While some adventurers don’t consider Hessen as a top destination, there are several things about this German state that make it worth a visit. There is much more to Hessen than meets the eye. Its classical beauty and rich history only make up two of its countless merits.
With so many tourist spots to choose from, it can be hard to narrow down which ones you must not miss. Luckily, you’ve come to the right place. Here are the best things to do in Hessen, Germany.
Where Is Hessen, Germany?
The Hessen state is located in west-central Germany. It borders other states like Lower Saxony, Bavaria, and Rhineland-Palatinate, among others. Hessen, Germany, is comprised of several cities.
Wiesbaden serves as its capital and Frankfurt am Main is its largest. This German state is home to over 6 million people as well as a plethora of flora. In fact, 42% of Hessen is covered by forests, making it the country’s greenest state.
No trip to Hessen, Germany, would be complete without visiting Kassel. Known for its affiliation with the Brothers Grimm, the city of Kassel practically screams history, art, and nature. However, arguably the most popular tourist destination in Kassel is the Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe.
Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe is the biggest hillside park in all of Europe. The park also houses a handful of palatial monuments, including one built by Napoleon’s younger brother, Jérôme Bonaparte. On the east side of the park, you’ll find Schloss Wilhelmshöhe, a Neoclassical palace dating back to the 18th century. Inside this breathtaking castle lies a collection of antiquities and paintings on display.
At the very top of the park stands the Hercules monument. This impressive structure measures 71 meters tall. In fact, the structure is so large that it took Italian sculptor Giovanni Francesco Guerriero 16 years to carve it. Making your way up won’t be easy. However, it will definitely be worth the time and effort.
The park itself has no entrance fee, but specific attractions each require a one-day ticket. The museum admission fee costs €6, with the Weissenstein Wing priced at €4. The Hercules monument ticket costs €3. Visitors under the age of 18 can enter free of charge.
Marburg Old Town
Situated an hour north of Frankfurt, the town of Marburg looks like it came straight out of a fairytale book. This doesn’t come as a surprise at all, considering the Brothers Grimm took inspiration from this town during their time here. You’ll appreciate the charm of the historic market square. Here, a town hall dating back to 1512 proudly stands.
Marburg is also referred to a university town in Hessen, Germany. In fact, students from the University of Marburg largely influence the public life of the town. Picturesque buildings line the alleys and cobbled streets of Marburg Old Town. You can stroll around for the better part of the day before taking a break at one of the quaint cafés and restaurants around. Getting lost in this Hessen town almost seems like a blessing.
Hessen boasts a handful of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. One of them is the Kellerwald-Edersee National Park. The park houses the Kellerwald-Edersee forest, the last primeval beech forest of its kind in Central Europe. It offers the perfect escape for people who want to take a break from the fast-paced city life.
Nature lovers will savor every moment spent in this sprawling forest, which several animal species call home. Lynx, honey buzzards, fire salamanders, and red deer are only some of the fauna that inhabits the park. Fitness enthusiasts will also love the various activities Kellerwald-Edersee has to offer. There are hiking trails that suit every type of hiker. Alternatively, e-bikes can be used to get around the park.
During the summer, visitors can participate in a number of water sports. Swimming, sailing, and canoeing at Edersee Lake is a popular pastime. If you prefer to casually stroll around, don’t worry. There’s a 750-meter-long walkway at Baumkronenpfad Edersee that allows visitors to appreciate the park from a bird’s eye view.
Families, in particular, enjoy spending time here. However, the place is also quite romantic for couples looking for their next date. The park is also dog-friendly, so pet owners can bring their furry friends inside to play.
Kellerwald-Edersee is the only national park in Hessen, Germany. Entrance to the park is free of charge.
As the state capital of Hessen, Germany, Wiesbaden must be on any traveler’s list. Located across the Rhine River from Mainz, Wiesbaden offers tourists a historical and cultural experience unlike any other.
Stop by the prestigious Hessen State Theatre, where some of the greats like Johannes Brahms and Richard Strauss appeared. Beyond classical performances, this theatre also boasts a rich history and incredible architecture. Speaking of architecture, don’t forget to visit the historic Kurhaus building. This Wiesbaden spa house features Neoclassical design with Art Nouveau flourishes. Inside, you’ll find a fancy restaurant and grand ballrooms fit for royalty.
There are also a couple of iconic churches in Wiesbaden. Constructed in 1862, the Neo-Gothic Market Church is primarily composed of red bricks. Inside, you’ll find five life-sized statues, as well as a polygonal bronze and iron pulpit. On Neroberg, tourists can visit St. Elizabeth’s Church. This Russian Orthodox church has a tragic and romantic backstory. Learn about Duke Adolf of Nassau, who built the church as a tribute to his wife who died in childbirth.
Neroberg also offers a unique railway, being the only one in Germany still using the water ballast propulsion system. Other notable places you must visit in Wiesbaden include Biebrich Palace and Wiesbaden City Palace.
