Pubs and Restaurants at the Hafenmarkt
There are some nice pubs and restaurants at the end of the Marketplace, where they serve local dishes for reasonable prices... Try the suebian home made Kaesespaetzle, or the a Zwiebelkuchen, Gaisburger Marsch and not only the super tasty beer... Try also their nice local wine from there... It's only sold and consumed there... Enjoy!
- Adventure Travel
The oldest gothic church in southwest Germany
The construction of the Frauenkirche, the "Church to our Beloved Woman" began in 1321. The church was meant as a protest aginst the paternalism of the clergy of Speyer who owned the Stadtkirche.
Between 1321 and 1332 first the choir was built, followed by the hall (1350 - 1408) and the late-gothic tower with 236 feet in height (finished in 1508).
- Historical Travel
Explore the Lanes of the Old Town
The photos show random views: Esslingen's well-preserved old town is a maze of narrow lanes and alleys with cobblestone and houses built in timberframe work. Stroll and explore. You will discover little shops, wine pubs, gardens behind high walls, cellar doors, new views round every corner, and maybe also fancy little things like the metal watchdog on the corner of a house (photo 4 and 5).
The old town quarter I am referring to is located east of the old town hall, Ritterstraße, around Hafenmarkt and beyond.
Many half-timbered houses are thoroughly restored and show pretty facades. Many others hide their timberwork behind grey-brownish plaster. They could be just as pretty but they would need a renovation and the removal of those layers of plaster. I have noticed the same phenomenon in other Swabian towns, too - a sign of the proverbial Swabian skintness?
- Historical Travel
Unmissably placed high above the town centre, the Burg and its accompanying buildings of the Dicker Turm and Hochwacht offer a slightly surreal sight. The wood roofed walls ramp up to the Burg at the top at almost exactly 45 degrees, before leveling off between the Hochwacht and Dicker Turm. The Burg itself is a 13th century defensive system, which offers gardens to walk in and views to marvel at. You can see all the sights of the town, as well as all the way to the Schwabian Jura over the Neckar Valley, making it a great place to chart your tour of the town.
The Burg was never really a fortress, but more of a fortified outpost on the city wall. Its construction began during the reign of II of Hohenstaufen, and was extended by Rudolf of Habsburg in 1286 during his battles with Eberhard, Earl of Württemberg. It was more of a glorified defence system and fire watch, than a proper castle. Today it is a place for local events, held in the Innerer Burghof, the gardens within the walls. There are also a couple of restaurants too.
You can reach the Burg by two routes, one is the steep climb up the stairs in the 45 degree wall that leads up the left hand side to the Hochwacht, the other is a dusty track that winds more sedately up the right hand side of the vineyards and pig pens to the Dicker Turm. Both routes are potentially exhausting for those that aren't used to it, or, like I was, already worn out from days of walking, so be prepared.
After Esslingen's two main draws of the Stadtkirche and the Burg, this wonderfully pink fifteenth century building is the next big thing in town. Upstaging the Baroque Neues Rathaus that took over from it, this Dutch styled pink town hall stands out wherever you are viewing it from in town. It is also huge, stretching around the back all the way to Halfenmarkt, and capped on top with an astronomical clock.
The building was first mentioned in 1420, and was built sometime at the beginning of the 15th century. It was first used as a civic house for trading and tax raising, and was only used as a town hall between 1803 and 1840. After its demise, in 1845, there were even plans afoot to demolish it, but thankfully nobody every followed through with these.
Although the building has served a number of purposes in its life, like a school, it is back to being used as a meeting house for the local council.
The largest of the squares in the town is the Markplatz, and a good location from which to navigate your way through the town's numerous sights. Here you will find the Stadtkirche St Dionys, as well as the Speyrer Zehnthof and the Spitalkelter behind it. It also connects to the Rathausplatz. It holds markets on Saturday and Wednesday mornings.
The current town hall is a bit of a wallflower compared to the pink monster opposite, but its Baroque style would be a pleasant addition to many a town center. It also serves as a great starting point for a walk up to the Burg. Walk through its central passageway and start to climb the innumerable stairs to its summit.
The Neues Rathaus was built in 1748, before the old town hall became a Rathaus anyway. Despite the Altes Rathaus still hosting some of the town hall meetings, the Neues Rathaus is the home of the mayor and the real seat of the town's politicians.
In the Hafenmarkt is the big yellow building of Gelbes Haus, literally Yellow House. This is believed to be Germany's oldest whore house, and certainly it must be the most architecturally impressive. Unfortunately for those expecting to find a little medieval Reeperbahn in Esslingen's ancient Hafenmarkt, you'll be disheartened to learn it hasn't operated as a brothel since a fire burned down much of the town in 1701.
