Explore the Hanseatic city Attendorn
Attendorn Innenstadt Manuel Rueda

Attendorn evolved from a village-like settlement situated at the junction of two long-distance roads. A first parish was founded as early as the reign of Charlemagne. It served as starting point for the Christianisation of the surrounding areas.
A market developed and fortifications were built, and in 1222, Attendorn was conferred the Charter of Soest, thereby acquiring official town status under the Cologne Archbishop Engelbert I von Berg. Schnellenberg Castle was built (around 1200) and Waldenburg Castle was acquired (in 1248) to safeguard Cologne interests.

Rise and Heyday  

Attendorn flourished in the 13th and 14th centuries mainly thanks to the nine guilds, first and foremost the wool and linen weavers. In 1255, Attendorn joined the Rhenish Association of Towns as the only member from the Sauerland. 

As a member of the German Hanseatic League, the town was especially renowned in the field of cloth trade. Evidence of merchants from Attendorn is frequently found in the Baltic region and Attendorn even had its own permanent representative at the London Steelyard. Particularly close ties existed to Lübeck, where merchants from the Hanseatic Sauerland town settled and earned great repute and wealth.

Attendorn was a mediate member of the German Hanseatic League und was represented by the town of Soest at the major Hanseatic Conventions. Attendorn itself had supremacy over the towns of Olpe, Drolshagen and Menden. Attendorn presumably remained a member of the Hanseatic League until the latter was dissolved, as documented by its regular attendance of the Soest Hanseatic Conventions. 

Attendorn was an archiepiscopal mint as early as around 1200. The coinages of the 13th and 14th centuries are noteworthy. Medieval coins from Attendorn are documented from Brussels to ?ubnice in Poland and to the island of Gotland. 


The town suffered the plague four times – in 1464, 1597, 1598, and 1613. A massive fire broke out almost at the same time as the last plague, and again in 1623. In 1656, half of the town burned down. Further fires in 1710, 1737, and 1742 once more destroyed large parts of the town. The last major fire (1783) devastated 246 houses, the parish church with its tower and chancel, the town hall, the convent church, and the Franciscan convent. The town reached its low point in the Napoleonic era, from which it did not recover until the mid 19th century. In World War II Attendorn was hit by a bomb attack as late as 28 March 1945 and was heavily damaged by a massive munitions explosion on 15 June of the same year. 

Development after 1945 

A landmark in the town’s more recent history was the merger of the former municipalities of Rural Attendorn and Helden (excluding the areas of Heggen and Oberveischede) with the old town of Attendorn on 1 July 1969, to form the new town by the same name, decreed by the law on the reorganisation of the District of Olpe. As a result of the municipal reorganisation, the town area increased to eight times its original area and now covers 97 square kilometres, with a population of around 25,000. 


Rich traditions bear witness to the long history of the town. A special highlight is the cultivation of the carnival tradition; the parade on Shrove Tuesday, which has taken place annually since 1863, attracts visitors from near and far.

The Easter traditions upheld in Attendorn are probably unique. The old town guard bugle call resounding from the church tower, the blessing of the Easter breads on Holy Saturday, the building and burning of the Easter fires at the four gates, the processions from there to St. John’s Church, the lighting of unique Easter lanterns: All this has remained alive and can be traced back far into the past, although the exact origins are unknown. 

Marksmen’s associations and marksmen’s brotherhoods can be found everywhere in southern Westphalia. However, far and wide hardly anything can compare to Attendorn’s Marksmen’s Association (Schützengesellschaft 1222 e.V.) which has kept alive medieval heritage dances such as Trillertanz and Bügeltanz. The Attendorn Marksmen celebrate their annual Historic Town and Marksmen’s Festival at the first weekend of July. 

St. Nicolas’s brotherhoods existed in many places in the Middle Ages as unions of travelling merchants. Attendorn’s St. Nicolas’s Confraternity was acknowledged as early as 1328 and has been preserved to this day. 

The wide variety of Attendorn traditions can be compared to an illustrated book. Each page shows pictures from a new perspective, ultimately forming a splendid, multi-faceted image against the backdrop of a sound community. 


St. John’s Parish Church (also known as Sauerländer Dom) with its Romanesque tower from 1200 and its Gothic nave dating back to the 14th century, the Old Hospital Church from the 14th century, two fortification towers and other buildings bear witness to the town’s varied history. The old Town Hall, southern Westphalia’s only preserved secular Gothic building is now home to the Südsauerlandmuseum (Southern Sauerland Museum). Ever since the Atta Cave, probably Germany’s largest and most beautiful limestone cave, was discovered in 1907, Attendorn has evolved into the Sauerland’s most popular destination for day trippers. The area around town also offers many attractions, including Schnellenberg Castle (Burg Schnellenberg) that served as residence of the famous Westphalian Drost (stewards’) family by the name of von Fürstenberg since 1584. The chapel and Waldenburg castle ruin are also remarkable sights; the latter has been restored with great dedication and financial commitment in recent years as the oldest monument (11th century) and the administrative cradle of the district of Olpe.

Biggesee (Lake Bigge) provides an ideal recreational area with a campground and bathing beach at Waldenburger Bucht right at the gates of Attendorn. The huge dam of the Sauerland’s largest and most attractive reservoir, which has a capacity of almost 150 million cubic metres of water, is located close to the town, along with two further reservoirs, Listertalsperre and Ahauser Stausee.

Pictures of the Hanseatic City of Attendorn


Hanseatic City of Attendorn
Tourist Information
Kölner Straße 9
57439 Attendorn