In the heart of the Eifel lies the most enchanting little village. Replete with all of the makings of a fairy tale, this tiny hamlet is one of the region’s best-kept secrets.
A Real-Life Storybook
Not too long ago, I found myself in the middle of a conversation with several Germans who are big fans of the Eifel region. Some of them lived there, too, but most of them actually didn’t. For them, the Eifel was their most beloved vacation spot.
Of course, the Eifel is bigger than you might realize, and so I found that they all had different preferences for the specific parts of the Eifel that they liked the best. But there was one thing they all had in common, and that was Monreal. I didn’t talk to a single person who either hadn’t spent time in Monreal or didn’t have it on their Eifel bucket list. This little village – that I had never heard of – was a unanimous favorite.
So, You Know What That Means
Even though it’s probably better to visit Monreal in the summertime, I am a super impatient person who really enjoys impulsive travel. So, in the dead of winter, under the threat of depressive-looking rain clouds and a slightly painful wind, I drug my husband away from his warm couch and set-off to find out what all the fuss was about.
The drive was an easy one – albeit a bit boring. But, that’s only because it was almost entirely Autobahn. Monreal is surprisingly close to A48. I think once we exited, it was only a 10-minute drive or so to get to the village. But once you’re in Monreal, you wouldn’t know there was an Autobahn anywhere nearby.
Monreal is tucked away behind woods and hills. And it’s a little bit deceiving when you first come in because you don’t really see much. You come into the village, and it’s basically a straight shot through to the other side. The main street is nice, but I would say there’s nothing really exceptional about it, but don’t let that fool you.
We couldn’t find any parking lots, so we drove to the end of the village, turned around, and then snagged an open spot on the side of the street. We knew from my conversation with the Eifel fans that the most picturesque spots were down by the water, so we found a street that angled down and followed it.
Guys, this place is beautiful. The weather was miserable and awful and dreary, but Monreal was still so magical.
We turned down every side street, rounded every corner, and just everywhere we went, there was a spectacular view. Some of the buildings date back to the 15th century, and the castles go all the way back to the 13th century.
The people of Monreal have put so much work into restoring and maintaining the cityscape, but they have paid special attention to the half-timbered houses. They’re gorgeous, but they’re also a testament to the village’s history.
There was a time when Monreal was quite prosperous. Back in the 14th century, when Monreal was in its infancy, the residents started holding weekly markets. This gave people the opportunity to develop their crafts – one of those being clothmaking. See, the Eifel had such an abundance of sheep that it was sometimes referred to as “the land of sheep”.
Monreal was one of the places where wool was turned into cloth. In fact, during the 1700s, over half of the village’s population was in the clothmaking business, and they sold their goods far beyond the local area. Unfortunately, though, advancements in technology and machinery eventually put the clothmakers out of business during the latter half of the 1800s, which financially devastated the village.
However, the clothmakers’ homes – the half-timbered houses – remained as a testament. And when people started to appreciate the romantic charm of the Eifel in the early 1900s and take vacations in the region, it was those same half-timbered homes that brought them to Monreal.
How We Spent the Day in Monreal
Like I said, Monreal is idyllic and spending the day there is all about taking it slow and appreciating all the charms the area has to offer. So, that’s exactly what we did. We strolled through the city center, walked along the water, and took in the details of everything. It was hard not to stop every five feet and take pictures, I can tell you that! There are a number of plaques scattered throughout the buildings, so we also stopped to read about the history of the village.
I found the cutest little bookstore while we were there. Seriously – it’s physically impossible for me to walk past a bookstore without going in. I just can’t do it. And I always like to buy a book from places I visit so that I have a memento – and also just because I love to read. So, I thought that since we were in such an Eifel favorite, I would buy my first Eifel Krimi.
They actually sold a lot of Eifel-specific books. There was a whole display of Eifel Krimis, as well as informational books about the Eifel, cookbooks full of Eifel recipes, etc. And upstairs, she had a pretty little art gallery.
We also stopped in at a pottery store that was just awesome. They had really unique pieces that, I think, would be neat ideas for gifts for people back home in the States. The showroom is way bigger than it looks from the outside, and she has everything set up in areas grouped by color. The lady who owns this business makes all of the pieces herself. It was impressive.
And, of course, because my husband and I are all about the food, we hit up not one but TWO restaurants. Well, we only ate at one and stopped for coffee in the other. Although I have to admit, the restaurant was nice, but the real highlight was the cafe.
We had made dinner reservations at a restaurant called Stellwerk. But with an hour or so until the restaurant opened for dinner, we found ourselves cold and wanting to sit down for a while. So, we made our way over to a little cafe called Malerwinkel that was surprisingly busy. I mean, the streets were basically dead, and this place was hoppin’.
We walked in, thinking it would be no biggie to snag a table, only to find out that we actually needed a reservation. When we explained to the lady that we had just popped in by chance because we were actually killing time until our reservation at Stellwerk, she let us have a tiny table next to a small fireplace with the understanding that we wouldn’t be there for too long.
Now, because we had dinner plans already, we didn’t eat anything, but man, did we want to! They basically just serve Flammkuchen, but in all different varieties. They even have a dessert Flammkuchen with apples and cinnamon. Everyone around us was eating, and everything looked and smelled so amazing! We only ordered drinks, but they were good, too. My husband really liked his coffee, which came with a very yummy chocolate brownie (that I might have stolen). And I got a Kölsch beer because…well, just because.
After we had warmed ourselves a bit, we headed back out into the cold. We tried to go up to the castle ruins because I knew there were hiking trails up there, but the ground was really wet, and we didn’t have the right shoes on. (A very German statement, I’m aware.)
We drove over to Stellwerk later when it was time for dinner. But, after we got there, we realized that we actually could have walked as there is a small path that leads from the restaurant to the city center. The restaurant was really nice. It’s actually an old train station that’s been converted, and we really enjoyed our food.
The Christmas Market
So far, we’ve only been back to Monreal once. Still winter. Still icky weather. But, we went to their Christmas market, and let me tell you, it is my new favorite – even beating out Traben-Trarbach. But that’s a post for another day. 🙂
Heading Out There Yourself?
Here are links to everything you need to know: