In the historic local and town centres in NRW, visitors can immerse themselves in the past and experience the particular charm of these places in cosy cafés or on romantic squares - usually away from the congested areas and the streets where tourists usually go. Here, you’ll find a selection of historic local centres in NRW. For anyone wanting to see more half-timbered buildings, there are more town and local centres listed here:
In the middle of forests and meadow valleys in the region Siegen-Wittgenstein, the black-and-white half-timbered houses are clustered close together and form the “Alter Fleck” (“old spot”), as Freudenberg residents call their historic old town centre, which is also a very popular photo spot.
The old town centre of Soest, in the Sauerland region, offers beautiful streets with half-timbered houses, and romantic narrow lanes. Beer gardens, cafés and bars are good places to stop for a rest. In March, the Soest bar festival is held here, which has now become famous far beyond the town itself, while in November, there are “Billige Jakobs” (“cheap Jacobs”) and “Bullenauge” (“bull’s eye”) at the Soest All Saints fair, Europe’s largest old town fair.
A typical feature of this small Eifel town in the rocky Rur valley are the beech hedges, which are as high as the houses, and which the residents planted generations ago to protect their homes. On a guided tour, visitors can walk through unspoilt nature in the Hohes Venn upland moorland, or experience culinary delicacies in the historic mustard mill.
In this medieval Eifel village, the Erft snakes its way past half-timbered houses and a restored town wall. Due to its similarity with the small town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber in Bavaria, the Kneipp spa town is also known as the “Rhenish Rothenburg”.
Every day, 60,000 litres of salt water trickle over the gradation works in the heart of the town, and create a fresh sea breeze. Bad Salzuflen, one of the most well-known spa baths in Germany, is located in the middle of the Teutoburger Wald nature park.
The historic town centre of Lemgo in the Teutoburg Forest has all the flair of the Renaissance and the idyllic atmosphere of the Lipperland region. One important urban architectural monument is the “Hexenbürgermeisterhaus” (“witch mayor’s house”). The name goes back to mayor Hermann Cothmann, who was actively involved in the witch trials during the 17th century. The town hall in Lemgo is also regarded as a monument spanning different eras that is of particular importance.
Hattingen, with its lovingly restored old town, lies on the southern bank of the Rur in the Ruhr Area. The oldest buildings are clustered around St. Georgs church: the “Wachzins” (“watch tax”) houses and the “old town hall” built in 1576. For visitors wanting to admire industrial culture in Hattingen, alongside the half-timbered buildings, it’s worth taking a trip to the LWL-Industriemuseum, the Heinrichshütte.
With its traditional gastronomy and many restored houses, Rheda-Wiedenbrück has retained its historic charm. However, visitors can download an app on their smartphone or tablet and discover the historic town centre of Wiedenbrück digitally. It’s also particularly worth taking a trip to the Rheda water palace.
In the shadow of Burg Linn castle, visitors can enjoy traditional hospitality in the narrow lanes of the historic town centre in Linn in the Lower Rhine region. Every year at Whitsun, there’s an opportunity to visit the Flax Market, the largest handicraft market in Germany, and take a trip back in time to the Middle Ages.
Many visitors between Aachen and Cologne in the Rhine-Erft-County also know Bedburg and its historic district of Alt-Kaster as the “castle town on the Erft”. The Nikolausmarkt, which is held every year, is particularly atmospheric, when residents open up their homes and back yards to offer hand-made products.
The picturesque Hanse town of Warburg lies at the foot of the Eggegebirge nature park, surrounded by forests. From the old town, visitors can take a trip to the castle ruins on the Desenberg hill close by.
During the Roman era, Xanten in the Lower Rhine region was one of the most important metropolitan towns of the Germanic province of Rome. In the LVR-Römermuseum, there are models of an amphitheatre and port temple, residential settlements, spas and town walls from the Roman period. Xanten is worth a visit.
The municipality of Kettwig lies directly on the Ruhr river. In summer in particular, it is a popular day trip destination in the Ruhr Area for hikers and cyclists. The old town is the perfect place to take a break and enjoy an ice cream, surrounded by the romantic flair of the half-timbered buildings.
The picturesque centre of Kaiserwerth with its Baroque houses from the 17th and 18th century is a popular day trip destination, including for Düsseldorf residents. The ruins of the imperial palace of Friedrich Barbarossa are situated directly on the Rhine. Here, it’s worth making a stop in the cafés and beer gardens.
A trip to Gräfrath is like taking a journey back in time. In the typical black, white and green colours of the Bergisch three region, visitors will find the historic town centre with its restored half-timbered buildings, an idyllic market square and an impressive monastery church.
Every year, around one hundred thousand pilgrims visit this pilgrimage destination on the river Ems in the Münsterland region, which is around 1,200 years old. In the medieval town centre, there are traditional Westphalian restaurants and small specialist shops. The pilgrimage destination has been immortalised in Günter Grass’ story “Das Treffen in Telgte” (“The Meeting in Telgte”).
As well as the historic centre, it’s worth taking a trip to the Bagno in Steinfurt - the most beautiful green space in the Münsterland region. In the “Lustgarten”, visitors can take a journey into the 18th century - with historic locations, regional building stones, monuments and modern sculptures waiting to be discovered.
The district of Alt-Windeck with its many half-timbered houses has already won an award as the most beautiful village in the Rhine-Sieg region several times. Windeck is also surrounded by castles. The old castle ruins of Windeck gave the municipality its name, and are also a symbol of the town.
Historic town and local centres