With lush sunny meadows set against a backdrop of snow-capped mountains, the Allgäu (pronounce it Al – goy) is one of Europe’s prettiest corners. Here, on a plateau in the foothills of the Alps, Isny im Allgäu could be straight out of a child’s picture book. The massive gates and ancient walls are now garlanded with flowers. There are cobbled streets, parks and cool streams. Isny is some three hours southeast of Stuttgart. With 320 sunny days a year, it is also known as a health resort.
Kässpätzle and a cold beer
Meadows dotted with cows are typical of the Allgäu. And, they are essential for local cheeses, which are used in favourite local dishes. One is Kässpätzle, a homemade pasta and cheese dish that is a bit like mac ‘n’ cheese. Another is Knöpfle, soft egg noodles. Both slide down very well with a cold beer in one of Isny’s traditional taverns, such as Brauereigasthof Engel, the Hotel Engel (36 Bahnhofstrasse).
Hiking in the West Allgäu
The Allgäu is glorious hiking country and Isny is the perfect base. Some 30 scenic trails lead to numerous streams, lakes and waterfalls. A favourite is the Eistobel, which takes in tumbling waterfalls, high cliffs and sculptural rock formations. Isny’s own mountain is Schwarze Grat (1,118 m/3,700 ft). Follow the easy trail to the top, then climb the observation tower for grand views. Even higher is the nearby Hochgrat (1833 m/6,000 ft). Hike up or take things easy: board the cable car and glide up to the summit. Enjoy the panorama over lunch, a beer or coffee and cake.
Isny at a glance
- Where: 3 hours southeast of Stuttgart; 40 minutes from Lindau on Lake Constance
- Population: 14,000
- Climate: 320 sunny days; snow in winter
- Landmarks: The whole of the Old Town is historically preserved; great views from the Schwarze Grat
- Weekly Market: Thursdays, 7 am to 1 pm at Wassertor and Espantorstrasse
Although the Romans built a fort here 1,700 years ago, Isny made its mark in 1365, when it was named a "Free Imperial City". That grand title explains the impressive towers and fortifications, monastery and churches, the marketplace and imposing houses. Oval and ringed by its original walls, the entire Old Town has a historic preservation order on it, so it is the perfect backdrop for the outdoor opera festival each June.
Shopping and eating
Crafts thrive in Isny. Die kleine Scheune, the Little Barn, is a must for lovers of textiles. More than 250 fabrics are displayed, as well as haberdashery, ribbons, buttons, crochet lace and more (25 Wassertorstrasse). A few steps away, Monika Raabe offers a dazzling variety of wools and fine yarns in her shop, Wolle & Gestricktes (7 Espantorstrasse). The Käsküche (78 Maierhöfenerstrasse) uses strictly-organic local milk for its cheeses. Tour (free) and taste to discover their award-winning Adelegger (hard), Isnyer Ur-Bergkäs (traditional mountain style), Sternschnuppe (firm) and Isnyer Rahmkäs (creamy). The Brauereigasthof Engel also runs the Stolz brewery, where you can tour and taste a dozen award-winning brews (2 Rotenbacher Weg). Or, build an appetite by walking up to the Haldenhof mountain inn (4 Alpenblickweg), where views from the sunny terrace await.
The castle art gallery
Isny is the home of the painter, illustrator and film maker Friedrich Hechelmann. His dream-like works are on display in Schloss Isny, the small palace that was once a Benedictine monastery.
Festivals in Isny
Isny was always a centre for trade and the tradition continues with the Frühlingsmarkt in the spring and the Schmalzmarkt (Lard Market) in the autumn.