Miltenberg – Youthful Middle Ages
Miltenberg not only delights with a medieval old city centre filled with half-timbered houses, romantic alleyways and hidden corners. It is also a place of vibrant urban culture and youthful Middle Ages.
Discover Germany’s oldest inn for nobility, the “Gasthaus zum Riesen” (“Giant’s Inn”) as well as the famous “Schnatterloch” which forms part of the old market square. This ensemble consisting of the market fountain and magnificent half-timbered houses is a highlight of romantic, historic townscapes. It is one of the most photographed places in Germany.
The award-winning Museum Stadt Miltenberg, counted among the most beautiful museums in Bavaria, presents the daily life of past centuries as well as art, history and our region. A fascinating interaction of ancient ikons and contemporary art can be seen within the historic castle walls of the Mildenburg, where you will find the Museum Burg Miltenberg overlooking the town.
We recommend Miltenberg as the starting point for your activities in Odenwald and Spessart. Discover the countless opportunities: No matter, if you want to play golf on the amazing courses around Miltenberg, if you want to go shopping or walking, go on bicycle or mountainbike tours, have a swim, play tennis, go horse-riding or visit museums or vintners – there is something for everyone!
All year long you can choose between many cultural events, be it guided tours, cabarets, concerts, theatre or kleinkunst, exhibitions, readings or presentations – you can find everything in our online event calendar. Regional festivals like the MainFest, the Michaelismesse (St. Michael’s Fair), the Miltenberger Weinherbst or Christmas markets add to our varied offer of spare time activities.
Miltenberg and its incorporated villages
Would you like to relax, enjoy some tranquillity or escape daily routine?
Then our villages resting on top of the pictorial rolling hills of the Odenwald, only a few kilometres outside of Miltenberg will feel just right.
Nr. on the small map: 8 (Miltenberg)
The Black Quarter is the oldest part of Miltenberg with a lot of beautiful half-timbered houses, located between the Schwertfeger Gate and the Market Square. The Greinberg mountain in the south casts its shadow onto the Black Quarter, so that in winter the sun barely reaches the ground; hence its name. The oldest remaining half-timbered house of Miltenberg, however, can be admired in the pedestrian area, Hauptstraße 136, and was built around 1339. By mistake, the year of construction was inscribed with 1333.
You find a Mikvah in the center of the Black Quarter, in the Löwengasse. It was a bath used at specific occasions for the purpose of ritual immersion in Judaism and was in use until the beginning of the 20th century. The four-storey half-timbered house is now privately owned and was renovated in 2003.
From the 13th century until 1780, the old Bann House used to be a customs office for Mainz. In its courtyard there are remains of the oldest town wall of Miltenberg. Siege projectiles, so called trebuchet stones are decorating the retaining wall. From the 19th to the beginning of the 20th century, the building was used as town prison.
Former Superior Bailiwick (Oberamt „Adelshof“)
The former Superior Bailiwick was originally an aristocratic court and, the way it presents itself today, dates back to the family ‘Lords of Fechenbach’, approximately in 1679. After 1730, it became bailiwick of Mainz, later an official building with different designations until 1964. A medieval tower (Stumpfturm) being part of the first surrounding wall to the west was constantly guarded by two men as statutory by a watch and fire regulation.
Around 1290, the Old Synagogue was built. It is one of the oldest sacred Jewish buildings of Europe, retained in its original masonry. Inside the Museum Stadt Miltenberg, you can look at the only salvaged interior fitting: The pediment of the Torah. Sadly, the synagogue is not open to public, as it was sold to a brewery in 1877 by the Jewish Community.
Tip: A significant collection of Judaica is on display in the Museum Stadt Miltenberg.
