About an hour south of Geilenkirchen, nestled within the hills of the Eifel, is the quaint little city of Monschau. It lies near the Belgian border near the Eifel National Park. The entire area is beautiful. Monschau is small and old, untouched by the war, its buildings still in beautiful condition, so… it’s a tourist trap. But that’s ok. I’m a tourist and had heard great things about the town.
If you’re in a time crunch, you won’t have time to see everything or do the long hikes up the hills to the castle ruins, but just wandering around the narrow cobblestone streets is nice, looking at the crooked half-timbered houses strung along the creek running through the town. There’s a nice park for kids next to a sweet little chapel. A sculpture garden shows off the work of a local copper artist there. Many restaurants will tempt you with little signs like “kaffee und kuchen,” and “frische wafel mit heis kirche und sahn.” Hmmmmm…. I love hot waffles here. They melt in your mouth.
Sitting near the bridge in the small town square is a very nice Konditerei (photo below left) called the Hirsch Cafe with baked goods and sandwiches. There is seating both inside and out in good weather. I’ve eaten there several times now both with and without children. The food is good, the coffee great, the service quick and friendly, and everything including the bathrooms is clean.
There are Belgian lace shops, jewelry shops, sculptures and food, a nice tile shop, tacky gift shops and a Christmas store. The smell of freshly baked printen wafts from one small window on a narrow street while local potters and leather smiths have shops further down the narrow road behind the bakery.
If you enjoy gourmet foods, look for the famous Monschau mustard, senf, that comes in an unimaginable assortment of flavors. I’ve also enjoyed the Champagne liquor that comes from there.
The roads into Monschau are all very steep and curvy going in, so to get anywhere there are a lot of steep trails. Getting there, you’ll eventually get to a large roundabout with two signs to Monschau. Both will get you to the historic heart. One will take you to a small parking garage at one end of the town, and the other will take you to the glass blowing factory at the other end. The latter has a larger parking facility.
With more time on your hands, you can explore many museums, or even hike up the hill to the castle or the ruin. Both provide a nice hike that
even my little ones could do with some food in their stomachs and a bottle of water.
Monschau is a great place to take family as it provides that movie-like stereotypical view of an old German town. My mom liked it enough to go two days in a row and she still talks about going back.
On the way: Driving by antique shops is tempting. One finally drew us in after several times driving by. It’s in Roetgen. The owner is very nice and friendly. He’ll talk to you about the antiques. Prices seem average, but the fun part is the attic where you can wander in and about piles of dust covered treasures. Someone with haggling skills could do well there. My mom bought a nice painting.
Bundestrasse 76; 52159 Roetgen
Open: m-f 1000-1230 and 1500-1800; Sat 1000-1600
There’s a nice restaurant/gasthaus on the way that I’ve stopped at for lunch. It sits alone on the west side of the road and has a large horse statue in front of it. Enjoy the beautiful location with a great view of the valley below. The lunch is pricey, but excellent – just amazing food. My pre-teen even loved it. I had lamb. My daughter had baked goat cheese with toast and a nice salad. The gasthaus rooms looked very nice – a nice local get-away. The owner is Austrian and does an Austrian buffet every Saturday. There are hiking trails all around the Inn and horseback riding too. The service was great and the people were friendly. We’ll go back.
Schleidener Strasse 440; 52076 Aachen
Open: M-Saturday 1200-2200; Sundays and Holidays 1100-2100