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I had always seen photos of fairytale towns in storybooks as a child, so when I stumbled upon a photo of Monschau, I knew that I had to visit it. On my recent road trip through Luxembourg and Germany, we spent a day and a night in Monschau, which is fairly close to Cologne. This little guide to Monschau will focus on highlights of this fairytale village with the best things to do in Monschau as well as tips for making the most of your visit (while saving money).
- Tips for visiting Monschau
- The best things to do in Monschau
- Where to stay in Monschau
Tips for visiting Monschau
Monschau is quite famous for its Christmas markets, so expect major crowds if you are visiting during December or during summer. I visited in the off season (March) and if you’re interested in visiting some of the museums, you should ensure that you come over a weekend as quite a few shops were not open during the week. If you don’t mind wandering around and slowing down, it’s lovely.
Staying overnight in one of the picturesque half-timbered houses was seriously out of a dream and I’d recommend considering staying overnight. I loved opening up the window in our apartment to stare out at the view (shown above) and listen to the babbling stream run through the town. My parents-in-law barely wanted to leave the apartment!
Staying overnight had surprising good value (in the offseason) compared to other nearby towns as we were able to get dinner for about 10 euros at a charming restaurant with stunning views (Zum Heller). Parking was pricey, but I felt that we saved quite a bit by staying overnight! It was also lovely seeing Monschau without the crowds as most of the daytrippers left by dinner time.
Be sure to carry cash. In Germany, cash is king. You’ll find a few cash machines in town and quite a few restaurants did not accept cards. I took out twenty euros, which was enough for quite a few local beers, dinner, and breakfast in the morning at one of the local bakeries.
Wear comfortable shoes with good grip as the town is full of cobblestones and hills. In the rain or snow, the cobblestones can be a bit slippery, so plan accordingly!
In this region of Germany, you’ll have an easier time with a car although there are limited buses. I’ve traveled quite a bit in this region and although you can visit with only public transit, if you wish to see more of the North Rhine-Westphalia region, you might find that a car is easier (and cheaper) if you have several days outside of a city planned.
The best things to do in Monschau
Monschau is situated within the pretty Eiffel National Park, which is full of rolling hills. If you love hiking, an overnight stay combined with biking or hiking would be great for seeing more of the area (especially if you have a car). The weather wasn’t ideal (it snowed!), so we stayed in town for the whole time. You don’t need to try very hard to see Monschau in one day as the best things to do in Monschau are close together and the town center is quite compact. You can easily combine Monschau with visiting another half-timbered town like Blankenheim.
Wander the cobblestone streets along the river and admire the castle
Monschau is quite historic. The city dates back to 1195 and it had various names that changed with the name of the castle. One lord saw over both Monschau as well as what is modern-day Limburg (which includes Maastricht!) The castle in Monschau today can’t be entered by the public, however it dates back to the 12th century and can be admired from a distance. It’s changed hands a number of times, even becoming part of the Prussian empire in the 18th century.
Monschau was luckily spared from various wars, including the Thirty Year War, when many town centers nearby were destroyed. In the 18th century, Monschau prospered due to the textile industry, which enabled the town to further expand past its medieval center. This is when some of Monschau’s most beautiful buildings were built. During World War II, the gorgeous town was luckily left intact!
The signage is pretty clear, however I recommend finding the bridge towards Hotel Zum Stern [seen above]. The view is incredible! The Markt square near Weihnachtshaus Monschau (a Christmas store) is also lovely. It’s a pretty small town centre, so it’s difficult to get lost here.
Stop into a picturesque cafe for a local beer
There’s a number of fantastic local beers that you can try at the local beer houses. I had dinner at Zum Heller, a friendly guesthouse with a restaurant with stunning views over the Markt, prior to trying some of the local beers. Their Zwickelbier was absolutely fantastic, but I’d recommend skipping the Eiffel beer.
There’s a famous brewery with a cafe called Felsenkeller Brauhaus & Museum. Unfortunately, this is only open on the weekends, so I was unable to visit it. (Reviews were mixed in terms of the museum itself.)
The Rode Haus
The Rode Haus is a stunning building in the center of Monschau that dates back to 1752. It was built as both a place of residence and business by a local merchant and it’s beautifully decorated inside in a couple of styles from the time. You can enter for a couple of euros (children are free) if you’re curious about the interior.
Taste mustard at the Senfmühle Monschau
One of the touristic highlights of Monschau for mustard-lovers is visiting the mustard mill. You can learn about the traditional process of making mustard prior to sampling various sorts. The shop is worth a browse for souvenirs, even if you can’t take a tour. (Many restaurants in Monschau serve the mustard from the mill with their dishes.)
Where to stay in Monschau
My jaw dropped when we checked into our accommodation in Monschau, an affordable apartment in a stunning half-timbered building with perfect views over Monschau. I paid 88 euros for two cozy yet basic rooms with a connecting living room (for four people). I definitely recommend Haus Stehlings if you’re considering staying in Monschau.
All of us immediately opened the window to admire the views (shown above) and listen to the water running. Listening to the water running below us as I lay in bed was one of the best moments of the trip. You’ll find other accommodations, including other cozy boutique hotels in Monschau with great views if they’re full.
Getting to Monschau and parking in Monschau
If you are driving, Monschau is
The parking in Monschau was expensive compared to other German cities (7 euros for 24 hours) and you need to carry coins on you if you do not have a German debit card. My Dutch card would not work, so be prepared.
You can also get to Monschau by bus from nearby Aachen (where Charlemagne is buried). The bus doesn’t run too often and takes about an hour. Come prepared with coins to pay.