Monschau is a small, historic town in the German Eifel region. It is largely unchanged for over 300 years, which makes a visit feel like you’re time-travelling. The narrow, cobblestoned streets and traditional half-timbered houses have made this place one of the main tourist attractions in this area. Read what to see and do in Monschau.
In the past, Monschau was famous as a centre for textile production. As early as the 12th century it was one of the primary towns of the region. It became a city in 1352. But the town really flourished in the 18th century, when 6000 textile workers were working in the small town. As the textile industry diminished in the 1900s, tourism grew and became the main source of income. The place is very popular among cyclists and hikers in Summer. There are many hiking and cycling paths all around the village and beyond. And it is a great place to visit in Winter too because of the lovely Christmas market in the centre of town.
To Walk or Not to Walk
It doesn’t really matter much where you start sightseeing in this city. All the streets are as lovely as the next one. And since the town is small, it is easy to go everywhere on foot. Beware though, the area is hilly and there are many streets going uphill and downhill as well as many places you can only reach by stairs. If you don’t want to walk, you can take the town’s tourist train that departs from the marketplace. The train will take you on a 30-minute highlighted tour around town for just a few euros. You’ll get to see many of the sights around town that you can go explore more later on as it passes the timber framed buildings, the arts shops, cafes, and bridges.
The Red House
One place to see in Monschau is the Red House. It is named after the bricks it was built with. The colour forms a great contrast to the surrounding buildings. This 1756 mansion was owned by Johan Heinrich Scheibler, one of the most prominent cloth producers and traders in town. His famous 18th century fabrics found their way to the courts of the French king and the Turkish sultan. The mansion is now a museum, boasting a full historic interior with all the grand features of the Rococo / Louis XV style that marked the wealth of its owner. There’s a very interesting three-story open spiral staircase inside, decorated with wood carvings depicting all the main steps in the cloth production. In total, four of the eight levels of the Red House are open to guests. Click here for more information on the museum. It’s a must-see in Monschau.
Mustard is a typical produce of Monschau, and in the old mustard mill the traditional recipe is still being made. When it was installed in 1882, the mill relied on a waterwheel next to it. The small shop sells a range of different varieties and you can try them all. There’s also a cosy mustard shop in the centre of town where all kinds of regional products are sold. You can do a guided tour in the mill without reservation needed. Click here to find out more.
The old castle overlooking the town originates back to the 13th century. The castle fell into ruins after private owners had the roofs removed in 1836/37, in order to avoid property taxes. Around 1900, the authorities finally saved the historic building. Since the 1970s, it houses the local youth hostel and it serves as the stage for concerts in summer. Even though you can walk through the ground, the castle itself is not open to the public. I still recommend going up there though. The view of the village from this hill is really lovely.
The last four weeks before Christmas, Monschau looks like a town from a fairy-tale. Lights, smells, Christmas decorations and bustling crowds of happy people are everywhere. The little town takes its Christmas market quite seriously with live music, plenty of food and dozens of market stands selling sweets, gifts and decorations. Monschau is a particularly popular destination in December, so book your accommodation well ahead if you want to stay for the night.
The Streets of Monschau
One of the best ways to see Monschau is to just start roaming the streets. I recommend a walk through the entire village from Café Thelen on one end to the Senfmüle (the Mustard Mill) on the other, and then back via the Red House to the marketplace. You have got to see the famous views from the little bridge on the marketplace, as well as the foot bridge right opposite the evangelical church. If you want to have a great aerial view of the town, then walk up the stairs to the Haller-Ruine from the street called Stehlings. Look behind you every now and then. The views keep changing the closer you get to the ruins. Alternatively, you can go up the hill on the other side of the village. You get to the path by walking up the stairs next to the Italian Restaurant on the marketplace.
Hungry? In the mood for shopping?
No need to go hungry in Monschau. There are cafes and restaurants in every street, almost all of which serve traditional German food and especially meals which let you try the famous Monschau mustard. Several restaurants here serve Flammkuchen. That’s my favourite to have whenever I’m in Monschau,
If you’d rather go shopping then you won’t be disappointed. There are many tourist shops, selling 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 produced to fuel the textile industry. You can buy all these from many tourist shops, cafés and several bakeries you’ll encounter in the old centre. One special shop is the Christmas shop on the marketplace. It is open all-year round and has three stories full of Christmas decorations.
Where to stay and what to do
Monschau is great to see in every season. It lies in the middle of two national parks (Hohes Venn and Eifel parks) and there are many walking and hiking paths all around. There are several museums, sport events, classical music concerts, and more. And you can find all kinds of accommodation too: hotels, B&B’s, hostels, you name it. The town has an official tourist website in several languages that provides all the information you need to enjoy your trip. I hope you’ll have a pleasant stay!