UNTOUCHED BY TIME, LIMBURG AN DER LAHN HAS THE OLDEST HOUSE IN GERMANY AND THE HOUSE OF DEADLY SINS
Table of Contents
- 1 UNTOUCHED BY TIME, LIMBURG AN DER LAHN HAS THE OLDEST HOUSE IN GERMANY AND THE HOUSE OF DEADLY SINS
- 2 WHAT MAKES LIMBURG AN DER LAHN SO AMAZING?
- 3 A BRIEF HISTORY
- 4 GUIDE TO THE BEST HALF-TIMBER FRAMED GINGERBREAD HOMES AND TOP RATED THINGS TO DO IN LIMBURG AN DER LAHN
- 5 GUIDE TO THE ALTSTADT (OLD TOWN) AND TOP RATED THINGS TO DO IN LIMBURG AN DER LAHN
- 6 OUR EXPERIENCE AND FASCINATING THINGS TO DO IN LIMBURG AN DER LAHN
- 7 PRO TIPS WHEN VISITING LIMBURG AN DER LAHN
- 8 NEAR THIS PLACE
- 9 BEST PLACES TO STAY
Welcome to Limberg an der Lahn — the most amazing preserved medieval town you have never heard of. Just a 45-minute drive from the modern financial powerhouse city of Frankfurt am Main is one of the oldest towns in Germany. Completely tucked away, the romantic town of Limburg an der Lahn (Limburg) is way off the radar for most tourists.
You won’t find Limburg on any major tourist maps. But, it should be. You will soon agree — there are so many things to see and do in Limburg an der Lahn it should be in every travel guide. So how can a preserved medieval town just as interesting as Limburg an der Lahn have no fanfare whatsoever? Read on!
WHAT MAKES LIMBURG AN DER LAHN SO AMAZING?
Limburg an der Lahn is defined by its unbelievable medieval half-timbered homes — the most preserved concentration anywhere in Germany. The gorgeous half-timber framed gingerbread homes that line the city streets were built between the 13th and 18th centuries. Their foundations have settled over time.
As a result, many of these magnificent homes lean over the cobblestone streets with their gables almost touching. They look like they could collapse without warning. Other homes are twisted and crooked, contorted by time. These imperfections add to the character of Limburg and are not to be missed.
The oldest free-standing house in Germany — Römer 2-4-6 — has called Limburg home for the past 731 years. If that wasn’t awesome enough, eight of the 20 oldest half-timbered homes in Germany can also be found in Limburg.
The House of Seven Deadly Sins is the city’s most well known house and the most ornate. Limburg truly is a triumph of half-timber framed gingerbread houses. If you love gingerbread homes, then you have hit the motherlode!
A BRIEF HISTORY
First mentioned in 910, the town of Limburg grew around the 9th-century Limburg Castle (Burg Limburg) on the Lahn River. Soon the St. George’s Monastery (later to become Limburg Cathedral) was erected and the town began to flourish both religiously and economically as Limburg increased in importance.
A GAME CHANGING BRIDGE
The year 1150 was a game-changer when engineers constructed a wooden bridge across the Lahn River. With this bridge, the long-distance trade route known as the Via Publica from Cologne to Frankfurt now ran directly through Limburg. Limburg quickly became a hub on the crossroads of commerce. Genius!
In 1306, the wooden bridge was replaced with a stone bridge — the Alte Lahnbrücke (Old Lahn Bridge) — after extensive flooding. At one time, the bridge was protected on both ends by towers. In addition to controlling access, the towers served as toll booths and were used to collect money from traveling merchants. This revenue directly funded the construction of the magnificent buildings in Limburg. The bridge tower gates were closed at night to prevent crossing during silent hours.
In the early 13th century, the Ysenburg family acquired the town and expanded Limburg Castle. The Ysenburgs would eventually own most of the land around modern-day Frankfurt. They would build a number of notable castles that still dot the countryside today. 1214 was a year to celebrate. Limburg officially became a town and was granted rights and a charter. The town blossomed and a 1000 meter (3280 feet) long wall was built around Limburg.
The ruling class of wealthy merchants started a construction boom. They erected their homes next to the castle and within the safe confines of the town wall. Similar to most medieval towns, the ruling class called all the shots. They made the rules and spent the town’s money. Until 1458, the working class had no representation on the town council and no voice in the town’s affairs. Yet, they paid the majority of the taxes that kept the town afloat.
