Storybook Germany

Written by  Michael Schoenberger

EUROPE GermanyWhen people think of storybook medieval German towns, the talk generally revolves around Rothenberg ob der Tauber, as well it should; it’s a beautiful medieval city on the Romantic Road in Bavaria. It has picturesque lanes, half-timbered houses and an intact fortification wall gives you a good idea of what a medieval town looked like nearly 1,000 years ago. It is even said that Walt Disney used some of Rothenberg’s medieval buildings for inspiration when constructing Disneyland. The region also attracts millions and millions of visitors each year.
While Rothenberg is a must-see city, discerning travelers may have an issue with those millions of tourists. In this age of experiential travel, many people want to avoid places that even slightly resemble a tourist trap and the souvenir shops that go with that moniker. If only Franconian Bavaria had an undiscovered medieval town that had the charm, the architecture and the culture of Rothenberg, yet without the millions of tourists. Well, luckily there is one! And its name is Iphofen.

The most impressive feature of Iphofen’s old town is its wonderful medieval town wall that still completely surrounds it. The walls were built during the 14th and 15th centuries and feature seven towers and four gate houses. Within the walls, most buildings are historic and the tallest structures are the churches.
The Baroque Rathaus (town) hall on the market square dates from 1716-1718. The market square also features many half-timbered houses and the Marienbrunnen, a fountain with a Baroque statue of Mary.
Interesting medieval churchs are: Spitalkirche St. Johannes der Taufer, also known as St. Johann Baptist (St John the Baptist), established in 1338 together with the Bürgerspital St. Johannis Baptistae, a hospital for the townspeople. Today, the interior is in the Rococo style but also features Gothic sculptures attributed to Augustin Reuss, a local who had worked in Riemenschneider’s workshop, and St. Vitus which was built from 1414-1612. The church combines Gothic, Renaissance and early Baroque styles. It contains a Madonna sculpture carved from basswood, 15th century glass from the choir, a Baroque altar and an organ from 1751 by Johann Philipp Seuffert.
Museums of interest in the old town include: The Geschichtsscheune which contains a large model of the town as well as sculptures from the 16th and 18th century; The Knauf Museum, which occupies an early Baroque building (1688-93) that originally served as an inn and later as the local administrative seat (Amtshof) for the Prince-Bishop of Würzburg. The museum contains around 200 replicas of famous sculptures from ancient Egypt, Rome and Greece.

Franconia is the region of Germany which occupies the northern part of the present-day state of Bavaria, roughly the area above the Danube. While Franconia became a duchy in the 9th century and included Mainz, Würzburg, Frankfurt and Worms it remained a patchwork of secular and ecclesiastically ruled states until at least the 18th century when it became aligned with Bavaria.
Part of Bavaria since early in the 19th century, Franconia remains a quite distinct and attractive region, noted for wine, forests and a wealth of historic and well-preserved art and architecture. Even without taking into consideration its old city, wine alone would justify a visit to Iphofen. It is a major wine center, with over 20 vintners. Franconian whites are among the best from Germany and the Iphofens are the best of the best. The locals credit a unique stony shell lime underlying the soil, providing an ideal basis for producing crisp white wines. The area has many wine-tasting rooms, so your clients have ample opportunities to sample the fantastic local products.
A unique experience you can arrange for your clients is a private walking tour that starts in the medieval old town and continues to a vineyard just a short ways outside the town walls for a brunch and wine tasting among the vines. The experience is unique, picturesque and wonderful! This experience can be easily arranged by contacting the Iphofen Tourist office at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
While Iphofen is a small city (4,500 inhabitants) it does have a number of great small hotels and guesthouses. My pick would be the Gasthof Goldene Krone. The hotel is the historic pink building to the right of the Rathaus (town hall) right on the market square and features rustic ambience inside, a sunny venue outside, dishes from the best that Franconian cuisine has to offer and of course, the finest Franconian wines. Other hotels and guest houses of interest are: Altstadthotel & Weingut Bausewein, Romantik Hotel Zehntkeller, Gasthof Goldener Stern, Weingut & Winzerhof Arnold.
Iphofen is easy to reach by car, coach or train. When in Germany, my personal preference is always train travel. The town is served by regular train service from Nuremberg or Wurzburg, making Iphofen an easy day trip or a nice romantic overnight. The old town is an easy 10-15 minute walk from the train station, you just walk along Bahnhofstrasse until you come to an opening in the town walls.
The tourist triangle formed by Wurzburg, Bamberg, and Iphofen provides for lots of activities for your clients to enjoy (many involving wine) and once your clients are ready to depart Iphofen, Rothenburg ob der Tauber (with its millions of tourists) is only 30 minutes away, Nuremberg is about 60 minutes, and in less than two hours you can be in Munich.


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