Germany’s small towns are so beautiful / Germany’s most beautiful small towns
Almost everyone knows the German metropolises as travel destinations. But many of our small towns are still undiscovered as destinations. There are beautiful places in every federal state.
Almost everyone knows Hamburg, Berlin or Dresden because they are at the top of the hit list as destinations for city breaks. Germany has much more to offer than metropolises with cosmopolitan flair. Between the Flensburg Fjord and Lake Constance there are countless little pearls that are worth a detour. These urban gems have so much charm that travelers find it difficult to part with them.
Size is not a criterion at all, because romantic squares, winding old towns and picturesque views can be found in small towns in particular. Between half-timbered houses and narrow streets, you can stroll along cobblestones and forget the time.
Whether it’s a spontaneous excursion or a carefully planned short trip – everywhere in Germany there are such urban gems that are an alternative to overcrowded metropolises. A tip for every federal state, beyond the popular three.
Coburg in Bavaria
Nobility obliges: these two words have become second nature to the 41,000 residents of the small Franconian town. Hardly any other dynasty practiced marriage policy as successfully as the Ernestine family, who were completely insignificant, but made the best of it.
Which is why the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha is related to pretty much every European royal house. The small town in the heart of Germany has obviously benefited from this.
This is not only evidenced by the magnificently furnished Ehrenburg Castle with its neo-Gothic facade. If you let the green and yellow little train take you through the city up to the Veste, which was the refuge of the reformer Martin Luther for five months, you will see lovingly restored houses, stone fountains and cozy squares.
One shouldn’t be surprised at that little fellow on dozens of manhole covers. It is the city saint Moritz, whom the artist has depicted with frizzy hair, full lips and large earrings.
Tubingen in Baden-Württemberg
It is certainly one of the most beautiful cities on the Neckar, the university town of Tübingen, which is both old and outrageously young – thanks to the many students. Around 90,000 residents live in the city of steep stairs, narrow streets and pointed gabled houses.
Most contemporaries think of the famous Neckarfront with the Hölderlin Tower and the pastel-colored houses when they think of Tübingen. Others rave about the market square with the pretty town hall and the Neptune fountain.
Incidentally, the most beautiful view of the Hölderlin Tower, Burse and Hohentübingen Castle is from the water, during a merry-go-round punt trip on the Neckar. In the past, the flat wooden barges served as floating working platforms for fishermen and ferrymen. Then student associations discovered the punts for themselves.
Since the 1980s, everyone has been able to be punted across the Neckar by strong lads. If you want to delve deep into history, visit the Museum of Ancient Cultures at the University of Tübingen. Its biggest star is quite small, but ancient: a wild horse carved from the ivory of a mammoth, a good 40,000 years old. It was discovered in caves in the Swabian Jura.
Cochem in Rhineland-Palatinate
The Moselle is rich in agricultural attractions and cultural sights. Cochem, Germany’s smallest district town with 5,000 inhabitants, combines both. Anyone who turns around the “Brauselay”, the Moselle variant of the “Loreley”, will be breathless at first – in view of the majestic Reichsburg, which with its oriels and battlements is the epitome of castle romance.
The town at your feet is no less romantic, even if it gets pretty crowded in the summer months. Visitors stroll through the picturesque old town, admire the historic market square with its slate-roofed half-timbered houses, the Martinsbrunnen fountain and the town hall from 1739 and stock up on Moselle wine at one of the numerous stalls.
One of the most spectacular views of Cochem, the Reichsburg and the Moselle is from the Pinnerkreuz vantage point. The ride on the chairlift to the 150 meter high photo spot with the summit cross takes just a few minutes.
Saarlouis in Saarland
Saarlouis was once considered the most beautiful city in France and combines the best of two worlds. The 35,000-inhabitant town was a creature of war, was equipped with barracks and bastions by the master builder Vauban, once belonged to France, later to Prussia. The former border town now uses its military heritage for civil purposes, but the desire for savoir-vivre has remained.
On the small market, the former parade square, the market women are in charge. One café or restaurant follows the next in the cobbled streets. Just around the corner, the oversized Großer Markt provides the backdrop for the Emmes, the largest folk festival in Saarland, every year.