WHO WERE THE SÄCKERS?
Limburgers are locally known as Säcker’s. According to legend, the name originated during the Middle Ages when two overstuffed wagons got stuck in the narrow alleys of Limburg. It seems the wagons had to be unloaded by “sackers.” This seems to be total fiction. A more realistic explanation from the 19th century is that goods placed in sacks were traded up and down the Lahn River. These were unloaded by day laborers in Limburg and brought to the warehouses on Philippsdamm.
The laborers were popularly known as sackers. At the end of the day, the sackers received their wages. They generally went straight from work to the local tavern to purchase brandy. The room in the tavern where the children were playing had to be cleared quickly. The Haus Frau would shout, “Children, make room, the sackers are coming!” Today, Limburg’s oldest residents are known as “noble sacks.”
In 1337, the Limburg town council expelled all of the town’s Jews. Four years later by royal decree, the Jewish families were allowed to return to Limburg. Sadly, Limburg faced a streak of misfortune when the town caught fire in 1342 and the Black Death took its toll in 1349, 1356, and 1365. Regional rivalries and family power struggles would chip away at the town’s stability. In 1525, the German Peasant’ War would result in further unrest. The Holy Roman Emperor Charles V quickly put down this uprising against the aristocracy. His troops slaughtered up to 100,000 poorly armed peasants and farmers in the process. Yikes.
Things remained relatively quiet in Limburg for centuries. Then, during WW1, Limburg became the site of a major prisoner of war camp for British and Irish soldiers. From 1919 to 1923, Limburg was the capital city of a short-lived state called the “Free State Bottleneck.”
In 1933, National Socialists pushed their way into power in Limburg. The Nazis forced Limburg’s Jews to emigrate and confiscated their property and businesses. In 1938, the SS burned down Limburg’s synagogue. During the Holocaust, 189 Jews from Limburg were killed by the Nazis. Today 108 Stones of Remembrance have placed in front of homes occupied by Jewish residents to honor their memory.
GUIDE TO THE BEST HALF-TIMBER FRAMED GINGERBREAD HOMES AND TOP RATED THINGS TO DO IN LIMBURG AN DER LAHN
Limburg has been designated a must-see site on the German Timber-Frame Road, which runs almost the length of Germany from the Elbe River to Lake Constance. Checking out Römer 2-4-6 and the House of Seven Deadly Sins should be among the top things you do in Limburg an der Lahn. We have provided a list below of the best half-timbered homes in the city. Although we have provided the addresses in Google Maps, part of the fun is finding these amazing structures.
LIMBURG STREET MAP WITH IMAGES. Click here for a detailed street map that has images and history for every house in Limberg an der Lahn.
The crown jewel of Limburg an der Lahn is the Römer 2-4-6, the oldest free-standing unaltered building in Germany. This remarkable structure was built in 1289 and little has changed in 731 years other than the occupants of this architectural gem. If you do not do anything else, seeing this structure is the one thing you need to do in Limberg an der Lahn. ADDRESS: Römer 2-4-6, Limburg an der Lahn.
House of the Seven Deadly Sins
Built in 1567, this timber-frame house features detailed wood carvings of Christianity’s seven deadly sins: pride, greed, envy, lust, gluttony, wrath and sloth. Investigating the House of Seven Deadly Sins is also something you should do in Limberg an der Lahn. ADDRESS: Brückengasse 9, Limburg an der Lahn.
Haus Kleine Rütsche 4
Built in 1289, this house is located at the narrowest spot on the historic trade road between Frankfurt and Cologne. With the understanding they would be passing through Limburg, carriages were loaded beforehand so they could fit through the narrow alley. To prevent traffic jams in Limburg, customs officials inspected the carriages several blocks away in either direction. To this day, the Heumarkt or Haymarket in Cologne has depictions of the steps that must be taken prior to traveling to Limburg. ADDRESS: Rütsche 4, Limburg an der Lahn.
A beautiful stone hall house built in 1289 by wealthy Limburg merchants. Today, this magnificent building is the location of the Werner-Senger House restaurant, one of the oldest continuously operated restaurants in Germany. In 1802, robber Johannes Bückler (known as Schinderhannes), was arrested near Limburg and was detained in this house. The Werner-Sanger Haus is one of the oldest homes in Limburg’s old town. ADDRESS: Rütsche 5, Limburg an der Lahn.