Parish Church „St. James the Great“
The Church “St. James the Great” had already existed since the early days of Miltenberg in the 13th century but has frequently been reconstructed and enlarged. Its last fundamental interior renovation, where the inside of the church was redesigned, concluded in 2004. Still present are, e.g. the 14th century pillars at the central nave, the Three Wise Men from around 1400, the so-called Backoffen-Cross from around 1500, and the alabaster altar piece from 1624, as well as the pulpit of Zacharias Juncker from 1635.
The depiction of Mary, originally in the pilgrimage chapel “Maria uff den Staffeln” (“St. Mary on the Stairs”) which was demolished in 1825, is singled out in a side chapel. The classicistic towers of 1830 crucially determine the town’s image.
Staffelbrunserbrunnen ("Stair-Piddlers’ Well")
A lot of towns and communities have mocking or nicknames which nowadays are used mainly during Carnival season. Citizens of Miltenberg are the “Staffelbrunser” (Stair Piddlers: “brunsen” being the local dialect word for peeing). The “Staffelbrunserbrunnen” was made in reference of this mocking name.
Even though there are lots of legends trying to explain the nickname, the most reasonable explanation is that those fetching water from the “Stair Well” (# 22) were called the Stair Pitchers.
At some point this nickname was used for all citizens of Miltenberg and, and with the similarity of “Brunsen” (peeing) and Brunnen (well), spoofed into Stair Piddlers.
The well was created by Helmut Kunkel, an Aschaffenburg sculptor by order of the Tourism Board Miltenberg, which merged a bit later into “MCity Trade and Tourism Board Miltenberg”. The statues represent different characters: the “Glee” (Tiny), the “Gross” (Tall) and the “Angeber” (Show off).
Market Square with Market Fountain and the „Schnatterloch“
The heart of town is, without doubt, the Market Square with its Market Fountain. Numerous magnificent half-timbered houses, the Schnatterloch Tower, the renaissance archway leading to the Castle, and the renaissance fountain (1583) by Michael Junker (see Bürgstadt # 9) blend into a coherent picture, which classifies as one of the most photographed images of Germany.
House Clausius (Hotel Schmuckkästchen) with its oriel, also known by various other names, is particularly flashy. The probably most beautiful houses were built between the 16th and early 17th century and still present themselves proudly the day today. Also from the times after the Thirty Years War, there are still some half-timbered houses present and complete the setting.
Museum Burg Miltenberg and Mildenburg Castle
Around 1150 the Mildenburg Castle was built by order of the Staufer King Conrad III. The castle keep and the castle wall date back to this time.
Around 1200 the castle became property of the Archbishop of Mainz who used it as an office building for his bailiff. Below the castle the settlement Miltenberg grew fast.
The castle’s current appearance dates back to the 16th century, when it was partly destroyed in the Margrave War (1552) and then reconstructed with the stair tower as a new feature. The bailiff moved to the town around 1730 and the building fell into decay. Ownership of the castle changed repeatedly during the 19th and 20th centuries. The respective owners modernized parts of the complex and added other parts.
The administration of Miltenberg bought the building which by then was in a very pitiable state. Following extensive renovations the Mildenburg Castle is now open for public.
The keep offers stunning view into the river Main valley and onto the town.
The castle has been used as Museum Burg Miltenberg since the renovations were completed in 2011 and you can take a closer look at a fascinating interaction of ancient icons (16th to 19th century from Russian and Greek provenance) and contemporary art. The pieces are from the 20th and 21st century, e.g. by artists like Barlach, Beuys, Fräger, Lange, Lehnen, Morgner, Polke, Stötzer, Stoltz, Triegel, and Willikens. Just like the view from the castle’s windows offer a glance beyond the boundaries of the walls on the endless panorama of the Main River, the artworks offer a glance beyond the boundaries of our life and world. The artists’ spiritual intentions to cross frontiers inspire the visitors to open their horizons and envision this particular dimension of the museum.
