Visiting the ancient city of Münster in Germany

In Europe, Germany, Mini Breaks, Our Journeys, Trip-Types, World Travelby Janis14 Comments

A city of incredible history, a tower keeper and one or two cyclists

Historic buildings around the landmark Lambertikirchplatz in the shadow of St Lambert's church.  Tables and chairs on one side from a cafe and a stone fountain takes centre stage.

In Lambertikirchplatz

Isn’t it wonderful when a charming city lives up to your expectations? and Münster, in the Westphalia region of Germany, did just that.

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Attractive gabled buildings along the cobbled street of Prinzipalmarkt, the eye-catching central cathedral, St. Lambert's Church and a beautiful Gothic Rathaus. Ohh, and that was just the start.

The view from the 12th floor of Café 1648 over Münster to the beautiful Cathedral, or St.-Paulus-Dom to give it it's proper German name.  Just beyond the Dom you can see the tower of Überwasserkirche and see how flat the landscape is in this part of Germany.

The view from Café 1648

Where to begin

With so many tales of ancient history, a rebellion, and the signing of the Treaty of Westphalia, ending the Thirty Years' War in 1648. Gary and I jumped at the chance of joining a 2-hour guided walking tour.

A lit orange lantern, handing from an arch in Prinzipalmarkt, depicting scenes from historic German tales against the deep blue of dusk and the rooftops of the merchants' buildings.

Historical lamps through Münster

Our tour was organised through Münster Marketing with Annette from Stadt-Lupe. Annette, our guide, took us on an incredibly interesting informal tour of Münster. Explaining how the centuries of history, intrigue and turmoil shaped Münster into the friendly city, it is today.

Grab your Münster Card

Whether you are located in the heart of Münster or just out of the centre, the Münster Card will come in very useful. With unlimited free public transport, we could easily pop into the city. You pick and choose what suits you best, whether you love museums, galleries, guided tours the Münster Card has it all.

Rathaus

Münster’s town hall like in so many others in Germany’s cities takes pride of place in the heart of the town. Standing elegant and proud, Münster’s Rathaus has many stories to tell.
 
The gothic building has been lovingly restored in the 1950s to its original character from the mid-14th-century.

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 Friedenssaal “Hall of Peace” located within the Rathaus, is the most important room in the historic town hall. It’s within these four walls that the Spanish-Dutch Peace Treaty was ratified in May 1648. It’s also here in October of the same year that the Thirty Years’ War ended with the signing of the Peace of Westphalia.

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 Friedenssaal has been preserved in its original state with portraits of the key figures involved in bringing to an end this awful war. The original wood panelling and seats were returned after being kept in storage during WWII.

The grand fireplace inside the Hall of Peace, inside the Rathaus of Munster.  It stands behind the 'Bar', a wooden beam that separated the general public from the working s of the court.

Fireplace inside the “Hall of Peace”

Ensure you book your slot to visit the Friedenssaal it is a spectacular hall. You can enter free of charge with your Münster Card.

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Stadtweinhaus

The Stadtweinhaus, the cities wine store, stands pride of place next door to the Rathaus. Who can blame them for keeping an eye on it? Restored to its original glory from 1615, the Stadtweinhaus house once housed the city scales and wine stores.

The outside of the Stadtweinhaus, or Town Wine house, built next to the Rathaus, or town hall.  In keeping with the other buildings on  Prinzipalmarkt the, 17th-century, gable-ended building is constructed of local sandstone.  It has a first-floor balcony historically used issuing public notices.

Stadtweinhaus on Prinzipalmarkt

The floodlit Stadtweinhaus at night where a few folks have gathered at the bar that occupies the lower level of this historic building.

Stadtweinhaus – city wine store

The external balcony on the wine store was used to make important city announcements.

Münster Dom

The prominent St. Paulus Cathedral takes pride of place in the centre of Münster. It has been restored to its original 13th-century late Romanesque and Gothic style architecture.

The west facade of St Paulus Dom, or Munster Cathedral, with its twin towers either side.  The original late gothic style entrance was damaged during World War 2 and replaced by this simple sandstone wall featuring 12 small round windows in a circle with 4 smaller ones in the centre.

St Paulus Dom

The view along the nave of St Paulus Dom towards the altar.  The Cathedral has a high vaulted ceiling of white stone.

