Monschau will take your breath away. It’s a leading contender for one of Germany’s toughest titles: most picturesque town. With all the half-timbered treasures that dot the country, you know the town must be really something when even we Germans vote it to the top of the must-see lists!
In fact, it’s looking not too different than it did a few centuries back — which is exactly what gives this place its eternal charm, as I find.
As a part of the renowned Aachen district, Monschau nestles up to the Belgium border. It is also on the Rur river, which cuts through a part of the old town and provides an excellent opportunity for boat rides (whitewater rafting, anyone?). You can rent your own or take a guided ride, both of which are a nice afternoon outing.
There is so much to see and do here, so adjust your schedule accordingly. But, the best way to start your journey is right at the Market Square. It’s here that you can pick up the Town Train for a 30 minute highlighted tour around town for just a handful euros a person.
It’s well worth it since it points out many of the sights around town that you can go explore more in-depth later on and passes many of the Old Town’s timber framed buildings with their flowerbox adornments, sitting right on the edge of the River Rur. You’ll also pass by many of the arts & crafts shops, cafes, and delicate bridges.
One of the major stops on the train tour is the 13th century Castle Monschau. Some of the castle is in ruins, most notably what is known as The Haller. Its West Wing has been a Youth Hostel since the First World War and its grey stones makes the perfect backdrop for the summer concerts and operas held here.
Also along the train route you’ll find some interesting museums and shops. There is the Coffee Roasting Company of Wilhelm Maassen, where visitors have watched coffee roasting since 1862. You’ll also find a glassworks factory, a 19th century Mustard Mill, a Printing Museum, a Local History & Culture Museum.
Save the best for last, making a visit to the Felsenkeller Brauereri Museum. That’s right, you guessed it — beer, which has been brewed at the Monschauer Brew House for over a 150 years.
What else could the air-health resort town of Monschau have?
Ah yeah, what about that red building over there that everyone is pointing to, right?
Well, that one is called Rotes Haus or Red House. It takes its name from the bricks on the building, and stands out sharply from the gray slate rooftops and stone of the surrounding structures. Four of the eight levels of the Red House are open to guests, and the trompe l’oeil paintings are a major draw.
You won’t want to just stay in Monschau’s old district, however. You will also want to hike out to the Eifel National Park. It has a zoo that opened in 2004 and number of hiking trails through some deeply attractive woodland.
In the spring months, you can take special advantage of the daffodil fields that are in bloom. They can give you a sunny wake up if you are still hungover after your adventures at the Monschau Carnival — the whole region is known for its incredible spring parties. ;-)
Other popular activities throughout the year center around the Rursee, one of the largest man-made lakes in Germany.
Shoppers will also want to be in town for the summer and winter sales. Since cloth mills are a traditional industry here, you can get some really interesting woven goods for souvenirs to supplement your photographs.
You see, Monschau is no ordinary town, more a place of eternal beauty, grace, and charm. A town that makes the most of its history and does it within the most stunning countryside. There is no getting any better than this.