Germany is awash with charming medieval towns packed with picturesque cobblestone streets and half-timbered houses. One of the most beautiful of these medieval towns is Miltenberg (map). This little town, located in Lower Franconia (Bavaria), lies on a narrow strip of land between a bend of the Main River and the forested hills of the Odenwald. The old town, with its quaint houses, hidden alleys and gorgeous squares, is a delight to explore. You can walk along the Haupstrasse (Main Street) from one end to the other in about 30 minutes but I recommend spending more time in Miltenberg to truly appreciate its romantic ambiance and variety of cultural, natural and culinary attractions. Here are twelve things to do in Miltenberg and its surroundings:
Miltenberg can trace its history all the way back to pre-Roman times. However, the town as we know it today had its beginnings in the 13th century. Most of the approximately 150 half-timbered houses, which give the town its fairy-tale like appearance, were built between the 15th and 18th centuries. These days, Miltenberg is a popular stop on any Franconia travel itinerary, especially in the summer. Visit Miltenberg during the shoulder months like May-June or September-October and you’ll have a more tranquil experience. Here are my recommended things to do and see in Miltenberg:
1. Stroll along the Hauptstrasse
Hauptstrasse is Miltenberg’s Main Street and where you’ll find most of the town’s attractions. A leisurely walk from Mainzer Tor to Würzburger Tor (the town’s two historic tower gates) at either end of the street takes about 30 minutes but take your time to enjoy the atmosphere, admire the half-timbered houses and pop into some of the shops.
2. Enjoy Schnatterloch
Schnatterloch is Miltenberg’s famous old market square. Lined by stunning houses and the imposing St. Jakobus (St. James Church), and with a beautiful fountain in the middle, Schnatterloch is very photogenic. Stop at one of the cafés, order a drink and take in the gorgeous scenes, which are especially lively on market days.
3. Climb up to Mildenburg
Mildenburg (Miltenberg Castle) overlooks the old town and dates back to the 12th century. From Schnatterloch, it’s a pretty easy climb up the steps to the castle. At the top, you’ll be rewarded with stunning panoramic views of the town, the Main River and the surrounding hills.
You can also visit the Museum Burg Miltenberg which houses a collection of icons and modern art. On the way down, I recommend taking either the road along the old city wall or the path through the forest which leads back to Schnatterloch.
4. Visit Museum Stadt Miltenberg
Museum Stadt Miltenberg is located at Schnatterloch. Housed in historic Renaissance houses, the museum traces the history of the town and the surrounding region.
5. Stay in a medieval hotel
If you’ve always wanted to stay in a medieval hotel, this is your chance! Miltenberg boasts several, all located in half-timbered houses of course. The most famous, Zum Riesen, is one of the oldest inns in Germany (and perhaps the world)! Founded in the 15th century, the inn has hosted, amongst others, two Holy Roman Emperors, Napoleon and Elvis Presley!
I stayed at Schmuckkästchen which overlooks Schnatterloch (and therefore enjoys my preference). Inside, you’ll find creaky staircases, ancient wooden beams and rooms with beautiful views of the market square. It also houses a restaurant and wine bar. Search for accommodations in Miltenberg (Booking.com).
6. Go for a walk along the Main River
A lovely promenade runs along the river, making it a wonderful place for a leisurely walk. I recommend a stroll along the promenade just before sunset. Start at the Mainbrücke (Main River bridge), where you’ll have great views of the town.
Continue along the river towards Faust (brewery, restaurant and beer garden) where you can tuck into a meal with a river view or enjoy one of their brews.
7. Hike in the Odenwald and Spessart hills
The forested hills behind Miltenberg are perfect for a nature hike. There are numerous trails which lead to several viewpoints. Along the way, enjoy the beautiful foliage, gushing streams and stunning vistas. Check at the tourist office for the hiking routes.
8. Admire the Martinskapelle
Just a 5-minute drive or a 10-minute bike ride away lies the town of Bürgstadt. One of the foremost historic treasures in this sleepy wine town is Martinskapelle (St. Martin’s Chapel).
Built in the 10th century, this chapel is famous for its wall and ceiling paintings and is an amazing sight which shouldn’t be missed! The most prominent of the paintings are the 40 medallions depicting scenes from the Old and New Testaments.
If the chapel is closed, head over to the florist next door or the Churfranken Vinothek (see below) and ask for the key.
9. Visit the Churfranken Vinothek
Bürgstadt is packed to the brim with wineries (the vineyards grace the slopes of the hills just outside the town). Each winery takes its turn opening its doors to visitors for wine and food tastings. In the centre of the town, opposite the old Town Hall, lies the Churfranken Vinothek, the regional wine store.
Here, you’re able to purchase local wines, arrange a wine-tasting (at Churfranken Vinothek or in the vineyards) and obtain a schedule of the Bürgstadt wineries’ opening days/times.
10. Hike the Rotweinwanderweg
This region produces some of the best red wines in Germany. The Frankischer Rotweinwanderweg (Franconian Red Wine Trail) is a 30 kilometer hiking route along the terraced vineyards from Bürgstadt and Miltenberg to Grosswallstadt. You’ll pass forests, fields and mile after mile of vineyards, with spectacular views as a bonus. Inquire about the route at the Miltenberg or Bürgstadt tourist office.
11. Visit Schloss Löwenstein
Schloss Löwenstein (location) is an 18th century, late-Baroque castle located in the town of Kleinheubach, a 5-minute drive from Miltenberg. Visit the castle, in which many rooms have been beautifully restored, and stroll around the leafy gardens. In the adjacent old town, built in the form of a square, visit the historic Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall).
12. Visit Fürstliche Abtei Amorbach
The Fürstliche Abtei Amorbach or Amorbach Abbey (location) is a former Benedict monastery which has a history that dates back to as early as the 8th century. A 15-minute drive from Miltenberg, the abbey was completely refurbished in a late-Baroque/Rococo style. In the 18th century, the abbey was further renovated and featured, at the time, the largest organ in the world.
Medieval towns like Miltenberg and Tübingen are one of the reasons I love visiting Germany. If you’re visiting Bavaria or Franconia, I recommend spending at least a night in Miltenberg. Visit the tourist office website for more info.
How to get to Miltenberg
The closest international airport to Miltenberg is Frankfurt, about an hour’s drive away or 1.5 hours by train. I recommend including Miltenberg in a longer trip along the Main River from Frankfurt to Nuremberg by car or train.