Esslingen Altstadt is an epicentre for colourful timbered houses, which match stereotypical German towns. Seemingly coming from a fairy tale, Esslingen’s old town is truly a contemporary witness of many centuries. Get to know how diverse the historical appearance of Esslingen is and what lies beyond it.
What to expect
- 1. About Esslingen Altstadt
- 2. Along the City’s Canal
- 3. Esslingen’s Commercial Avenue
- 4. Fairy-tale-like buildings in Esslingen Altstadt
- 5. Stupendous view of Esslingen Altstadt from the vineyards
- 6. When to visit Esslingen’s Old Town
- 7. How to reach Esslingen Altstadt
- 8. Conclusion
1. About Esslingen Altstadt
The city of Esslingen is as old as it gets. Way before the Romans based themselves here, archaeological finds proved a settlement originating 25.000 years back in time. Correspondingly, it’s not surprising that Esslingen received already municipal law in 1181.
Since then, Esslingen developed a certain affinity for handcraft and engineering. So, it’s no wonder there’s such a huge density of the typical timbered houses, a.k.a. Fachwerkhäuser. Especially, Esslingen counts as one of three cities to possess the oldest timbered houses in Germany.
Amazing, isn’t it?
Moreover, the timbered house style varies so much that Esslingen becomes unique. However, Esslingen got much more than that architectural style.
2. Along the City’s Canal
Besides being a gem for those fairy-tale-like timbered houses, Esslingen is also a canal city. The Neckar River deviates into the urban city centre and forms both the Roßneckar- and Wehrneckarkanal. Both provided mills with hydropower. Today, it beautifies the cityscape and can also be used for boat tours.
One of the top canal spots is definitely the triangle, seen from Agnesbrücke, where both canals meet and proceed as the Roßneckarkanal into the Neckar River. The outcome of this is a top-notch photo motif together with Esslingen’s double tower church St. Dionys.
Rounding up with the former city gate “Schelztorturm” and its funny balancer art, the next part of Esslingen will be busier.
3. Esslingen’s Commercial Avenue
Here we are at Esslingen’s busy commercial centre. Normally, I don’t focus much on these kinds of areas. However, as there’s something great to show, I can’t hide it from you.
3.1 Innere Brücke
The commercial street in Esslingen Altstadt is called “Innere Brücke”, a.k.a. the internal bridge. While you probably won’t encounter that mentioned bridge at first glance, other grandiose buildings can be spotted here. Especially the corner house with its colourful roof tiles at the t junction with the street “Unterer Metzgerbach” is a picturesque gem.
3.2 Crossing Roßneckarkanal
Strolling northbound along Innere Brücke, the already mentioned bridge is within your grasp. Hold up because this is a bridge of culture.
Innere Brücke dates back to 1286! What sounds like an old bridge, is indeed Germany’s second oldest. Ever since it enables the inhabitants and visitors to cross the Roßneckarkanal. Additionally, the bridge offers a great view of Esslingen’s urban park “Maille” and district court along the canal.
The other side of the bridge however is densely built up. What might lurk behind? A question I haven’t asked myself during my visit. It has turned out to be a mistake.
Astonishingly, a place called “Little Venice” is situated behind that row of houses. There you can admire one of those mentioned mills. As I haven’t visited it myself, I can’t provide my pictures from there. Still, the impressions getting from the web makes it a nice and diverse area to check out. Check that spot here.
4. Fairy-tale-like buildings in Esslingen Altstadt
After surpassing the canal, some impressive cityscapes and must-see buildings are in store for you. Beginning with a square and a nice fountain called “Postmichelbrunnen”, one hell of a square system comes next.
4.1 Rathausplatz Esslingen
Imagine a square that is divided into two and a half sections. Normally, this square would’ve been split up into a minimum of two different ones. But, whatever.
4.1.1 Esslingen’s first Town Hall
The Rathausplatz, a square dedicated to Esslingen’s town hall, kicks off with maybe the fairy-tale-like timbered house in the whole old town. Five stories high and painted in pink, the oldest town hall standing in Esslingen stands out massively. Its facade is so lively that it captivates you for minutes.
Originating back in 1422, the carpenters created a unique architectural style that hasn’t been used elsewhere for similar timbered houses. Although its size and dominant colour scheme are that striking, the square scape keeps a harmonic vibe. This alone proves that Esslingen is a city of colourful contrasts. Well, it works pretty well for the old town’s charm.
By proceeding towards the “backside” of the old town hall, you pass along additional timbered houses. Fortunately, these got also blessed by the lack of limitations in terms of creative presentation.
