The back of the Rathaus on a bright day, with blue skies. The gothic building is another place that should be on your to-do list when visiting.

Our German autumn road trip memories

In Europe, Germany, Memories, Our Journeys, Road Trips, Trip-Types, World Travel by JanisLeave a Comment

Reminiscing about Aachen, Hamburg and Münster

When the opportunity arose for Gary and me to head back to Germany on a road trip, we jumped at the chance. Incredible architecture, fascinating history, friendly locals and an abundance of sausages. What more could you want?

The view of the Dom at dusk from the rear steps of the Rathaus.  The square between the two building is home of the cities main Christmas market.

Aachen cathedral at dusk

So, in autumn 2019 we jumped in our car and caught Le Shuttle under the English Channel for another adventure. This time we were off to uncover the history and culture behind the cities of Aachen, Hamburg and Münster.

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Aachen Cathedral

Aachen Dom is a genuinely magnificent Cathedral, and when you step inside, you’ll understand why it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was the first monument in Germany to be given this status in 1978, and it was also one of the original 12 sites to be listed by UNESCO.
A closer look at the Barbarossa Chandelier attached to the centre dome of Aachen's Dom.  From this view, you can see the detail of the arches and the ornate decoration of the dome itself.

The dome of Aachen cathedral

An up-close view of the golden Karlsschrein.  You can only get his close to the treasure via an organised tour of the Cathedral.

The detail in the Karlsschrein

When we visited the Dom, we were given a one to one tour by a lady that had been married in the Cathedral. It felt such a privilege as this incredibly ornate and beautiful building is so ancient.
 
It was Charlemagne ‘Charles the Great’ that instructed for the original octagonal chapel to be constructed between 793 and 813. Charlemagne died in 814 and is buried in a golden shrine within the chapel.


St. Lamberti Church

St Lamberti Church in the heart of Münster truly has some gruesome history. Look carefully on the outside of the tower, and you’ll spot three iron cages, hanging on the side.
The St. Lamberti Church with its neo-gothic spire in dark stone, similar to that of Cologne Cathedral.  Close inspection of the spire will lead you to the 3 cages used to display the corpses of  Anabaptists rebels.

St. Lamberti Church

Inside the bell tower of St. Lamberti Church at night looking out at the 3 Anabaptist cages, illuminated with a single light bulb.

The three iron Anabaptist cages on St. Lamberti Church

The true grisly story behind the three cages is in the mid-16th-century, the Anabaptists tried unsuccessfully to convert the city from Catholicism to Protestantism. Their bodies were then hung on display as an act of warning to the town. The original cages remain.   In 1987 as part of Münster’s public art exhibition, three faint lights were placed inside to denote their three souls.

The Tower Keeper at St. Lamberti ChurchSubtitle

The Tower Keeper at St Lamberti Church has been keeping the city of Münster safe for over 630 years. We were given the opportunity to visit the Tower Keeper. For the first time in over six centuries, the role is being undertaken by a lady, Martje Salje.
 
We climbed the 300 spiralling stone steps, and when we reached the top, it was magnificent and the night skyline across the city was breath-taking.

Martje Salje, the Tower Keeper, blasting her horn at to sound the all-clear from the top of the spire of St. Lamberti Church.

Martje the Tower Keeper tooting the nightly horn

Following Martje out onto the top of the 246 feet (75 metres) tall tower was an incredible experience. Each evening, except Tuesday, Martje blows the horn from the top of the tower. In the direction of north, south and west at 9pm until midnight, every 30 minutes.
 
Unless there is anything untoward, Martje sounds the all-clear toot, and Münster can breathe a sigh of relief, that the city is free from fires or enemies beyond.


Walking tour with a difference

Do you fancy discovering Münster’s old town on a self-guided walking tour? This tour not only guides you through the city’s hidden gems, but you’ll also solve riddles along the way.