Inside St Paulus Dom

One of the Dom’s unique charms is the 16th-century Astronomical Clock. The magnificent clock chimes at 12 noon every Monday to Saturday and 12:30pm on a Sunday and public holidays.

A close-up of the top two-thirds of the Astronomical Clock.  The top section contains the automated section with the depiction of the adoration of the magi.  The centre section includes the astronomical clock with the time, lunar & planetary phases in a beautiful ornate design.

Astronomical Clock in St Paulus Dom

It’s incredible to watch as the top section revolves depicting the adoration of the magi.

Market Day

If you’re visiting Münster on a Saturday or Wednesday, be sure to head to the traditional morning market located around the base of the Cathedral. Lots of local produce and always the bustling heart of any town or city.

Prinzipalmarkt

The main street through Münster is the historic Prinzipalmarkt.

Lined with beautiful gabled buildings, this wide road would have always been a busy market street.

Full of locals purchasing their goods from merchants and market traders.

The shops of Prinzipalmarkt on a bright and sunny day with the curve of the cobbled street following the line of the old city walls.

Prinzipalmarkt

Giving the city's Prince Bishop quite a resounding impression that the Münster townsfolk were building their own wealth.
 
Today you can still imagine how this prosperous city would have looked. The arched colonnades have upmarket, stylish stores lining the magnificent buildings, giving a feel of wealth and pride.

The Prinzipalmarkt at night where the footpath leads along the brightly lit colonnade.  The striking edge of the gable ends of each building is silhouetted against the blue sky of dusk.

Prinzipalmarkt at night

St. Lamberti and its gruesome tales

At the end of Prinzipalmarkt is St Lamberti Church. At first glance, you may be thinking it looks like many other churches, we particularly thought it had a resemblance to Cologne’s beautiful cathedral.

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

The St. Lamberti Church at dusk.  Close inspection shows the 3 lights installed in the Anabaptists cages attached to the spire, above the clock.

St. Lamberti Church at night

However, take a closer look at the tower, and you’ll see three iron cages, hanging on the side. The three cages have a gruesome story to share. As it is here that three bodies of the Anabaptist rebels were left on display after being tortured and murdered.

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The three iron Anabaptist cages

Focusing on one of the Anabaptist cages inside the bell tower of St. Lamberti Church at night.  The only light is a single bulb in the cage and a little moonlight.

An Anabaptist cage close-up

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 and as part of the city’s public art. In 1987 three faint lights were placed inside as part of the city’s art exhibition, to denote their three souls.

Tower Keeper

As a little behind the scenes treat, we were given the opportunity to visit Münster’s Tower Keeper. Martje Salje has been the very proud holder of the Tower Keepers role since 2014. Martje is also the first lady to hold this role in over 630 years.

The wooden door at the base of the bell tower of St. Lamberti church.  This discreet little entrance is the front door of the Tower Warden.

Tower Keeper’s Door

The stone plaque at the base of the bell tower of St. Lamberti church depicting the tower warden.

Tower Keeper’s St. Lamberti plaque

It was an incredible experience, even climbing the 300 spiralling stone steps. When we reached the top, it was magnificent and the night skyline across the city breath-taking.
 
When we chatted to Martje, she was completely honoured to have been given this historical role and privileged to be carrying on the tradition for Münster.

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

Looking through the Neogothic spire of St. Lamberti church down to St Paulus Dom at night.

Münster Cathedral from St Lamberti Tower

Each evening, except Tuesday, the Tower Keeper 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, that the city of Münster is free from fires or enemies beyond.

The battered brass horn of Munster's Tower keeper.  Despite its ancient look, it's a replica from the 1950s.

Horn of the Münster Tower Keeper

We peer over the top of the 246 feet (75 metres) vantage point.

As this is such an iconic tradition, we see people waiting in the streets below for Tower Keepers nightly call.

Follow the Tower Keeper

Martje Salje, the Münster Tower Keeper, has built up such a following that she now has a Facebook page.

There’s more to Münster

As we stroll further around the city, there are more and more interesting buildings to see. The Baroque architect Johann Conrad Schlaun left his mark in a few places in the city. The Erbdrostenhof Baroque palace, which was built between 1753 and 1757, and to make more of an impact the palace is positioned diagonally on a rectangular site.

