A City of Crime and Books
If you’re a fan of Clue or Sherlock Holmes, you need to make a trip to the city of Hillesheim in the Vulkaneifel area. It’s known locally as “Die Krimihauptstadt” or “The Crime Capital” for it’s abundance of everything crime related. No worries, though. It’s all in good fun.
We spent the day in Hillesheim recently and visited the two main stops: Das Krimihotel and Das Kriminalhaus.
Both very cool.
In fact, I think this is just about the coolest place in all of the Eifel!
Das Krimihotel (The Crime Hotel)
Das Krimihotel is like something straight out of a Hitchcock movie. My first thought when we rounded the corner and the building came into view was how much it reminded me of both the house from Psycho and the old black and white Dracula movies. It’s impressive from afar, but when you’re up close, you see all of the work they put into the details. Black ravens perched ominously, old lanterns, and dire warnings.
But the real fun is inside.
We weren’t guests of the hotel, so we couldn’t go upstairs, but I would so love to come back and stay here sometime. They have everything from single bed rooms to apartments, and each one is themed after a different crime persona or story.
Just a few of your choices:
- Alfred Hitchcock
- Sherlock Holmes
- James Bond
- Murder on the Orient Express
- Magnum P.I.
Yes. You read that right. Magnum P.I..
The restaurant is on the first floor and open to everyone. We had lunch there, and it was really good. We sat inside for the ambience, but there is also a Biergarten if you’d rather sit outside in the warm weather.
They also have all kinds of events at the hotel for people who want to be more interactive. Every couple of months, they put on a Krimidinner (Crime Dinner) where you work together with the other guests to solve a murder. You can also book a Krimi Kurz-Urlaub (Mini Crime Vacation). They range in length and number of activities included, but you have the choice of things like:
- Crime Dinner
- Original 5 o’clock Tea
- Sight-Seeing Crime Tour (Fictional, of course)
- Crime Time 4 Kids
- Crime Movie Night
- Detective Games
The other really neat thing about this hotel – and Das Kriminalhaus as you’ll see next – is that they bring in local literature and authors alongside the classics. There is a growing genre in German literature called Eifel Krimi (Eifel Crime). These books, written by local authors and set in the Eifel, are some of the driving forces behind a lot of the local tourism. Some of the hotel rooms are even themed after Eifel Krimis, and throughout the year they host readings with Eifel Krimi authors. You even get an Eifel Krimi novel when you book one of their Mini Crime Vacations. The sight-seeing tours are based on popular Eifel Krimi stories and actually take people on an 18 km hike through the real-life locations where the fictional murders take place.
Das Kriminalhaus (The Crime House)
As much as I loved Das Krimihotel, I might have loved Das Kriminalhaus even more. I can’t tell you how absolutely blown away I was by the ambience here. There are three floors, all open to the public. The first floor is The Sherlock Cafe, where you can order all kinds of sandwiches and treats with malicious names like Coreleone Tomato Soup, Mafia Toast Special, and Black Death Espresso.
The cafe was pretty full, and since we weren’t customers, I felt a little weird taking pictures. I did, however, take pictures upstairs. If you are a book nerd like me, you will be in Heaven here.
The second floor has another seating area with bigger tables and couches. It looked like it also doubled as a party room on occasion. Across the hall is a small room with books, complete with a rather life-like mannequin who I almost apologized to for disturbing. As you continue up the stairs to the next floor, the rooms just continue. In all, they have over 30,000 books – all crime – on hand! Some of them, like the Agatha Christie collection, are even first editions.
Every floor presents new rooms full of books – each with nooks and crannies to explore.
The upper floors are completely filled with books – floor to ceiling. There are places throughout where you can sit down and read. Old armchairs, dusty lamps, creaky wooden floors. I didn’t even count how many rooms there were because there were just so many. There is even one room dedicated to German crime novels. It’s an impressive archive to say the least.
On the very top floor, they have rare crime puzzles and games. You could easily spend an entire day just in these rooms. Even for those who can’t read German. It really is a sight to see.
Tips for Visiting
Just a couple words of advice. Most places here have their Ruhetag on Monday, and the Tourism Office is closed on Sundays. So, if you want to get information (for example, the map of crime locations for the hike, guided tours, etc.), plan on doing that Monday through Saturday. And if you want to visit the Sherlock Cafe or Krimi Archives, go any day but Monday. One of the nice things about Hillesheim is that there aren’t really any tourists. There are shops and restaurants, neat places to visit, but without crowds. Okay, granted, that means fewer options for English, but if you want to really experience the Eifel like a local, this is a must-see.