Today the building houses the town's museum. This hosts an exhibition of local artifacts charting the town's past from pre-history to the First World War. The museum also includes a model of the town as it would have looked in the 1700s. The place is open from Tuesday to Saturday, 2-6pm, and Sunday from 11am-6pm. Like most museums in Germany it is closed on a Monday.
Stadtkirche St Dionys
This impressive Romanesque-Gothic church dominates the Markplatz, and is constructed with two high towers, connected by an improbably dangerous looking covered bridge. These served as a defensive look out for the town, and I do not envy the job of anyone sent up to those death defying heights, to sit in a flimsy wooden passage high above the town.
Inside the church is a museum. About 40 years ago excavations under the church revealed remains of earlier churches on the site as far back as the 7th century, and you can see evidence of this in the exhibits. The museum is only open on Thursdays and Sundays until 3 and 3.30pm respectively. The entrance fee is 2 euros.
Postmichelbrunnen: Tale of Michel the Post Rider
... as depicted in the reliefs on the fountain. See the pictures in photos 2-5.
Once upon a time a very rich man from Esslingen was murdered. His corpse disappeared and the murderer was not found. His nephew inherited all his wealth and his death remained a mystery.
Some years later a post rider found a precious ring somewhere in the forest by the country road (photo 2). He intended to deliver it to the authorities in Esslingen when he arrived there but in the meantime decided to wear it because it was so beautiful.
He was wearing it in the tavern that evening but unfortunately it was recognized as being the ring of the rich old man who had been murdered (photo 3). Michel was arrested on the spot. Nobody believed him when he claimed to be innocent. He was tortured with utmost cruelty for days on end until the poor guy finally broke down and admitted he had committed the murder.
Michel was to be beheaded as a murderer, although he was innocent and he knew it. His last wish was riding the streets of the town on his white horse once more and blowing his horn. He stopped n front of the victim's house, now inhabited by the nephew and heir, and predicted he would appear as a ghost until the true murderer was found. Then he died under the executioner's sword (photo 4).
Every year during the night of St Michael's Day the ghost rider appeared in the streets of Esslingen, carrying his head under his arm and his horn blowing (photo 5). It finally turned out that the nephew had himself murdered the uncle and Michel was indeed innocent.
- Arts and Culture
Walk through the Old Town
Esslingen's Old Town is kind of nice - many narrow streets and timber-framed houses. Apparently, even the two oldest houses of this kind are found in Esslingen, but I didn't find them... Bad luck!
There is nothing that I would particularly recommend, except maybe for the town hall which is one of the most beautiful buildings in Esslingen.
- Historical Travel
Esslingen has a number of bridges crossing the Neckar, and while Innere Brucke is the one with all the history, the bridge on Agnespromenade, as you approach the Marktplatz from the south, offers some sensational views as the canal splits in three at this section.
I absolutely love these, and Esslingen has a few. I know that medieval Europe used to have plenty of city bridges crowded with homes and shops, but that fashion died out in most parts of the world, especially Britain, probably because of safety reasons. Whenever I see these now I have to look on in amazement, and possibly take a picture or two.
Market Square and Prettiest Half-Timbered House
Twice a week the market square hosts the farmers market. The big festivals throughout the year take place here. The wide market square is a rather recent acquisition in the old townscape. Until 200 years ago this was the location of the Hospital of St Catherine which has been demolished in 1811.
The square is surrounded by three churches. The huge parish church of St Dionysius occupies the southern side. In the west we find the catholic Münster St. Paul, the former Dominican abbey church, and further behind the Church of Our Lady, again protestant.
The eyecatcher in the square is the gable of the so-called Kielmeyerhaus with its fine decorated timberwork. This building is actually the wine press and cellar of the hospital, the only remaining part. The relief with the image of Saint Catherine refers to its former role. In the 19th century it was sold and turned into a residential house and shop. The owner Alfred Kielmeyer had a soap factory and a shop selling products from the colonies. His shop sign is still on the facade. However, nowadays the hosue is the seat of an institution that is of more interest to visitors: the town's tourist information office.
- Historical Travel
Burg - The "Castle"
Esslingen's so-called Burg is not really a castle. It is a part of the city fortifications on top of the hill above the city. This strategic point is especially fortified as a stronghold - whowver controls this hilltop can do whatever he likes with the city, so the citizens were of course interested in holding and protecting it.
The town wall includes this hill and the vineyards on its slope. Clever Esslingers, in case of a siege the basic wine supply is secured. Unfortunately those skint Swabians (ha, ha) installed a fence and planted the vines at a safe distance from the path so there is no chance for a quick "wine tasting" along the way.
The view is worth the steep climb. There are two ways up to the castle - the stairway along the wall and the path through the vineyards. We chose the latter. Watch your steps because of the rough cobblestones. This pavement is to give hold for horses' hooves - human feet need to take care.
- Hiking and Walking
- Castles and Palaces
- Historical Travel