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Bad Urach – Thermal baths, castles and half-timbered houses

Bad Urach – Thermal baths, castles and half-timbered houses

  • A visit to the small half-timbered town of Bad Urach is a perfect day trip from Stuttgart. Here you'll enjoy strengthening thermal baths, waterfalls and both castles and ruins.

The visit to Bad Urach was made together with the German Tourist Board, but all opinions and thoughts are, as always, my own.

The first thing I encounter on the outskirts of Bad Urach is the ruins of Hohenurach Castle, watching over the town from its hill. It is an impressive ruin of a castle that was built already during the beginning of the 13th century. This castle has seen centuries come and go, serving as a residence, military bastion and even a prison. But in the 18th century, when the threat from its walls were considered too big for the surrounding villages, the castle was demolished, leaving behind a majestic ruin for posterity.

Hohenurach Castle is one of southern Germany's largest ruins and you reach the ruin via a popular hiking trail that starts from Bad Urach. The hiking trails are one of the city's big draws, although the hot thermal baths also beckon. But I'm not visiting Bad Urach either to swim or hike, but to experience the town's beautiful half-timbered houses and have a cozy dinner.

Bad Urach is located in the UNESCO Geopark Swabian Alb, a geological and volcanic area that includes everything from meteorite crates to caves and fossil sites. Few places in the world have ever been home to as many volcanoes as the Schwäbische Alb – but it was an incredible 200 million years ago that record was broken.

Although millions of years have passed since the last volcanoes here were active, the underground still bears traces of their power. Earthquakes are not uncommon and the hot springs are nowadays an oasis of well-being and relaxation. From the depths of the bedrock, 770 meters below the ground surface, the warm water is pumped up to the surface and fills the pools of the thermal baths with their healing properties.

The residence castle Urach

A large painted palm meets me unexpectedly at the entrance to Residenzschloss Urach, the castle that was built in the 15th century and is one of Bad Urach's major attractions. The palm was Duke Eberhard im Bart's badge of nobility, which he designed after an arduous journey to the Holy Land. If the palm tree feels exotic today, it is probably nothing against what it must have felt 600 years ago. For the people who passed through the castle gates in the Middle Ages, the sight of the palm tree must have been a glimpse of a very foreign world.

The residence castle served for many years as a hunting lodge for royalty and several major royal weddings have taken place here in the grand halls. One of the most impressive rooms is said to be the well-decorated Golden Hall, whose paintings (including palm trees) date from the 17th century. Unfortunately, the castle is under renovation at the time of my visit, so I have to content myself with admiring the medieval castle from the outside.

Half-timbered house from the 15th century

I walk on car-free streets towards the city center and the historic market square. Even though the houses around me are from the 15th and 16th centuries, the city does not feel like a worn-out museum. This is a lively and modern city where shops, preschools and restaurants replace each other in the shop windows at street level.

Woman with pram walking on a street in cute Bad Urach

I pass the town hall (rathaus) on my way into the city. The white house with its clock and red half-timbering was built as early as 1440, but is still used today as the municipality's office.

In the market place (marktplatz) preparations are being made for this year's Christmas market and there are activities going on in many of the small wooden stalls. All the house facades are illuminated and in the warm light it looks like a gingerbread city with sugar crystals. This is one of the most beautiful little squares I have ever seen in Germany, everything is picturesque to perfection.

Unlike many other villages in Germany, the Christmas market in Bad Urach only takes place on the weekend of the second Advent, and then it's a big hit with live music and artisans. An event for the whole community that is worth looking forward to.

It's a really cold evening and I begin to head to the restaurant Karl's Esszimmer to warm my fingers and toes. Hope they have malultascheon the menu, I find myself thinking before I sit down expectantly at the dinner table.

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How do I get to Bad Urach?

Bad Urach is located approximately 50 kilometers southeast of Stuttgart, in Baden-Württemberg in southwestern Germany. Bad Urach is well suited as a day trip from Stuttgart, to hike, bathe in thermal baths and experience a really cozy little half-timbered town.

The famous spa and thermal baths AlbThermenis found in the outskirts of Bad Urach, but I didn't have time to visit this time. People come here to rest and to bathe in the mineral-rich water from the hot spring, which is said to be healthy for your trails and skin.

Maybe it's extra nice to take an evening bath in a hot spring if you've been hiking all day. There are many popular hiking trails around Bad Urach, where the hike to the waterfall Urascher Wasserfalland the Hohenurach ruinare the most popular.

A dinner tip: For a well-prepared dinner with typical local dishes ("typisch Schwäbisch") and local ingredients, visit the restaurant Karl's dining room of Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten. (And if you're wondering, they have maultasche on the menu)

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