Nestled in the picturesque Odenwald nature park, the enchanting town of Michelstadt in southern Hesse is a must-visit destination for day-trippers from Frankfurt. Michelstadt boasts of several charming districts, including Reinbach and Stockheim, but the old town is the highlight with its stunning architecture and vibrant atmosphere.
As you stroll through the cobbled streets of the old town, you’ll be transported back in time by the exquisite half-timbered houses and quaint shops lining the way. Exploring the old town can take anywhere from one to three hours, depending on your preferences. However, if you’re keen on discovering the other sights in the surrounding countryside, be prepared to spend a few more hours here.
I have been to Michelstadt’s old town several times, and it never fails to impress me. I always enjoy getting lost in the charming streets and discovering new hidden gems. The town has a magical quality that keeps me coming back, and I never get bored exploring all that it has to offer.
To help you make the most of your time in Michelstadt’s old town, I have grouped the must-visit attractions into five sections. And If you’re short on time, you can narrow down your options and choose which sights to see first:
- 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 Buildings around the market square
The old town is conveniently located next to a large parking area. To access it, I usually walk through a charming arched stone walkway. The centre of the old town is the market square (Marktplatz), which is surrounded by several impressive buildings. These include the historical town hall (Altes Rathaus), a beautiful Renaissance fountain (Marktbrunnen), the Löwenhof, a grand baroque building, and numerous picturesque half-timbered houses.
Historical town hall (Altes Rathaus)
A Half-Timbered gem from the 15th century constructed in the 15th century, the old town hall is a charming example of half-timbered architecture. Moreover, the building’s entire structure is elevated on oak timbers, which adds to its unique character.
The stunning Renaissance fountain in Michelstadt’s market square features a statue of the Archangel Michael, who is believed to protect the town from evil with his sword. The fountain’s intricate design and attention to detail make it a must-see attraction.
In addition to the town hall and the beautiful Renaissance fountain, the Löwenhof is a delight of Michelstadt’s market square. This palace-like baroque building, along with the Gothic town hall, dominates the spacious square and adds to its vibrant atmosphere.
Originally built as an inn called “Zum Goldenen Löwen” in 1755 by the Löwenwirt and Countess Marshal J.N Friedrich, the Löwenhof served as a station for Thurn and Taxis stagecoaches. Visitors can still see the courtyard where the coach houses and stables once stood. From 1921 to 1976, it was also the seat of the city administration, making it an essential part of Michelstadt’s history.
The complex now accommodates various establishments, including the tourist information office and the charming Leyhausen café. A vintage blue mailbox affixed to the building inspires a sense of nostalgia, harking back to bygone days.
Michelstadt Castle (Burg Michelstadt)
Located in the south of the market square, the Michelstadt Castle has a rich history that dates back to the 10th century. The current structure resulted from reconstruction work in the 14th, 16th, and 17th centuries. Today, the castle is home to the Michelstadt City Museum. Take a few minutes’ walk from the historical town hall to explore this impressive castle.
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.
On the east side of the castle complex, you’ll find the former coach house building, which now houses a functional mill. The building was renovated by a private association and is open to the public on selective weekdays.
Diebsturm (theft tower)
To the west of the storage building, you’ll see the 13th-century theft tower, which was once used as a prison. The lower floor was completely closed off with bricks and had no doors or windows. Prisoners were lowered into the room from above with a rope.
The castle’s park
Just outside the old wall and next to the castle complex, a small green area with tall trees provides a peaceful oasis. The dense leaves create a natural canopy, providing shade. It is a great spot for a leisurely walk or a rest after a long day of exploring Michelstadt.
The half-timbered houses in Michelstadt
Michelstadt’s Old Town features of timber-frame houses, with numerous buildings showcasing this distinctive architectural style. In addition to the historical town hall, you’ll find cafes, hotels, banks, local shops, and more with half-timbered facades.
