Osnabrück has gone down in history as a city of peace for its role in the Treaty of Westphalia. But Osnabrück is much more than that. It's also a city of many layers, with something new to discover at every turn. Connoisseurs, for example, are spoilt for choice by the exceptional gourmet restaurants and regional specialities on offer here.
Osnabrück had survived the turmoil of the Thirty Years' War almost completely unscathed, and so, together with neighbouring Münster, it was selected by the weary war parties as the venue for their peace agreement. This is commemorated in the Friedenssaal (Hall of Peace) inside the late-Gothic town hall, dating from 1512, with 42 portraits representing the peace congress envoys and leaders at the time of the negotiations. Upstairs a model depicts the city as it was in 1633, while an exhibition called Destruction and Reconstruction looks back to a different war and explores how Osnabrück was raised from the rubble of World War II.
Similarly, the Felix Nussbaum House aims to ensure the atrocities of the past are not forgotten. This spectacular museum, designed by American architect Daniel Libeskind, presents the life and works of locally born Jewish artist Felix Nussbaum, who was murdered in Auschwitz in 1944. Even the museum's distinctive, almost discomforting architecture encourages visitors to stop and reflect on Nussbaum's fate. The building is situated in the heart of the city centre together with the Cultural History Museum. Its location makes a good starting point for a stroll through the old quarter, which is dominated by six important churches. And to see the day out in style, you could carry on to la vie for dinner. At the helm of this relaxed yet refined restaurant is head chef Thomas Bühner – a master at combining flavours who has been elevated to the culinary pantheon with four Gault Millau toques.
It is apt that this city of peace should be the birthplace of Erich Maria Remarque, who gave the world the timeless anti-war novel All Quiet on the Western Front. In recognition of this, Osnabrück's biannual peace prize is named after the author. There is one place just outside Osnabrück that evokes memories of events much further back in time. Evidence suggests that the Kalkriese Museum and Park marks the site of the Battle of Varus, better known as the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest, which was fought in the year 9 AD. In 1989 work began on the systematic excavation of the site, and a great many coins, weapons and other Roman military artefacts were unearthed, as well as the remains of ramparts. The site is now home to the Battle of Varus Museum and Park, which were completed in 2001 when a striking 40-metre tall viewing tower was added to the exhibition building. Visitors to the parkland still have the chance to see archaeological digs in progress, and in odd-numbered years the hugely popular Romans and Teutons festival brings history to life. It's also possible to delve back in time at the Museum of Industrial Culture, which explores the coal-mining heritage of Osnabrück and the surrounding area. A glass elevator takes you 30 metres below ground to a re-opened historical tunnel.
But this rich heritage does not mean Osnabrück is stuck in the past – far from it! It doesn't take long to discover this is a modern city in every way, offering an abundance of shopping opportunities, live music, comedy, markets, festivals and events. The regularly changing modern art exhibitions in the Kunsthalle gallery in the Dominican church receive great acclaim at home and abroad. Or for an exciting day out, explore the stunning scenery of TERRA.vita nature park, part of the UNESCO network of geoparks. Further proof, if proof were needed, that Osnabrück lives on more than just memories, and is a city in the here and now.