The bombproof casemates are now a gourmet gallery. This earned the green wall the title “longest bar in Saarland”. If you want, you can be with your neighbor in no time at all: it’s only 70 kilometers to Luxembourg and less than 50 to Metz.
Marburg in Hesse
Marburg nestles picturesquely in the landscape of the Hessian mountains. The narrow alleys and stairs lead from the banks of the Lahn up to the steep Schlossberg, where the Landgrave’s Castle is enthroned like the German version of the Hogwarts magic school.
The city center with its many half-timbered buildings, the winding streets and the rustic cafés is certainly one of Germany’s most beautiful old towns. It is a place full of life because Marburg is extremely young thanks to its famous university.
The most beautiful half-timbered houses can be found around the market square with the town hall and on Ritterstraße. Old and young love the fairy tale characters on the Grimm-you-path, which reminds of two of the most famous students – the brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm.
A walk to the Spiegellust Tower on the other side of the Lahn gives you the most beautiful view of the sea of houses and the castle. The light art heart, weighing 1.4 tons and measuring eight meters, shines when you call the number 06421/590469 – art by call, so to speak.
Gotha in Thuringia
It stands in the shadow of Weimar and Erfurt, the 46,000-strong city of Gotha. Wrongly so, because the SPD was not only born here. Gotha also bears witness to the fact that the many rulers on German soil knew how to represent themselves – even if that ruined the state treasury.
In the early 17th century, Duke Ernst I approved the largest new palace of its time: Friedenstein Palace. The imposing building, whose side wings measure a proud 140 meters and in which many museums can be found, lies at the end of a visual axis where a lot of courtly splendor is revealed.
The lovingly designed water art with fountains and watercourses stretches from the castle to the main market with the historic town hall. The greatest treasure of Friedenstein Castle is the Ekhof-Theater, the only theater in the world whose 17th-century stage technology has to be operated manually.
Whether pushing the scenery or on the wind and thunder machine – full physical effort is required on this baroque magic stage.
Freiberg in Saxony
It is located in the middle of the Free State of Saxony and proudly describes itself as a silver town. Because mining history is omnipresent in Freiberg – located between Dresden and Chemnitz. The entire city center, whose floor plan has remained unchanged for many centuries, is a listed building.
There are also legacies such as the silver mine with its headframe that can be seen from afar. Freiberg owes it its World Heritage title as part of the Ore Mountains mining region. The miners’ customs can still be seen, heard and experienced – at traditional miners’ parades, at the Christmas market, in the town and mining museum.
Anyone who follows the trail of silver and enters the visitor mine, one of the largest and oldest in Saxony, immerses themselves in 800 years of history. The underground Freiberg extends over 20 square kilometers with a network of shafts of around 2,000 kilometers.
The precious metal has made the city rich: a visible sign is the “Golden Gate” of the cathedral, whose world-famous Silbermann organ sounds during the traditional evening music.
Quedlinburg in Saxony-Anhalt
Quedlinburg is a half-timbered dream in the Harz Mountains and a World Heritage Site. The city has more than 2,000 half-timbered buildings from eight centuries like an open-air museum, more than any other in Germany. It’s like stepping into a time capsule and landing in the era when Quedlinburg saw emperors and kings come and go.
The ivy-covered Renaissance town hall and the castle, where the Saxon Duke Heinrich is said to have been crowned king in the early 10th century, are characteristic of the townscape.
In view of such a half-timbered idyll, filmmakers chose Quedlinburg as “Hollywood in the Harz Mountains”. Around 60 films – adventure strips, literary adaptations, documentaries as well as children’s and fairy tale productions – were made here. If you want to take the best photo, climb up to the Münzenberg district.
Neuuppin in Brandenburg
The Fontanestadt Neuruppin is located on the lake of the same name and is one of the 21 historic city centers in Brandenburg, a total work of art of early classicism. Where Theodor Fontane and Karl-Friedrich Schinkel were born, long and wide streets with stately squares determine the picture.
