When Americans think about traveling to Europe, they have an image in their heads of fairy-tale like towns that will transport them back to a time long since gone. They imagine towns with cobbled-stoned streets, colorful half-timbered buildings and perhaps a Knight in Shining Armour. But many don’t realize, nor can imagine the wrath of destruction that destroyed so much of Germany during the Second World War. However, there were a few towns and cities that managed to escape the fury of one of the most ruinous wars Europe had ever seen. The small town of Esslingen am Neckar is just one of those perfect examples of medieval towns that escaped unscathed.
Just a short train ride away, or even a quick 15 minute drive from Stuttgart, Esslingen am Neckar is a town few have ever heard of. But have no fear, it’s worth every ounce of effort to make it to this adorable little town.
Nestled in a valley surrounded by endless rows of vineyards along the Neckar river, Esslingen is the epitome of historic German towns.
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Perhaps one of the best aspects, and one of my absolute favorite things about Germany, is the preservation of colorful historic half-timbered houses.Esslingen is home to over 200 historic half-timbered houses that date back to the Middle Ages which are a fine example of how wealthy the town was during this time. Over the course of the history of the town, it developed from a small pilgrimage site, to a market town to finally a north-south trading route which allowed wealth and power to flow through the town. Today, the half-timbered houses in Esslingen are the oldest inhabited buildings in Germany.
Within minutes of walking into the town, every angle, every corner, every building is absolutely picturesque. Like many historic towns in Germany, the small allies wind their way, following the cobbled-stoned paths.
Eventually we came upon the historic and quite adorable little red city hall which was first built in 1423. The façade of the city hall is classic Renaissance architecture which is one of my favorite styles!
After continuing to meander through the town, we came upon an area of town filled to the brim with bridges and canals, as Esslingen sits on the Neckar river. As water played such an important role in the survival of many German towns, it’s no wonder why they built up and around the rivers.
With rolling hills of vineyard surround the town, it was no surprise that one thing that made Esslingen even more unique was the fact that the town produces one of the oldest sparkling wines/Champagne-like Sekt. The term ‘sekt’ in Germany refers to any form of sparking wine and the term was even coined right here in Esslingen!
The town was once home to monks who were known for producing wine. Today, Kessler Wines produces the sparking wine in the same building as back in the early 19th century.
Just behind this Sekt-manufactory was a beautiful beer garden we just had to sit down in and have some lunch before hitting the road. In Baden-Württemberg, some traditional meals to eat are Jägerschnitzel (schnitzel with a mushroom cream sauce) with Spätzle or Lentils with Spätzle and wiener sausages. However, being in Baden-Württemberg again, I had to order Käsespätzle which is just cheesy egg noodles.
As Spring was already in full bloom, it seemed like the perfect time to stop and get an ice cream from one of the most bustling little areas of town. Located in the Schelztor which dates back to 1286 and is named after a family which had a small farm not far from this tower, you can enjoy an ice cream.
After heading back to the car, I was sad we didn’t have more time to visit this beautiful town. I wish we had had time to take a walk up to the “Dicker Turm” (Fat Tower) on the hill which overlooked the town and had time to sample some of that famous German sekt! I guess that just means I’ll need to make another trip!
For other trips not far from Esslingen:
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