4.1.2 The recent Town Hall in Esslingen
The Germans tend to say that everything has an end, except the sausage, which got two. After having visited Esslingen Altstadt, you can expand that German saying with the old town’s former town hall. But one after another.
Formerly compact, the Rathausplatz widens up a lot. The huge square is surrounded by great buildings. However, one building falls out of line. A Palais-like building that resembles the architecture of the already presented district court. This building was finished in 1751 and was home for the baron “Gottlieb von Palm”.
100 years later, the mayor of Esslingen moved into this palazzo. Till this day, this is the effective town hall.
I may add an interesting fact to this. It might happen that you never look back to the former town hall’s backside. So, see this as a preventive measure. Please look back!
4.1.3 Esslingen’s old Town Hall 2.0 with its Atomic Clock
Remember how I said that the old town hall would have two ends? Well, here it is.
From 1586 until 1589, the north facade received an extension and overhaul in design. In contrast to the massive timbered house, this side has appeared in the style of the Renaissance. Heinrich Schickhardt, the architect, yet did not stop with just the typical Renaissance design.
Additionally, he added a bell tower and a marvellous astronomical clock. Do you know what’s special about this clock? The original clockwork is still active! Even today, the typical chimes are being played at 8 am, 12 am, 3 pm, 6 pm and 7:30 pm, every day.
Amazing, isn’t it? Moreover, the Renaissance facade makes the square scene look like a great postcard motif. Talking about squares, there’s another one nearby, seeking your attention.
4.2 Marktplatz Esslingen
The nowadays official market square in Esslingen is located next to the west side of the Rathausplatz. Surprisingly, there’s a smooth transition between them. This is because the Rathausplatz was the historical Marktplatz. So, what happened exactly?
Until 1811, a hospital was built on the recent market square. So, only after an amount of time, it changed to today’s role. On top of that, it’s also a square of festive celebration like the Christmas market, etc. The given surrounding of beautiful architecture makes the Marktplatz a top address for some great photo motifs.
Lastly, I want to show you Esslingen Altstadt from a special perspective.
5. Stupendous view of Esslingen Altstadt from the Vineyards
Esslingen’s old town got topographically a special vibe. It is located in a valley as well as at the bottom of vineyards. Similar to Stuttgart, Esslingen got some great elevated points for special views of its city centre. One of them is Burgsteige.
5.1 Climbing up the Vineyards facing Esslingen Burg
Right behind the new town hall, you reach the bottom of the elevated northern part of Esslingen. By walking along the steep street Burgsteige, you approach the vineyards.
Surprise, surprise – there’s also an old castle located on top. Esslingen Burg looks like the German mini version of the Chinese wall. A 240-metre-long wall with a passage called Seilergang connected officially the old town with the castle’s big tower, Dicker Turm. Funnily, this particular tower underlines my interpretation of the mini-Chinese wall, as it looks like the German take for a pagoda.
Creative interpretations aside, let’s keep an eye on the real deal for being here.
5.2 Panorama View of Esslingen’s Old Town
There it is, the stupendous view of Esslingen Altstadt and its surroundings. Unfortunately, you might confront backlight every time looking down to the old town. Still, the panorama is impeccably worth taking during your journey in Esslingen. Especially seeing both the old town hall and the St. Dionys church standing out from the cityscape is eye-catchy.
6. When to visit Esslingen’s Old Town
Esslingen is worth visiting year-round. Nevertheless, the warmer months have their advantages like floral decorations spread through the city and along the canal. During fall, you might dig the play of colours of the vineyards a lot. But also, the winter months have their pros. Esslingen holds a great Christmas market (pre-Covid-era) and besides that, the city is less busy between January and March. My shown journey to Esslingen took place in the winter season and I don’t regret it.
7. How to reach Esslingen Altstadt
Esslingen Altstadt can be reached easily by train. As it literally kicks off at the main stations’ northern exit, this is a comfortable approach. In case you arrive by car, there are plenty of central car parks. From my experience, I can recommend this parking garage located at Agnespromenade/Roßneckarkanal. Either way, please navigate yourself with the embedded map below to achieve the best fitting approach.
Esslingen Altstadt is a must-visit for everyone who enjoys historic German sights as well as romantic old towns in general. Due to its colourful and creative appearance, Esslingen hardly gets boring or repetitive. Especially the mix of being also a canal and winemaking city makes Esslingen’s old town special and diversified. What I’ve shown you so far, is mainly the “must-see” part on the first day. Beyond that, there’s much more to be explored, even within the historic centre. Plus, you can also properly visit the Burg.
Special kudos go to my friends Shuko and Lukas, who made this trip possible and fun as hell.