The state of Hesse in Germany is studded with magical little towns, scenic landscapes and castles, some of which have inspired legendary sagas and fairy tales that are still being told today. But whether you explore the parks and forests or the historical sights or do both, the wide range of attractions ensure you won’t get bored. Here are the top 10 things to see and do when you’re in the area.
Get lost in Marburg’s old town
What’s probably Hesse’s most romantic city is located about an hour north of Frankfurt. Marburg clasps to the Lahn River and is primarily known for its prestigious university and the youthful spirit that the many resident students bring to the historic town centre of cobbled streets and timber-framed houses. The hilltop castle is the icing on the cake and makes for vistas which once inspired the fairytales of the Brothers Grimm, who spent a couple of years in Marburg. The list of reasons to visit is long, and you could easily spend a day or two exploring the enchanting maze without getting bored.
Be stunned by Frankfurt’s contrasts
Take a stroll around Wiesbaden
The Hesse state capital Wiesbaden is located just across the Rhine River from Mainz, and just like its neighbouring city, Wiesbaden is home to a number of interesting historical sights. Don’t miss out on a stroll past the State Theatre, the Art Nouveau Kurhaus building, the City Palace and the rusty-red market church. If you have more time and fancy scenic views, head to the foot of the Neroberg hill and board the old water-powered railway up to the Neroberg hilltop.
Relax at the Kurpark in Bad Homburg
The Kurpark Bad Homburg is up there with Germany’s most beautiful parks and gardens and a worthy day trip from Frankfurt if you’re running out of ideas on what to do in the city. The Prussian gardener and landscape architect, Peter Joseph Lenné, was the brains behind many beautifully designed gardens across Germany but surpassed himself when he realised his vision of the Kurpark. The vast parklands are studded with elegant buildings, water features and fountains, pavilions and even a couple of Thai temples.
Learn about the Felsenmeer saga
The so-called Felsenmeer is a myth-enshrouded landscape in the midst of the Odenwald forest where a large field of boulders cuts through the forest. According to legend, two giants used to live on opposing peaks in the forest, and one day, a long-lasting feud escalated to the point where they started hurling large boulders at each other, eventually burying one of them under a sea of rocks.
Hike the Kellerwald-Edersee forest
The Kellerwald-Edersee national park earned UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 2011 for being the last primaeval beech forest of its kind in Central Europe. Nature lovers, hikers and bikers can explore the national park along the many trails and routes, and water sports enthusiasts will find a whole bunch of activities at the Edersee. The national park is the perfect spot to get away from the city-centre buzz of local hubs.
Roam Kassel’s beautiful park
The city of Kassel is known for a number of things – the world-renowned Documenta art exhibition, its affiliation with the Brothers Grimm and the Löwenburg Castle. The latter is situated at the foot of what’s generally the highlight of each trip to Kassel – the Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe. One of the most beautiful parks in all of Europe, it was honoured with a spot on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The sprawling parklands are studded with beautifully arranged flowerbeds, water features, Wilhelmshöhe Palace and more, all of which is overseen by the hilltop Hercules monument from where a waterfall dramatically rushes towards the gardens below.
Take a history lesson at Braunfels Castle
Perched on a hill which rises 100 metres above the Lahn valley, Braunfels Castle oversees the spa town of the same name. The fairytale-like castle was first mentioned in 1246 and was built as residence for the Counts of Solms, but its appearance changed several times with reconstruction works and additions. The iconic Gothic Revival style of the Knights Hall, for example, stems from the mid 19th century, but much of the current look is owed to Prince George who gave the palatial mansion a generous makeover only a few decades later.
Be enchanted by Limburg an der Lahn
More medieval bliss is bundled in the picture-perfect old town of Limburg an der Lahn. The dreamy town developed around Limburg Castle which has towered over the valley since its construction in the 7th century. Limburg itself is known for the many well-preserved half-timbered houses that line the winding alleys of the old town and St. George Cathedral, a masterpiece of Romanesque architecture in the region.
See the medieval remains of Butzbach
If you’re into the whole timber-framed houses and cobblestoned alleys look, Hesse is your place. Butzbach is another one of the state’s enchanting gems which lure with picture-perfect spots at every corner. Next, to the beautiful market square and the old town hall, you shouldn’t miss out on the two historic palaces and the remains of the medieval city walls on your tour around town.
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