Germany: Esslingen

10 09 2008

One of the best things about visiting Germany is that it’s not just the touristy places that are picturesque and historical.  Although we did visit the typical tourist trifecta of Munich, the walled town of Rothenburg and Neuschwanstein Castle (which I will blog about later), I was also lucky enough to see some towns and palaces lesser known to Americans that to me were equally as interesting.

After resting for a day after my arrival, L and M took me on a tour of Esslingen, a city only 15 kilometers from Stuttgart where they had lived for a short period.  Esslingen has one of the best preserved medieval city centers in Baden-Wurttemberg.  It was not destroyed in WWII because it was occupied by U.S. soldiers.

Cobblestone streets are the norm in Germany.

Above is a bridge over the river Neckar.

Although it is much smaller than Stuttgart, Esslingen is actually much older than Stuttgart.  In fact, there is evidence that human settlement in Esslingen dates back to at least 1000 BC and perhaps even to the neolithic stone age.  Esslingen became a market town at around 800 AD, and achieved city status in 1229.  However, Esslingen lost its Imperial city status in 1803 and became part of the Duchy of Wurttemberg.

Above: Stadtkirche Sankt Dionys (Parish Church of St. Dionysius)

The Stadtkirche is known for its two towers, built in separate times, that were later connected because of stability issues.  The chapel in the Stadtkirche dates back to the year 777.  The church as it presently stands was built in the 13th and 14th centuries.

On the day we visited, Esslingen was hosting its annual Onion Festival.  Apparently, this festival originated from an old folk tale from the middle ages in which a market woman tricked the devil into leaving Esslingen by giving him an onion when he demanded an apple.  From then on, the citizens of Esslingen have been known as “little onions” (I looked this up on the internet if you are wondering, M).  Local restaurants set up tables and tents while serving traditional German food featuring onions (zwiebel) and beer, of course.  I had my first introduction to real German food here and partook in some Swabian dumplings and apple soda for lunch.  Yep, the locals had beer with lunch.

After enjoying the festival, we ambled on over to the Rathaus (town hall).  Fortunately, it was only two steps away.

Pictured above is the Altes Rathaus (old town hall), which was built in 1420.  According to the tourist office of Esslingen, the old town hall was built as a solely half-timbered building with classical examples of the characteristic half-timbered constructions of the “Swabian Man.”

The “Swabian Man” construction refers to the criss cross beams between the windows that resemble a man’s body.  It is sort of like a stick figure version of Leonardo’s famous drawing of the Vitruvian Man.

Above: Another closer up of the Altes Rathaus at street level.

Pictured above is the Neues Rathaus (new town hall), which stands opposite of the Altes Rathaus.  Originally built in the 1700s as the town palace of Baron Franz Gottlieb von Palm, it was later the property of Count Alexander of Württemberg before becoming the new town hall in 1841.

Closeup of other houses surrounding the Altes Rathaus.

Below are some more examples of traditional German architecture.  To me they look like gingerbread houses.

The best part of not going to the super touristy places is that on some days (like when the locals are all enjoying themselves at the Onion Festival), you get the medieval streets all to yourselves.

At Hafenmarkt 4 – 10 are some of the oldest-known row of half-timbered houses in Germany.   These were built between 1328 and 1331.

Brunnen am Kesslergebäude

Esslingen is situated in the wine region of Germany, and it follows that many wineries have shops and wine cellars in town.  Below is the famous Haus zum Einhorn (The House of the Unicorn).

Below is Das Wolfstor, the oldest remaining city gate dating from 1220.

We then strolled through the main shopping street.  So this is where everyone is!

From the shopping street, we walked to the edge of the old town so that we could climb up to and walk along the old town fortification.  This is called the Esslingen Burg (castle).  You need to go under a large road.  When you emerge back at street level, you will see the house below.  Turn right and you will see a set of wood and stone stairs.