The old town, which is towered over by the 63 meter high towers of the Sankt Trinitatis monastery church, is located right behind the promenade, where leisure captains dock and excursion boats depart for Ruppiner Schweiz. The city wall and moat are the green lungs of the city, with the temple garden as a highlight.
Crown Prince Friedrich had the exotic park laid out. His friend Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff was allowed to try his hand at the Temple of Apollo. Fontane lovers are drawn to the museum, where visitors can listen to quotes from his “Wanderings through the Mark Brandenburg” at 20 stations that go with the exhibits. The thermal baths with Germany’s largest swimming lake sauna were also named after the poet.
Monschau in North Rhine-Westphalia
Winding streets with cobblestones, 300 white half-timbered houses with dark struts and beams, a fantastic location in the middle of the green Eifel nature: the 12,000-strong village of Monschau near the Belgian border is known to TV viewers from the ARD series “Eifelpraxis”.
The castle, built at the end of the 12th century, towers high above the medieval town. If you don’t want to walk up there, you can take the bus to the historic walls, where the Eifel pearl, which has become prosperous thanks to the cloth industry, lies at your feet.
One of the most beautiful properties is the “Red House”: a magnificent patrician house from the 18th century, where today the bourgeois living culture of the 18th and 19th centuries is presented. If you get tired after all that wandering around, you can stop off at the “Rur-Café”, an institution since 1770. You can work off those many calories on hikes or bike tours in the Hohes Venn-Eifel nature park.
Einbeck in Lower Saxony
In the 15th century, no state could be made with Bavarian beer. In the small Hanseatic town of Einbeck between the Harz Mountains and the Weser, they were already a step further. Towards the end of the Middle Ages, the active community had a few hundred citizen breweries, although the town had fewer than 1,000 inhabitants.
The Einbecker beer was drunk in the Baltic States, in Flanders and England and brought some prosperity to the village.
The 400 colourful, richly decorated half-timbered buildings around the old town hall with the distinctive turrets, whose roofs are reminiscent of inverted funnels, have been magnificently renovated in recent years.
The most beautiful street of the half-timbered jewel is the Tiexeder Straße, where rosettes, guild signs and inscriptions adorn the centuries-old wooden beams. Incidentally, one of the oldest restaurants in Lower Saxony, the “Brodhaus”, is located on the market square. Europe’s largest vintage car collection can be found in the PS.Storage and the PS.Depots. You can even borrow some of the more than 2,500 exhibits for a spin.
Arnis in Schleswig-Holstein
A handful of streets, a few dozen snow-white houses with colorful shutters and doors, small gardens in which wild roses and ivy bloom: the tranquil Arnis on a peninsula in the Schlei is Germany’s smallest town.
Only 300 people live in the seven streets where one dollhouse borders the next. The Schleswig-Holstein town, which is only half a square kilometer in size, was founded in 1667 by 65 families and owes its city status to a persistent mayor.
Galleries and artisans have moved into the cute 18th-century fishermen’s houses along the “Langen Straße” lined with linden trees; Sailboats from all over the Baltic Sea anchor in the harbour.
The most important focal point in the small town, connected to Sundsacker by a loop ferry, is the 17th-century Schifferkirche. Their maritime references cannot be overlooked. Inside, several 18th- and 19th-century votive ships dangle from the ceiling.
Kuehlungsborn in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania
Eating a sea buckthorn cake, basking in the sand and cooling off in the Baltic Sea – Kühlungsborn promises pure relaxation. Locals prefer to use the old names Arendsee and Brunshaupten. The Nazis ordered their marriage in 1938, but that doesn’t really matter.
Rather, the four-kilometre-long beach promenade, which is a wonderful place to stroll. There is plenty of spa architecture on the Ostseeallee, with balconies, bay windows, towers, balustrades, column-framed loggias, pilaster-lined entrance portals, wide stairways and lots of stucco.
None of these summer villas, which testify to the taste of their former builders, is like the other. Kuehlungsborn’s pride and joy is the marina, where over 400 boats can dock. It is the lively meeting place for landlubbers and skippers, with a touch of Ibiza feeling and billowing sails as eye-catchers.