We approached the town from above, as it is nestled in a deep valley along the River Kocher. We slipped into the last available parking space in a small public lot just a short distance from the town center, then started out on a ramble through the ancient city. Schwäbisch Hall’s roots date back to the 5th century BC, and evidence of Celtic saltworks have been discovered in the northern area of the town (the name Hall refers to a “fountain of salt”). Salt was the mainstay of the local economy through the Middle Ages, and the city’s wealth is evidenced by the impressive St. Michael’s Church, dating from the 15th century.
We soon made our way to one of the most distinctive buildings in town, the massive Neubau (
More enchanting cobbled streets led us down the hill towards the river, where we crossed a covered wooden pedestrian bridge (the town boasts several of them) and turned a corner to feast our eyes on a magnificent sight: a string of cheerful pastel-hued half-timbered houses strung out along the river atop a solid wall of massive stone foundations, crowned by the peaked roof of the Neubau. More houses came into view as we walked along the promenade, all clustered together like pieces of an elaborate jigsaw puzzle (photo, right). A hefty arched stone bridge links the town with an island in the middle of the river, home to a lovely park where plenty of people were enjoying a lazy afternoon stroll under a canopy of leaves just starting to display autumn colors. We crossed another covered bridge to the opposite side of the river and continued our walk along the waterfront, spotting remnants of the old town defenses along the way, including sturdy towers and crumbling walls. We circled back through town and made our way slowly back to the car. All in all, Schwäbisch Hall is one of the most charming towns we have visited in Baden-Württemberg. It may be a little off the beaten path, but well worth a visit. I was sorry we hadn’t discovered it earlier but I’m so glad we made the trip.