Day Trips

12 Surprisingly Beautiful Small Towns in Germany

There is something a little magical about German small towns. I can never quite put my finger on it, but I truly love them. Whether it is the half-timbered houses, the quiet peacefulness, or the hanging planter boxes on every house, small town Germany is endlessly charming to me. My husband and I love to go on roadtrips, especially in Germany with it’s amazing roads. Oftentimes, we take the scenic routes simply because they lead us through smaller towns and even rural hamlets.

We’ve had some really sweet and cute interactions in small towns, and it has helped us understand this foreign country we live in a little bit better. I never get sick of visiting these off-the-beaten path German towns because there is an earnest, resilient, realness to them. One of the beautiful things about exploring these lesser-known places is that you can simply enjoy it, without a long laundry list of highlights to cross off. This is what slow travel is all about. Many of the small towns on this list can be seen together as day trips from larger cities, so it is easy to add onto an existing Germany vacation.

I recommend traveling to these towns with an open mind and an open itinerary, leaving you flexible to stay as long or as short as you want. Without an agenda of things to see or do, you can simply admire the small town scenery. There is so much charm to enjoy and quiet streets to photograph. I hope you will fall in love with small town Germany as much as I have after visiting a few of these places.

These are the 12 Cutest Small Towns in Germany

Small Towns in Bavaria

Mittenwald

Location: Along Austrian Border (105km from Munich or 40km from Innsbruck)

The absolutely heart-warming and adorable town of Mittenwald is one of my favorite places that I have visited in Germany, and I would absolutely recommend booking a hotel here for a night or two as you explore the Alpine region of Bavaria. It literally feels like you have walked onto a fairytale movie set with its painted facade buildings and hobbit-like hovels. Try some local Bavarian cuisine at Gaststaette am Kurpark restaurant and wash it down with beer from Brauereigaststätte Postkeller. You should also get the pretzel soup there because it is f*cking delightful. If you’re looking for something a little fancier, the tiny town of Mittenwald is home to Michelin star eatery — Das Marktrestaurant.

Rothenberg ob der Tauber

Location: Northern Bavaria (80km from Nuremberg)

Known for its medieval architecture, I can almost guarantee you’ve seen pictures of Rothenberg ob der Tauber on the cover of a German guide book or as a banner image on blogs featuring German travel tips. Maybe you didn’t realize at the time, but the slightly slanted Plönlein landmark in Rothenberg ob der Tauber is one of the most photographed places in Germany. I decided to visit this charming town with my parents, after learning that it is my grandfather’s favorite place in all of Germany. He is 90 now and can’t fly to Europe, but he still speaks fondly of his visit to Rothernberg over 40 years ago — so we decided to visit in his stead! 

The well-preserved town walls are a highlight in Rothenberg, and they surround almost the entire city. Many of the original gate houses and towers are still preserved. You can walk along the exterior walls, or through the cobblestone lanes of the town, simply exploring and getting lost in the old world charm. Regardless of how you get around, this town will bring a smile to your face because it is just SO STINKIN’ CUTE. During the day, the town can get congested, so I would recommend spending a night here to get a better feel and avoid the crowds. Golden Hour after everyone has left for the day is pretty gorgeous. I absolutely loved my stay at the family owned Burg Hotel on the city walls.

Small Towns in NRW

Monschau

Location: Along Belgian Border (100km from Cologne)

Surrounded by the rolling hills and volcanic remains of Eifel National Park, Monschau is a little piece of Medieval charm in far western Germany. Slate grey half-timbered houses and narrow cobblestone streets are characteristic in Monschau, and you can really get a view of the town from the Haller Castle Ruins. You can continue walking around on Panoramaweg, or head back into town to explore the quiet streets. This part of Germany does get snow in the winter, and a fresh snow draws in photographers interested in snapping a perfect shot of the Medieval homes dusted in white. 

Monschau is pretty well-known, and you’ll see that a lot of the old town caters to tourists’ needs. Nonetheless, meander back and forth across the river for lovely views of the half-timbered homes. I particularly like the views from Ruhrstraße bridge. Compared to other places on this list, Monschau is exceptionally small. There is not a ton to do here, and I think you could easily explore in a few hours. No need for an overnight visit, unless you were planning on hiking and natural explorations in the Eifel.

Bad Münstereifel

Location: Upper Middle Rhine Region (90km from Frankfurt)

One of the largest towns on this list is Bad Münstereifel. It has historically been a spa town thanks to its thermal waters, and it is home to approximately 17,000 inhabitants. Many visitors use it as a jumping off destination within the Eifel because of its central location and good public transit connectivity. I really enjoyed walking along the old city walls in Bad Münstereifel, offering lovely views over the city. There are also a number of picturesque churches and watch towers to wander into.

