Unspoilt nature surrounds Münsingen. And with its pretty half-timbered houses, small shops, cafés and comfy guest houses, this little town makes a fine base for exploring two special UNESCO areas: the Swabian Alb Geopark and the Swabian Alb Biosphere Reserve. Get out and about by bike, e-bike, on foot or with the little local train. Relax; take your time. Stuttgart feels much further than just an hour away.
The past is everywhere
Want to walk in the footsteps of history? Stroll along the main thoroughfare. Look down side streets, such as Zehntscheuer and Bühl, to find remains of the old city wall. A project involving the more recent past is Erlebniswelt Albgut, the Albgut World of Adventure, where century-old buildings that were once handsome military barracks are being converted into attractions. Already open are the art gallery and the old royal post office, now a hip café. You can watch craftsmen working with glass and wool and, in the Biosphere Centre, learn about the surrounding geology, flora and fauna.
Easy on an e-bike
Rent an e-bike at Münsingen train station; pick one of 11 suggested tours. With 600 km/370 miles of signposted routes in the Swabian Alb Biosphere Reserve, you won’t be bored! And you can use a world-first with Bosch’s "all-in-one on-board computer" recording speed, navigation, time, map views and fitness.
In this green and environmentally-aware part of Germany, many local restaurants serve organic dishes, from lentils to buffalo milk cheese. Spelt, the grain that is the new superfood, is made in to bread, dumplings and even chocolates.
Münsingen at a glance
- Where: About an hour southeast of Stuttgart; deep in unspoilt countryside
- Population: 14,500
- Climate: Mild and sunny
- Landmarks: UNESCO Swabian Alb Biosphere Reserve, UNESCO Swabian Alb Geopark, Biosphere Centre
- Weekly Market: Saturdays, 8am to noon
Make your own way
Paddling a canoe through the winding Lauter Valley combines scenery with ruined castles, extraordinary rock formations and remote farmhouses. Or, go on foot; at day’s end, you can unwind in one of the thermal spas. And for a taste of the regional cuisine, an association of local hotels and restaurants known as the Biosphärengastgeber offers special accommodation and half-board packages.
Explore by train
Well over a century old, Münsingen Station has a lovingly restored ticket office and signal box. The station buffet is now a bistro-café. In summer, on Sundays and holidays, the historic Swabian Alb train runs on the 43-km/26-mile-long line. This is also the home of the Centre for Environment, Nature and Tourism, all about the future of the Biosphere’s fragile eco-system.
Take an excursion
Half an hour to the south, the Wimsener Höhle, Wimsen Cave, is the only cave in Germany that you can explore by boat. Ten minutes west, near Gomadingen, you can tour the 500-year-old Marbach state stud farm, where they breed Weil-Marbach Arabians and Württembergers. Discount shopping bargains are the attraction at Outletcity Metzingen (30 minutes northwest).
The Lautertal Valley
One of the prettiest streams in Germany is the Lauter, which runs south from Münsingen to join the Danube near Lauterach. Follow it on foot, by bike and, in summer, paddle its waters in a canoe. Between Buttenhausen and Gundelfingen are fine medieval castles and forts: Hohenhundersingen, Bichishausen, Niedergundelfingen and Burg Hohengundelfingen.
Overnights with a difference
On the edge of town, Hofgut Hopfenburg is a former farm, which now offers an array of unusual accommodation. Stay in a traditional shepherd's caravan or circus wagon, a tepee or a yurt. Or park your camper van in this family-friendly glamping destination, with its playgrounds, fire pits, farm shop and bakery. Little ones love to see the traditional breeds of livestock.