Monschau, Germany, is a resort town full of wonderful things to do like wandering around the old town and enjoying panoramic views from hiking trails. We went on a day trip to Monschau to celebrate our two-year wedding anniversary, and its picture postcard timbered houses and river made for the most romantic backdrop in all our photos.
Where is Monschau Located?
Eifel National Park is a major green zone in western Germany, and Monschau is tucked away in its northern hills. The town is popular with tourists for its timbered houses and narrow alleyways that have been preserved perfectly for three centuries. The Rur River runs through the town, which is not as large as the Rhine, but very, very charming.
Monschau was captured by the French in 1795 and briefly called ‘Montjoie’.
Monschau, Germany: Top Things To Do
You can drive to Monschau, or take a train, which is what we did. From Bonn, we had to go to Aachen, and then board a rather slow bus to Monschau! The town is easily explored on foot and we didn’t see any buses anyway.
Monschau is a year-round destination but do check the weather forecast beforehand so that you can dress appropriately.
Monschau is ideal for a day trip, with five hours being sufficient to cover all the main sights. However, you can stay overnight in one of the timbered house hotels by the river for a quaint experience. We did activities numbered one to eight on this list. The other three are either seasonal or require an overnight stay.
1. Admire the timbered houses and storybook lanes of the Altstadt
Many German old towns are famous for their timbered houses, where the wooden beams show, and are painted in lovely, contrasting colours. You will want to pause at every lane in Monschau to capture the old houses and shops lined on either side. We particularly loved the battery-operated stuffed animals that repeat whatever you say!
2. Look at the beauty of Rotes Haus from afar, and go inside for a taste of royalty
The Foundation Scheibler Museum Rotes Haus has a beautiful red façade and steepled roof, and faces a very pretty square. A cloth maker had it built in 1752 to serve as his home and office. Inside, visitors can climb a stately oak staircase to see the study, drawing rooms, and hall full of lovely tapestries, linen wallpaper, and Rococo furnishings.
Entry fee for adults is 3 euros, and the museum is usually open once every hour, from 10 AM to 4 PM. Click here for exact timings.
3. Get the perfect view of the river from near Hotel Zum Stern
Every city has a spot where the most iconic photos are taken. For Monschau, that place is in front of Hotel Zum Stern, overlooking the River Rur. Here, as you move your eyes from left to right, you are treated to a panorama of timbered houses, lofty trees, and the sparkling water. The hotel itself is a sight for sore eyes, and packed with guests on summer afternoons.
Look out for a wonderful performance by a band of talented, elderly musicians in the evenings.
4. Take the Panorama Weg for stunning views of Monschau
Many articles will tell you that the best views of Monschau are from Monschau Castle (Burg Monschau) but that is simply not true. The view you get from the summit of the Panorama Weg will leave you breathless and make you truly glad to be alive. The climb to the top is not too tough and takes around 15 to 20 minutes. The summit is fairly large, and there are benches for sitting down.
Go around slowly, drinking in the sight of the town’s churches, buildings, river, castle, and surrounding hills.
Wild flowers blooming on the ridge make for a wonderful frame. We encountered many friendly tourists in Monschau – both English and German-speaking, and they were kind enough to take such good pictures of us. If you wish, you can go further ahead on a long hiking trail circling the entire Eifel National Park. There is more than one way to come down – we took a little ‘goat’s path’ that was narrow but so cute!
5. Marvel at the stunning carving of Troistorff Haus
Kunst und Kulturverein Haus Troistorff e.V. is a half-timbered house with a marvellous carving of a huge tree with cyan leaves on its front. The stately house was built in 1783, and is a choice venue for weddings. It was not open when we visited, but we enjoyed climbing the wrought-iron staircase to get a closer look at its ornaments.
6. Enjoy a Kaffee and Kuchen or a glass of beer at an al fresco restaurant
Kaffee and Kuchen (coffee and cake) may be a national pastime in all of Germany, but Monschau is particularly blessed in the department of quaint cafes with outdoor seating that let you listen to the sound of the river and gaze at the perfection around you. Beer is famous in Monschau, with local variants vying for attention among evergreen favourites like Bitburger and Kölsch.
7. Shop for artistic glassware at the Glashütte
We were rather surprised to find a trio of attractions just a short walk away from the Altstadt, that doesn’t feature on any Monschau travel blog! We discovered them through a street sign pointing towards ‘Sandskulpturen’ (sand sculptures).