Since the 13th century, this market square housed Limburg’s wool weavers before becoming the location of the town’s fish market. ADDRESS: The Steinernes House built in 1350 is located at Fischmarkt 1. Other gorgeous half-timber homes are Fischmarkt 9, 12, and 16/17, Limburg an der Lahn.
Built in 1322, these half-timber houses adorn the central square in Limburg an der Lahn. ADDRESS: Bischofsplatz, Limberg an der Lahn.
Staffel Haus (Bishop’s Residence)
The Staffel House (also known as the Old Vicariate or formerly the Cathedral Coaster House) is a listed half-timbered house on the Cathedral Square. It is considered the most important late medieval residential building in the city. The Staffel Haus underwent extensive renovations in 2012-2103. Today, it is the residence of the Limburg bishop. ADDRESS: Domplatz 7, Limburg an der Lahn.
Zum Goldenen Hirsch
Since 1527, the Zum Goldenen Hirsch (to the Golden Deer) operated as an inn on the Kornmarkt. Although it ceased being an inn in the early 20th century, its magnificent preserved medieval sign still adorns the building. ADDRESS: Kornmarkt 3, Limburg an der Lahn.
Haus Plötze 17
GUIDE TO THE ALTSTADT (OLD TOWN) AND TOP RATED THINGS TO DO IN LIMBURG AN DER LAHN
Limburg’s Altstadt or Old Town is remarkable in that it is chock-full of preserved medieval buildings. Once surrounded by a city wall, the Old Town occupies the area between Limburg Cathedral (St. George’s Cathedral), Grabenstraße, and the 600-year-old Lahn Bridge. Grabenstraße marks the area where the Old Town moat once existed. This area is defined by narrow cobblestone streets with half-timber framed gingerbread homes.
Limburg Cathedral (St. George’s Cathedral)
The cathedral is identifiable by its red exterior and is located high on a rock overlooking the town. Construction on the cathedral began in 910. Known for its semi-circular arches, the cathedral is considered one of the most notable examples of late Romanesque architecture. It is covered with frescoes that date back to the 1200s. The cathedral’s peal consists of nine bells. Seven bells form the main peal and are located in the south tower. The largest and smallest of these bells were saved from destruction during WW2. The two bells hanging in the north tower date from the early 13th century. From 1960 to 1989, an image of the cathedral appeared on the 1,000 Deutsche Mark note. ADDRESS: Domstraße 12, 65549 Limburg an der Lahn.
Cathedral Treasury (Diocesan Museum)
The treasury contains some rather interesting relics. Among them is a 10th-century Byzantine chest containing what is professed to be a piece of wood from Christ’s cross. This chest was stolen from Constantinople in 1204 and resurfaced in Limburg in 1827. The second chest is from the year 988 and contains what is claimed to be a portion of St. Peter’s staff. The treasury is housed what was once the Burgmannenhaus. The Burgmann was a knight who was responsible for defending the town and the aristocracy from invasion. Built in 1544, the Burgmannenhaus was occupied by the knight and other defenders of the town. Today, this location is the Diocesan Museum. ADDRESS: Domstraße 12, 65549 Limburg an der Lahn.
Constructed in the 800s and located at the rear of the cathedral, the Ysenburg family expanded the castle in the early 13th century. In 1995 the state of Hesse wanted to sell the castle to a private investor. After considerable public backlash, the city of Limburg bought the system for the symbolic price of one mark in 2000. ADDRESS: Mühlberg 2, 65549 Limburg an der Lahn.
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Rathaus (Town Hall)
Although a very ornate half-timber framed structure, the Town Hall was built in 1899. ADDRESS: Werner-Senger-Straße 10, 65549 Limburg an der Lahn.
OUR EXPERIENCE AND FASCINATING THINGS TO DO IN LIMBURG AN DER LAHN
I needed to collect my wife at the airport in Frankfurt and had some time to spare so decided to explore this little town that had piqued my interest. After some research on things to see and do outside of Frankfurt, I was excited by the words “oldest standing house in Germany” and “‘half-timber” and decided to spend my afternoon in Limburg an der Lahn.
