Michelstadt, a Hidden Gem in Germany’s Odenwald


Located in the heart of the Odenwald nature park in the south of Hesse, the beautiful historic old town of Michelstadt is a perfect day trip destination from Frankfurt. The city consists of several parts, such as the old town, Reinbach, Stockheim, etc. However, its old town is the main touristic place.

Cobbled streets, half-timbered houses, and shops fill up the old town centre. To visit the old town takes around one hour to three hours, depending on what things to do. But if you want to see all other sights in the surrounding countryside as well, then you need to plan for more hours.

I group the enjoyable things to do in the old town into five sections so that you can set your focus on where to visit based on your time:

  • Historical Buildings around the market square
  • Michelstadt Castle (Burg Michelstadt)
  • The half-timbered houses in Michelstadt
  • Other single points of interests, Synagogue and City Church (Stadtkirche)
  • Famous festivals in Michelstadt old town
Historical Town Hall in Michelstadt; Things to do in Michelstadt
Historical Town Hall in Michelstadt

Historical Buildings around the market square

The old town is just next to the big parking place. I usually walk through an arched stone walkway to reach the old town. The centre part is the market square (Marktplatz). The main buildings around the market square are the historical town hall (Altes Rathaus), a beautiful renaissance fountain (Marktbrunnen), a palace-like baroque building of the Löwenhof, and several half-timbered houses.

Historical town hall (Altes Rathaus)

Constructed in the 15th century, the old town hall is a delightful piece of half-timbered architecture, and its whole structure is perched on oak timbers.

Renaissance fountain

On top of the fountain is a statue of the Archangel Michael, who keeps evil away from the city with his sword.

Löwenhof
In addition to the town hall and a beautiful renaissance fountain, the Löwenhof is a special ornament on the market square. Together with the Gothic town hall, the palace-like baroque building of the Löwenhof dominates the spacious market square.

Built as an inn “Zum golden Löwen” around 1755 by the Löwenwirt and Countess Marshal J.N Friedrich, it later served as a station for Thurn and Taxis stagecoaches. Once I could still see the location of the coach houses and stables in the courtyard. And, from 1921 to 1976 it was the seat of the city administration.

The complex now houses, among other things, the tourist information office and the Leyhausen café. A blue mailbox attached to the building reminds of old times.

The baroque building of the Löwenhof
The baroque building of the Löwenhof
Side street next to the market square
Side street next to the market square

Michelstadt Castle (Burg Michelstadt)

The Michelstadt Castle originated from a Franconian Meierhof, whose previous building from the 10th century was destroyed in 1307. The current looking results essentially from the reconstruction work of the 14th century and the 16th and 17th centuries. You will find this castle in the south of the market square, about a few minutes of walking from the historical townhall.

The castle complexes

The complex was bought by the city of Michelstadt in 1970. Renovated in the following years, today it is the seat of the Michelstadt City Museum. The basement of the storage building is occasionally used for cultural events and various markets or as a concert hall during the “Michelstadt Music Night”.

Kainsbacher Mühle

On the east side is the building of the former coach house of the castle. A private association renovated the building and built a complete, functional mill in 1993. On selective weekdays it opens to the public.

Diebsturm

The theft tower (Diebsturm) to the west of the storage building probably still belonged to the old castle complex and thus dates from the 13th century. It got its name because it served as a prison.The lower floor was bricked up completely closed and had neither door nor window.The prisoners were placed down into the room from the floor above with a rope.

The castle’s park

Outside the old wall and direct next to the castle complex is a small piece of green area. Tall trees with dense leaves like huge sun sheds covering the small area. It is a pleasant moment to walk on the cobbled-stone walkway. When I get tired of walking, this is a silent place for a rest.

Burg Michelstadt; Things to do in Michelstadt
Burg Michelstadt

The half-timbered houses in Michelstadt

Michelstadt’s Old Town features many timber-frame houses. Other than historical town hall, many buildings, such as Cafes, hotels, bank, local shops, etc. have half-timbered architecture.

Among those half-timbered houses, two of them are worth mentioning here. The first one is a famous coffee shop and the second one is a famous hotel-restaurant.

Café Steifert

This local cafe house is just next to the city hall. It has a cosy inside and outside seating places. They offer many beautifully arranged cakes. Different type of coffees and teas are also available. You can also buy sweets and cookies there. What I like the most in this Café is its ice cream combination. Once I tried the Mango-Chilli ice cream, a bold and exotic combination. But it was surprisingly yummy. The owner has won many prizes for his creative baking ideas. You can see his prizes displayed in the shop.