Speicherstadt

I loved strolling around the Speicherstadt district, Hamburg’s ‘warehouse city’. It has incredible neo-gothic red brick buildings and meandering canals which were once alive with dockworkers.   Today the Speicherstadt is popular for different reasons. As it is a lovely place for socialising, people-watching and visiting Hamburg’s maritime museum.
A view of the Speicherstadt warehouse district of Hamburg at dusk.  You look down the canal to the water castle with red brick buildings on either side with illuminated balconies.

The iconic view of the Speicherstadt district

It’s a fantastic area to head to of an evening, as the sunsets and the evening light swathes across the historic warehouses it is delightful.

The Speicherstadt and Kontorhaus District with Chilehaus were inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015.



Elbe Tunnel

The Elbe Tunnel may not be on every visitor’s list; however, we found it fascinating.   The Old Elbe Tunnel has now been refurbished and kept in its original Art Deco style, with glazed ceramic tiling all the way through. It was built in 1911 as a pedestrian and vehicle tunnel.
Looking along the recently restored, brightly lit, tiled tunnel That takes you under the Elbe River. There is a footpath on either side and a narrow track in the centre for cyclists that was once used by cars.

The old Elbe Tunnel

Today the tunnels are mainly used for cyclist and pedestrians, as during the 1970s the ‘new’ Elbe Tunnel and bridges were built.   Ensure you pop out at the other end as you get fantastic views across Hamburg city.

Aachen walking tour

When we visited Aachen, we embarked on a guided walking tour, which was incredibly fascinating. As not only is Aachen synonymous with Charlemagne it also has a history dating from the Romans and was once a prosperous spa town.
The Elisenbrunnen collonade which has two taps supplying the towns spa waters.  At one end is the tourist information centre, at the other an ice-cream parlour.
Elisenbrunnen
The Elisenbrunnen, with its striking pillared colonnade, stands at the forefront of what would have been the grand Roman thermal baths. There is still a warm flowing fountain in the Elisenbrunnen which is fed by the spring.
The back of the Rathaus on a bright day, with blue skies.  The gothic building is another place that should be on your to-do list when visiting.

The Rathaus from the rear

There is beautiful architecture dotted throughout the city, particularly the Gothic Rathaus and the delightful buildings that surround it.

Münster Rathaus & Hall of Peace

While visiting Münster, we joined a fascinating 2-hour walking tour of the city. The history and intrigue that Münster has witnessed over the centuries are incredible.
Münster's historic Rathaus has been lovingly restored following it's near destruction during World War Two.  The ornate gothic gable end stood as a symbol to the towns Prince Bishop whose own home is a mere 250 meters away.
The Rathaus at dusk
The striking gothic building in the heart of the city is Münster’s town hall or Rathaus. The Rathaus was lovingly restored during the 1950s to its original character from the mid-14th-century.   Step inside, and you’re able to visit the Friedenssaal “Hall of Peace” it is the most important room in the historic town hall. It’s here that the Spanish-Dutch Peace Treaty was ratified in May 1648. In the same year, the signing of the Peace of Westphalia took place which ended the Thirty Years’ War.
Inside the Hall of Peace.  The original wood panelling survives, having been put into storage during World War 2.  Along the far wall are 13 sections of intricately carved panels running up half the weight of the wall, with portraits above them of those involved in bringing peace.

Original wood panelling in the “Hall of Peace”

The wood panelling and all the seats that now encircle the “Hall of Peace” are original as they were kept in storage during WWII.

Elbphilharmonie

The Elbphilharmonie concert hall is now such an iconic site across the Hamburg skyline, even though it only opened in January 2017.
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The Elbphilharmonie

I highly recommend heading to the viewing gallery to enjoy the 360-degree view across Hamburg, the Landungsbrücken piers and the city’s port.
 
A visit to the viewing gallery is free, grab your ticket at the main entrance and hop on the world’s first arched escalator. The top segment of Elbphilharmonie is constructed entirely of glass.

Enjoy an evening cruise

Why not hop onto an evening cruise along the canals of Speicherstadt? Journey through Hamburg’s illuminated harbour and admire Elbe Philharmonic Hall from a whole new perspective.