There are actually a lot more stairs than it looks from this picture, but the view is worth it!

Just halfway up we are rewarded with these views of the city and the vineyard on the slope above it.

Below is a view of the Stadtkirche.

Here is a picture of the wall on which we were walking:

Below: Der Dicke Turm (The Big Tower) built in 1527.

Gorgeous view of some houses on a hill right outside the city.

After the walk, we went back the way we came and I spied this cute little street.

Esslingen is also well known for its Medieval and Christmas Market that usually runs between the end of November and just before Christmas.  While the Christmas Market is common all over Germany (and even in Chicago), Esslingen’s goes a step further because it is set in a medieval backdrop and includes town criers, jugglers, and other medieval touches.  Hopefully Charles and I will be able witness this event sometime in the future.

From my experience, it appears that you cannot drive more than a few kilometers in Germany without seeing picturesque countryside views and passing by charming medieval architecture.  Every few kilometers on the Autobahn, a sign pops up on the side of the road indicating a historic sight, whether it’s an important church, monastery, town center, palace, hill, or birthplace of a famous person.  Wholly preserved medieval town centers are a little more rare since many were destroyed in WWII, but fortunately we are still able to visit many of them, including Esslingen!




41 responses

11 09 2008

ooooooo, beautiful pictures sandy! you’ve got me itching to hop on the next flight over to germany! the skies look so gorgeously blue there… sigh.

12 09 2008

Thanks P! The subject itself is so beautiful, I was just lucky to have been to Esslingen on a sunny day. 🙂

17 09 2008

I am still in Esslingen Germany and fly back to Florida in a week. I love esslingen and everything about it. I have already been here a week and still have not seen close to everything. The way the churches that date back to 777, the vineyard that goes for miles on end, the old factory turned into an entertainment center, the fort that is like a kid that can’t wait for the next picture, and the many many cafes and restaurants with food like none other. I have been to Venice, Milan, Zurich, Innsbruck, Vienna, and many more places and this is not a spot that should be missed. If you would like more info or a review of the town and its surroundings please don’t hesitate to email me at [removed]. I have also started to post some pictures of Esslingen here but don’t be disappointed because I am only just starting out with this photography thing :).

17 10 2008
John Heminger

Your pictures and narrative of each place are fantastic. I especially like the shot of the Einhorn since in the background you can see part of the beer and wine store that is owned and run by my Esslingen cousins, Jurgen and Regina Hemminger.

My plans to visit them this year (2008) got cancelled. I am now making plans to visit in the spring of 2009.

Thank you for a beautiful tour.

23 10 2011
Jeff & Wendy Schreiber

My wife, son and I just returned from Esslingen. We lived near Esslingen from 1981-86 and spent many days and nights with our German friends partying in the city.
One of our friends from the 80’s is your cousin Jurgen, in fact we just saw him last week and bought beer at his store! One of best friends lives one block away from “Jurgys” store. Seeing your comment gave my wife and I a huge smile, what a small world!

23 03 2009
Ed Brockner

What lovely pictues!!I was stationed at Nellingen Barracks.Near Esslingen from 1968-1970.Spent alot of time in Esslingen.Had alot of German friends.I still keep in touch with them.Have been back to visit afew times.Enjoy the Hafenmarkt area.My German friend Susanne grew up there.She and here husband live near the castle.It is a beautiful city.I would recommend .It to anyone.

26 03 2009
Nancy Hensler

You can not believe what a thrill your pictures gave me. My grandmother was born in Esslingen and learned to walk “on the water” on the boat from Germany in the late 1800’s.
People didn’t talk much about their homelands back in the 40’s and 50’s, especially those of German descent during WWII.
But I was a curious kid who always remembered the name of the town.
I am a librarian, and today a woman came in and somehow the conversation turned to her having lived near Stuttgart for a number of years…turned was Esslingen..she told me of it’s beauty and what she called the “stairs”…and I got on the net and there were your beautiful pictures!
I have been to Germany on a tour…but how I would love to see Esslingen! I am almost 76 but your pictures inspire me!

