As you wander the world in search of inspiration, understanding, and your own meaningful path, your feet might decide to take you exploring the charming cities of North-Western Germany. And among them, you will come across a place of captivating contrasts that is sure to enchant and encourage the best in you.
The cultural center of the Westphalia region, Münster is both ancient and youthful, a city of rich history and traditions, romantic bells, fascinating modern art, and awesome urban culture.
Voted among the finalist for the European Green Capital Award, and as one of the world’s most livable cities, Münster is also Germany’s bicycle capital.
It is an engaging place, that inspires and provokes its guests, offering them a chance to explore and enjoy both past and modern times.
The stories of Münster
The tale of Münster began to unfold at the end of the 8th century when the great Roman Emperor Charlemagne sent the Frisian missionary Ludger to continue his work from a stronghold near the Aa River, called Mimigernaford.
Saint Ludger, later named the Apostle of Saxony, raised a church and an abbey on the right bank of the Aa, and it is said that from that monastery the city of Münster gained its name. As it dominated the crossroad between Cologne and Frisia, a powerful center soon formed around the monastery.
In 797, Ludger founded one of the oldest schools in Germany here, adding one more layer to the importance of this remarkable place.
The Middle Ages
As an influential member of the Hanseatic League, the medieval alliance of ancient merchant guilds, Münster flourished even more during the Middle Ages.
The Town Keeper
Proud of its glorious past, the city of Münster kept a remarkable tradition alive for over 600 years. There has been a town keeper, watching over the city from the 75-meter-tall tower of St. Lamberti Church, every day since 1383.
Today, Martje Saljé, the first woman to occupy this honored position, safeguards the town from her high tower, looking out for fires or any other threats to the city.
Each evening, save Tuesdays, between 9 p.m. and midnight, you can hear the tower guard blowing her horn, an exact reproduction of the ancient one from the 16th century. Thus, like many before her, she is announcing, to the south, west, and north that all is well within Münster.
The Peace of Westphalia
In 1648, Münster was chosen as one of the two cities to host the signing of the Peace of Westphalia, which ended the Thirty Years War (1618–1648) and the Eighty Years War (1568–1648).
The two important treaties, signed in October 1648 in Münster and Osnabrück, brought peace to the Holy Roman Empire, ending the horrible wars that killed over eight million people.
The room where the famous Münster Treaty was signed can be visited today in the city’s awesome historical Town Hall.
World War II
Münster is a city of rebirth, as it was almost entirely destroyed by air raids during the Second World War. Though approximately 90 % of its Old Town was ruined in 1944, it rose from the ashes and was faithfully reconstructed during the 1950s, reaching its pre-war magnificence.
7 great things to do in Münster
1. Explore the Wonders of the Old Town
A dwelling of modern and ancient treasures, the heart of the city welcomes its visitors with youthful joy and mysterious smiles. Fantastic to explore by foot or bike, the Old Town will take you back to the glorious Middle Ages with its historical squares, beautiful palaces, and imposing cathedrals.
Prinzipalmarkt, Münster’s Main Square, is a great place to start your expedition. Here is where the most important events and festivals take place, and where you can best experience the city’s contrasting old and young spirits. Surrounded by its 48 ancient merchants’ houses, the square offers some fantastic cafes and exclusive shops, many with a tradition going back to the times of the Hanseatic League.
Close by, you will find the Town-Hall with its famous Hall of Peace, St. Paul’s Cathedral with its Medieval Astronomical Clock, and St. Lamberti’s Church, home of the Town Keeper.
Don’t forget to stop by the baroque Dominican Church on Salzstrasse, another fantastic merge of ancient and modern times. Here is where the celebrated contemporary artist Gerhard Richter created an impressive and thought-provoking work of art.
The Masterpiece, called “Two Gray Double Mirrors for a Pendulum”, combines art with science, illustrating the movement of the Earth, and inviting visitors to contemplate the ideas of time and reality.
2. Chase the Sound of Münster’s Bells
As you walk the streets of Münster, looking to discover its secrets and take in its magnetic free spirit, your heart might suddenly fill with harmony, at the delightful chiming of bells around you.
Six lovely carillons, melodious sets of bells, are spread out in the Old Town charming passers-by with their tunes and reminding them of higher ideals.
Here is when and where to listen, should you want to uncover all the lovely sounds of Münster:
- The carillon in the clock tower of the Landeshaus can be heard from the Promenade surrounding the Old Town, at the corner with Mauritzstrasse, four times a day, at 8 a.m., 1 p.m., 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.;
- The carillon in the Residence, the former dwelling of the prince-bishop of Münster, can be heard from the palace grounds three times a day, at 8 a.m., 12 a.m., and 6 p.m.;
- The rare porcelain carillon at the Haus Schütte on Alter Steinweg 3, can be heard from St. Lamberti’s Church choir two times a day, at 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.;
- The carillon in the Townhouse Tower, an original part of the old Town-Hall that survived the war, can be heard from the southern part of the Prinzipalmarkt three times a day, at 11 a.m., 3 p.m., and 7 p.m.;
- The Nonhoff House carillon, with its lovely revolving figures and world time clock, can be heard and seen from Rothenburg 13, over the road, four times a day, at 12 a.m., 4 p.m., 5 p.m., and 6 p.m.;
- The carillon in St. Paul’s Cathedral, with its revolving Magi and astronomical clock, can be heard and seen from the chapel ambulatory of the cathedral, once a day, Mondays to Saturdays at noon and Sundays and Holidays at 12.30 a.m.