Café 1648

During our Münster walking tour, our guide took us to the recently opened café 1648. Which not only offers delightful panoramic views across the city’s rooftops, but it also serves delicious coffee.
The silhouette of two women in Café 1648 enjoying the 12th-floor panoramic view of St.-Paulus-Dom.

Enjoying the view from Café 1648


Am Knipp – Aachen’s oldest Inn – 1698

As Gary and I are always “When in Rome” types of folk, we never hesitate to sample the local food and drink around the globe. Admittedly there have been some regrets, but hey, you have to give it a go.
The outside of Am Knippat night.  Dating from 1698, it is Aachen's oldest inn and serves traditional local food.  A family-run business that's a great place to eat.

Am Knipp Inn dating from 1698

Therefore, Aachen was no different, we searched out the city’s oldest inn. Which was Am Knipp and dates from 1698. Dining at Am Knipp was a lovely experience, rich in tradition, everyone was so friendly, and we shared a table with a local family.

Münsterländer Wurstpfanne

Ahh yes, we couldn’t visit Münster and not head to its oldest inn. Altes Gasthaus Leve has been in existence since 1607.
A selection of local sausages, traditional food for the region, all served with sauerkraut in a cast-iron bowl at Altes Gasthaus Leve.

Münsterländer Wurstpfanne

It has an excellent selection of traditional German food and ales. Gary, with his love of German sausages, chose the regional dish Münsterländer Wurstpfanne. Apparently, it was delicious, although I passed on that one.


Aachener Printen

I love gingerbread and Aachen has so many delectable choices, our favourite Aachener Printen is from ‘Klein’. Each shop has its own twist of the recipe, and you can choose from several varieties. Some are soft, some are hard, and others are covered in icing, nuts and chocolate.
The Klein Aachener Printen gingerbread shop.  There are many gingerbread shops in town, each selling there own Aachener Printen but Klein is the one we've always brought back from Cologne

Klein Aachener Printen

Printen is even used in a sauce to accompany Sauerbraten (roasted meat).

Reisfladen

There’s always time for a slice of cake, and another speciality of Aachen is Reisfladen. This is a baked rice cake, and if you enjoy rice pudding, which a lot of British people do, you’ll love this.
A section of Reisfladen, a local rice cake, similar to a custard tart but the filling is a thick rice pudding.  One to try if you are in town, we had ours at the Van Den Daele café, again worth checking out even if the Reisfladen doesn't appeal.

Reisfladen – traditional rice cake from Van Den Daele café



A reference guide

I love nothing more than planning a trip and so often I use the DK Eyewitness books.  I find them  extremely informative, easy to follow and the pictures and maps tempt you into discovering more.

We used a previous version of this book to plan our Germany road trips, now you can grab the revised copy.


St Nicholas Church and tower

St.-Nikolai-Kirche is an emotional and touching place to visit. Hamburg suffered extensively during WWII, and St Nicholas Church stands as a poignant symbol to this.

The only sections that remain are the tower, spire and crypt, within the crypt is a fascinating museum.

Looking up at the tower of bombed of St Nikolai-church tower from the nave. This ruined church has now become a memorial and museum to the bombing of Hamburg during the Second World war.

St Nikolai-church tower

A view from the neo-gothic St Nikolai-church tower across the Rathaus to the been Binnenalster and beyond.  On the right of the frame is a gargoyle, part of the tower structure.

A view from St Nikolai-church tower

You are able to visit the top of the tower a lift has been installed and transports you 247 feet (75 metres) above, to a platform within the spire.
 
There are historic storyboards within the spire that follow the church’s history through time. The views from here are incredible too.


Aachen’s Fountains

Another aspect I enjoyed about Aachen was its many tactile fountains and statues. I particularly loved the one named ‘Circle of Money’ located on the corner of Elisengarten.
A brass statue of old man, bent over, hand out, begging for loose change next to Circle of Money fountain.

Beggar at the Circle of Money Fountain

A bronze fountain of puppets with adjustable joints to allow you to interact with the feature.

