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Füssen, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Büsum or Kühlungsborn are too crowded for you? Fortunately, there are still numerous small towns in Germany that are at least as beautiful. We introduce you to nine great towns with picturesque old towns, exciting sights and lots of nature for hiking.
Rotenburg an der Fulda (Hessen)
The small town of Rotenburg has a number of historical sights to offer. The centre of the over 750-year-old town offers numerous half-timbered houses, a pretty town hall, parts of a medieval town wall with two round towers, the late Gothic Jakobi Church and a castle with a castle park.
Rotenburg Castle was built in its present form from 1579 for the Hessian Landgrave Wilhelm IV in the Renaissance style. Today it serves as a finance school. The castle park with its flowers, water features and the castle restaurant is particularly inviting.
The valley of the Fulda itself is also ideal for cycling. On the Fulda cycle path you can even float over the river on a bicycle cable car. With a crank and some muscle power, you can get from one bank to the other.
On the border of Lower Saxony and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, the small town of Lauenburg is located directly on the Elbe. Pretty half-timbered houses line the banks and the old town. The castle, with its tower and princely garden, towers above the town. From Lauenburg Castle you have a great view over the border triangle: from Schleswig-Holstein to Lower Saxony and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.
The upper and lower town are connected by stairs and alleyways. A historic steamboat invites you to take an idyllic trip on the Elbe. You can learn all about shipping on the Elbe in the Elbe Shipping Museum. The wooden Palmschleuse (palm lock) from 1398 and the bronze figure of the Lauenburg Rufer are also worth a visit. If you need a bit of luck, you should definitely touch the statue's brightly polished thumb.
Blaubeuren is famous for the Blautopf, which glows an intense turquoise depending on the incidence of light. The 22-metre-deep lake forms the entrance to the Blautopfhöhle cave, which contains the largest cave system in the Swabian Alb. But the small town itself is also pretty to look at.
You can explore the old town on a corresponding tour. It takes you about 1.5 kilometres through Blaubeuren along 13 pillars where you get information about your location and the next destination via QR code. This way you can discover the beautiful half-timbered houses, the winding alleys and cute shops during a leisurely stroll. You can also feel Blaubeuren at a tactile model on the church square.
The most beautiful half-timbered house is the Hohe Wi. The historic building from the 15th century has seven floors and is considered a cultural monument. If you want to see the town from above, either climb the Blaufels or visit the Günzelburg ruins.
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The small town of Mittweida is located on the Zschopau River, which has created a wild and romantic river landscape in the Saxon hill country. You can get an overview of the old town by climbing the tower of the town church of Our Lady. There are numerous parks and green spaces, a pretty market square and the Johannes Schilling House. The sculptor is considered one of the most important of the 19th century.
The romantic swan pond in Mittweida is also an inviting place to linger. From there you can reach Mittweida's new open-air swimming pool. The town's water tower, with its colourful clinker brick façade, is also a beautiful photo motif. This serves as a daily equalisation reservoir and at the same time as a fire-fighting reserve.
Silver used to be mined in Mittweida, and you can still visit two old mines today. A popular excursion destination on the river is a little further out. Kriebstein Castle, dating from the 14th century, is characterised by late-medieval oriel towers and ridge turrets that form an unmistakable roof silhouette.
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The small Hessian town of Melsungen also has an old town with impressive half-timbering. The half-timbered houses there line up to form a magnificent red and white ensemble reminiscent of life in the Middle Ages. But Melsungen Castle, built between 1550 and 1557 in the late Weser Renaissance style, also has half-timbered elements. In the castle park, an old stock of trees and the integrated pond lend the garden an idyllic ambience.
Melsungen is also known as the "Bartenwetzer town" because in the past most people worked as lumberjacks and set off in the morning with their axe (Barte in North German). You can see a Bartenwetzer at the town hall at 12 noon or 6 p.m. - the symbolic figure is on the little tower. Two more Bartenwetzers can also be found on the Bartenwetzer Bridge, from where you have a great view over the Fulda.
Meersburg on Lake Constance (Baden-Württemberg)
As the name suggests, Meersburg am Bodensee is located directly on the shores of Lake Constance. Surrounded by vineyards, it's worth taking a bike ride along the lake or a hike in the mountains followed by a wine tasting and a stroll through the town's winding alleyways.
The old town is also home to numerous cultural monuments. These include the Red House, the oriel house Zum Bären, the Obertor or the Burgweganlagen. Meersburg Castle is the town's landmark - it is considered the oldest inhabited castle in Germany.
Surrounded by mountains, the small town of Mittenwald is located on the northern edge of the Alps. Rustic huts, impressive waterfalls, a cooling gorge and fantastic lakes make up the town. In addition, the Isar river flows past Mittenwald - so relaxation in nature is guaranteed when hiking or cycling.
In addition to the numerous natural wonders, the old town is one of the sights. The Lüftl paintings on Obermarkt around the church of St. Peter and Paul are a particular eye-catcher. A large part of the colourful façade paintings date back to the 18th century.
Also interesting: violin making has been practised in Mittenwald since 1689, as the necessary wood grows there in the mountains. You can find out all about it in the violin making museum.
Brüggen (North Rhine-Westphalia)
The small town of Brüggen is located on the left bank of the Lower Rhine in the middle of the 435 square kilometre Schwalm-Nette Nature Park and borders on the Netherlands. Those looking for recreation in the countryside will find it in the adjacent forest or in the Tantelbruch nature reserve, among other places. There are also numerous lakes and a 120-kilometre-long network of paths that you can explore on foot or by bike.
In the old town, on the other hand, old alleys, romantic archways and picturesque mills await you. Brüggen Castle is the town's landmark. The building, which was first mentioned in a document in 1289, is now home to a hunting and natural history museum. The Brüggen mill from the same century also stands in the immediate vicinity. The water mill with its undershot water wheel is still worth seeing today.
Other important monuments in the municipality include the Kreuzherren monastery (now the town hall) and numerous churches, some of which are medieval. Among them: St. Nicholas Church (1479), the 14th-century Catholic parish church of St. Peter in Born and the Schleveringhoven fort from 1403.
Bad Doberan (Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania)
Once the summer residence of the dukes of Mecklenburg, the town of Bad Doberan on the Baltic Sea has lost none of its beauty. This is because the magnificent classicist buildings in the town centre and in Heiligendamm have been preserved. The town was founded in 1793 as the first seaside resort on the European continent.
Doberan Minster is part of the former Cistercian monastery and is one of the most important brick churches in the Baltic region. The church from the late 13th century fascinates with its almost completely preserved medieval furnishings. In addition, the monastery grounds have an old cemetery, a herb garden, a playground, a trim trail and a park.
Another eye-catcher is the "Molli" bathing train, which runs between Bad Doberan and Kühlungsborn. In Bad Doberan it crosses Alexandrinenplatz, enters Mollistraße and then steams on through the town. It serves as a tram, so you can get off and get back on later. This way you can explore Mollistraße in more detail - it offers numerous shops, cafés, bakeries, restaurants, bars, pubs and boutiques.