The royal route: Biking the route of 100 castles in Muensterland
With the weather warming up, it’s a great time to get out and enjoy the German countryside. Hop on your bike or put your hiking boots on and explore the “100 Schlösser Route,” or Route of 100 Castles, in the Münsterland region of northwestern Germany. With a well-marked route of more than 960 kilometers of pathways, there are plenty of chances to explore.
More than 100 castles and manors are scattered along the route, many with moats as if from a fairytale. Most of the route is flat with occasional small hills, so it is manageable for most fitness levels and fun for children. The route is also suitable for trailers; just look for the green castle graphic to stay on the correct path.
Choose your path
There are four main circular trails to choose from, ranging in difficulty and length. All of the courses are more than 200 kilometers in length, so you will want to either map out a shorter out-and-back day route, or make arrangements for overnight accommodations at a “Bed and Bike” facility.
The North Course: Scenery and more
The North Course leads from the flat landscape around Münster and northern Münsterland up into the hills of Tecklenburg. This path offers great views over the countryside, and with a path of 305 kilometers and an altitude change of about 890 meters, this path is the most challenging of the four courses.
Make a stop in the city of Münster for a look at a city with more than 1,200 years of history. Waltz around the old town and admire the mix of architectural styles, a result of reconstruction after World War II. Grab a bite to eat or do a little shopping in the market on Saturdays.
The East Course: Horse country
The East Course runs a length of about 240 kilometers from Münster to the Lippe River Valley. The East Course takes you through horse country, including the horse capital of Warendorf, where you can ditch the bike and head out by horseback on the trails, take riding lessons, or enjoy a ride in a horse-drawn carriage. In May and June, be sure to stop at the village Füchtorf, north of the city of Sassenberg, for some fresh asparagus (spargel).
The West Course: Charming towns
The West Course takes you through the flat and wide landscape of western Münsterland, making it a great course for families with children. Along this 310-kilometer route, you can check out Schloss Lembeck in Lembeck, Wasserburg Anholt in Isselburg, Burg Gemen in Borken, the romantic Schloss Raesfeld in Raesfeld and Schloss Ahaus in Ahaus. While in Isselburg, you are only a few kilometers from the Dutch border town of Dinxperlo. Standing on one of the village streets, you can have one foot in The Netherlands and the other in Germany.
The South Course: Flat and full of castles
The South Course offers a flat course of about 210 kilometers with impressive views of a number of castles, often spaced only a few kilometers apart. You won’t want to miss Schloss Münster, Haus Rüschhaus and Erbdrostenhof in Münster, Schloss Westerwinkel in Ascheberg, Burg Vischering in Lüdinghausen, Schloss Nordkirchen in Nordkirchen and Burg Hülshoff in Havixbeck.
The fortress of Burg Vischering will take you back to the Middle Ages, with a museum featuring a permanent “Horse and Rider” exhibit and other temporary displays, as well as a children’s museum and a cellar restaurant. Schloss Nordkirchen is considered the “Versailles” of Westphalia. This romantic Baroque-style palace features a large moat and a beautiful park area of more than 70 hectares to wander.
If you don’t own a bike, there are plenty of shops in Münster that offer daily or weekly rentals, for about 8 to 10 euros per day. You can even share the good time with a close friend by renting a tandem bicycle. If you happen to have a flat tire or other mechanical failure, many of the area bike shops also provide repair services.
For an even more unforgettable experience, consider renting a rickshaw for the day. You can either take a short course to learn how to operate the vehicle yourself, or sit back and relax while your driver takes you on a wild ride.
Take a pit stop
When you get hungry, be sure to stop at a local restaurant or relax in a biergarten. You’ll want to try the local specialties such as Pfefferpotthast, a traditional beef roast dish, or Panhas, a German version of scrapple. You’ll also want to try pumpernickel, a Westphalian black bread. Wash it all down with a cold, fresh beer. Or, stop at a countryside farm and pick up some local produce to munch on.
A ride to remember
No matter which course you take, the Route of 100 Castles is sure to leave you with amazing pictures, tired legs and memories to last a lifetime. To learn more about this best-kept secret of Europe, visit MuensterlandTourismus.