A quick 45-minute drive from Frankfurt, Limburg is very unassuming from the highway. You would never even know that this medieval gem exists. I found parking ample parking in an underground garage next to the Woolworth department store. Emerging one block over from the modern parking garage, I had time-warped and was now in the middle of medieval Germany. I spent the next several hours exploring the town on foot investigating each of the tiny alleys.
I marveled at the awesome half-timber framed houses with their gables nearly touching over the streets. The houses, ancient and proud, were amazing in their imperfection. It is hard to believe that Limburg has remained such an unspoiled hidden gem. For such an amazing place, there is hardly any information to be found in German and even less in English. The best part of Limburg is really Limburg itself. Have a coffee and dessert, some lunch or a beer in one of the medieval houses. Pack a lunch. Let your curiosity lead you. Soak it all in. There are a number of amazing things to see and do in Limburg an der Lahn. It truly is the most incredible medieval town you have never heard of.
PRO TIPS WHEN VISITING LIMBURG AN DER LAHN
PRO TIP 1 – VERY IMPORTANT. There are three underground parking garages surrounding the Woolworth store with ample parking. They are centrally located and easy to find. ADDRESS: Grabenstraße 24 a, 65549 Limburg an der Lahn.
PRO TIP 2. Navigating Limburg an der Lahn is easy. Although there are some inclines, all of the roads are relatively paved or are laden with cobblestone. There is a lot to see in a concentrated area.
PRO TIP 3. Located in a house dating to 1364, Cafe Will has been a family run cafe and bakery since 1880. In 1959, Heinz Will invented the “Aero Cream Flash,” a mechanical cream blower with an electric motor. Today, Alexander Will and his girlfriend Theresa continue to run the café. Alexander is a professional baker and a German design award winner. ADDRESS: Salzgasse 23, 65549 Limburg an der Lahn.
NEAR THIS PLACE
TRAVEL GUIDE | ROTHENBURG OB DER TAUBER. Rothenburg ob der Tauber, a fairytale Bohemian town of gingerbread buildings surrounded by an impressive medieval wall located along Germany’s Romantic Road.
TRAVEL GUIDE | BAMBERG. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Bamberg is a medieval jewel with an impressive Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall), and a network of bridges and Old Town.
TRAVEL GUIDE | REGENSBURG. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Regensburg has the largest preserved medieval old town north of the Alps. Regensburg also has several fine Roman exhibits.
TRAVEL GUIDE | NAZI PARTY RALLY GROUNDS. The Nazi Party Rally Grounds in Nuremberg, a deserted Zeppelin airfield, the unfinished Congress Hall, and other structures that once hosted one of history’s most evil man and his devoted followers.
TRAVEL GUIDE | NUREMBERG PALACE OF JUSTICE. Evil was on trial in courtroom 600 of the Nuremberg Palace of Justice.
TRAVEL GUIDE | SCHWÄBISCH HALL. A medieval time-capsule of lanes, soaring massive half-timbered houses, and covered bridges that are straight out of a Brothers Grimm fairy-tale.
BEST PLACES TO STAY
KONRADS GASTHAUS. This bed and breakfast is centrally located with river views, a terrace, and FREE Wifi. A continental breakfast is available each morning at the bed and breakfast. ADDRESS: Konrad-Kurzbold-Straße 4, 65549 Limburg an der Lahn, Germany.
VIENNA HOUSE EASY LIMBURG. Centrally located minutes from the Old Town. Modern and spacious rooms with FREE Wifi. Guests also enjoy FREE digital newspapers and a complimentary bottle of water. A breakfast buffet is available each morning in the breakfast room or on the garden terrace. ADDRESS: Schiede 10, 65549 Limburg an der Lahn, Germany.
HOTEL AMTS-APOTHEKE. Stylish rooms with FREE Wifi only minutes from the Limburg train station. All rooms feature a private bathroom with rain shower, some rooms include a Nintendo Wii. ADDRESS: Grabenstraße 32-34, 65549 Limburg an der Lahn, Germany.
TAFELSPITZ. Bright rooms with a terrace centrally located in the Old Town. A sauna and fitness studio are located next door. ADDRESS: Grabenstrasse 16-18, 65549 Limburg an der Lahn, Germany.