Monschau

Monschau, sometimes called the "Pearl of the Eifel", is a small, historic town in the German Eifel. Largely unchanged for over 300 years, the narrow, cobblestoned streets and traditional half-timbered houses have made this charming place one of the main tourist attractions of the region. Set in the beautiful landscapes of the Eifel region, at a stones-throw from the Eifel National Park, it makes an excellent base for hikers and cyclists. While popular in summer, it only becomes truly overrun for its famous Christmas market in winter.

Understand

The narrow streets and old houses make for a charming historic atmosphere

The historic heritage that makes Monschau the main tourist destination in the Eifel today, is largely due to its former fame as a centre for textile production. As early as the 12th century it was one of the primary towns of the region. City rights were obtained in 1352, but the town really flourished in the 18th century, when some 6000 textile workers alone were employed in Monschau. As the textile industry diminished in the 19-hundreds, tourism grew and became the main source of income.

Nowadays, Monschau has about 14.000 permanent residents. However, with over 170.000 hotel night bookings and no less than 2.000.000 day trip visitors per year, it remains the urban centre of the Eifel region.

Keep in mind that many of the hotels, shops and restaurants here are small family businesses which may not accept foreign credit cards. Fortunately, there are two ATM's available in the town centre. You'll find them at the bank offices of: Sparkasse, Laufenstraße 42. and Raiffeisenbank, Stadtstraße 1.

Get in

The city centre itself is a low-traffic area, but Monschau is easily reachable from nearby cities like Aachen and Cologne, as well as from Belgium. There is no train station in Monschau. Your best rail option is to get to Aachen. There are some direct buses available from the main bus terminal Aachen Haubtbahnhof as well as from Aachen Rote Erde. Alternatively, from the Belgian side, you can get as far as Eupen by rail on weekends, from where you'll need to catch the TEC bus that runs every two hours.

By car

Driving is a common way to get in. Note however that in peak season, but especially during the Christmas market, parking spots can get very scarce and taking a bus might be a better idea. The Bundesstraße 258 connects the town north with nearby Roetgen and on to Aachen (45 min), as well as with Schleiden in the south-east. From Cologne its about a 90 minute drive via the L246 or via Aachen. From the Belgian city of Liège, it's less than an hour by car via the E40 and (taking exit 38 for Eupen) on via the the N67, which leads to Monschau through the High Fens Natural Park. From the directions of Luxembourg or Trier, the E42 will get you as far as Prüm, where you exit onto the B265 to Schleiden and again on to the 258 from there.

By bus

From Aachen Bushof and Aachen Rote Erde station, AVV line 66 runs every hour on weekdays and every two hours in weekends. The bus heads in direction Monschau Parkhaus and takes about 70 minutes to get there. From the main train station of Aachen, Aachen Haubtbahnhof, first take AVV line SB63 towards Simmerath/Vogelsang/Gemünd and change to line 66 at Haltestelle Roetgen Post. This connection also runs every hour on weekdays and only every two hours in weekends, with a total travelling time of around 55 minutes.

By bike

The former railway line Vennbahn was converted into a bike trail in 2013 and connects Monschau with Aachen and the country of Luxembourg. While it is rather flat (no more than 3% incline) where it follows the former railway, there are some rather steep inclines where deviations from the railway had to be made. The route from Aachen is approximately 46 km long, but you have to know where to get off the bike trail as it only passes by one of the outer districts of Monschau.

Get around

Monschau castle overlooks the historic town centre.

The town is small and its lovely narrow streets are best explored on foot. Most of the main sights, shops and restaurant are situated around the river side, but for some areas you should count on fairly strong elevation. Also keep in mind that for those depending on walking aids, the cobblestoned streets may be less than ideal, especially when wet or frozen. Cycling is another option, but again, if you don't mind the rattling over the cobblestones.

Alternatively, there's a bright yellow and green Stadtbahn or city-train (which is only made to look like a train and does not in fact run on rails) for tourists which slowly makes its way along the main sights in the old town. The tour takes about half an hour, and the train departs every 45 minutes starting from 9.45h in high season or 11.15h in low season. You can get on at the Burgau parking lot or at the central market square. While slightly overpriced at €6/€2 for adults/children, it may prove a fun way to get around.

See

The ancient atmosphere of the town, with its countless traditional houses and cobblestoned streets, and its setting in the lush green surroundings, is Monschau's main attraction. Over 300 buildings are listed as monuments.

Do

Situated inside the Eifel National Park, the town makes a great base to explore the rugged Eifel landscapes. Hiking and biking is highly popular, with countless paths available and plenty of marked and unmarked routes to follow. While you should always wear proper hiking shoes and should expect elevation where-ever your go, there are fairly short and easy routes for less experienced outdoor fans. More experienced hikers of cyclist are well able to figure out the itineraries of their choice with one of the excellent maps available from the internet or the tourist office in Monschau. Alternatively, there are medium and long set routes and several marked paths. If you have any interest in the region's nature, diving into the Eifel forests and enjoying some of the pretty views around Monschau village is an absolute must.

Buy

Typical quaint little gift shops and bakeries can be found all over town.

The old town has a wide selection of tourist oriented shops, selling a range of souvenirs, books and clothing. Local food specialities include Printen, a spiced cooky, Dütchen, a biscuit like roll often filled with cream and fruits and mustards. A square type of chocolates called Monschauer Venn-Brocken is shaped to resemble the peat blocks that were locally produced in large quantities to fuel the textile industry. All of these can be purchased from many tourist shops, cafés and the several bakeries you'll encounter in the old centre. There's one small supermarket in the lower part of the Laufenstraße, but for other shopping opportunities (including supermarkets Aldi, Lidl and Netto and a small department store) head to the Imgenbroich area. Many of the tourist shops in the old centre are open on Sundays, but that's not the case for all regular stores.

Eat

Monschau is packed with restaurants, and while the best places will get busy, you'll not easily go hungry here. Almost all are cheap to mid-range places, with the large majority serving traditional German dishes and simple steaks and chips. Most of the places are located in the old town, in the streets surrounding the market square. Some additional options can be found in the adjoining villages which are part of Monschau municipality.

There's no night life to speak of, but many of the eateries double as cafés and coffee shops, serving also those just looking for a drink. When weather allows, several of the outdoor terraces stay open for evening drinks, but for a pub feel try Zum Haller.

Sleep

Small as it is, Monschau village is packed with places to stay. Dozens of hotels cater to all budgets and levels of luxury, but the large majority is maintained in a traditional style. Booking ahead is advisable in high season.

Connect

Most hotels offer Wifi in the main areas, although quality is not always great. There's good mobile phone coverage and reasonable coverage for mobile internet on most providers.

Go next

Close to the Dutch and Belgian borders, interesting day trips and next stops can be found within and outside of Germany.

The Hellenthal Wildlife Park, an easy 15 minute drive away, makes for an excellent day trip. Overlooking the Oleftalsperre, this park's excellent collection of birds of prey is considered one of the best in Europe. Flight shows are carried out several times a day. Furthermore, there are large compounds with mostly indigenous types of wildlife and some of their international counterparts, including several kinds of deer, wild boars, lynx etc.

Among the other towns of interest in the Eifel are Blankenheim, with the Eifel Museum as well as a Roman villa and Mechernich, where visitors can get an insight in the areas ancient mining industry. Both are a 45 min. drive.

Large destinations worth visiting include Aachen, Cologne, Liège and Maastricht, all within a 90 minute travel distance.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Sunday, February 07, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.