Bronze Puppenbrunnen with hinged limbs

Each bronze character depicts the changing hands of money. Whether it’s a young girl receiving pocket money or a beggar pleading with a banker. All the while, the water feature is flowing in never-ending circles.
 
Keep a lookout for the interactive bronze Puppenbrunnen and the Hühnerdieb - ‘Chicken Thief’.


Chilehaus

Also, part of Hamburg’s UNESCO inscription is the beautiful Chilehaus. The incredible lines that have been created by the architect Fritz Höger are stunning. The 1920’s 10-storey office building has been designed in the shape of a ship’s prow.

The sharp end of the Chilehaus office building at dusk under mauve to purple skies.  This stylish 10-storey office block looks like a vision of the future as seen from the 1920s.

The pointy end of Chilehaus

I urge you to visit of an evening if you can, it’s even more elegant and stylish when it is illuminated.


Miniatur Wunderland

I’m sure there is a big kid inside everyone waiting to get out, if so, then head over to Miniatur Wunderland, in Hamburg’s Speicherstadt district.

I was going to refer to it as a model village, but it’s actually more of a city.

A scale model of the Elbphilharmonie at Miniatur Wunderland, with visitors inspecting the level of detail in the exhibit.
Hamburg's Elbphilharmonie in Miniatur Wunderland
Every 15 minutes, the whole ‘Wunderland’ will cover a 24-hour period. So, whichever location you are in, whether it’s the ski-slopes of Switzerland, the charming Italian villages or the bright lights of Las Vegas the whole museum descends into nightfall.

HafenCity Universität U-Bahn station

You may think visiting a U-Bahn station is a little odd; however, the lighting at HafenCity Universität is unlike your usual underground station.
Looking along the platform of  HafenCity Universität U-Bahn station where the overhead lighting is projecting Has now transitioned to red lighting.

HafenCity Universität in red

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HafenCity Universität in blue
We jumped on the U4 line and headed over to HafenCity Universität. The fascinating huge overhead cubes that run along the centre of the rail station are captivating. They are repeatedly pulsating in and out and altering colour as they go.


One for next time

We enjoyed our visits to Aachen and Münster so much that we are going to head back there for the German Christmas markets.
Looking up, past the Käthe Wohlfahrt stall, to Hamburg's Rathaus lit up at dusk

Hamburg at Christmas, Hamburg, Germany

We’ve previously visited Hamburg at Christmas time, although never say never for a return trip.


Let us know!

Have you visited Aachen, Hamburg or Münster we’d love to hear about your highlights? Please drop a comment below.

We ran out of time

I would have loved to have visited the museum at Hamburg Kunsthalle. However, we ran out of time and in my opinion, you can’t rush an art gallery.


Low Emission Zone (LEZs), Autobahns and Tolls

Germany - Be aware that some German towns and cities have Low Emission Zones. Therefore, you will require a sticker for the windscreen of your car, to signify which category your car emissions fall into.
 
We found the following websites useful; also, you can apply online in advance for the sticker for €6 (2019). The Urban Access Regulations in Europe details all the European emission zones and the Senate Department for Environment is where you can purchase you Germany LEZ sticker.
 
When you drive along an autobahn in Germany, you may not even be aware that you are on one (they are not signposted). It’s not until you feel the vibration of a vehicle whisking past your window that you know you’ve arrived. I would like to highlight that in my opinion, German drivers are quite considerate.

France - If you are driving from the UK you will undoubtedly be travelling across France. In France, you pay the tolls as you go, and I recommend using a credit card as it is a lot quicker and simpler passing through.


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Disclaimer

Our visits to Aachen, Hamburg and Münster were arranged in partnership with the local tourist offices. In exchange for honest reviews and an account of our personal experiences.

About the Author

Janis

Janis, the co-founder of Our World for You, was born in London and raised in Kent and the Isle of Wight. Along with Gary her partner, they have been travelling part time since 1995. In 2016, they decided that enough was enough with the 9 to 5, so armed with the knowledge and experience that they had gained on their adventures, that they wanted to inspire others to travel the world near and far.

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