Picturesque Towns with Castles and Fossils in the Altmühl Valley, Bavaria
Pappenheim and Solnhofen are small, picturesque towns in a beautiful part of the Altmühl Valley in Bavaria. Pappenheim is famous for its castle while fossils and nature enchant in Solnhofen.
Pappenheim is a small town with a picture-perfect location where the Altmühl makes a complete U-turn. From here downstream towards Eichstätt, the Altmühl valley is narrower with some of the steepest cliffs. The Altmühl valley can be enjoyed by road, rail, hiking, cycling, or of course kayaking – all routes mostly follow the flow of the river.
Pappenheim’s written history goes back to 802 when the area was given to the Monastery of St Gallen. From the 12th century, it was under secular control with the descendants of the counts of Pappenheim still living in the Neue Schloss.
Pappenheim Tourist Information Office
Fremdenverkehrsverein, Stadtvogteigasse 1, 91788 Pappenheim, tel 09143-60-666.
See Pappenheim Castle and Old Town
Most of Pappenheim’s old town is on the inside of the Altmühl’s U-bend. Burg Pappenheim (Castle), tel 07143-83-890, the traditional seat of the marshals and later counts of Pappenheim, towers over the town. Parts of the castle are a millennium old but most of it dates from the 12th century.
Pappenheim Castle was destroyed during the Thirty Years’ War but around a mile of walls survived including an impressive almost 300-m/1,000-ft façade. In addition to the ruins, the castle has the almost obligatory torture room, a small museum on its history as well as one on hunting. The botanical garden has over 1,000 varieties and the historical herb garden close to 500 types.
From early May to early September, falcon hunt demonstrations are given on weekends at 10:45 am and 2:30 pm.
Pappenheim Castle is open daily from May to September from 9 am to 6pm, late March to late April and October to early November from 10 am to 5 pm. Admission is €3 (plus €2.50 for falconry demonstrations).
(Combination tickets for Burg Pappenheim with Römermuseum, Reichstadtmuseum, and Römische Thermen in Weißenburg and the Bürgermeister-Müller-Museum in Solnhofen are €7.50.)
Further Sights in Pappenheim’s Old Town
Pappenheim’s lovely town center is mostly medieval but has examples of all building styles up to the early-19th-century Classical Neues Schloss (New Palace), which still houses the offices and residence of the descendants of the counts of Pappenheim. The nearby Altes Schloss (Old Palace) is mostly early-16th-century Renaissance.
On the opposite bank of the river is one of the oldest churches in Franken, the St Gallus Kirche. Its foundations date from Carolingian times with the tower and narrow windows dating from 1060.
Pappenheim hosts a Ritterturnier (Knight’s Tournament) the last weekend of June. The tournament scheduled on Saturday night is particularly popular.
Hotels & Restaurants Pappenheim
Hotel-Gasthof zur Sonne has large rooms with 1980s-style furniture. The cozy restaurant with terrace serves mostly Bavarian cuisine including local Altmühltal lamb specialties. Deisingerstr. 20, 91788 Pappenheim, tel 09143-83-140, fax 01943-831-450.
Top Sights to See in Solnhofen, Germany
From Pappenheim, the Altmühl continues to meander with some of the valley’s most dramatic scenery. Solnhofen is a small town that gained international fame through the local limestone that was used for lithographs by artists ranging from Toulouse-Lautrec to Chagall and Käthe Kollwitz.
Just downstream from Solnhofen, the Zwölf Aposteln (Twelve Apostles) rock formation is one of the best-known natural sights in the Altmühl valley.
Despite the somewhat uninspiring name, the Bürgermeister-Müller-Museum (Mayor Müller Museum), Bahnhofstraße 8, tel 09145-832-030, has an interesting collection of fossils that includes two of the nine archaeopteryxes, reptile-like birds that have only been founded in the Altmühl area. Opening hours are daily April to October from 9 am to 5 pm and from November to March only Sunday from 1 to 5 pm. Admission is €2.
A combination ticket, valid for one month, is available at €4 for the Römermuseum, Reichstadtmuseum, and Römische Thermen in Weißenburg. If Burg Pappenheim and the Bürgermeister-Müller-Museum in Solnhofen are added, the ticket is €7.50.
Nearby are the remains of the Carolingian Sola Basilica. The area was given by Charlemagne to Anglo-Saxon missionary Sola, who died here in 794. The recently restored ruins have several original pillars from the basilica erected shortly after the death of Sola.
Next: Eichstätt (Baroque Splendor, Castles, & Fossils)
Further Destinations and Information on the Altmühltal Valley
- Wolfsram-Eschenbach (Troubadour & Parsifal)
- Gunzenhausen (Altmühlsee Lake, Fossils, & Lithographs)
- Weißenburg (Free Imperial City & Roman Sites)
- Weißenburg & Ellingen (More Roman Sites, Wülzburg Fortress, Baroque, and Charlemagne’s Folly)
- Pappenheim & Solnhofen (Fossils, Castles, & Nature)
- Fossil Hunting (Easy & Legal)
- Outdoor Adventures (Hiking, Cycling, & Canoeing)
- Hotels & Restaurants in the Altmühl Valley