I bet you have never heard of Bretten, have you? Bretten is one of those German towns that are not on the top of any bucket list or in the spotlight of the German travel bureaus as a must visit tourist attraction. Nonetheless is Bretten much worth to visit and spend there a long weekend. It is one of my discoveries in Germany – a real hidden gem.
We went to Bretten on a long weekend escape and spent there 4 days. The town is really small, but very charming. It makes a good destination if you want to escape from the hustle and bustle of the big cities and the stress of the daily life.
This year Bretten celebrates its 1250th anniversary. It was in the year 767 when the nobleman Wigilo gave a piece of land to the Lorsch Monastery under the name of “bretenheim”. This was entered into the codex of the Monastery and is considered the first time the name of Bretten was mentioned in historical documents. The whole year around there are celebrations and different activities dedicated to this remarkable anniversary.
How to get there?
We travelled to Bretten by car. It was very easy to reach it as the town is located close to the highways A5, A8 and A6. The nearest big cities are Karlsruhe, Heidelberg, Stuttgart and Pforzheim. If you travel by train, the best way is to do it via Karlsruhe. You can also fly to one of the nearest airports: Karlsruhe/Baden-Baden (2 hours by bus), Stuttgart (2 hours by train) or Frankfurt (2 hours and 15 min by train).
What to do in Bretten?
Bretten has one of those lovely market squares surrounded by half-timbered houses dating back from the early 18 c.
- Spend an afternoon on the market square – We loved it! Sitting outside on the square at one of the many cafes and enjoying a glass of beer with a Flammkuchen. Then you let the time fly by, watching the passers-by, and there exists only the gentle touch of the sunrays upon your skin.
- Visit the market – every Saturday the small square turns unto a thriving place with a traditional farmer’s market. You can find there fresh produce, organic products and local delicatessen.
- The German Guardian Angel Museum (Deutsches Schutzengel-Museum) – located in the Schweizer Hof, as the names suggests is dedicated to the guardian angels in various religions around the world.
- The Tanning Museum in the Tanner’s House (Gerbershaus) – this is the oldest house in Bretten built in 1585 which has survived the devastating fire of 1689. Today, there’s a museum dedicated to local history, tannery and leatherworking. It is open each Sunday afternoon from spring to fall.
- The Melanchthon’s House (Melanchthonhaus) – standing on the market square you can’t miss this imposing red-ish neo-gothic building. It hosts the second biggest exposition in Germany dedicated to the Reformation. It was built in 1897 on the place of the birth house of Philip Melanchthon which was burnt down in the big city fire of 1689. Melanchthon was one of the most important figures of the Reformation, a man of great erudition, a scholar, a theologist and an educator. The Melanchthon’s House has a collection of more than 9000 books, 450 original manuscripts, paintings, art works, commemorative coins and coat of arms.
- The Old Town Hall – the original town hall was among those buildings that disappeared in the big city fire together with its rich archive. It was reconstructed to its glory and now it proudly dominates the market square.
- Kreuzkirche – is the Lutheran church in Bretten.
- Stiftskirche – the oldest and the most important church in Bretten, it serve the Calvinist community.
- St. Laurentius – is the catholic church in Bretten.
- The Pfeifer Tower (Pfeiferturm) – this 26-m high tower was the most important defense structure of the former 13 c. city walls. The tower has been completely renovated.
- The Simmel Tower (Simmelturm) – located at the most southeastern corner of the old Bretten, it is the second of importance tower of the old fortifications. It has a round form and was built in the late 14 c.
- The dog statue – this is the famous Brettner Hundle – The Doggie of Bretten – the dog that once rescued the town. The legend says that when once the town was under the siege of the enemy and the food supplies were coming to an end, one of the city counsellors came up with the idea to collect all the remaining food in town and to feed up a dog for a few days until it becomes fat and round. Then they would send the dog outside of the city’s walls. When the enemy would see the dog, they would think that the citizens had enough supplies to endure the siege and would leave. And this is what they did. When the enemy saw the dog, they got discouraged that they would ever win, so they cut the dog’s tail and they left Bretten with the only trophy they could get.
- Peter and Paul Festival – it is celebrated in the weekend following 29th June, the church feast of Saints Peter and Paul. It’s a big festival where everybody is dressed in historical costumes, there are processions on the streets and various activities. This Festival is included in the list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of UNESCO.
- Day trips from Bretten
- Stromberg-Heuchelberg Natural Park – this is a small natural park at some 20 km to the east of Bretten, perfect for hiking or biking.
- The Baden State Museum in Karlsruhe (Badisches Landesmuseum Karlsruhe) – this is the ideal half-day trip from Bretten. The largest cultural-historical museum in Baden is hosted in the Karlsruhe Palace. The museum’s collection includes artifacts from the prehistorical time up to the modern age. It has a wonderful park and from the palace’s tower you will have a breathtaking view to the fan-shaped city centre of Karlsruhe.
Where to eat?
For a small town, Bretten offers a great variety of quality places to eat. The market square is surrounded by many restaurants and cafés, where you can try mostly local specialties. There are also a few other restaurants in side streets, which offer very good cuisine. We walked around and each time we chose a different place to eat. We were never disappointed.
Where to stay in Bretten?
We stayed in one of the hotels on the market square, but there are also other choices. You can search for accommodation here:
Disclaimer: If you book accommodation via the above link, I may earn a small amount at no extra cost for you. This helps me run the blog and pays for costs like the the web-hosting, for example.
Bretten is one of those little hidden gems that you need to know about in order to include it on your itinerary. Are you interested in off-the-beaten-track destinations in Germany, then you shall for sure try Blankenheim – another small town with half-timbered houses and special medieval atmosphere.
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