5 06 2009
Ruth Graf

What a thrill for me …finding your comments on Esslingen. My father was born there and as a young boy had the job of climbing those Burg stairs every day to deliver lunch to a woman who lived in one of the towers. It was during the First World War and her job was to alert the town if enemy planes were in the area. Not as fearsome as WWII, but still…..
I would dearly love to go to Esslingen and in my heart am already there.

26 08 2012
ruth graf

Dear Nancy Hensler – Just read your comments on Esslingen (dated 2009!) and wonder if you ever got there. My parents were born in Esslingen and I would dearly love to visit — I did go there once back in 1952 when my husband was in the US Army stationed nearby. If you did get there, I would love to hear where you stayed — if you haven’t gotten there but still are interested in going, please contact me. We are of a similar age. Ruth Graf

26 03 2009

Dear Nancy,

Thank for your wonderful comment. It really made my day! I am happy that I could help you in this way. Esslingen really is a beautiful town.


17 04 2009
Calvin Freehling

This article brought back so many memories. I was stationed at Esslingen Barracks in 1962-63. Your pictures are marvelous. Thanks. CF

27 10 2009

I have dear German friends I met in the tiny rural village of Sielmingen, Germany when I joined my Ex-Husband, who was stationed at Nellingen Barracks, back in 1971. The base was located on the top of that “great hill” (my German friends used to call it), up from Esslingen. I think that was technically part of what is called the Swabian Alps. The tiny villages of Nellingen, Scharnhausen, and Ruit were located just outside the gates. We lived in a German Gasthaus in Ruit for a month prior to finding an apartment in the tiny rural community of Sielmingen, which was located 8 miles from base.

We were the very first American family to ever move into the little sauerkraut village of Sielmingen. We lived in a 3rd floor attic apartment of a house, with slanted ceilings (that we regularly bashed our head into), just above this family: Oma and Oma lived on the first floor and their Son, Daughter-In-Law, and their two beautiful Daughters lived just above them on the second floor. I joined my Husband in Germany 7 mos. before the birth of our Son, who was born at the Fifth General Army Hospital, Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt.

After we finally got Government quarters, we moved to Nellingen Barracks, and temporarily lived on the 4th floor of what formerly was a military barracks. A few months later, they moved us again into a 3rd floor apartment of another barracks housing building. Meanwhile, our German friends had briefly moved to the City of Esslingen; then to Uber Esslingen (located on the hill just above the city).

My toddler Son and I loved the beautiful Stuttgart Zoo, so we made some trips there. I also enjoyed those scenic drives back and forth to Kelley Barracks, Patch Barracks, Panzer Kaserne, and to Robinson Barracks, exploring German castles, the wonderful Wiener Schnitzel they made at the Ruit Gasthaus, and several trips we made down to the Bavarian Alps and to Salzburg, Austria!

At the end of our 3 yr. tour of duty at Nellingen Barracks, sadly, we returned home. To my delight a few years later, my Ex-Husband got orders to Germany again; this time to Frankfurt! During our 2 yrs. there, we lived on the 17th floor of a German highrise (the view was breath-taking!), which was dedicated for us US Military families! I worked for a US Army installation. I got to see Princess Diana’s and Prince Charles’ wedding on a portable TV set, a work! My Husband had to return a year early, so we didn’t get to remain there for 3 yrs. I wanted so much to remain in Germany, with my Son, but sometimes things don’t work as we plan!

I get so homesick for Germany and for my German friends (who became like my family), I would go back there in a heartbeat (if I could crawl inside somebody’s suitcase, (since I can’t afford to pay for the trip myself), and if I had full mastery of the German language. I would not simply visit my friends in Esslingen: I’d remain there until Jesus calls me home!