Don’t miss a walk along the Erft River which meanders its way through town. There are historic buildings on either side, and it is rather picturesque at Golden Hour. Bad Münstereifel also has a strong local business scene with a number of shops and restaurants to enjoy. These small business owners were impacted hard by the flooding in July 2021, which did a lot of damage in Bad Münstereifel. It is extra important for tourists to come and patronize local businesses. Consider spending a night or two in the town to support the ongoing recovery!

Small Towns in Rheinland-Pfalz

Bacharach

Location: Upper Middle Rhine Region (90km from Frankfurt)

Probably the cutest of all the Upper Middle Rhine towns, Bacharach is a genuinely enchanting place to explore while traveling along the Romantic Rhine. It draws lots of tourists for its time-capsule quaintness, but don’t let that scare you off. It never feels overwhelmingly crowded, especially as you tuck into quaint alleys and lantern-lit streets. There are plenty of wood timbered houses in Bacharach to snap photos of, but don’t miss the one that dates back to 1368! It is called the ‘Altes Haus’ or old house in German. Now it serves as a restaurant perfect for lunch or dinner. 

For some town views, take a short walk uphill to the Wernerkapelle Ruins, which make a great Instagram backdrop. Also take a peek inside St. Peter Church, a great representation of German romanesque and early French gothic architecture. Above the town, you’ll see Burg Stahleck, a medieval castle that now serves as a youth hostel, the Jugendherberge Stahleck. The hostel still rents cheap rooms to travelers of all ages with no surcharge for breakfast.

Monreal

Location: Between Eifel and Mosel Valleys (95km from Cologne)

I mean just look at that photo?!? The CUTEST! Can you picture a more German looking small town? I’m not sure I can. Monreal is listed on almost no tourist must-see lists – it is really tiny – but it was one of my favorite spots in my region of Germany. My husband and I stumbled upon it during an Eifel road trip and just loved our few short hours there. Where Monschau is well-known, Monreal will make you feel like you are the only tourist in town. I loved seeing local people sweeping their stoops and shaking out rugs from the window. There is a simpleness to Monreal that is alluring and lovely.

You can easily visit Monreal in an hour or two. Park outside the main town on Grabenstraße, and follow the literal babbling brook into the town. There is a catholic church on one end and a small Marktplatz in the center of town. You can hike up to the ruined castles of Löwenburg and Philippsburg which loom above the town. They are completely open with hardly any visitors, so this is a great place for photos. Try to support a local business before leaving, such as grabbing a coffee at Cafe Plüsch or have lunch at Gasthaus Zum Elztal.

Oberwesel

Location: Upper Middle Rhine Region (95km from Frankfurt)

I visited Oberwesel with my family when I was a child, and I have distinct memories of our stay at Burghotel Auf Schönburg. Something about sleeping in a 1,000 year old castle will stay with a kid. When I moved to Germany with my husband in 2019, we decided to celebrate our wedding anniversary with a stay at Burghotel Auf Schönburg in Oberwesel. Each room in the castle is unique and your overnight rate includes full board, including wine. The views here are incredible, and you can visit the attached museum and gardens for free. 

Now Oberwesel isn’t just about sleeping in a castle. The town itself is also worth a wander, especially if you are touring the Upper Middle Rhine Valley without a cruise. It is a primary stop for ferries and trains, so it is easily accessible. The main street of Oberwesel is lined with homes adorned with perfect flower boxes. It is incredibly lively in town during autumn when the wine festivals and Riesling harvest is going on. You can even catch the Rhine in Flames fireworks show if you are here in September. 

Cochem

Location: Mosel Valley (115km from Cologne)

If you happen to be exploring the Mosel Valley and surrounding wine regions, Cochem is likely a place you’re planning to visit. It is one of the major towns on the Mosel River and is well connected with ferry and train connections. There may not be a lovelier scene in the Mosel than the town of Cochem, with its historic castle surrounded by hilly wine vineyards.

Like so many of the other towns on this list, Cochem has half-timbered houses, cobblestone streets and medieval gates. But the real draw of Cochem is Reichsburg Castle, one of the most Instagrammable castles in all of Germany. Precariously perched 300 feet above the banks of the Mosel River, the origins of this castle date back to 1100. Reichsburg Castle has seen many iterations over its long history, and you can learn all about it on a guided tour of the interior. If you are more interested in the views of the Mosel and surrounding area, you can simply amble up the shop-lined streets of Cochem at your own pace up until you reach the castle.

