You may know by now that I’m kinda fussy when it comes to where I stay on my travels. I’ve been known to choose our entire destination based on some quirky accommodation gem I’ve discovered, and sometimes even because I’ve fallen in love with a particularly lovely bathroom I’ve seen on a website. Yep, some of our trips have been simply because I like the look of a sink! Mad perhaps, but we’ve never been disappointed and hey, you have to start your decision making somewhere!
I also like knowing I’m having a different hotel room experience to my neighbours, perhaps in some way to feel special, which is why I love travelling to South East Asia where rooms are so often unique and individual in style. Yet I’ve never come across it in Europe. Until now.
Hotel Le Colombier
We were staying at Hotel Le Colombier in Colmar, a quaint and colourful little town deep in the Alsace region of France. We arrived in the evening and as we strolled along the cobbled streets with our protesting suitcases in tow I decided we’d made the right decision to stay in the heart of Petite Venise. The old beam-fronted buildings were all floodlight, their reflections colourful in the waters of the canal below, creating a real old town atmosphere and one we were excited to be a part of for a weekend.
I love old stuff. Especially when I get to actually stay in it! Hotel Le Colombier stikes a unique balance between antique and contemporary and is a true design delight. Whilst the heart of the renaissance building can tell you secrets spanning several centuries (the central spiral stone stairs date back to 1543), and there are enough creaking beams to keep the history geeks amongst us happy, the hotel also pulls off a distinctly contemporary vibe inside. Usually when a hotel tries to blend traditional and modern it can appear indecisive and simply doesn’t work, but here it was different. And I loved it.
Every hotel should have a USP. That’s Unique Selling Point to you and I. Sometimes it’s the view. Sometimes it’s the food. And sometimes it’s the staff. Yet at Le Colombier, for me the pièce de résistance was the fact that every single one of the 41 rooms was unique in both shape and decor. The ancient building is in fact a row of houses that have been gradually transformed into a hotel, and due to numerous protruding beams, sloping roof spaces and quirky angles, all the furniture has been hand-made to fit each individual room. It’s enchanting.
There are 4 categories of room at Le Colombier, ranging from the snug yet charming standard rooms and slightly larger superior rooms, through to the deluxe rooms which have a small separate living area and then the vast and classy suites up in the loft spaces. We stayed in a deluxe room which was perfect for a weekend stay, with plenty of room and bags of atmosphere.
However at Le Colombier size isn’t everything. Perhaps a more important decision is which style to choose. Besides each room being a unique shape, there are also different themes, coinciding with when that particular part of the hotel was renovated. Something for everyone. Wooden beams will always get my vote, so we opted to stay in one of the more historical rooms. Personally I love somewhere that tells a bit of a story, and I could just imagine perhaps a fisherman and his family, or maybe a market gardener living here years ago, under the same roof, with the same street view of the Rue de la Poissonnerie.
If your tastes are a little more modern, several of the rooms have more contemporary decor with bathrooms to match. I often think hotels are let down by the state of their bathrooms, choosing functionality over aesthetics, but Le Colombier have clearly recognised the value in design extending beyond the bedroom. Just beware that the sink cupboard units are so well designed that they do not look like drawers, so don’t embarrass yourself like yours truly by complaining about the absence of a hairdryer in our room. The drawers are those secret ones you push inwards to open sesame. I clearly didn’t know the password which would lead me to the item I was so desperately searching for on a cold winter morning. Duh.
Just across the other side of the Rue de la Poissonnerie are the Colombier Suites, 6 large contemporary living spaces sympathetically designed with respect for the 18th Century building in which they are housed. Overlooking the river, with a garden area and decking, these suites are perfect for those looking for privacy, whilst still being able to enjoy the facilities (including breakfast) of the Hotel Le Colombier across the alleyway.
I felt that whilst the Suites were the height of tranquillity and sophistication, they lacked the vibe and friendly atmosphere of the hotel, being rather isolated from the action of Le Colombier. But this is perhaps what you might be looking for!
Many of the rooms in both Hotel Le Colombier and the Colombier Suites have superb views either across the old town rooftops or onto the ancient cobbled alleyway of the Rue de la Poissonnerie below. I know, I keep going on about this street but it is understandably the most famous in Colmar!
The first thing I do when I stay in a new room (ok, so really the second thing, after I’ve checked out the bathroom!) is stick my head out of the window to admire the view. I certainly appreciated this one, which was made even more charming by night when it began to be lit up. A fantastic place to base yourself for a couple of days. Read about what to do in this charming cobbled town in my blog post here.
Ideal for relaxing after a day walking the cobbles, Hotel Le Colombier has a sauna, located next door to our room (number 107) which was ideal for not parading around the corridors in our bath robes. There isn’t a gym, but who really wants a work out whilst on holiday? There’s also a small business centre, and lounge area as well as outdoor patio for the summer months.
As with many European hotels, breakfast isn’t included but the self-service buffet with it’s tasty continental selection at 14 Euros per person is worth paying for. Plenty to set you up until tea time! Drinks and nibbles are available from the bar but the hotel does not have a restaurant. There are several eating places nearby to choose from however, and we heartily recommend Wistub de la Petite Venise, just around the corner on Rue de la Poissonnerie for some traditional Alsatian cuisine in a romantically lit rustic atmosphere.
Tips for a stay at Hotel Le Colombier
- It’s only a 10 minute walk from the train station, but your suitcase might not thank you for subjecting it to the cobbles.
- Speaking of cobbles, leave the high heels at home.
- Ask for a room overlooking the Rue de la Poissonnerie, quieter than those on the main road and much more atmospheric.
- Wi-fi is available throughout the hotel but is often intermittent in the rooms, due to the nature of the old building. But seriously, are you really here to surf the net?
Thanks to the lovely folks at Hotel Le Colombier for our complimentary stay. As always, words and opinions are my own.