Set in green, gently rolling countryside, Ellwangen is studded with ancient towers and gables, portals and gates. For many, the town is best known for the Schönenberg pilgrimage church and the Basilica of St Vitus. Built 800 years ago as a monastery church, this is still part of everyday life. The exterior is Romanesque; the interior was transformed into flamboyant Baroque back in 1741. Continue the architecture tour by visiting the 18th-century Protestant church, right next door.
Four centuries of pilgrimage
After the Thirty Years' War in the 17th century, Jesuit priests built the bright yellow Schönenberg church on a hill overlooking town. It was, and still is, an important pilgrimage destination. The interiors are richly-decorated; behind the high altar is a crib diorama. The statue of Mary, which inspired the pilgrimages, is in the Gnadenkapelle.
Once a medieval fortress and now a museum, the Schloss ob Ellwangen was rebuilt as a Renaissance palace, then revamped into Baroque grandeur. See the chapel, the throne room and the grand 18th-century staircase. In the museum, highlights include two Baroque nativity scenes, 50 doll’s houses and faience from the nearby Schrezheim factory. The arcaded courtyard is now used for summer music events
Horse and carriage
Explore the old town in style in an Ellwanger Droschkenlinie, a horse and carriage. Horses are important in Ellwangen’s history. For centuries, horse dealers met at the Kalte Markt, the Cold Market. From Monday to Wednesday after January 6, admire some 300 horses, watch the parade, then warm up in a tavern.
Ellwangen at a glance
- Where: 90 minutes northeast of Stuttgart; in the valley of the River Jagst
- Population: 25,000
- Climate: Warm summers; clear autumn days
- Landmarks: Schönenberg pilgrimage church; monastery church; castle and museum
- Weekly Market: Wednesdays and Saturdays, 7am to 12.30pm; farmers’ market: Fridays, noon to 5pm
The Haus Zimmerle started out as the Schwarzer Adler, a coaching inn, back in the 16th century. Mozart dined here in 1777. An eye-catching 19th-century mural on the façade recalls Goethe’s visit in 1797. It is now the Adler pharmacy (2 Marienstrasse).
Arts and crafts
The Palais Adelmann, built in 1688, is the town's arts centre, with gardens that are open to the public. The late Sieger Köder was both the local priest and an artist. His dramatic 20th-century stained glass windows light up the contemporary Church of the Holy Spirit, as well as the Chapels of St Francis and St Michael. The modern Alamanni Museum displays archaeological treasures from the Alamanni civilisation that once flourished here.
Germans know antiques dealer, Albert Maier, because he is a television personality; his shop is at 11 Spitalstrasse. A few minutes away is Präsent (1 Obere Strasse), a lively café and shop run by the disabled, who make toys, chocolates, kitchen ware and gifts. Upmarket and up to date is the Kicherer home and lifestyle shop (5 Schmiedstrasse), in the former head office of one of Germany’s largest steel companies.
The Rotochsen Brewery has been making beer for 333 years. Stay at their inn, eat in their restaurant – and sample their wide range of award-winning beers (16 Schmiedstrasse). In autumn, during Ellwanger Wildwochen, game weeks, hunters bring their venison and wild boar direct to the inns. Known for its game dishes is the Weinstube Zur Kanne (2 Obere Strasse).
From July to September, the Ellwangen Cultural Summer features classical concerts and theatre performances in the palace, plus music in the open air. The area is also perfect for hiking and biking, as well as sailing and windsurfing on nearby lakes.