19 10 2012
Ute Allinger

Hello BJ,
On surfing the net, I just came across “Sandy’s Travel Page” about Esslingen. Actually, Nellingen and Sielmingen (which is now part of a conglomerate called “Filderstadt” which, apart from Sielmingen, also comprises Bernhausen, Plattenhardt and Bonlanden) is NOT part of the Swabian Jura (Schwaebische Alb) but of the Filderhochebene or “Fildern”. Nellingen Barracks, where I used to work, closed down in 1992 — I was actually one of the people who “turned off” the lights there! What used to be Nellingen Barracks is now a German residential area called “Scharnhauser Park” and it is ugly! They demolished all the former troops billets, PX, Burger King, Rod & Gun Club, O’Club, Heating Plant, School, you name it….the only buildings they left is the former HQ building, the building opposite it, the NCO Club building and the guardhouse. The guardhouse is now a restaurant called “Alte Wache” (Old Guardhouse). My husband and I have eaten there a couple of times and I really gave the waitress a surprise when I told her that my desk used to be in the very place where I was dining at that moment (later on we moved to the HQ building because the General wanted us close to his office — my boss and I were his Community Relations people.)
I do not know whether they already had the “Filderkrautfest” in Leinfelden-Echterdingen when you were stationed here (Cabbage Festival). It takes place annually, on the 3rd Saturday/Sunday in October. I will go there tomorrow – take a walk thru the Siebenmuehlental in the morning and from there, go to the fest.
Just google “Filderkrautfest” and you will find several links and pictures.
All the best from Stuttgart,

13 06 2010
David Stalker

I enjoyed seeing the wonderful pictures of Esslingen. I was stationed there from April 54 to Feb.55 at Funker Kaserne on a hill overlooking Esslingen. US army left there in 1961 I learned. Wonderful time of my life. Dave

29 06 2010
gary dodson

i was in the army in 1971 -1974 at kelley barraks i really miss the lovely country side views thf my f fe beer and brots i also miss the men and women i served with i was in the 527th transpotation co would love to hear from some of my friends thank you gary dodson st.peters mo.

29 06 2010
gary dodson

clearing i miss the nitelife beer and brots

10 08 2010

I moved to Esslingen 7 months ago and every picture you show here are identical to pictures I have in my camera today! Oddly enough, in your very first photo there is a barracade sign stopping any parking in front of the Schwabian house on the canal over the bridge, well that barracade is there today, and all this week, due to Zwiebel-fest. Yes, the Onion-fest still lasts about ten days in the beginning of August is currently in full fest mode.

We love Esslingen and it’s friendly walking-roads, it’s wonderful park between the canals, all of the shopping and dining one can ever expect from any suburban area, all of the fantastic views you spoke of and countless more that even we have yet to find and everything else about this wonderful medieval town.

I did get the chance to see the Christmas-fest this past year and it is extraordinary! In the evenings the people are packed so tight that you must move with the crowd. All of the vendors are so nice and the entertainment is phenomenal. The food available then is beyond explanation, everyone should experience it.

We now have a flat right on Bahnhof Strasse and watch the crowds walk by every single day to the old village. We live extremely close to one of the five towers of Esslingen and feel blessed to have history on our doorstep.

Every person I have met here who were born and raised in Esslingen are full of pride and are always smiling, it’s almost as if they helped create that history!

I walk these streets many nights enjoying the scenery and a fine cigar and at every building that I pass I imagine life during the construction of those buildings. It must have been amazing watching those buildings go up without anything stronger than a horse to make it happen.

The old town at night is breathtaking! If you can get the right view to where you can see the church, burg and old Rathouse it will amaze you!