16th March to 1st November: Tue – Sun 11:00 – 17:00 h
2nd November to 15th March: Winter break
Museum Burg Miltenberg
Guided tours can be offered outside opening hours as well
Numerous castles, palaces and ruins, as well as fortified churches, circular ramparts and fortified towns around Miltenberg just wait to be explored.
Museum Stadt Miltenberg
The main building was built in 1541 by the Mainz Bailiff Bernhard von Hardheim on an older building’s footing. From 1625 on the house was used as the seat of the Mainz Electorate’s administration. The adjacent former Latin school, and a renaissance style garden offering a delightful view of the town are also part of the museum.
It now houses the museum of the town of Miltenberg (Museum Stadt Miltenberg) with a a sumptuous, collection of transregional importance including many precious objects.
Architectural features of the museum are pointed out to visitors along the way through the buildings. Regular events and special exhibitions make the visit even more worthwhile.
The museum was awarded the Bavarian Museum Award and the Advancement Award of Lower Franconia.
16th March to 1st November: Tue – Sun 10:00-17:00 h
2nd November to 14th January: Wed – Sun 11:00-16:00 h
15th January to 15th March: Winter break
Museum Stadt Miltenberg
Guided tours are also available outside the opening hours and groups are welcome to book a museum workshop (also available for adults).
Composer Joseph Martin Kraus and the Baroque House at the Market Square
Builder Johann Martin Schmidt constructed this house at the Market Square in 1750 of red bunter sandstone as his private residence. His grandson, the composer and later royal Swedish court music director Joseph Martin Kraus who is nicknamed „Odenwälder Mozart“ was born in this house in 1756. Kraus grew up in Amorbach, Osterburken and Buchen, enjoying an extensive education from the beginning.
Despite his love for music he first studied law, and went to Stockholm in 1778 . At that time, Kraus already suffered from impaired health. Until he was appointed court music director by Gustav III, having performed his opera „Proserpin“, Kraus had lived through some bitterly poor years. He died at the peak of his career in 1792, and was laid to rest on the peninsula Tivoli in the north of Stockholm. Engraved in his tombstone you find: “Here rest the worldly remains of Kraus – his divine talent lives inside his music.” His numerous works include operas, stage and ballet music, arias, ballads, cantatas, symphonies, and chamber music pieces. The statue in front of the house was donated in 2006 by the Tourist Board Miltenberg as a monument for Kraus’ 250th birthday.
Tip: You can purchase CDs with a selection of Kraus’ music at the Museum Stadt Miltenberg or at the Tourist Information at the Engelplatz.
Miltenberg probably had a Jewish community from the very beginning. The first synagogue of Miltenberg was built in the late 13th century. After a long history of many ups and downs the now dilapidated building was sold to the neighbouring brewery (“Kalt-Loch-Brauerei”) in 1877. The brewer renovated and repaired it and converted it to his fermenting cellar.
Thanks to nation-wide collections and some very generous donations, among others from Jews who came from Miltenberg and had made a fortune abroad (first of all William Klingenstein) the town’s master mason Ludwig Frosch could be assigned to draft the first blueprints of a new synagogue in 1903. In late August 1904 the synagogue was inaugurated in “a festivity, held, not only by the Jews but by the whole town with unfeigned joy”, as then mayor and chronicler Jakob Josef Schirmer wrote.
In 1938 the Nazis destroyed especially the eastern part of the synagogue with the sacred spaces. Afterwards the house was reconstructed as a residential building. Today only some small elements remind those who know of the house’s history of its previous exterior (arches over the windows, an empty badge over the door but most of all the foundation stone).
Due to the destruction in the Third Reich, we have to rely on old photographs if we want to know what it originally looked like. In the register of monuments the description of the “New Synagogue” (monument D-6-76-139-293) is rather brief: “Former synagogue, two-storey building of bunter ashlars with a mansard roof and an elevated median avant-corps with a pyramid roof, historicist, 1904 (domed sacred space destroyed 1938 and reconstructed for residential use)”
Old Town Hall
Nr. on the small map: 20 (Miltenberg)
The Old Town Hall was first mentioned in 1379 as the weighing house. It was additionally used as dance and council hall (hall on the upper level), warehouse, and shopping mall (ground floor) where travelling merchants had to display their goods for sale. Between 1979 -1983, the building was being renovated and can today be booked for all kinds of events. Markings on the outer façade give evidence of former flood levels.
