Located in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany Munster is the cultural center of the Westphalia region. It’s also the capital of the local government region Munsterland. The history of the city goes back over 1,200 years and took its place in world history when the Treaty of Westphalia was signed there.
Munster is home to Germany’s first and only museum dedicated to artist Pablo Picasso. The Kunstmuseum Pablo Picasso is housed in the Druffel’schen Hof built between 1784 and 1788. The museum opened in 2000 and features the world’s largest collection of Picasso prints with over 800 lithographs. The museum also mounts special exhibitions on the life and work of Picasso and his contemporaries.
The vibrant and lively Kuhviertel is home to Munster’s oldest brewery and is famous for its restaurants and bars where they serve typical Westphalian specialties. A lot goes on in this quarter day and night. There are galleries, art shops and antique stores.
At the LWL Museum of Natural History with Planetarium visitors can see huge mammoth, explore the world of whales and explore space. The Sternentheater or Theater of Stars has the sharpest digital picture resolution in Europe. The museum also houses the largest ammonite fossil in the world.
A jewel of late Baroque architecture and a memorial to Annette von Droste-Hulshoff is the Ruschhaus. The Westphalian Baroque architect Johann Conrad Schlaun built this house between 1745 and 1749 as his own country estate. 19th century German writer and composer Annette von Droste-Hulshoff lived and worked her from 1826 to 1846.
The Munster municipal port has become a Creative Quay with many office buildings, art, culture, restaurants and trendy clubs. There is a particular charm here with a blend of reconstructed warehouses and modern architecture.
At the port visitors can visit the Munster Exhibition Hall of Contemporary Art. The exhibition hall is housed in a converted warehouse which includes 30 artist studios. A view of the water can be enjoyed from many of the coffee houses and restaurants.
A Munster landmark is the Rathaus or Town Hall. This is a Gothic building with a high gable that dates back to the mid-14th century. The original building was destroyed during the war and rebuilt as a near-replica of the original. The most important room here is the Friedenssall or Hall of Peace where the Spanish-Dutch peace treaty was signed on May 15, 1648 and the Thirty Years War ended by the peace of Westphalia on October 24, 1648. In 2015 the European Commission honored the historical Town Hall of Munster with the European Heritage Label for being the “site of the Westphalian Peace” – landmark of European history. The historical importance of the treaty is considered to be the beginning of the international system of laws.
An important Baroque work is the St. Clemens’ Church designed by Johann Conrad Schlaun. It was once a part of a monastery, a local hospital and it forms a part of Munster’s Baroque Island.
For some wonderful strolling around Munster take a walk along the Munster promenade, a boulevard lined with lime trees. At one time the city walls were here and the green belt stretches around the Old Town today. The promenade is a pedestrian area for everyone traveling on foot, by bike or on skates.
Munster’s main shopping street is the Principal Market. Here you can see tall, narrow houses with steep gables and arched arcades on massive columns. Since the 12th century generations of merchants have established their businesses here. This street is the oldest shopping street in Munster and the center of the Old Town. After the bombing raid in 1943 the houses along the street were rebuilt. The Gothic gables of the Town House and the Renaissance facade of the City Wine House are practically just the same as they were during medieval times.
Dating back to the period between Gothic and early Renaissance the three-aisled St. Peter’s Church has a richly decorated north portal in the Renaissance style. Today it is the school church of the Paulinum, the oldest humanistic grammar school in Germany.
At the Muhlenhof Open-Air Museum on the shores of Aa Lake are over 30 farm houses and other structures. They have all been transported from their original locations throughout Westphalia. Visitors can get a great idea of farm life, traditional customs and crafts.
The former seat of the Prince-Bishops is the Palace. This is a Baroque work created by Johann Conrad Schlaun. It was destroyed during WW II and restored in 1953. Today the palace is the administrative center for the university. Worth a visit are the Botanical Gardens, located on the palace grounds.
A creation of the 13th century is St. Paul’s Cathedral. It is particularly known for its astronomical clock dating from the late Middle Ages, with a calendar that goes as far as 2071. The carillon and revolving of the Magi can be seen and heard from Mondays to Saturdays at noon and Sundays and holidays at 12:30 PM. Nearby is the sepulchral chapel of Clemens August Cardinal von Galen, the “Lion of Munster”. In 1987 Pope John Paul II prayed here. A memorial stone commemorates this event. Visitors can see twelve centuries of the cathedral’s art and culture at the cathedral treasury.
This memorial displays a roaming merchant man in Munsterland carrying his pannier (a basket), known as “Kiepe”. The outfit of the Kiepenkerle included a blue linen gown, red neck scarf, gnarled stick and pipe. These merchants roamed from farm to farm and from house to house with their baskets of wares. They provided the exchange of goods and tidings between town and countryside.
The most central local recreation area in Munster is The Aasee. It is only a 15 minute walk from the Principal Market and offers a variety of leisure activities for both young and old. There are picturesque paths for strollers and paths for bikers and skaters. For those who want to go on the lake there is a boat rental, a sailing school and two sailing clubs. The park around Lake Aasee was awarded a prize as Europe’s most beautiful park in 2009. Visitors and residents alike are charmed by the many sculptures that have been created by internationally renowned artists.
During the summertime visitors are shuttled by the solar boat SOLAARIS from the city center to the four special Aasee attractions. These are the All-Weather Zoo, Hippomax, the Westphalian Horse Museum, the Westphalian Museum of Natural History and Planetarium and the Muhlenhof Open-Air Museum.
For those who love landscaped gardens there is the Nordkirchen Palace. This is a Baroque palace with a spacious garden and the surrounding park is known as the “Versailles of Westphalia”. The palace was built in the French Classical style by Gottfried Laurenz Pictorius and Johann Conrad Schlaun between 1703 and 1734. The garden is open to the public all through the year. Visitors can also get guided tours of the palace and garden.