17 05 2011
Priscilla Maday

Dear Sandy ..
We also lived in Germany (3 times). My husband was in the Service there before I met him and lived near Ludwigsburg. He later worked for Volkswagen and a couple other companies that had us in 3 different locations. We’re going back for 4 wks. in June and can’t wait. My favorite restaurant in Esslingen was “Zum Schwanen” (to the swans), and hopefully it’s still there (underneath the city hall Rathaus. We live in The Villages, FL. now, and I was wondering what part of Florida YOU’re living in. Take care..Priscilla

17 05 2011

Hi Priscilla, thanks for your comment! I don’t live in FL, though. I live in Chicago, IL.

18 05 2011

Let us know when you plan to come to Esslingen, maybe my family can join yours for a nice Esslingen dinner. We are from Lake county FL as well.

18 05 2011
Priscilla Maday

That might be very neat! Our friends we’ll be staying with live in Nufringen and Ploechingen nearby. My husband is the Pres. of our Deutscher Club here this year, and we’re both anxious to come “home” to Germany for our visit. We’ll be in the Stuttgart area June 4th-7th and 17th-19th. Priscilla

18 05 2011

Very good! Unfortunately my family will probably still be in the States on an extended visit but I am still in Esslingen every night if you and your husband would like to go to dinner or have a drink.

25 10 2011
Ruth Semaschko O'Bryan

Your pictures are excellent. I lived with my husband in Esslingen from 1946 to 1950 before he was transferred to Heilbronn. He was serving as the Military Governor of Kries (County) Esslingen. Stadt Esslingen was the county seat. There were 29 villages in the county with a Burgermeister (mayor). The city (Stadt) of Esslingen was larger and had an Oberburgermeister (Lord Mayor). A few umlauts are missing as my typewriter doesn’t have the key.

Anyway, we were told by the German officials that they were always surprised, being so close to Stuttgart, that they were never bombed. They always said that the Allies knew that Stuttgart was producing large equipment for the German army, but must not have known that Esslingen was producing the small parts. How fortunate that Esslingen was spared! (As a bomber was getting rid of his last bomb after a run over Stuttgart, the pilot dropped the bomb in the courtyard of the small Methodist Church there. No damage, no injuries. The residents always assumed that was the reason for the drop.)

Of course, my pictures from 1946 are just the same as today of the “old town.”

26 10 2011

We would love to see your pictures from then!

4 12 2011

Served 3 years in Berlin with B Co 5/502. Later served with in Hohenfels A Co 1/4 where I met my wife 16 years ago while visiting my brother who was posted in Stuttgart. She was born in Esslingen and now after a few years in the States we now live in Esslingen, specifically Sulzgries. I love living here.

26 03 2012

I loved reading everyones comments about Esslingen. My husband and I will be in Stuttgart, Germany in May and want to visit Esslingen. Could someone help me to figure out what train to take to Esslilngen from Stuttgart and what train stop is the closest to old town Esslingen. It’s all very confusing to me and could use some help. Thank you
~ Carol

27 03 2012

Take the S1 from the Stuttgart Hauptbahnhoff (main station) to the Esslingen Am Neckar station. The old town of Esslingen is just a couple of blocks from there straight up Bahnhofstrasse. We currently live there and would love to meet you and show you the town, if you would like. There is a beautiful beer garden in the old town that we love to go to.

27 03 2012

Hi Keith, FYI, we will only be there for the day and hopefully leave on the last train back to Stuttgart. We will arrive at the Esslingen Am Neckar station around 10am or 11am on Friday, May 18th. if this works let us know where we can meet you, please. As of right now we do not have any train tickets so I can not give you the exact time we will be arriving. Maybe we can meet at a shop or something easy enough for us to find, Also, we will not have our cell phones with us. ~ Carol

27 03 2012

I wanted to let you know that we are retired and forgot that on Friday you might be working. Just giving us information on what to see and where to eat would be greatly appreciated. We are really looking forward to this trip….thank you!

27 03 2012

Yep, S1 to Esslingen am Neckar.

Another useful information could be: Take the S1 train direction “Plochingen” or “Kirchheim/Teck”. Esslingen isn´t the terminal of the line and often not mentioned on the trains.