Hotel-Restaurant Drei Hasen

Not far from the historical townhall, the Hotel-Restaurant Drei Hasen is worth to mention. Its restaurant offers delicious local cuisine. Once I tried its fish paired with a type of German Riesling, and it was so memorable. The restaurant is family-friendly and offers menu choices “Häschen – Karte” for kids.

The hotel is in the middle of the old town. If you plan to join one of its many events, this hotel is a good place to stay. It has more than 300 years history.

Café Steifert
Café Steifert

 

Other single point of interests, Synagogue, and the City Church

Synagogue

The Michelstadt Synagogue is one of the few Jewish houses of worship preserved in southern Hesse after the Nazi started the persecution of the Jews. The interior was once destroyed, but the structure remained intact. In the post-war years, the synagogue was renovated. But it was no longer used for worship purposes. Instead, the Jewish Museum was set up in the rooms. It bears the name of the Landesrabbiners dr. I. E. Lichtigfeld, who presided over the Jewish communities of the state of Hesse from 1954 to 1967 as a religious leader.

On display are religious items, archives, and photos of the former Jewish citizens. The collection gives an insight into the religious, social and political conditions of the Odenwald Jews during past centuries.

In 2005, the Landesrabbiner Dr. Salomon Almekias-Siegl generously donated a Thorarolle. Since then, the Jewish community of Michelstadt does worships in the synagogue again.

Stadtkirche (City Church)

The current presence of city church dates to the year 1461. The construction work was completed in 1537. Inside the church are numerous grave monuments. These are also sculptural works in different styles.

Synagogue in Michelstadt, Things to do in Michelstadt
Synagogue in Michelstadt

Famous festivals in Michelstadt old town

Michelstadt has not only sights to see but also many festivals to join. Some famous festivals are Bienenmarkt, Wockenmarkt, and Christmas Market. Join any of these festival you will experience the local culture and lifestyle.

Bienenmarkt

Every year the festival starts on Friday before Pfingsten and lasts ten days. Bienenmarkt  is one of the major events in southern Hesse with tens of thousands of visitors. The festival offers many sports, cultural activities and entertainments. The children’s festival takes place on Wednesdays and a special highlight is the flower parade on the last market Sunday.

Wochenmarkt (Weekly market)

The weekly market takes place every Friday from 8 am to 1 pm on the Bienenmarkt parking place. Local farmers sell fresh products from the region. The weekly market offers vegetables, cheese, sausage, meat or fresh eggs etc.  These local products have not only the organic quality but also  the guaranteed freshness.

Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market)

The Christmas market in Michelstadt is among the ten most beautiful Christmas markets in Germany. More than 100 market stalls offer handmade arts and crafts. Wine taverns, cafés and restaurants make the Christmas atmosphere in Michelstadt far beyond the usual.

Michelstadt Neighbourhood; things to do in Michelstadt Odenwald
Michelstadt Neighbourhood

Where to stay in the old town

Other than Hotel-Restaurant Drei Hasen, other two hotels in the old town centre are rated incredibly good by an online booking platform.

Ferienhaus Gloecknerhaus is an apartment with timbered architecture as well. The traditional German house provides a warm home feeling. It has four bedrooms and is good for big family or family and friends.

Malerwinkel & Tuchereck has the best rate for its location. It also has a half-timbered structure but with modern interior design.

How to get there

The best way to get there is by car. The driving time is around 54 minutes via A3/B45, and the distance is about 74 kilometres from Frankfurt International Airport.

You can also get there easily from both Frankfurt and Darmstadt by trains.  The trip takes around one hour. Since Michelstadt is within the public transportation network of the Rhein-Main-Vekehrsverbund (RMV), you can buy train tickets at www.rmv.de or the ticket machines.

Interesting sites in the surrounding countryside

Einhardsbasilika (Einhardsbasilika)

The Basilika in the Steinbach district of Michelstadt is old. It was built after 815 and before 827 by a court scholar Einhard.

Schloss Fürstenau (Schlossplatz 1-2 64720 Michelstadt-Steinbach)

The Electorate of Mainz built this moated castle around 1250 to protect his possessions. Today the entire still inhabited palace complex is one of the most beautiful German castles.

Eulbacher Park (Eulbach-Jagdschloß, 64720 Michelstadt)

The park has a hunting castle (Jagdschloss Eulbach) with an english landscape park and a Roman monuments and archaeological sites from the Odenwald.

Erbach

Two kilometres done the road, Erbach borders in the north on the town of Michelstadt. It has long been the residence of the Counts of Erbach. Interesting sites are such as timber-frame houses on the Mümling, Castle of the Counts of Erbach-Erbach, Memorial to Count, old townhouse, etc.

Market square in Erbach, Odenwald, Germany
Market square in Erbach, Odenwald, Germany

 

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