If you live in Stuttgart you may have visited Esslingen as it’s in the Baden-Württemberg region and only 9 miles (14 kilometers) away to the south-east. If you haven’t been there, then it is worth considering for a day trip or for a break. Its full name is Esslingen am Neckar as it lies on the banks of the River Neckar.
Esslingen am Neckar was founded more than 1,200 years ago and was first mentioned in a written document in 866, when the Abbot Fulrad, who resided in the monastery of St Denis in Paris, bequeathed his cell in Hetsilinga (modern Esslingen) to the monastery in the event of his death.
However it was in the 13th and 14th centuries that Esslingen came into its own with the building of the city church, the Church of Our Lady, the Dominican and Franciscan Churches, as well as many monasteries, gates, towers and administrative buildings. The old town of Esslingen boasts 860 historic buildings and is really picturesque, with its cobbled lanes and alleys and canals. You can really step back in time when you explore this area.
Things to Include on your Itinerary
- There are several museums in Esslingen including the Stadtmuseum in Gelben Haus, which houses artifacts found in the city and the surrounding area. The exhibits date back as far as the early Middle Ages and go through to the present day.
- The J. F. Schreiber Museum houses documents and items which illustrate the history of the Schreiber publishing house and the Schreiber family. If you are interested in the publisher’s history, this is the museum for you.
- The Museum St Dionys is actually underneath the Esslingen parish church of this saint, so that you can wander around the excavation site and go back almost to the time when the city was first founded.
In addition, there are also smaller museums in the city with interesting exhibits that warrant your visit. The ones listed above are the major museums in the city.
The galleries in Esslingen mainly house contemporary art, and exhibitions change throughout the year at the Villa Merkel and in its Mobiler Garten where installations can be viewed in the open-air.
There are several types of ghost tours you can take in Esslingen, and you can also have a three course meal after the tour in an historic setting. Hear tales of murderers, executioners, ghosts and witches and demons. These tours are not for the faint-hearted!
Take a tour of the city
If you prefer not to wander around to discover the city for yourself (perhaps time is limited), then you might like to take the city tour (in English or other languages) and see all the important and beautiful parts of this historic former Free Imperial city. The tour lasts for an hour and a half, and takes you up to the Burg or castle that towers above the town.
The Burg is not a castle in the usual sense, in that it was never occupied by a member of the nobility. It was built by the citizens of Esslingen as part of the town’s fortifications. The Hochwacht (High Watch Tower) as built in the 14th century and the Dicker Turm (Big Tower) was built in the 16th century when larger and more powerful weapons were used. There is a wonderful view from this vantage point.
Events and Festivals
The Esslinger Cultural Festival “Stadt im Fluss” (“City on the River”) takes place every three years, so there will be one in 2015. The main focus of this festival is the river and the canals that flows through the city. It won an award from the Lebendige Stadt Foundation in 2013 for being one of the most beautiful of all the festivals in Germany.
Esslingen Medieval Market and Christmas Market
If you are visiting Esslingen in winter, go to the Christmas market which is one of the biggest in the region with more than 200 stalls for you to browse through. The Esslingen Medieval and Christmas market is unique, with stall-holders dressed in historical costumes, so bringing to life the atmosphere of markets held in the town in its past. Craftsmen demonstrate their skills and there are also artistes to entertain shoppers.
Eating and Drinking in Esslingen
The building that houses the Weinkeller Einhorn at Heugasse 17 is more than 700 years old (although the sign outside says 1671) and a wine cellar. You need to book a table in advance, but then it’s yours for the evening. The food is delightful and seasonal as fresh local produce is used and you eat by candlelight in the cellar.
Osteria La Vite
If you are hankering for cuisines other than German, try Osteria La Vite located at Blumenstrasse, 15. This has Italian and other Mediterranean cuisines, which will tempt your palette. Both the service and food are excellent.
For good food at reasonable prices, you probably couldn’t do better than eat at Martplatzbesen, located at Marktplatz 3. The food is typical Bavarian using fresh, seasonal, and local produce. Its central position means that you can find it easily. Book in advance to be sure of a table.
Kessler champagne cellar: Sektkellerei Kessler
A visit to Esslingen wouldn’t be complete without tasting the locally produced Kessler champagne. Why not try it at the Sektkellerei Kessler at Marktplatz 21-23? The original vaulted cellar is part (now) of the company’s home and main production site, located in the Speyrer Pfleghof, a building with an impressive façade that was built in the early 13th century. The history of the production of this, Germany’s oldest champagne, as well as tastings can be found at Kessler Karrée 18.
Getting to Esslingen am Neckar