The first thing I noticed stepping out of the train station in the city of Münster was the huge number of students and bicycles. Crossing the street, it seemed like a river of both flowing around me. I guess that’s why it is called Germany’s Bicycle Capital.
The earliest roots of the city started with the emperor Charlemagne who sent out missionaries to Münsterland in 793. This sowed the seeds for the first cathedral in 850 followed by the construction of some parish churches and a protective city wall. Today, the wall has been replaced by a scenic tree-lined promenade greenbelt which runs alongside the River Aa and is a very popular place for strolling or, of course, cycling.
In 1648, the Peace of Westphalian, which effectively ended the Thirty Years’ War, was signed in a room of the town hall known as the Hall of Peace. This building was destroyed during World War II but has been lovingly restored back to its original splendor and you can take a look inside for two euros. The room contains some rather ornate furnishings and wooden panels along with rare artifacts and portraits of the emissaries involved in the peace agreement.
The first university of the region was also formed here in 1773 and today, there are more than 50,000 students who study in Münster. Local residents and students can be found in all of the city’s quarters including the popular Prinzipalmarkt, Münster’s main shopping area. The 48 gabled buildings and covered arcades have been reconstructed since the war and now house all manner of retail shops, boutiques and restaurants.
Speaking of food, there seemed to be a bakery around every corner and shops offering fine chocolates, gelato, coffee, and traditional regional cuisine from the state known as North Rhine-Westfalia. One of my meals included a sausage, fried potatoes and sauerkraut— quite tasty. You can then wash all this down with a local brew and there are several pubs here and a nice brewery (Pinkus Muller).
Münster is a pedestrian city and very easy to navigate. I found the tall church landmarks an easy way to remember where to find my hotel. Since everything is close by, you won’t need to take a car or taxi but you may want to think about renting a bicycle, if for no other reason than to fit in with what everyone else is doing.