Among the many charming half-timbered houses in the area, two stand out as particularly noteworthy. The first is a renowned coffee shop that draws visitors from near and far, while the second is a popular hotel-restaurant that offers both excellent accommodations and delicious dining options.
This cozy cafe is conveniently located next to the city hall and offers both indoor and outdoor seating options. In addition to their variety of beautifully arranged cakes, they also offer a range of coffee and tea options. Sweets and cookies are also available for purchase. But what really sets this cafe apart is its unique ice cream combinations. I once tried the Mango-Chilli flavor, which may sound bold and exotic, but it was surprisingly delicious. The owner is a creative baker who has won many prizes for his inventive treats, which are proudly displayed in the shop.
Hotel-Restaurant Drei Hasen
Located just a stone’s throw away from the historical town hall, the Hotel-Restaurant Drei Hasen is a place for foodies. Its restaurant offers delicious local cuisine, and I can still remember the time I paired their fish with a type of German Riesling. It was a meal to remember. In addition, the restaurant is family-friendly and even offers a special menu called “Häschen – Karte” for kids.
If you plan to attend any of the many events hosted in Michelstadt, this hotel has a convenient location and provides easy access to all the festivities.
Other single point of interests, Synagogue, and the City Church
The Michelstadt Synagogue survived the persecution of the Jews by the Nazis in southern Hesse, and though the interior was destroyed, the building remained intact. After renovation in the post-war years, the structure was repurposed as the Jewish Museum. Named after Landesrabbiners Dr. I. E. Lichtigfeld, who led Jewish communities in Hesse from 1954-1967, the museum showcases religious items, archives, and photos of former Jewish citizens, offering insights into their past social, religious, and political conditions.
Stadtkirche (City Church)
Dating back to the year 1461, the city church has a rich history. Construction was finalized in 1537, and the church has since become home to numerous grave monuments in different styles that double as sculptural works.
Famous festivals in Michelstadt old town
Michelstadt offers not only stunning sights but also a multitude of festivals to participate in. Among the most famous are the Bienenmarkt, Wockenmarkt, and Christmas Market. Surely, attending any of these festivals will provide you with an authentic experience of the local culture and lifestyle.
Annually, the Bienenmarkt festival kicks off on the Friday preceding Pfingsten and spans for ten days, drawing tens of thousands of attendees as one of southern Hesse’s significant events. Besides a range of sports and cultural activities, visitors enjoy various entertainments, including a children’s festival on Wednesdays. Notably, the festival’s pinnacle is the flower parade held on the last market Sunday.
Wochenmarkt (Weekly market)
Every Friday from 8 am to 1 pm, the weekly market takes place on the Bienenmarkt parking lot, where local farmers offer fresh regional produce. Visitors can find a range of products such as vegetables, cheese, sausage, meat, and fresh eggs, all of which are not only organic but also guaranteed to be free of additives.
Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market)
Located among the top ten most beautiful Christmas markets in Germany, the Christmas market in Michelstadt features over 100 market stalls selling exquisite handmade arts and crafts. Furthermore, visitors can enjoy a festive atmosphere throughout the town, with various wine taverns, cafes, and restaurants serving traditional treats.
Where to stay in the old town
An online booking platform rates two other hotels in the old town centre incredibly highly, besides Hotel-Hotel-Restaurant Drei Hasen.
Ferienhaus Gloecknerhaus is an apartment with timbered architecture as well. In addition, the traditional German house provides a warm home feeling.
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 to Michelstadt is by car, which takes around 54 minutes via A3/B45, covering a distance of approximately 74 kilometres from Frankfurt International Airport. Alternatively, visitors can easily reach Michelstadt from both Frankfurt and Darmstadt by taking the train, which takes around one hour. Besides, Michelstadt is within the public transportation network of the Rhein-Main-Vekehrsverbund (RMV), and train tickets can be purchased on their website (www.rmv.de) or at the ticket machines.
Interesting sites in the surrounding countryside
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.
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.
Oh I found this spot too last year on a trip to Germany. I agree it is a complete hidden gem.