Weingarten was called Altdorf originally, but its name was changed officially in 1865. Much earlier in the town’s history, in 1056, the castle known as Ravensburg was established in the area, leading to the presence of the Benedictine Order.
The monks built their “Weingarten Abbey” atop Mount Martin, overlooking the town. Since 1949, the abbey has been home to a teachers’ college, and a performing arts festival is held here each May.
Your stay in Weingarten must include a visit to the breathtaking Basilica of St. Martin and Oswald. It has the distinction of being the one of the biggest baroque churches in the world. The church is often referred to as “Swabia’s St. Peter’s” in comparison to Rome’s most famous basilica. Of special note is the baroque organ inside, with thousands of pipes and dozens of pedals.
Other must-see venues include the Alemans Museum, with its relics dating back to the medieval times, and the Schlössle, or “little palace,” built during the mid-16th century. The latter has been the location of the municipal museum since 2001.
Two very special events draw large crowds to Weingarten each year. One is the town-hall dance known as Fasnet. It started in the mid-14th century, celebrating the end of a great pestilence.
Revelers parade through the streets wearing masks and pajamas, carnival fools who have just woke up to the festivities. The frolicking extends for four days, culminating in a grand pageant the Sunday after Ash Wednesday.
Another big attraction is the Blutritt parade, which follows Ascension each year. Flags adorn the streets as thousands of riders on horseback lead the way from the Basilica, accompanied by local bands. The participants carry a religious relic along with them through the countryside, blessing houses, farms and fields as they pass by.
If you cannot be in town for one of the major festivals, be sure to stop by one of the weekly markets. They are held each Wednesday selling fruit and vegetables at Lion’s Square, each Friday emphasizing food in the upper town area, and every Saturday on the square before the old abbey.