German brewery workers established this picturesque neighborhood in Columbus, Ohio in the mid-1800s, filling it with brick houses in their distinct Bavarian architectural style—though with a twist. They didn’t have German building supplies, of course, so they had to make do with local brick, sandstone, and wood.
Today, the 233-acre German Village is a vibrant historic quarter with buzzy shops and restaurants, peaceful parks, tree-shaded streets, and tons of festivals. The residents love to decorate their neighborhood in seasonal décor—especially during Christmas, when holiday songs and the spicy aroma of glühwein (mulled wine) fill the air, and glowing luminarias light the way.
Here are the best things to do, any time of year.
Occupying charming historic buildings, German Village’s one-of-a-kind shops offer everything from handmade chocolates to exquisite art to hard-to-find books.
Helen Winnemore’s has been around since 1966 (though it started in the 1930s as an “afternoon shop” in her home), and offers locally-made items that are both beautiful and functional: thrown pottery, blown glass, home décor, clothing, and more. Winnemore always served browsers Constant Comment tea (or coffee) in handmade pottery mugs, a tradition that continues to this day.
Afterwards, meander your way through the Book Loft, a 32-room labyrinth that's still going strong after four decades. There’s also Tiki Botanicals, which makes delightfully-scented body, bath, and haircare products; Beakerloo for mid-century art and furnishings; and the Twisted Vine, which offers wine (and wine-tasting).
Eat German Cuisine
Of course, you’ll find German fare in this historic neighborhood. Schmidt’s Sausage Haus und Restaurant has been making sausages since 1886—though it’s the famous jumbo cream puffs you won’t want to miss. Dating back to the village's earliest days, Valter’s at the Maennerchor is a German singing society whose social club offers offers authentic German fare, too.
There are plenty of non-German options as well, including Barcelona Restaurant & Bar for Spanish tapas; the Sycamore, a gastropub beloved for its local organic sourcing; and Ambrose & Eve, which serves comfort food in a homey setting.
The Germans love their green space, which explains the number of parks sprinkling German Village. Schiller Park, dating from 1867, has trails, fountains, and an amphitheater that hosts Shakespeare in the Park performances on summer weekends. Originally called Stewart’s Grove, it was renamed in honor of the famous German poet. The statue of Frederich von Schiller, which has stood there since 1891, was made in Munich and paid for by the community. Be sure to look up to see the modern-day sculptures suspended over the park.
Meanwhile, Frank Fetch Park, named after the original village planner and inspired by a German biergarten, is a smaller and quieter space.
Learn About the Neighborhood's Past Through a Walking or Culinary Tour
While German immigrants developed the neighborhood between 1840 and 1914, most of the current residents have no connection to the original settlers. A good way to learn about German Village’s past is to take a tour. German Village Tours offers walking and coach tours, led by a local resident full of personal stories. Or get to know the history and culture through your taste buds—Columbus Food Adventures offers culinary tours with six or seven stops at favorite local eateries (and they're not all German). You can also stroll the streets and check out the interpretive signs that share stories about the people, places, and events that have contributed to shaping this historic neighborhood.
Admire German Architecture (Columbus style)
Pick up a map at the German Village Meeting Haus and explore brick streets filled with stunning German-style homes. With the onset of anti-German sentiment during World War I, residents fled to the suburbs, and much of the village fell into ruin. Its fate was unknown until the 1960s, when the German Village Commission stepped in and worked to retain the look of the original neighborhood. German Village was added in 1974 to the National Register of Historic Places, and in 2007, it was made a Preserve America Community. As you stroll the streets, admiring the impeccable houses and their flowery gardens, you’ll find a variety of styles: Dutch double duplexes (many of which now are Airbnbs), one-and-a-half-story cottages, and the more elaborate Italianates and Queen Annes.
The German settlers built a brewery district, and despite a bit of a downturn during Prohibition, it’s alive and well today—but not in the way you'd think. The German breweries are gone, but in their place you’ll discover restaurants and live entertainment, plus breweries and brew pubs offering some of Columbus’ local beers. Indeed, Columbus’ beer scene is booming, and here you’ll taste some of the best. The district is located just to the west of German Village, along High and Front Streets. Check out Antiques on High, a brewery known for its sour and wild ales; Planks Bier Garten, which dates back from 1939; and Rockmill Tavern, an elegant gastropub serving local brews. If you’d rather take a tour, jump on the Brewery District Walking Tour offered by Columbus Food Adventures, which brings the brewery era alive with stories in between pours and bites.
Round out your tour of the area by hitting up ShadowboxLive in the Brewery District, where you can enjoy super original, slightly raunchy, hybrid works ranging from rock musicals to sketch comedies. Actors, part of the nation’s largest resident ensemble theater company, take on multiple roles, including performing dance numbers on stage and serving you food and drink in between acts. You will laugh yourself to pieces—guaranteed.