The Mole Diaries: Münster
Charlotte Jones is studying Law with European Studies at the University of Exeter and is spending her Erasmus year at Westfalische-Wilhelms Universität in Munster, Germany. Here is her insider guide to the city: accommodation, getting around town, bars, cafés, clubs, top places to see, and the things she wishes she'd known before arriving in Münster.
I am writing this blog for one very simple reason; I am living in a city, which simply cannot be missed out upon by anyone lucky enough to be considering a year abroad here. If I was ever, god forbid, put in charge of designing a city, I would design Münster. Whether it’s strolling through the bustling streets of Prinzipalmarkt, cycling around the picturesque Promenade or soaking up the sun with a barbecue by the Aasee lake, Münster has so much to offer. If you’re looking for a hipster, Leeds-esque, city-that-never-sleeps then stop reading now. If a beautiful, bustling and homely city is more your thing, Münster could well be for you.
Münster is located in the west of Germany, in North-Rhine Westphalia on the River Aa and is considered to be the cultural centre of the state. With a population of 300,000 people, 55,000 are students. It is also the bicycle capital of Germany, with a further 500,000 bikes living in the city! It’s really no surprise it was granted the title of ‘World’s Most Liveable City’ in 2004.
First for the boring but important stuff: Münster has an accommodation shortage. You will be able to find a place as long as you apply early! Don’t be that guy living in the Mercure hotel, feasting on a lonely McDonalds every evening, just because you weren’t organised enough. You can always move during the year, but make sure you secure a place first. There is no ‘student accommodation’ as such, but no matter where you live, they will always be close by. A 30-minute bus journey from the city centre can easily be avoided if you are a little bit braver in your housing applications. Living with Germans will improve your language better than anything else. Seize the opportunity!
Getting around Münster couldn’t be easier. In the inner city of Prinzipalmarkt and the old town, everywhere is accessible by foot or bike. Watch out for the bikes! If you value your life, you will soon learn to look both ways before moving anywhere but geradeaus. A bike gives you so much freedom, I couldn’t live without mine. For places a bit further out, there are buses, usually going every 15 minutes, which are free with a semester ticket. And so arises the Golden Rule of Münster travel – buy a semester ticket! For €230 you get unlimited free bus and train travel in the whole of North-Rhine Westphalia (i.e. the most populated state in Germany!). This can be done through the university and is a very easy process. Cologne, Dortmund, Düsseldorf, Aachen and Essen are all at your fingertips.
3. Top places to see
- Prinzipalmarkt/ Lambertikirche - Every day I walk through town and think wow I actually live here. The architecture is stunning and there’s a friendly buzz about the city, not to mention the towering Lambertikirche with a dark history of its own.
- Domplatz - More than just a church.
- Aasee - Sun, BBQ’s, Boats, the student hub of Münster.
- Promenade - the perfect place to get fit or just get some frische Luft.
- Das Schloss & Botanical Gardens - My first thought: ‘Am I at Buckingham Palace?’
- LWL Museum/ Picasso Museum/ Stadtmuseum - For the culture vulture within.
- Mensa - Incredibly cheap, good quality food: you buy a card and then top it up – all sorts of meals, puddings and my personal fave, the salad bar (this is not your ordinary salad). Expect to pay €3-€4 for a three course meal. Don’t ask me how… but I’m not complaining!
4. Bars and cafés
- Stammtisch - the location changes, but this is the weekly meeting of Erasmus students. The best possible way to make friends and socialise.
- Jüdefelderstrasse and Kreuzstrasse bars - Cavete, Palma, Gorilla, Peacock, Davidwache – cheap beer, cocktails, chilled vibes, great for those weekday get-togethers. Davidwache has a huge screen for watching football.
- Shwarzes Schaf - in the centre of town, complete with dance-floor.
- Pension Schmidt - just the coolest café. Sometimes with live piano music, the furniture changes every day. Think your Grandma’s living room. But she’s seriously cool. Cosy and free WIFI.
- Das Blaue Haus, Kiepenkerl - great places for traditional German food at a decent price.
- Jusho Sushi - all you can eat sushi… need I say more?! At around €12 for lunch on weekdays, but doubles for dinner and on weekends. Possibly my favourite place in the whole of Münster.
- Erasmus favourite Cuba Nova for those energetic feel-good hits, 90s, Pop Shaker or Latino nights.
- AMP for house or more chilled music.
- Fusion or Heaven – bigger clubs down by the Hafen (harbour) for that full-on club experience – but expect to pay at least €10. Some house and techno nights.
- Gleis 22 or Gazelle – for the biggest hits.
6. Things I wish I knew before going
1. Buy a bike!
I didn’t until the second semester and it was a huge mistake! Waiting around for buses is a waste of time and seriously limits the places you can visit. Buses stop at around 1am Sunday-Thursday, although there is one every hour on Fridays and Saturdays. But wait until you arrive in Münster before you buy one, otherwise you will have to fork out a lot more. People are always selling them on Facebook or there is a market for used bikes every month. Make sure you have a lock and lights or the Polizei will fine you (€20 down, it’s just not worth it).
2. Apply for housing early
As I have previously mentioned. Don’t forget, you can always move during the year, but make sure you secure a place.
3. Make German friends!
Easiest would probably be with German housemates. The Erasmus team in Münster is so good that you’re always with Erasmus students. Although this is great to meet people from all over the world, it doesn’t improve your German. I fell into this trap and could have learnt a lot more German had I made German friends early on.
This is the language centre of the university and teaches French, German, Spanish, Portuguese and many more all for free. You just have to register, and quickly because the courses are heavily oversubscribed. No wonder! You take a C-test which determines your level, then apply for the corresponding courses. From Beginner to Advanced, you get 3 credits for each class – providing your university accepts this and you attend the classes, this could count as a module and reduces exam stress at the end of the semester.
5. Be prepared to stay late in the year
My final exam was on the 27th July, make sure you have somewhere to stay for that long, Münster University’s term is longer than most others. Don’t overdo those summer plans!