Staffelbrunnen (Stair Well)
Nr. on the small map: 21 (Miltenberg)
Up to 1897, numerous wells were the only water supply for the town. The Stair Well, which had been built around 1600 was excavated again in 1985 when the pedestrian area was established. Its name stems from stairways leading to the well (“Staffeln” dialect for “Stufen” = “Stairs / Steps”)
The first pharmacy of the region, at that time belonging to the electorate of Mainz, was founded in Miltenberg in 1514. Even Aschaffenburg did not have a pharmacy, which indicates the importance of Miltenberg.
In the early 18th century the building was renewed and reconstructed in the baroque style.
The pharmacy was closed in 2016 after more than 500 years of continuous business. Since spring 2021 the building hosts a private apothecary museum, presenting the history of pharmacy and medicine since the 16th century. In the Fischergasse behind the building the old garden with medicinal herbs can be found.
Inn "Zum Riesen" ("The Giant")
In 1411, the tavern Zum Riesen was first officially mentioned. The present building dates back to 1590. It is considered the oldest inn of Germany and besides is proud to be the oldest royal inn of Germany. Since the innkeeper was not able to survive on noble guests only, the inscription on the house also invites citizens and farmers to step in.
Tip: The Faust Brewery brews one kind of beer to be served at the tavern only. The Riesen-Spezial can be tasted in-house.
City Wall and “Witch Huts”
Nr. on the small map: 24 (Miltenberg)
Along the outer eastern side of the old town wall, you find remnants of old “witch huts” where in former times alleged “witches” and “sorcerers” were imprisoned. Up to 1630, witchcraft trials were carried out.
Old Jewish Cemetery
You find the Old Jewish Cemetery between the Old City Wall and the Burgweg, beyond the former moat. It commemorates the Jewish citizens who once developed a rich cultural and commercial life in town.
The association “Jüdisches Leben in Unterfranken – Biografische Datenbank e.V.” have not only collected the biographies of those Jews who fell victim to the Shoah, they also made a list of those buried on the Old Jewish Cemetery in Miltenberg – at least as far as the inscriptions are still legible.
Tip: You can buy a small guidebook “Jewish Miltenberg” at the Tourist Information for € 2.50.
Town Park (Arboretum)
Nr. on the small map: 26 (Miltenberg)
At the end of the 19th century, the Town Park of Miltenberg was laid out by Gustav Jakob, a wealthy citizen of Miltenberg, resembling an English Park and arboretum. Today the little park has almost 150 different species of trees and bushes and is not only a precious hideaway for relaxing but also for exploring.
Lutheran Church John the Apostle
Nr. on the small map: 27 (Miltenberg)
The Lutheran Church was built in 1897 and, because of its architecture and choice of material, well worth a visit. The Statue of Christ at the outside of the tower is a copy of the statue inside the Copenhagen Cathedral by Bertel Thorvaldsen. Do not miss the colorful stained-glass windows with illustrations from the bible. A small guide is on display inside of the church.
Main River Bridge
The passage across the Main River near Miltenberg has already been very important during the Middle Ages. Initially, ferries crossed from the Schwertfeger Tor, later also from the Ankergasse. Between 1898 – 1900, the first bridge was built, with the imposing bridge tower remaining until today. The bridge itself was blown up during the last days of the war in 1945; the reconstructed bridge was inaugurated in 1950.
Tourist Information in the Town Hall at the Engelplatz and Monument "DenkOrt Deportationen 1941 - 1944"
The Engelplatz (Angel Square) got its name from the earlier hotel “Zum Engel” which was the first utilization of our present Town Hall. Between then and now the building has also successively been used for different school types.
