Münsterland is a mostly flat, agricultural region in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. It is mostly notable for its more than 100 castles and manors, resulting in its byname "Land of hundred castles". Moreover it is a centre of horse breeding and riding.
- Münster, biggest urban centre in the region
- Bocholt, close to the Dutch border, former textile industry site
- Dülmen, on the northern fringe of the Ruhr area
- Lüdinghausen, small town with outstanding castles
- Warendorf, internationally known stud farms, seat of several equestrian sport institutions
- Naturpark Hohe Mark-Westmünsterland, one of the few hilly parts of the region (with heights of up to 157 m), covered with forests and protected as a nature park
Most of the Münsterland was ruled by the prince-bishops of Münster until the French Revolution. It is known as one of the most Catholic and politically conservative regions in Northern Germany - an otherwise more Lutheran area. The population is often stereotyped as being very down-to-earth, quiet and stubborn, a stereotype that to varying degrees applies to most of Northern Germany.
Standard German is spoken and understood throughout the Münsterland, only the older generation in rural areas still speaks Low German which is quite similar to Dutch (and—a little more distantly—related to English). There are some Dutch-speakers in Münster and the areas close to the Netherlands. Münster has a large number of university students and younger academics who usually speak English well, moreover the city's tourism industry is used to foreign guests. Students - especially those coming from other countries - are often fluent or reasonably conversant in English, German and one additional language, often Spanish or French.
Münster Osnabrück Airport (IATA: FMO) is a smallish regional airport with mostly domestic and a few sesonal/charter flights to holiday destinations around the Mediterranean Sea. From there, shuttle buses or taxis take you to Münster.
The next major airport with more international connections is Düsseldorf (IATA: DUS) (about 100 km to the south). Trains take you directly from Düsseldorf airport to Münster in 1½ hours. Moreover you can use the airports of Dortmund (60 km to the South; direct train connection to Münster in about half an hour), Paderborn-Lippstadt (65 km to the South), or Weeze/Niederrhein Airport (IATA: NRN) (55 km to the Southeast; mostly used by Ryanair).
Intercity trains stop in Münster (hourly from Hamburg, Bremen, Düsseldorf, Cologne; every two hours from Frankfurt, Munich, Stuttgart) and Rheine (every two hours from Berlin, Amsterdam, Düsseldorf, Cologne). From there regional trains connect to other places in the Münsterland.
Intercity buses serve Münster and as the Netherlands aren't too far away, there are some cross-border routes.
Most places in the Münsterland are connected by regional buses. During the summer season, some buses carry trailers for bicycles. The Münsterland is a paradise for cyclists. Münster is known as Germany's bicycle capital and the mostly flat areas surrounding it are ideal to be discovered by bike, even for untrained cyclists. There are several well-paved and signposted cycling paths. Some towns can also be reached by regional trains.
The region's main city, Münster, has an interesting old town (mostly rebuilt in the original style after the destruction of World War 2) with the baroque bishop's palace, historical town hall (where the Westphalian Peace treaty was concluded in 1648 ending the Thirty Years' War), cathedral and several churches and several parks. Moreover it is a lively university city and Germany's bicycle capital.
The Münsterland's most relevant and numerous sights are its more than hundred castles, chateaus, palaces and manors of different eras, styles and sizes. Among the most notable of them are the Vischering Castle of Lüdinghausen, a Renaissance water castle that looks like a romantic prototype of the ideal medieval castle; and Schloss Nordkirchen (8 km southeast of Lüdinghausen), a large and imposing baroque brick palace surrounded by moats, that has been dubbed the "Versailles of Westphalia". The Burg Anholt water castle in Isselburg (15 km west of Bocholt) is another one of the biggest and most beautiful residences in Münsterland. Close to it is the so-called Anholter Schweiz, a large park with a lake, rocks and an imitated Swiss chalet, modeled to imitate a Swiss landscape around Lake Lucerne to please its Switzerland-enthusiastic owner. Interestingly some of the castles were started as monasteries, but later transformed into noble residences, e. g. Kloster Bentlage of Rheine or Cappenberg Castle near Selm (5 km north of Lünen).
Most of these castles are surrounded by large, lush and well-tended gardens or parks.
A lot less ostentatious but nonetheless lovely is the Haus Rüschhaus, a late-baroque country house a few kilometres outside of Münster, that served as the residence of the 19th-century poet Annette von Droste-Hülshoff, and has a beautiful and well-maintained baroque garden.
The octagonal baroque St Mary's Chapel (Marienkapelle) of Telgte (12 km east of Münster) is the most important Catholic pilgrimage destination in Northern Germany.
The traditions of the Münsterland's traditional crafts and industries may be studied at the Bocholt textile museum (with still operative, historical steam-powered weaving machines), the Pott's brewery beer museum of Oelde or the 300-year old premium grain brandy distillery Feinbrennerei Sasse in Schöppingen (9 km southwest of Steinfurt).
- 100-Schlösser-Route (route of the hundred castles), 305 km cycling path, divided into four sections
The most popular activity for tourists is cycling. There are dozens of well-paved and signposted cycling paths, leading through the mostly flat landscape, meadows and light forest, alongside rivers and canals, from castle to castle. There is an excellent cycling infrastructure, lots of bike rentals and repair shops, many restaurants, shops and guest houses have their own bicycle parking. Most routes are suitable for beginners, too. If you are too tired to cycle back to your starting point, you may also take your two-wheeler along on the train or bus (many regional buses have trailers to load cycles during the summer).
Moreover, the Münsterland is a heartland of horse breeding and riding, more than 10,000 horses live on the 1,000 equestrian farms of the region. Many of them have offers for tourists who may ride along dozens of recommended bridle-paths and routes. Riding lessons are offered to beginners. Apart from riding yourself, you can also watch shows and competitions at equestrian sport events.
Other activities that visitors may engage in, include golf (about a dozen golf clubs), canoeing on the region's rivers, and hiking.
- Münsterländer Töttchen – sweet-and-sour ragout, traditionally made from beef innards; nowadays innards are replaced by meat and tongue in many restaurants.
- Himmel und Erde ("Heaven and Earth") – mashed potatoes and apples, served with bratwurst or liverwurst and onion rings
- Westphalian Wedding soup – broth with beef, vegetables and semolina dumplings
The locals' favourite drink is beer. A number of smaller and medium-sized regional breweries still exist, including Pott's of Oelde and Pinkus Müller of Münster. The region's most popular liquor is Korn, i. e. grain brandy (usually rye, wheat or barley), which is produced in a few local distilleries. Sasse Lagerkorn is a grain brandy too, but it is barrel-aged and has a much more complex flavour, unlike your typical German schnapps, but rather comparable to whiskey. While you may have heard that Germans love their beer, in Northern Germany Korn actually has more importance than beer to many. However, it is not unheard of to order Korn and beer together, sometimes referred to as Herrengedeck (literally "gentlemen's menu").
- Western Plains of Lower Saxony, to the North
- Overijssel in the Netherlands, to the West
- Teutoburg Forest, to the East
- Ruhr, to the South – densely populated urban and industrial agglomeration that remodels itself into a cultural metropolis