This route runs among the landmarks left by millennia of local history, from the Celts to Charlemagne and from the first kings to the last emperor. It begins in the Hessian capital of Wiesbaden, visits the Carolingian church of Lorsch, runs all the way to the northern spa town of Bad Arolsen and finally through the university town of Marburg. The route culminates in the old residence of the Hessian counts, Weilburg.
This route passes through the whole of Hessen and leads to some of Germany’s most famous attractions. It visits many picturesque medieval towns such as Frankenberg, Rüdesheim, Hirschhorn am Neckar and Büdingen, full of romantic timber-framed buildings and narrow streets. The Lahn and Rhine valleys offer many scenic viewpoints and a breathtaking view out over the many castles and surrounding countryside.
German Fairy Tale Route
Thanks to the Brothers Grimm, who lived and worked in Hanau, Hessen has close connections with fairy tales. Was it in the lonely Kaufungen Forest that Hansel and Gretel lost their way? And did Sleeping Beauty not rest for a century in Sababurg Castle in the Reinhardswald? The German Fairy Tale Route is the road to follow for romantic spots, castles and timber-framed houses.
Mountains, castles, forests and wine are the hallmarks of the Mountain Road. It leads from Darmstadt to Heidelberg and is perfect for walkers, canoeists and outdoor enthusiasts. Some excellent wine is grown on sheltered slopes.
Sleeping Beauty’s castle at Sababurg
According to the Grimms’ fairy tale, the castle in which Sleeping Beauty was enchanted into a hundred-year sleep lies in the heart of the Reinhardswald forest, between Kassel and Göttingen. You can even witness scenes from the tale in the 670 year-old castle. Concerts and guided tours through the castle and surrounding gardens are held from March to October.
Tel.: 05671-80 80
The imposing towers of Braunfels Castle bear witness to its medieval past. The baroque schloss holds an extensive collection of medieval artefacts. In addition, the castle hosts a medieval extravaganza every summer, with a group of international stuntmen re-enacting battles and fighting scenes and many attractions transporting visitors back in time. Guided tours are also available in English and French and can be booked by telephone +49 (0)6442 5002 or online. The castle is open daily from April to October, and on particular days during the remaining months.
Tel: 06442 bis 500 2
There is no better place than Eberbach Abbey to start a tour of the Rheingau’s vineyards. Cistercian monks began a tradition of winemaking here in the 12th century. A museum looks at the wine-making region and life in a medieval abbey.
Tel: 06723 - 9178 100
Only four kilometres outside Bad Homburg lies the Saalburg. This painstakingly reconstructed Roman fort once helped to defend the 615-kilometre Limes wall, built by the Romans between the Rhine and Danube.
Tel: 06175 - 937 40
Regional Park RheinMain
The RheinMain regional park has developed into a comprehensive network of gardens, lakes, picnic areas, castles and many other things. The park stretches along a marked route 190km in length, and leads to many attractions. Two among many highlights are a former military base at Bonames, which has been turned into an ecological park, and a cycle path along the historic Hohe Strasse. The newly established website www.regionalpark-rheinmain.de provides a wealth of advice and maps (as well as GPS routes).
The Bergstrasse-Odenwald nature park joined the European Geoparks Network in 2002, which aims to preserve Europe’s geological heritage and promote sustainable development. The park covers 3200 square kilometres in three zones, bordered by the Rhine, Main and Neckar valleys. Rocks, geological variations and the landscape itself offer many insights into 500 million years of the Earth’s history.
Tel.: 06251-70 79 90
Founded in 1868, Frankfurt’s Palmengarten with its large collection of tropical plants, greenhouses and other exhibitions, is the leading botanical garden in the region. Its level of detail gives a realistic impression of a stroll through our planet’s tropical forests. The plants are largely organised by natural habitat, such as rainforest, mangroves, monsoon habitats and savannah.
Tel.: 069 - 212 339 39
Giessen botanical garden
The oldest botanical garden in Germany encompasses 4 hectares in what used to be the castle gardens of Louis V, landgrave of Hesse-Darmstadt. The garden has developed steadily over its 400-year history and now contains more than 7500 species of plant. It is run by the University of Giessen and used for research in biology, agricultural sciences, geography, medicine and veterinary science. The garden is open daily, free of charge, between March 20 and October 20.
Taunus information centre
The Taunus is a low range of hills. Apart from the 878-metre Feldberg, there are many other leisure activities to try throughout the year – walking, mountain biking, running and climbing. A great place to start is the Taunus information centre (Hohemarkstrasse 192, Oberursel), which is easily accessible from Frankfurt by public transport (U3).
Bergpark & Schloss Wilhelmshöhe
The Bergpark encompasses one of the largest parks and architectural monuments in the world, making it a striking product of the German Romantic period. Kassel’s main landmark is Hercules, a 71-metre statue on top of a pyramid.
The Edersee, one of a group of three lakes, is one of the most popular holiday destinations in Hessen. At 27km in length, it is the longest artificial lake in Germany. Schloss Waldeck, occupied for more than 1000 years, overlooks the lake from a hilltop. The picturesque Diemelsee is significantly smaller than the Edersee, and is surrounded by a national park. The third lake is the Twistesee. All three are very popular for their wildlife and watersports.
Rhön National Park
In 1911, students from Darmstadt tested an unpowered flying machine and the sport of gliding was born. Today, gliding and paragliding enthusiasts congregate at the flying centre on the Wasserkuppe on weekends. Winter sees the Wasserkuppe transformed into a ski area with 25 lifts and 255 kilometres of long-distance courses. The national park as a whole has over 5000km of walking and cycle paths.
The Rhine-Main region shares in a European tradition of spa bathing dating back to Roman times. Regardless of whether you simply feel like relaxing for a few hours or want to spend several weeks mending body and soul, the region lets you choose among more than 30 hot springs and health spas. For more information on spas and spa towns in the region, contact Hessen’s Association of Health Spas at www.hessischer-heilbaederverband.de, or visit www.hessen-tourismus.de
Canoeing on the River Lahn
Canoeing on the Lahn is one of the best ways to enjoy Hessen’s countryside. The Lahn is navigable all year round from Marburg to its confluence with the Rhine at Lahnstein; canoes and pedal boats can be hired at many locations. The university towns of Marburg and Giessen rise from the river’s banks, as do the historic town of Wetzlar with its majestic cathedral and the castles and medieval ruins at Weilburg, Runkel, Schaumburg, Balduinstein, Laurenburg, Langenau, Burg Stein and Nassau. Operators can arrange accommodation and equipment for you for weekend trips. It is advisable to book early, however, as canoeing excursions are very popular. A list of canoe suppliers can be found atwww.daslahntal.de
Rüdesheim-Assmannhausen am Rhein
The picturesque town of Rüdesheim on the banks of the Rhine is known for its surrounding landscape, vineyards and historic town centre. As a UNESCO world heritage site, Rüdesheim and the Rhine Gorge offer cultural attractions such as castles, abbeys and well-preserved timber-framed houses. You can take a cable car ride up to the town’s symbol, the statue of Germania, and enjoy a panoramic view over the whole of the Rhine Valley. The Drosselgasse, a narrow street of shops and restaurants, is a good place to sample Riesling wines from the surrounding vineyards.