The team of the Tourist Information is looking forward to meeting you and will gladly help with all requests, recommend the customized guided tours, accommodations, events or excursions, and of course with everything else your heart desires.
Miltenberg is part of the decentralized monument “DenkOrt Deportationen 1941 – 1944”. It consists of suitcases, backpacks, rolled-up blankets and other pieces of luggage, made of stone, wood or metal and representing the very few belongings people could take with them, when they were deported from Würzburg to various concentration camps.
One specimen of each piece of luggage is in Würzburg and its identical counterpart is in the town from where the Jewish citizens were hauled off.
Nr. on the small map: 30 (Miltenberg)
The Franciscans, having already been present in town since 1630, lived in the hospital. Due to the Thirty Years War, the construction of the monastery was delayed. Therefore, the construction of the convent started in 1660, the church construction in 1667, realizing designs of the court architect of Mainz and Würzburg, Antonio Petrini. The main portal, donated by Archbishop Johann Philipp of Schönborn and the baroque interior design of the church are remarkable.
Old Archiepiscopal Tithe House (Hartigsbau)
The Old Archiepiscopal Tithe House received its name Hartigsbau honoring its owner in the 19th century. Beforehand, it had been the administrative center of the chapter of Mainz, designed in late gothic style, collecting the tithe, particularly through wine. The main building with the stepped gable dates to 1488/89.
Today the municipal music school and the community college have rooms inside.
Civil Settlement (Vicus) of the Roman Fort Numerus
In 1998, during construction works at house Maria Regina, a craftsmen’s site of a civil settlement was excavated. It had been part of the Roman Fort Numerus, situated about 300 m east (linear) between the Mittel- and Berufsschule. A melting pit, two pottery kilns, and remains of three wooden buildings were found. The Caritas as homeowner facilitated an exhibition next to the dining hall: a preserved pottery kiln with added information about the Roman era in Miltenberg.
Take a look at this Roman treasure (ca. 160-260 AD) during opening hours.
Tip: Finds from the Fort Numerus can be seen in the Museum Stadt Miltenberg and in the Museum Bürgstadt.
Nr. on the small map: 33 (Miltenberg)
The Würzburg Gate (or Würzburg Tower – 32 m / 105 ft tall) was, like the Mainz Gate, first mentioned in 1379. It was the utmost outer borderline of the eastern suburb. Up to the 18th century, two watchmen were responsible to grant entry, collect tolls, guard the prison and warn in case of fire.
Nr. on the small map: 34 (Miltenberg)
The Zuckmantelturm was erected in the middle/end of the 14th century and rebuilt several times. Its location and architectural design suggest it was a cornerstone guarding the south eastern town boundary. Here the town was extremely vulnerable.
Stolpersteine (Stumbling Stones)
Gunter Demnig laid the first nine stolpersteine (stumbling stones) in Miltenberg in May 2016, by the instigation of the Initiative “Miltenberger Stolpersteine – GEGEN DAS VERGESSEN” (“Miltenberger Stolpersteine – FIGHT OBLIVION”). Meanwhile 44 stolpersteine have been laid, commemorating 44 people who were either murdered by Nazis or driven to their deaths. Detailed information on stolpersteine in Miltenberg can be looked up on this page.
Citizens of Pre and Early History left vestiges all over the region. Approximately in 3000 BC and again in 1500 BC, mighty ringforts were erected on the mountains Bürgstadter Berg and Greinberg above Miltenberg. Both served as refuge castles of significant size.
The Romans inhabited the region from around 160 to 260 AD and constructed two forts (castra) during that period: South of where the river Erf flows into the Main was the Fort Numerus, holding about 120 men, and at the mouth of the river Mud, the Fort Cohort (see Kleinheubach), holding about 480 men, where later, on its ruins, the town Wallhausen evolved.