Beilstein

Location: Mosel Valley (115km from Cologne)

Maybe my favorite small town on this entire list, Beilstein has a special place in my heart. Located on a picturesque bend in the Mosel River, you can easily stop here on the same day as Cochem (above). What I love about Beilstein is all the coordinating building facades. It’s like local people purposely paint and decorate the exteriors of their home to match each other.

It feels like a living museum, and clearly some tourists treat it that way because you’ll see signs that say things like “We Actually Live Here” or “Private Property, don’t just walk into our house”. The planter boxes and hanging flowers are the cherry on top of this picturesque place! 

Because Beilstein is situated in the heart of the Mosel, there are a lot of wine-focused shops and restaurants in town. You can do a Reisling flight at Winzerschenke to sample some of the best white wines coming out of the Mosel. You absolutely must have a meal at Zehnthauskeller. I ate the best Flammkuchen of my life there! I loved it so much that we returned two nights in a row.  

Small Towns in Saxony

Görlitz

Location: Along Polish Border (110km from Dresden)

Görlitz is a town straight out of a movie set. No really, there are a bunch of movies filmed here! It was the primary shooting location for Wes Anderson’s “Grand Budapest Hotel” and has scenes filmed from Inglorious Bastards, Monuments Men and the Book Thief as well. There is even of Gorliwood Walk of Fame if you’re interested in learning about all the movies filmed here! While you can visit Görlitz as a day trip from Dresden, we chose to spend the night there and I would probably recommend doing the same.

There are not necessarily ‘famous attractions’ to see in Görlitz per say, but really the entire town is just a cute place to wander around. Around seemingly every corner of the old city is a picturesque scene of candy colored houses, cobblestone streets, and bell-ringing churches. Sample the uniquely flavored regional dish “Silesian Heaven” while in Görlitz. Lightly smoked pork is slow cooked in a light cream sauce with regional fruits, like apricots, plums and apples to create a surprisingly delicious sweet and savory stew!

Moritzburg

Location: Outside of Dresden (18km from Dresden City Center)

In a tiny town outside of Dresden, you will find one of the most stunning examples of Baroque architecture in all of Germany — Moritzburg Palace. Surrounded by a colossal man-made pond, the pale yellow exterior is only the beginning of the splendor of this incredible palace. Moritzburg Palace is truly something to behold, showing off the incredible grandeur of the Saxon empire. I think this is a must-do day trip from Dresden, and it can be easily paired with Meissen (described below). If you have extra time, hop on a rental bike to ride from Moritzburg Palace to the Little Pheasants Castle at the end of the canal for even more Baroque beauty. 

This castle was the primary residence of notorious King Augustus the Strong. I really loved the content and layout of this museum because it tells a simple story — the life and lifestyle of King Augustus — but in an engaging way of ‘debunking’ common myths and depictions of this lively historic figure. You wander through the opulent wallpaper clad rooms of the palace while reading about the real lives of people that happened inside the palace. From sordid affairs to over-the-top feats of human strength, you are bound to learn at least a few interesting stories while wandering through the palace.

Meissen

Location: Outside of Dresden (28km from Dresden)

Meissen was the birthplace of porcelain making in Europe in the early 1700s. The origin of this 300+ year tradition dates back to King Augustus who was an avid art collector, with porcelain being one of his favorite mediums. He started a royal commission specifically for the production and perfection of porcelain in Meissen. I can’t say I was particularly interested in porcelain prior to visiting Meissen (I always thought of it as an outdated thing to collect) but I was surprised by how much I learned and enjoyed it.

You can learn about the history of porcelain making (along with plenty of other regional history) at the towering Albrechtsberg Palace in the center of town. You can tour Albrechtsberg on your own without an organized tour, and actually the interior of Albrechtsberg is packed with well-designed exhibits. You could easily spend several hours here if you read all of the material. I particularly liked the helpful signage at this museum! For examples of the best porcelain pieces, definitely check out the porcelain museum in Dresden. Make sure to pop across the river after your visit to snap a great photo of Albrechtsberg Palace overlooking the charming town.

Did I miss any of your favorite small towns in Germany? Comment below!

1 Comment

  • afra
    May 25, 2024 at 5:09 pm

    I really should be researching my upcoming trip to the Mosel, but I am getting lost in all your fabulous posts. Such a pleasure to read and look at the pictures 🙂

    Reply

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