The Baroque Erbdrostenhof palace at dusk under a blue sky.  The lit sandstone building stands imposingly over Salzstraße and Ringoldsgasse.

Erbdrostenhof Baroque palace

Another of Schlaun’s work is the circular Baroque church Clemenskirche, built between 1745 and 1753. It’s quite eye-catching on the outside, however, once you step inside the Rococo styling is incredible.

The red brick with cream trimmings Clemenskirche.  The rood is grey tiled with a campanile style glass copper-domed bell tower.

Clemenskirche

The elegant baroque decorated interior of the Clemenskirche with blue pillars capped with gold detailing against pale pinks & greens.

The Rococo styling in Clemenskirche

Another of attractive and important church in Münster is Überwasserkirche, a hall church. Located just nearby the cathedral and along the banks of the River Aa.
 
Opposite here is also a bookshop that is used in a popular German TV detective series “Wilsberg”.

A view down a cobbled lane over the river Aa to the church named Überwasserkirche which translate as "church over the water".  The sandstone gothic tower is flat, the spire was removed during the Anabaptist rebellion.

Überwasserkirche

Coffee Break

If you are in need of a well-deserved break, I would highly recommend heading up to the recently opened rooftop café “1648”. Which not only offers delicious coffee but has panoramic views across the city’s rooftops.

The silhouette of two women in Café 1648 enjoying the 12th-floor panoramic view of St.-Paulus-Dom.

Enjoying the view from Café 1648 

A little more culture

To make even further use of your Münster Card visit the Kunstmuseum Pablo Picasso. This museum was the first Pablo Picasso museum to open in Germany and is free to enter with you Münster Card.

The red brick building houses the Pablo Picasso museum extension.  The facade is grand in stature, but relatively plain except for the baroque style front door.

Pablo Picasso museum

Head to the upper floor of the Picasso museum and take a peek out of the window, you’ll get a great view of Picasso’s head detailed in the paving stones below.
 
LWL - Museum for Art and Culture is another venue you can visit free with your Münster Card. It displays over a thousand years of art history, from the middle ages to today. The LWL Museum also has some wonderful exhibitions; unfortunately, we were too early for the Turner exhibit, which starts in November 2019.

A brass art installation in front of the LWL - Museum for Art and Culture.  The modern  styled art gallery and museum is just a few minutes walk from the cathedral in this compact historical city.

LWL - Museum for Art and Culture

You may also notice while strolling around the city, the sculpture and public art exhibition.

Over 60 exhibits are dotted around Münster for you to find and they have been increasing since 1977.

An art instaltion of two cherries on a column by Thomas Schütte.  One of the many pieces of public art in the city.

Cherry Column by Thomas Schütte

Discover for yourself

Head off on you own self-guided sculpture tour and download the map with this free app.

Keep a lookout

You’ll find Münster to be a lovely compact city, and to me, this is part of its charm. However, there are always more to delightful qualities to keep an eye out for.
 
Firstly, the six carillons (glockenspiels) located around the town, there is the one I mentioned in the Dom. Another on Nonhoff House along Rothenburg but see if you can spot the others.

A public carillion, or series of bells, above an ornate clockface showing world times and lunar phases.

Carillon (glockenspiel) on Nonhoff House

A statue of a historical travelling merchant over a water fountain surrounded by tabes & chairs of the nearby reasturant, bars & cafes.

The Kiepenkerl Fountain

Also, the Kiepenkerl statue and fountain, located by Bergstrasse. This charming statue depicts the local roaming merchant in the Münsterland. They roamed from the town to the countryside carrying their laden down panniers, "Kiepe".
 
One thing that certainly will not go unnoticed during your visit to Münster is the number of bikes and how well the city has become very bike-friendly.
 
There are on average 2 to 3 bicycles per person in Münster, and lots of the streets are now for only bikes and public transport. They even have dedicated underground bike parks, just like a car park to keep your bike safe during the day.

A series of bikes linned up in Kreuzstrasse, a colourful street full of traditional bars and houses all painted in bright colours.  At the end of the lanes you can see the bell tower of the church Überwasserkirche.

Bicycles along Kreuzstrasse

Two traditional bicycles decorated with baubles, tinsel and other ornaments parked up on their stands on the street side.  Münster has German's capital of bicycles with more bikes than people.