UNESCO World Heritage: Limes
With a length of 550 km, some 900 sentries, and 120 forts and keeps, the Upper Germanic-Rhaetian Limes is the biggest archeological monument of Germany. While Emperor Antonius Pius ruled, the “Wet Limes” along the Main River was extended, connecting Großkrotzenburg and Wörth, stretching to Miltenberg/Bürgstadt. From here, the “Solid Limes” lead via Walldürn, Osterburken, and Lorch all the way to Regensburg.
Middle Ages and Early Modern Age
First mentioned in a document of 1237, the town Miltenberg can proudly look back on a turbulent history. Making the best of its conveniently situated position along the busy escort road Nuremberg-Frankfurt next to the Main, Miltenberg grew to be a significant customs point and substantial trading venue. Its most important growth factors were viticulture, wine trade, shipping, timber and stone industry, alongside with trade and craftsmanship.
In 1367, Emperor Karl IV granted Miltenberg several privileges, e.g. arranging trade fairs, and implementing the staple right which helped Miltenberg at an early stage to become a thriving medieval trading center. In 1379, the city gates Würzburger and Mainzer Tor were mentioned for the first time and by then the town had already covered an area which was not surpassed before the 1800s.
In the Peasant’s War 1525, Miltenberg was not destroyed, but a few years later, in 1552, Miltenberg partly went up in flames during the Margrave War. After that war, Archbishop Daniel Brendel of Homburg initiated the re-erection of the castle.
In 1583, the sculptor Michael Juncker created one of the most beautiful renaissance monuments of Miltenberg: The Market Fountain. The Market Square, better known as “Schnatterloch”, is surrounded by magnificent half-timbered houses; e.g. the former Centgrafenhaus, the old Amtskellerei and the Gülden Cron. One of Germany’s oldest taverns, the Gasthaus zum Riesen (The Giant’s Inn), was altered in 1590 to present itself as seen today. Century after century, kings, princes, and other secular and clerical officials would stay in this “princely tavern”.
In the 1600s the witch-hunting started. The Mainz territory around Miltenberg was especially affected. Men and women were equally denounced, tortured and executed.
Thirty Years War
During the Thirty Years War (1618 – 1648), the convenient position along the so-called “Highway of the Middle Ages” which once had helped Miltenberg become a thriving trade center, turned into a disadvantage. The town lost more than half of its population to lootings, pillage, and epidemics, introduced by soldiers because all troops were using that road. The once splendid era was over.
Transition from Mainz to Bavaria
After the electoral state of Mainz had been disestablished in 1803, Prince Leiningen became legal successor of the Archbishop of Mainz. Nevertheless, in 1806, Leiningen already lost its political sovereignty but not its property to the Grand Duchy Baden. In 1810, Miltenberg became Hessian and in 1816 Bavarian.
In 1818, the revocation of previous centuries-old customs and market rights by the Kingdom of Bavaria lead to substantial financial losses. The town lost its former central position and was now located at the outskirts of the Bavarian Kingdom. The main stages of urban development lay in the past but, as hopeless as it seemed then, this situation supported the preservation of the medieval townscape. The award-winning Museum Stadt Miltenberg shows how people used to live here in the course of centuries.
Miltenberg – „Town of Timber“
Miltenberg is a member of the “German Half-Timbered House Road”. Under the slogan “half-timbered unites”, the holiday route presents unique landscapes, historic sites, and carefully restored monuments.
Having such an eventful history, Miltenberg can display itself gloriously: A wide main street with marvelous half-timbered houses and medieval alleyways. The oldest, still preserved half-timbered house dates back to 1339.
Genussort / Place of Culinary Delight
Miltenberg not only offers a lively present and impressive history, it was also awarded the title Bayerischer Genussort („Bavarian place of culinary delight”). There are only few places in Bavaria (just 100) that can call themselves a “Genussort”.