A day in Bad Wimpfen

A day in Bad Wimpfen

by Karen Bradbury
Stripes Europe

Umpteen centuries ago, travelers heading east along the Neckar River would have reached a small, rather unremarkable settlement. At this juncture, two major trade routes diverged, and our wanderers would have needed to decide which way to go.

Today’s travelers fortunate enough to wind up in Bad Wimpfen, an under-the-radar spa town between Heidelberg and Heilbronn in the state of Baden-Württemberg, face a similar quandary. They could explore the surroundings via the touristic route called the Burgenstrasse, or Castle Route, which tempts with its 60-odd castles perched alongside rivers and on craggy hills. Should these travelers be moving with pedal power, as I was the day I discovered for myself this remarkable medieval town, the Salt and Brine Cycling Route might better serve as their guiding light.

Before leaving town, however, they would be well advised to soak up all the sights this beautiful town has to offer. And just as it was a long time ago, when it comes to where and what to explore, there are often two good options.

Hill or Valley?

Bad Wimpfen is a tale of two cities: there's the older Wimpfen im Tal (Wimpfen in the Valley) situated on the Neckar itself and Wimpfen am Berg (Wimpfen on the Hill) where the heart of the exquisite old center lies. In the lower town, there’s the diocese church of St. Peter to see, along with the Gothic Cornelius Church.

Exertion is needed to reach the upper town; cobblestone alleys and a plethora of half-timbered houses reward for one’s efforts. The gem in Bad Wimpfen’s crown is the Hohenstaufen Kaiserpfalz. (The term Kaiserpfalz, or Imperial Palace, refers to one of several castles or palaces scattered across the Holy Roman Empire at which the emperor, his advisors and attendants would set up temporary quarters for weeks or months at a time.) Bad Wimpfen’s Kaiserpfalz was the largest such structure north of the Alps.

Red or Blue Tower?

Much of the walls and two towers of the Imperial Palace stand tall today. The Blauer Turm, or Blue Tower, forms the town’s distinctive, medievalesque skyline and offers spectacular panoramic views to those who scale it. The Roter Turm, or Red Tower, presents itself in the guise of a defensive tour from around 1200 and displays replicas of weapons and items of daily use from around that time.

Spa or brine bath?

As the prefix “Bad” suggests, this was a place that attracted those in search of a water cure. Patients and those after deep relaxation still come here. They soak in the Solebad, a thermal bath with indoor and outdoor pools brimming with tiny bubbles. Swimmers can get their laps in at the mineral Freibad, a spacious outdoor swimming pool open during the summer months.

Summer or Winter?

Those who like to tie their visits to new places to large-scale events need not wait long for an occasion to visit Bad Wimpfen. Summer types can time visits to coincide with the Reichstadtfest, a historical fest held in June, or to the Talmarkt, a lively volksfest held several weeks later. Shortly thereafter, the weekend known as Montmartre Flair sees French merchants flock to town to sell their pretty wares. Fans of winter will be in their element at the Altdeutscher Weihnachtsmarkt, an old-timey Christmas market that makes the most of the city’s lovely, one-of-a-kind ambiance.

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