If you like to see a part of the Esslingen underworld, I recommend a concert in the “Jazzkeller Esslingen”. 12. of May the Miguel Zenon Quartett will be there. It´s not so easy to find in the old town at the end of Webergasse, but you´ll recognise it. There is only one concert a month and the cellar is really remarkable.
Btw, the Fruehlingsfest on Cannstatter Wasen is happening until 13. of May. A Volksfest (fair) with huge beer tents, food booths and all you need yor amusement. Not as big as in October but worth visiting.

Hope you´ll like the town.

Markus, from Esslingen.

27 03 2012

Thank You Markus, For a first visit to Esslingen all these tips are very helpful. I’ve seen pictures of Eslingen online and your town looks adorable, I’m sure we will make many memories to take back home to San Francisco, California, USA

10 05 2012
Michael Viani

With the end of the war approaching in April 1945, a group of Esslingen’s prominent citizens found their way to the American lines. Their objective was to spare their fair city from the destruction that had been wrought upon neighboring towns and cities by the Allied forces.

These citizens made contact with junior officers from Company I of the 399th Regiment of the 100th Infantry Division. With their battalion commander, these officers proceeded to the old town hall of Esslingen and arranged for the peaceful surrender of Esslingen on or about April 22nd and with the cooperation of the residents of Esslingen, their city was preserved intact. The surrender terms were dictated by a first lieutenant, who was the executive officer of Company I. It may be the only occasion during the war when a mid-sized German city peacefully surrendered to a small contingent of junior American infantry officers and enlisted men.

My familiarity with this account is due to the fact that my father (still alive and well at 91) served as an officer with Company I. As he was seriously wounded months earlier during fighting in occupied France, he was not part of the contingent that accepted the surrender. In September 1999, the city of Esslingen honored the first lieutenant (now deceased) who arranged for the surrender and who had returned for this occasion. This is obviously one of the lesser known accounts from World War II and is the reason why Esslingen retained its medievel charm.

9 06 2012

We just back from Esslingen and had a wonderful time. We saw three weddings and walked the wall. What I forgot to do was count the steps up to the top. Does anyone know how many steps there are?

7 08 2012

We were just there and was wondering the same thing about how many steps. Loved Esslingen. My future husband grew up in the Nellingen area and his parents, brother, and sister are still in the area. It was great to have a translator and tour guide on our trip through southern Germany.

11 12 2012
Gabriele Axthelm

I was born Gabriele Margarete Howe in Esslingen in the Womens Hospital on 6/16/1947. Do you know anything about this hospital?

16 12 2012

Just got back from Stuttgart and we made a point to take the train to Esslingen for the Christmas Market — my first. Absolutely gorgeous city, fantastic market, and wonderful people. Planning to do it again next year.

18 12 2012
Anne Boffo

Looking for a charming town to spend a week just relaxing and enjoying the local area, any suggestion would be greatly appreciated

18 12 2012
Anne Boffo

We plan to travel the 2nd week of Feb

8 06 2013

i just saw this site i was born in march of 1949 in esslingen and was often in nellingen and flagkaserne, does were they good old days, meet my husband in flagkaserne moved to the state in 1971 been back home many times but esslingen has changed alot but i truly miss it alot my parent and all my brothers and sistern still liver there it is still beautiful as ever.

29 08 2013
Ursula Rehm Lanam

I so enjoyed these pictures of Esslingen; my hometown. It brought back so many wonderful memories! Thanks. Ursula

8 11 2013
Mike Caputo

Mike Caputo
I was stationed at Nellingen Kaserne from 1953 to 1955 while a member of U. S. Army , 7th Army Hq. My army buddies and I looked forward to weekends when we went into Esslingen to one of the gasthaus’s and enjoyed weiner schnitzel and beer, Some of my fondest memories were of the time I spent touring the area. I now live in Virginia Beach, Va.

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