Esslingen in southern Germany is an attractive town full of half-timbered buildings in the commuter region around Stuttgart.
It is also known as Esslingen am Neckar, adding the river Neckar to the name so as to avoid confusion with another Esslingen further north in Germany.
Although Esslingen is within the Stuttgart region and many residents travel to work in the big city, it is well worth a trip on its own merits.
The timber-framed houses and other historic buildings in the medieval town, the city wall and towers and the vineyards around the city are all interesting attractions to explore in Esslingen.
The major national and international airport at Stuttgart is only a few kilometres away from Esslingen and makes the destination an obvious choice if flight options fit.
Distance to Stuttgart Airport: 14km
Distance to Karlsruhe-Baden-Baden Airport: 125km
Distance to Memmingen (Allgäu) Airport: 143km
Distance to Friedrichshafen (Bodensee) Airport: 180km
The three other options in a radius of under 200 kilometres are all smaller airports with more limited choice of carriers and destinations and, if Stuttgart is not a good option, it may be more sensible to widen the search a little further to larger airports such as Frankfurt, Munich and Zurich..
Esslingen is a stop on one of the major S-Bahn suburban rail services from Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof. Esslingen train station is located next to the modern pedestrian shopping centre of the town and a short walk from the historic medieval centre.
Esslingen is located just off the B10 which heads northwest towards Stuttgart. The nearest motorway is the A8 between Stuttgart and Ulm just under 10 kilometres to the south of the town.
Although Esslingen could be seen as an engineering town and somewhere in the commuter belt of Stuttgart, the fact that it is close to Stuttgart airport and has its own tourist attractions means that there is a good supply of hotel and other accommodation within the town boundaries and in the countryside surrounding the built-up area.
If you know when you are planning to go but haven't decided on accommodation, then use the map below to get an idea of which properties are available and to compare prices during the period you wish to travel.
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Archaeological finds have proved that there was a settlement at Esslingen back in prehistoric times and the Romans built villas in the area once it had become part of the Roman Empire.
The first time Esslingen was mentioned officially was in a document from the 8th century. The settlement, known as Hetsilinga, became a location for religious pilgrimage and the original town charter is supposed to have been granted early in the 9th century.
The early Middle Ages were the start of Esslingen's rise to prominence. Many important buildings were constructed in the 13th century including the parish church of St Dionysius and a bridge over the river Neckar.
It also became a Free Imperial City in the Holy Roman Empire (which gave the town a certain degree of independence from local rulers) but this did not stop Esslingen from being involved in an intermittent campaign against nearby Württemberg over the next two centuries.
The Imperial Diet was held in Esslingen at the end of the 15th century, where, among other things, the Swabian League of independent cities was founded. The last battles between Esslingen and Württemberg took place at the start of the next century.
Unfortunately for the town, the end of hostilities with Württemberg did not stop the seemingly endless round of battles during the following centuries, with the religious divisions of the Reformation, the plagues and refugees that followed the Thirty Years' War and the conflicts over who should succeed to the throne in faraway countries.
Esslingen finally lost its independence to its old rivals in Württemberg during the age of Napoleon at the start of the 19th century.
In the following decades, Esslingen was transformed into an engineering centre and lost a number of important historic buildings as factories and housing for workers were constructed.
The town suffered little damage in World War II, which meant that the medieval old town was preserved. The population had increased rapidly as a result of the industrialisation and underwent a further boom as refugees from East Germany settled in the town under American occupation.
Although it remains an important engineering centre and is full of students at the Esslingen University of Applied Sciences, it retains its attractions for visitors on a day trip from Stuttgart or even on a longer stay.
The medieval town centre allows visitors to wander from one half-timbered house to another - in fact, the area around the Hafenmarkt has the oldest row of half-timbered houses in Germany.
Marktplatz is another popular location, with the market square home to both the old and new town hall. It is also the venue for various festivals throughout the year, including the Esslingen Christmas market, which combines Advent celebrations with the style of a medieval market.
The old town hall, which the tourist office calls the most beautiful building in the town with its Renaissance facade, was built back in the 15th century.
Above the town it is possible to climb the narrow covered walkway up to the old city wall with its watchtower or, alternatively, to take a scenic stroll on the hillside through the vineyards which rise just outside the town centre.
Rottweil is characterised by its medieval architecture and is renowned for being one of the oldest towns in the region. The city is noted for its centuries-old annual carnival tradition, Fasnet. It's also widely recognized for giving its name to the well-known breed, the Rottweiler dog.
Tübingen dates back to the Middle Ages and is distinguished by its well-preserved old town featuring half-timbered houses and cobbled streets. Tübingen is also home to one of Europe's oldest universities, the Eberhard Karls University, established in 1477.
Reutlingen can boast several historical architectural sites from the Middle Ages, including its iconic town church, Marienkirche, and the imposing Tübinger Tor. It is located at the foot of the Swabian Jura and offers a blend of urban life and natural beauty.
Stuttgart is a dynamic and diverse city in the heart of Baden-Württemberg. Founded in the 10th century, Stuttgart has transformed itself from a historic city into an automotive powerhouse, famously home to world-renowned car manufacturers such as Mercedes-Benz and Porsche.
Founded in the early 18th century, Ludwigsburg is known for the Ludwigsburg Palace, one of the largest Baroque palaces in Germany surrounded by expansive, beautiful gardens. This city is also home to the Ludwigsburg Festival, a well-known international festival of music and performing arts.
Heidelberg is home to Germany's oldest university, Ruprecht Karl University, founded in 1386. The city is synonymous with the iconic Heidelberg Castle, a mix of styles from Gothic to Renaissance, perched on a hill and overlooking the city and river below.
The city tourist office is located on the Marktplatz and is open Mondays to Saturdays with slightly earlier closing on the Saturday.
Tourist Office: www.esslingen-marketing.de