The sculptures are housed inside a complex that is also home to the Monschau Glassworks (Glashütte) and an elegant mega-store of handicrafts.
If you like shopping, you will love this place. At the Glassworks, you can fashion your own masterpiece out of glass for 5 euros, or pick from one of the exquisite creations on display. The handicrafts store is choc-a-bloc with accessories, furniture, and decoration items. Entry to these are free of cost, but you have to pay to see the indoor sand sculptures, which depict iconic structures in Europe such as the Eiffel Tower. The entry fee is 6 euros for adults.
8. Wander around the ruins of Burg Monschau
Honestly, we were not that impressed with Burg Monschau (Monschau Castle), as most of it is occupied by a youth hostel, and the views are not as inspiring as the ones from the Panorama Weg. Nevertheless, it is a signature landmark of the town, and thus a must-visit. Built sometime in the 13th century, the fortress was captured by Emperor Charles V after a siege in 1543. You can walk through the courtyard and admire the bright yellow flowers in the surrounding gardens.
9. Visit the Christmas Market
If you’re visiting in December, you’ll be able to see the Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market) with its fairy tale stalls, snow-decked roofs, and tons of mulled wine. We hear that the market is particularly alluring at twilight, when the Christmas lights come on, and Xmas carols permeate the air. Traditionally, the Christmas market in Monschau is open from 23rd November to 23rd December.
10. Visit popular landmarks like the mustard mill and an old brewery
Many travel guides mention Brahaus Felsenkeller, but it has been shut since February 24, 2019. So don’t go looking unless you have news that it’s open again! One functional brewery seems to be Willem Braun on Herbert-Isaac-Strasse 22 but we aren’t sure.
Monschau is also famous for its historic mustard mill, the Senfmühle. You can enjoy a 40-minute guided tour and also choose between 19 varieties of mustard for purchase. Entry is 2.50 euros for adults and the shop is usually open from 11 AM to 2 PM.
11. Trek around Eifel Nature Park
If you’re staying overnight in Monschau, you may want to hike around Eifel National Park. It is famous for its population of wildcats but they can be rather hard to spot! But the beech forests interspersed with rivers and streams are a pleasure to explore.
Free Walking Tour Map of Monschau
As always, we have a free walking tour map of Monschau for you. With this Google map, you will visit the attractions in this order:
- As you walk into Monschau from the bus stop, you will encounter Troistorff Haus to your left.
- Head further into the town centre, and you will chance upon the Rotes Haus. There are specific timings for entry, so plan accordingly.
- Turn left from Rotes Haus and plunge into Monschau’s super romantic Old Town.
- Presently, you reach the bridge next to Hotel Zum Stern, and this is the classic view of Monschau with the River Rur and the timbered houses.
- Retrace your steps slightly to embark on the Panorama Weg, which will reward you with the best views of Monschau that you can get.
- When you come down, head towards Burg Monschau, but on the way, stop to get a lovely view of the Rotes Haus from the bridge leading to the Evangelische Stadtkirche, where you might see a wedding taking place.
- Continue to Monschau Castle, where you can explore the ruins, and get more great views of Monschau.
- Descend the Castle and head to a café of your choice for some rest and refreshments.
We’ll leave you with one secret tip no one will tell you: Monschau has a sister town that looks very similar but is not at all famous! Burg Munstereifel will charm you with similar old town views, complete with timbered houses and cafes, the tinkling River Erft, and a beautiful Christmas market in December.
We also read that Blankenheim is a nearby village worth visiting if you’re staying overnight in Monschau and have a car for easy road tripping. It’s also worth noting that Monschau is close to the Belgian border; so feel free to cross over if you feel like it!
5 Must-haves on your trip to Monschau
- Good walking shoes, because you’ll be exploring Monschau on foot. We like this stylish Sketchers sneaker for women and this hardy wool/suede boot for men.
- This waterproof medium-length jacket for women or this Eddie Bauer rainproof jacket for men because it can rain any time of the year in Monschau (it drizzled a bit when we went as well).
- Sunglasses, if you’re going exploring in the summer. The sunshine can be really strong in this part of Germany and you want to avoid a headache. We like the Jackie Ohh sunglasses for women and the polarized aviators for men.
- A Sony Cybershot HX99, which is the world’s smallest compact zoom camera and perfect for taking pictures of those half-timbered houses in Monschau.
- This compact backpack from Osprey for holding your jacket as the day gets warmer and your camera if it suddenly starts to rain.
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