Bad Windsheim in Franken, Bavaria has the interesting Franconian Open-Air Museum, a mostly Baroque old town, and a modern spa with mineral salt baths.
Bad Windsheim, at the edge of the Steigerwald, has an interesting old town and modern spa facilities but the main attraction is the Franconian Open Air Museum (Fränkisches Freilandmuseum), one of the largest and most interesting in Europe.
Windsheim started as an imperial farm but from 741 belonged to the Bishopric of Würzburg. It again became an imperial property in 1235 and in 1430, supported by Nürnberg, became a free imperial city. Nürnberg was trying to extend its influence in Franken at the expense of the Hohenzollern margraves of Ansbach and Bayreuth. However, these prevented the town from acquiring any additional territory and it remained the smallest free imperial city in Franken despite its favorable location on the main trading route between Nürnberg and Würzburg.
A severe town fire in 1730 destroyed much of the old town but some historical buildings survived. Windsheim’s town defenses were torn down during the 19th century and replaced by a green belt.
In the early 19th century, mineral springs were discovered to the north of the town and since 1961, the town has been known as Bad Windsheim.
Bad Windsheim Tourist Office
Kur-, Kongress- und Touristik Bad Windsheim, Erkenbrechtallee 2, 91438 Bad Windsheim, tel 09841-4020.
The tourist office in Bad Windsheim conducts guided old town walks on weekends at 3 pm, and from mid-April to September additionally on Thursday and Friday at 3 pm.
The Fränkisches Freilandmuseum (Franconian Open-Air Museum)
The Fränkisches Freilandmuseum (Franconian Open-Air Museum), Eisweiherweg 1, tel 09841-668-040, is worth the slight detour that traveling to Bad Windsheim usually requires. More than 80 original building were moved from all over Franconia and re-built here to give a good overview of traditional Franconian life from the late Middle Ages to the 19th century.
In the over 45-ha/111-acre park, the buildings are grouped into several small towns. Each house is virtually a museum on its own with period furniture and household articles. Land in between the small towns is farmed using traditional methods. A hiking route of around 4 km/2.5 miles passes by all the main sights. Several traditional Franconian guesthouses serve local food.
Opening hours of the Fränkisches Freilandmuseum (Franconian Open-Air Museum) are Tuesday to Sunday from mid-March to mid-October from 9 am to 6 pm, from mid-to end October from 10 am to 5 pm, and November to mid-December from 10 am to 4 pm. From mid-June to mid-September the museum is also open on Monday. Admission is €5.
Old Town Bad Windheim
At the center of Bad Windsheim’s old town is the triangular Marktplatz (Market Square). The palatial Baroque Rathaus (Town Hall) reminds of the wealth this town once enjoyed as free imperial city. It was rebuilt following a town fire in 1730. The Archäologische Fenster (Archeological Windows) allow visitors to look through glass pyramids onto some of the archeological finds discovered under the market square.
On the west end of the Marktplatz is St Kilians, Dr.-Martin-Luther-Platz 3, tel 09841-2118. The first church here was erected in 740 but the present church dimensions were established in 1200. The church was damaged in 1730 and replaced with the present Baroque building. Opening hours are daily from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm.
The Seekapelle, Seegasse, was consecrated in 1402 and renovated in 1720. It has a lovely colored tiled roof. Inside is a copy of Tilman Riemenschneider’s Twelve Apostles’ Altar that once graced the interior of St Kilian (the original is now in a museum in Heidelberg). Opening hours are daily from 9:30 am to 5 pm.
Also in the old town, but managed by the open-air museum, is the 14th-century Gothic Spitalkirche, Rothenberger Straße, and the very impressive Alter Bauhof. This huge, 15th-century wooden building has a floor plan of 14 by 25 meter/46 by 82 ft and an enormous hipped roof with 35,000 tiles. Both sights open an hour later than the Open-Air Museum and in March, November, and December only on Sunday.
Spas – The Franken Therme in Bad Windsheim, Germany
The mineral springs in Bad Windsheim was only discovered in the early 20th century and the town therefore does not have the tradition and trappings of other 19th-century spa resorts. However, the Franken-Therme, Erkenbrechtallee 10, 91438 Bad Windsheim, tel 09841-40-300, has excellent modern facilities. In addition to the usual medical facilities, day visitors can enjoy the huge spa center with pools of different temperatures and wide variety of saunas.
Opening hours are daily from 10 am to 10 pm. Admission range from €7.50 for two hours to €12 for the whole day. The sauna and outdoor “Great Salt Lake” with a salt concentration of 27% require additional fees. Massages and other spa services need prior bookings.
Faszination Gotthardbahn Model Train Exhibition near Bad Windsheim
Children and fans of model trains may be interested to see Faszination Gotthardbahn, Sieglinde Köttgen, Reichelshofen 28, Steinsfeld, tel 09865-941-898. It is one of the largest model train exhibitions in Germany and is especially known for its 1/87 model of the northern approach to the Swiss St Gotthard’s pass. Opening hours are Wednesday and Friday from 2 to 6 pm, weekends from 10 am to 5 pm. Admission is €4.
Reichelshofen is best reached by car: around 10 km/6 miles north on the B25 from Rothenburg ob der Tauber or just off the A7, exit 107 Bad Windsheim.
More on Romantic Franconia:
- Romantic Franconia Overview
- Ansbach’s Baroque Residence and the Hohenzollern Connection
- Ansbach’s Old Town Sights
- Cultural Events in Ansbach & Kaspar Hauser
- Romanesque Church in Heilsbronn
- Colmberg Castle with Cheap Hotel & Restaurant
- Bad Windsheim – Open Air Museum, Spa, and Model Trains
- Open-Air Adventures in Romantic Franconia
- Hotels and Restaurants in Romantische Franken Towns