Countryside romanticism, ornate sandstone façades and lots of bicycles: these are the images closely associated with this dynamic city surrounded by the Münsterland’s characteristic landscape of meadows, fields and hedges. Despite its long history dating back to 793 AD, Münster is a young city. Almost 20 percent of Münster’s 300.000 inhabitants are students studying at one of the the city’s nine colleges and universities, the biggest being the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität. Fondly nicknamed the “bicycles capital”, Münsteranians love the city for its green areas, its patronage of the arts and sciences, and the cosmopolitan-yet-cosy flair. Internationally, Münster is perhaps best known as the city of the Peace of Westphalia, a series of peace treaties concluded in Münster’s historic city hall in 1648 which ended the Thirty Years’ War and remain central building blocks of the political order of sovereign nation states to date.
Things to see and do
Altstadt and City Tour
Whether on a guided city tour or at your own pace; on foot, by bike, or by carriage: the picturesque cobblestone streets, gabled houses, and arcades of the Prinzipalmarkt, the heart of the city’s cultural and economic life, are sure to draw you in. Here, you can also find the historic town-hall with its famous Hall of Peace. Further along, three iron cages hanging from the Gothic spire of St- Lamberti’s church stand witness to a rather gruesome piece of town history. In the 16th century, they displayed the corpses of the leaders of the Anabaptist movement after their execution. Münster’s baroque city palace, formerly the residence of the Prince Bishop and now used by the university administration, is also within walking distance and well worth a visit.
St Paul’s Cathedral and the market
The Union of Romanesque and Gothic architecture gives St Paul’s Cathedral its distinctive appearance. Arguably the most interesting artifact within is the 16th century astronomical clock, reaching into the year 2071. Be there at 12pm to experience a full chiming of the clock including the carillon and revolving of the Magi. Each Wednesday and Saturday, the square in front of the Cathedral hosts Münster’s weekly market which sells local and typical Westphalian as well as international produce.
Going to the theatre
The ‘Theater Münster’ is only one example of Münster’s varied theatre landscape. Its programme covers a wide range of events from readings, lectures, musicals, and dance theatre to concerts and operas. A unique feature is the “Niederdeutsche Bühne” where plays are performed in Westphalian dialect. Other theatres include the “Wolfgang Borchert Theater” with a permanent ensemble staging classic as well as contemporary productions, the “GOP Varieté-Theatre” known as much for its catering as for artistry and clownery, and the “Theater im Pumpenhaus”, Westphalia’s first free theatre that now frequently invites local as well as international artists.
Burg Hülshoff and Droste Museum
A few miles to the west, in the midst of extensive parks and surrounded by water-filled moats, lies Burg Hülshoff, a picturesque water castle. Dating back to the 11th century, the castle was first used as knight seat before it came into the possession of the noble family Droste zu Hülshoff. A museum inside is dedicated to the life and work of Annette von Droste Hülshoff, one of Germany’s most influential female poets, who was born here in 1797. The immersive feeling created by crossing the stone bridges to enter the wood-paneled and extravagantly furnished rooms of the main house gives you a sense of how the Westphalian aristocracy would have lived in the 18th century.
The Allwetterzoo is Münster’s popular zoo with 300 different species, making up a total of about 3,000 animals. The name translates to “all-weather-zoo” and refers to the zoo’s architecture which offers a number of rain- and sun-proof walkways. Playgrounds and a number of events such as feeding the elephants or the “penguin-march” make the Allwetterzoo a good place to visit with children. One of the zoo’s main attractions is the Westphalian Horse Museum, an interactive museum with information and shows on all things horse-related.
How to get here
Even if you don’t own a bike, there are a number of alternative ways to get to Münster. The international airport Münster-Osnabrück (FMO), a half-hour ride from the city centre, offers a variety of domestic and European connections. From the main train station in the city centre, there are connections to major German cities such Berlin (3.5 hours), Hamburg (2 hours), and Cologne (2 hours) as well as to Enschede in the Netherlands (1 hour). Münster is conveniently located on the motorways A1 and A43. Cars entering the city centre must be equipped with a green ‘Low Emission Zone’ sticker.
British-German Town Twinnings
Town twinnings between British and German cities play an important role in promoting cultural exchange. Münster has been twinned with York, Yorkshire since 1957.