the morning we drove through the Black Forest to Hofgut Sternen (which you can read about HERE!) and then came back to our ship for a brief safety instruction and yummy lunch before heading out to old town Colmar, France.
This optional excursion was not included with the price of the cruise (it cost $49 per person) and honestly was some of the best money we have ever spent. If you are going on our Rhine River cruise then you will be presented with two different excursion options for the afternoon. One is a World War II tour and the second is walking through the old town of Colmar. We really debated about which one to choose (because y'all know my love for World War II) but were so incredibly glad that we chose this one! If you have the opportunity I can't recommend this particular excursion enough. You won't want to miss it. Also- for those going in the Christmas season and are wanting to experience the famous Colmar Christmas Markets - this is the excursion you would want to choose!

We loved it so much that I walked away with almost 1,000 pictures just from these hours alone! *smiles* Because of this, I am splitting up talking about Colmar into several posts and I know y'all are going to love seeing this town as much as we did. 
Today I wanted to give just a brief history of the village of Colmar like our guide did for us. Understanding the history gave us a greater appreciation for this place that was built from 1100 to 1700, the art that was used as a form of resistance in World War II, and a deeper sense of awe in the beauty of the architecture that we were surrounded by. 

To begin, Colmar is a town in the Grand Est region of France (about 75 miles south of Strasbourg. The town (which is situated along the Alsatian Wine Route) is renowned for its well-preserved old town, the numerous architectural landmarks, several museums and is considered to be "the capital of Alsatian wine".
The town has been at the center of several major conquests throughout its existence. During the Thirty Years' War it was captured by the Swedish Army and held for two years from 1632 through 1634. A year later the towns harvest was ruined by the Imperialist forces while town residents tried to resist them climbing the walls. 

In 1673 the town was conquered again, this time by France under King Louis XIV. It was officially then ceded by the Treaty of Nijmegen in 1679. Almost two hundred years later Colmar (along with the rest of Alsace) was annexed by the German Empire in 1871. This happened because of the Franco-Prussian War. At this time it was incorporated into the Alsace-Lorraine province. After World War I it returned to France under the Treaty of Versailles. 

In 1940, near the beginning of World War II it was annexed by Nazi Germany. It is during this time that you can see the threads of resistance throughout the architecture and art in this village. Colmar had suffered much under the German soldiers, even having the forced conscription of all Alsatian men into the German army.
 One famous example of this is from the pictures above. These pictures depict a seemingly "innocent" sign for a restaurant but if you look at the details closely you will see the beautiful act of resistance against the Nazi invasion. At the very top is a girl walking geese and this was to convey a message of encouragement to the Alsatian people to hold onto the beauty of innocence and the past. As a History teacher this was a fascinating thing to see how people stood up even in the harshest of times to an enemy and the way that they provided encouragement to each other in the dark days of occupation. 

After the battle of the Colmar Pocket in 1945 Colmar reverted back to French control. 
While fighting continued throughout other parts of Europe, February 2, 1945 is a key date for Colmar as it officially marked the end of the war. The Battle of the Colmar Pocket (which I referenced above) was the last battle of World War II to be fought on French soil. This was three whole months after the liberation of Strasbourg as desperate German soldiers tried to hold up the Allied advance before they finally collapsed. 
There was such a beauty to this beautiful town that was built over the span of 600 years and has endured so much battle and tragedy. As we walked the streets I was simply amazed and in awe of the beauty of the architecture that has stood the test of time despite the harsh encounters that the buildings have faced. Even more so the beauty that shown from a people that have faced difficulties throughout their past and in their heritage and still have managed to showcase perseverance. 
It was delightful to have the opportunity to learn a bit more about the beautiful old town of Colmar, France. I can't wait to share more about this beautiful place in the coming days. Have y'all been to Colmar before?

Interested in reading more posts from our Viking River Cruise on the Rhine River? Simply click on the links below! 


  1. Hi Rebecca! I stumbled upon your blog via Instagram (#myvikingstory). My husband and I will be taking this cruise soon and signed up for the World War II Tour. Now I'm second guessing our decision! Did you hear feedback from others on your cruise who did the WWII excursion? I am so glad I found your site, as now I can get a glimpse of what to expect on our journey. We will be traveling from Amsterdam to Basel though, reverse of yours.


    1. Hi Kathy! Thanks so much for taking the time to comment! I am excited to connect with you- and excited for you to have an amazing experience because it was honestly a wonderful time!! To answer your question- we had the exact same questions when we were booking. At first we thought that we would do the other one (the one that y'all have chosen) but decided that after researching and talking with Viking that it would be something that included more museum time than actually exploring Colmar. For us the excursion we chose was perfect as it allowed us to really explore the city! There were only a couple of people who did the tour that you have signed up for on our trip. They seemed to like it but each of them that I talked with had previously been to Colmar and that is why they chose the other option. I am not sure if that helps or not? I don't want to discourage you because honestly every single tour we took was fantastic so if you are interested in the World War II tour I would take it! :)

      I hope that helps- please let me know if you have any other additional questions!

      Blessings, Rebecca:)
      PS- I would have loved to email you back directly but unfortunately you are a no reply blogger. I hope to connect more in the future!

    2. Thanks Rebecca for getting back to me. My email is njchalupa@yahoo.com. I'm so confused but now am seriously considering changing excursions if I am still able. Please feel free to email me with any other suggestions you may have! This our first cruise of any kind and we are so excited. Thanks again!