Schmalkalden is home to hundreds of beautifully preserved medieval buildings.
The town is more than 1,000 years old, and though it was bombed heavily in World War II, it managed to save its castles, churches, and half-timbered houses. The result is that now there is something noteworthy around every turn.
You can start your exploration out of town. The Rennsteig, voted as Germany’s most popular long distance hiking trail, runs around the town. You’ll have the chance to look over the colorful rooftops from the hills of the Thuringian Forest.
When you hike on into town, you should have your camera ready. Over 90% of the medieval structures in Schmalkalden are authentic, and many are still in use as shops, museums, and government offices. The old town area is particularly picturesque.
You will want to be sure to stop at the museum known as Luther’s Inn, as this is where Martin Luther and other Reformers laid out the main tenets of the Protestant viewpoint.
Another notable cultural stop is the Gothic St. George’s church, built in 1509 but updated with stained glass windows by the famous Charles Crodel. From there you can tour the town fortifications and the wall paintings at the Hessenhof.
If you are in Schmalkalden in the fall, you can enjoy the peak of the local festival season. In late August, the town hosts its own festival, and they follow their personal celebration with a large harvest festival the second weekend in October. You will be able to enjoy live theater and farmer’s markets at both events.
Arriving in the winter, you can enjoy the obligatory Christmas market and the start of the skiing and tobogganing season.
The real treat, of course, will not be outdoors in the snow but indoors by the fire. The locals make very good sausage and small beers, so you can stay inside and not feel like you are missing a thing ;-)