If you’re looking to experience the “German” of Germany, there’s nothing better than taking on the challenge, traveling 3,000 kilometers and visiting all of the half-timbered houses along the way.
I haven’t made this route up, it does exist and in German it’s called The Deutsche Fachwerkstraße, otherwise known as The German Half-Timbered House Road.
It was founded in 1990 and stretches along the Elbe (northern Germany) down to Lake Constance (in the very south). There are 7 different regional routes which make up 3,000 kilometers, so you can pick one or you can pick them all.
During a short visit from my family, I decided to travel the yellow route since it’s closest to home. This route takes you from the Western Forest along the Lahn Valley to Taunus and the River Main. There are 9 small half-timbered towns on this route including Dillenburg, Herborn, Wetzlar, Braunfels, Hadamar, Limburg, Bad Camberg, Idstein and Höchst.
From the Wilhelms Tower in Dillenburg, through the old town church of Herborn, along the ruins of Kalsmunt in Wetzlar all the way to Porcelain Factory in Höchst, there is tons to see and do along this half-timbered route.
On our specific trip, we picked 3 out of the 9 (based on a little bit of Google searching) and decided to visit Idstein, Limburg and Braunfels and then adding in our own little timbered-house pick of the trip, Freudenberg.
Home to approximately 25,000 people, the small town of Idstein is a quaint little place along The German Timber-Frame route. Idstein’s old town (Altstadt) can be explored in less than an hour and if you pop into the tourist information center (not hard to find), you can grab a map of the town which will lead you on a small tour exploring some of their most recognized buildings like the crooked house and the witches tower.
If you’re planning on taking a visit to Idstein, perhaps a little bit of history may be of interest?
The town was first documented in 1102 formerly known as Etichenstein (if you say it out loud, it’s very similar to the new name Idstein). The oldest building still standing is in the center of the old town and was built in 1410. Idstein was granted rights by King Rudolph of Habsburg back in 1287. In the 18th century, the town became a well-known center for leather production. During WWII, there were many females forced into the tanneries as laborers. After an economic change, the factories shut down.
Limburg an der Lahn, Germany
Limburg an der Lahn runs along the Lahn River and the old town can be explored in a little over an hour (if you’re following a map and at a constant pace). The cobblestone streets of the old town are narrow and winding, with quite a few steep inclines and declines. If you head down to the old bridge, you’ll be able to take a look at the old town from below.
It was around 800 when Limburg’s first castle made history, but it wasn’t until 910 when Limburg was first mentioned as a town by Konrad Kurzbold. Kurzbold built the Saint George’s Monastery Church where you can find him buried today. The old bridge was built in 1150 to connect the town to Cologne and Frankfurt.
During the first World War, Limburg was used as a prisoners camp where many of the Irish troops were held captive.
The old town of Braunfels isn’t much of a town at all, and can be explored in less than 30 minutes. If you drive up to the castle and park, you will enter the castle grounds first and then follow the signs to the old town. While the town itself isn’t very large, the Braunfels castle that stands at the highest peak is spectacular.
You might have noticed that many of the German castles fit perfectly into fairytales, but the Braunfels castle is different. It is a medieval castle perfect for a scene right out of Harry Potter. This was definitely one of my favorite castle visits to date!
The town was first mentioned in 1246, and the Braunfels Castle was built somewhere in the 13th century by the Counts of Nassau. It was a home built for the noble families and over the years required many restorations due to fires and wars.
We spent the night on the forests’ edge in Freudenberg, Germany. It is about an hour away from Cologne and one of the most charming towns I’ve ever visited. There is a hiking trail called the Fachwerkweg which is a 3-hour loop stretching across 12 kilometers of land.
We didn’t get the chance to hike the entire trail since the weather was quite dreary (as you might be able to tell in the photos), but we did stop at the picture point to grab a shot of this quaint little town from above.
Freudenberg was first mentioned around 1389, and the old town was given the name Alter Flecken (which it is still called today). The town is hard to forget due to the fire in 1540 which burnt down the castle and the village. While the entire town was rebuilt, another fire in 1666 hit and the town and castle were yet again in ashes. While the castle has never been restored, you can still see the remains as you explore the old town today.
The German Half-Timbered House Road is filled with unique landscapes, historical homes, and significant monuments. If you visit in the winter, you’ll also get the opportunity to explore some of their local Christmas Markets and try loads of local sweets.
If you’re interested in taking a look at the entire 3,000-kilometer route, there is a website for the Deutsche Fachwerkstraße which will give you a detailed map of the seven stretches and the cities that lie within the boundaries.
If you like castles, you might want to read about one of my last German castle explorations: The Fairy Tale Route of Western Germany