3. Visit the unique Museums in Münster
Art, modern and ancient, dwells everywhere in this fantastic place, dazzling you with fascinating stories and challenging views of the world.
Amazing modern sculptures, scattered all over town, chic galleries, and over 30 museums await the culture enthusiasts in the fabulous city of Münster.
Amidst the most renowned, you will find the Picasso Museum, dedicated to the graphic works of the artist. Besides the unique collection of over 800 lithographs created by Pablo Picasso, the museum offers a fascinating journey into the life of the artist, with its impressive “Picasso in photography” collection.
For another mind-blowing experience, take a stroll through Münsters’ Museum of Lacquer Art, with its remarkable collection of ancient Lacquer artifacts from East Asia, Europe, and the Islamic world.
Space lovers and dinosaur fans shouldn’t miss Münsters’ LWL Natural History Museum and Planetarium. This captivating museum houses the world’s largest ammonite shell and unique marine dinosaur fossils, that are sure to amaze its guests. Plus, a visit to the Planetarium, famous throughout Europe for its sharp digital resolution, is an awesome way to explore the far reaches of our extraordinary Universe.
4. Enjoy the fantastic Food and Beer in Kuhviertel, Münster’s historical Bar District
Continue your discovery of this special, vibrant city, by taking some time to experience the traditional Westphalian cuisine and savory local beer in Kuhviertel, the historical pub quarter.
With its charming alleys, little artisan shops, friendly restaurants, and excellent beer gardens, this part of the city hides many treasures.
One such gem is the “Pinkus Müller“, Münster’s ancient restaurant and brewery. Since 1866, both travelers and locals have been enjoying traditional Münsterland specialties, fantastic beer, and the joyful atmosphere underneath the ancient beams of this awesome, typical Westphalian, restaurant.
5. Spend the day at the famous All-Weather Zoo
A great place for families and animal lovers, Münster’s Zoo offers amazing experiences and closeness to the animals.
Over 3000 animals are expertly cared for in this fantastic place, named after its covered pathways that allow visitors to enjoy the facility regardless of the weather.
The Zoo encourages learning and empathy towards the animals, allowing the visitors to interact with some of the safer ones. Thus, you can help feed the elephants, take a stroll with the penguins, or observe apes in establishments without barriers.
More, at the “Children and Horse Park“, you can meet different kinds of horses up close, and you get to cuddle and play with ponies, donkeys, goats, and other friendly beasts.
Near the children’s park, you can visit the one-of-a-kind “Westphalian Horse Museum“. Interactive and fun for both kids and adults, the museum portrays the natural and cultural history of horses in Westphalia. In the adjacent Arena, visitors can often enjoy horse shows and other fantastic events involving horses.
Between all the exciting activities of the All-Weather Zoo, guests are invited to relax on the park-like grounds, which offer a sunbathing lawn, awesome playgrounds for kids, a great restaurant, and fantastic picnic areas.
For another fabulous experience, visitors can book a “to go” picnic basket two days in advance on the Zoo’s website, adapted for family, friends, or romantic dates.
6. Discover the hip Münster Port Area
If the Old Town will take you back to the Middle Ages, this creative and bohemian part of the city offers a different experience of sublime modern culture and Joie de vivre.
What was once a trading warehouse area, is now a transformed mixture of fancy office buildings, art galleries, culture dens, charming restaurants, and stylish clubs.
One of the highlights of the port area is Münster’s Kunsthalle, a converted warehouse that shelters a fantastic contemporary art Exhibition Hall and about 30 artists’ studios. Thought-provoking local and international art exhibitions, lectures, film screenings, and art performances, invite its guests to reflect, debate, and actively engage on socially relevant issues.
Münster’s renowned Hot Jazz Club is another noteworthy spot in the port area, which offers outstanding live music, jam sessions, and wonderful themed parties.
If you plan your visit during early summer, don’t miss the legendary Hafenfest (Port Festival) that enlivens the entire area with exceptional live music, artistic performances, sporting events, and entertaining family-friendly activities.
7. Go on a Bike Tour in, and around, Münster
As you find yourself in Germany’s bicycle capital, you are lured all around by amazing sights and some of Europe’s best paths to hop on and start riding.
Münster is famous for its well-developed web of cycling paths, so using a bicycle to go sightseeing is a great idea. You can easily rent one at the city’s many bike stations. Plus, the Promenade, the car-free green belt around the city center, where the defense walls once stood, is an awesome place to take a relaxing ride and even sneak in some exercise on your trip.
The city also proposes several great tours in the surrounding area, that will take you through the beautiful and serene nature of the Münsterland region.
You can choose one of the shorter, 25-35 kilometers, day trips, or, if you can afford to take your time, you can even try one of the awesome few-day trips, like the outstanding “Route of 100 Castles“.
The 100 Castle Route will grant you all the wonders of the Münsterland area, with over 950 kilometers of countryside serenity, dotted with majestic castles, palaces, and historical manors.
Münster’s Information Centre will happily provide you with detailed maps and information on the many possible bike tours.
Dear Traveler, I hope you enjoyed uncovering some of Münster’s wonders with me. Should you decide to visit, may this fantastic city bring you as much energy, inspiration, and joy as it brought me!