Bicycle getting festive in October

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Our Accommodation

Schloss Wilkinghege, our accommodation for our stay in Münster, is a beautiful early 18th Century country house, although its history dates back to 1311.  The impressive brick building, with curved steps leading to the main door, provides a warm, classy reception.

Schloss Wilkinghege

During our stay in Münster, we were hosted by Schloss Wilkinghege. The hotel is set in an incredibly peaceful location, just nearby the local golf course. The morning quack of ducks was a pleasure to wake up to.

Our suite in Schloss Wilkinghege. A beautiful, traditionally styled but modern room.  The large double bed is equipped with individual, single, continent quilts, a spacious sofa, a relaxing arm car with coffee table and breakfast table with two additional chairs.  The room overlooks the moat that surrounds the castle.

Our suite in Schloss Wilkinghege

The staff were extremely accommodating and friendly.

The hotel is slightly out of the city centre, which was ideal for us, as there were ample free parking and only a 20 minutes bus journey into town.

The room was incredibly comfortable, clean & very peaceful.

There was plenty of room in the lounge area, and the desk was a good size, allowing us to set-up our charging station, and work comfortably on the laptop.

In Summary


The brightly lit, vaulted basement cellar that is now the breakfast room of Schloss Wilkinghege.

The Breakfast room

There was a wide variety of food and fresh drinks for breakfast, and all served in the Schloss Wilkinghege cellar.

A breakfast course at Schloss Wilkinghege of natural yoghurt and cherry compote, with a glass of orange juice.  The breakfast selection is extensive and of the finest quality.

Easing into breakfast

German Cuisine

When Gary and I travel anywhere, we always make an effort to try the local food and drink. Also, keep an eye out for some traditional inn’s and restaurants to sample them in.

The wrought iron sign of Altes Gasthaus Leve.  The restaurant sign depicts a chef with a wooden sport.

Altes Gasthaus Leve

Well, there could only be one place for us to head and that was "Altes Gasthaus Leve". Münster's oldest inn and 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

Local Tipple

If you fancy sampling one or maybe two of Germany's beers, you can also try these in Altes Gasthaus Leve. They have a range of beers from local Brauerei Pinkus Müller, which dates from 1816.

The beer signs of the selection of ales available in Altes Gasthaus Leve.  The range of beers offers a choice from around Germany, including a local ale.

A range of beers in Altes Gasthaus Leve

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Disclaimer

This article was produced in partnership with Münster Marketing, in exchange for an honest review and an account of our personal experiences.

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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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Comments

  1. What a lovely German city to explore! I’m pinning this for future travel planning. I’m entranced by this German architecture!

  2. Great post, enjoyed reading it. Rococo so far up north? I was not aware. It’s a very popular style in Upper Bavaria. Looks like I’ll have to visit. My brother in law’s from there, so might combine this.

    1. Author

      Thanks Stefan, we really loved the city, wonderful history. Apparently the Clemenskirche is locally known as the Bavarian church. Which town is your brother-in-law from?

  3. Great post with beautiful photos and interesting facts. I have saved it for future reference. Munster is added on to my list. I was shocked to read the about gruesome cage history of the church. Enjoyed reading this post with detailed information. #farawayfiles

    1. Author

      Thanks very much for your comments. Munster is definitely worth visiting, it’s a lovely small city and as you mentioned some strange tales.

  4. I’m fascinated to read about the woman who blows the horn from the top of the church nearly every night. I bet it’s cold up there in the winter! And two to three bikes per person makes it quite a bike city too! A really interesting read for #farawayfiles.

  5. Author

    Yes, when we chatted to the Tower Keeper, she said that she has to go out come rain or shine. Martje said that it can get quite icy up there in the winter too (I don’t think I could do it). However, she absolutely loves her job and very proud of it.

  6. I would definitely go on a walking tour in this city. There is so much history and I love the architecture.

    1. Author

      Yes, it was really worth it, we found out so many tales and facts about the city. It’s lovely size place to stroll around too.

  7. I never considered visiting Münster, but you’ve certainly made it look appealing! Much prettier than I had imagined, and I love those lamps! They have lamps like that in Heppenheim! #FarawayFiles

    1. Author

      Yes, it was a lovely city, nice and compact and lots of history. We were in Heppenheim earlier this year and noticed all their street lamps.

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