The town of Braunfels in Hessen has much to offer, but none as popular as this eponymous castle. Settled on a hill in the Lahn valley, Braunfels Castle is a testament to architecture and design evolving through time.
The history behind this magnificent castle is no less interesting. Dating back to the 13th century, Braunfels Castle originally served as the residence for the Counts of Solms. Through the years, the castle went through several reconstructions and additions. However, that doesn’t mean it hasn’t seen its fair share of destructions. In fact, in 1679, a dreadful fire consumed a large part of Braunfels Castle. Following that, reconstruction efforts were made and supervised by Count Heinrich Trajektin.
This is only one example of the many renovations that Braunfels Castle went through. In 1845, the “Hunter Prince” Ferdinand added the Knights Hall in the Gothic Revival style. However, it was ultimately Prince George who gave us the castle’s present design.
Guided tours of Braunfels Castle start at €7, though there are variations. So, make sure to plan your itinerary ahead of time.
If you find yourself in Hessen, Germany, don’t miss out on visiting Limburg Castle. This bright cathedral dates back to the 7th century and features Late Romanesque architecture. Additionally, the castle consists of seven spires and ornate details. The high central nave and epic circular window further contribute to its renown. Limburg Castle sits on top of a high rock, overlooking the valley below.
Those who want to admire the majesty of Limburg Castle can do so as part of a guided tour. However, the castle isn’t the only tourist spot in Limburg an der Lahn. The town itself draws in a respectable amount of visitors, thanks in large part to its dreamy quality. The half-timbered houses lining the streets are enough to make anyone swoon.
To many, Frankfurt needs no introduction. It’s a popular attraction among tourists — and for good reason. There are plenty of things you can do and countless sights to see. However, the true beauty of Frankfurt lies in its ability to showcase architecture through time. In Frankfurt, the old and new come together in perfect harmony.
As the financial center of Hessen, Germany, Frankfurt is no stranger to high-rise buildings. The tall, glass skyscrapers serve as a contrasting backdrop to the more medieval market square of Römerberg. Here, you’ll find timber-framed houses and the iconic Römer building complex.
Don’t forget to visit the Frankfurt Cathedral to learn about the religious history that dwells within its walls. The Roman Catholic Gothic cathedral is dedicated to Saint Bartholomew. Additionally, it’s the largest religious building in the city of Frankfurt. On the other hand, St. Paul’s Church also boasts a deep religious past. The church is of United Protestant alignment, though it didn’t start out that way. Constructed in 1789, St. Paul’s Church began as a Lutheran church.
History buffs and culture connoisseurs alike will relish their time in Museumsufer, a neighborhood comprised of 12 different museums. Similarly, you can watch a performance at Frankfurt’s old opera. The venue hosts a cocktail of events each year, so it’d be wise to check the schedule and purchase tickets beforehand.
For a touch of the local experience, visit Frankfurt’s Saturday flea market from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. This vibrant collection of stalls sells everything from vintage clothes and antiques to food and drinks.
Kurpark Bad Homburg
Kurpark Bad Homburg is a spa park located about an hour away from Frankfurt. The 44-acre park sits in the middle of Bad Homburg in the valley of the Kirdorfer Bach. Grasslands and trees from Asia and North America await visitors inside. On the western side of the park, you’ll find a Swan pond with a fountain. Moreover, there are a few monuments within the park, as well as some pavilions and Thai temples.
The gardens in Kurpark Bad Homburg are some of the most beautiful in Hessen, if not the whole of Germany. This doesn’t come as a surprise. After all, the famous Prussian landscape architect, Peter Joseph Lenné, created the park itself.
Rüdesheim am Rhein
For wine lovers, Rüdesheim am Rhein is the perfect Hessen destination. The sprawling Riesling vineyards that dot the town are breathtaking to behold. Charming half-timbered shops sell the Riesling wine to locals and tourists alike. Wine culture runs deep here. In fact, wine is so ingrained in the town’s history that wine glasses dating back to the Early Middle Ages have been recovered in graves.
A particularly intriguing part of Rüdesheim am Rhein is Eibingen Abbey. Located in the Upper Middle Rhine Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Eibingen Abbey is home to a community of Benedictine nuns. Interestingly, nuns have been here since 1165, when Hildegard of Bingen founded the place. The nuns operate a vineyard and sell wine. You can purchase them at the abbey’s shop, among other artisanal items.
If time permits, ride an open-air cable car to the Niederwald Monument. This structure stands as a celebration of peace after the end of the Franco-Prussian War. Nearby, the Niederwaldtempel provides an awe-inspiring view of the town below.
Hessen offers no shortage of medieval tourist spots, and Butzbach is no different. While not as extravagant as other attractions on this list, Butzbach must not be discounted. What this town lacks in flash, it certainly makes up for with charm.
Nestled around 35 km north of Frankfurt, Butzbach is home to Landgrafenschloss (Landgraves’ Castle). The city council currently uses the castle. However, it was previously under the command of the United States Army.
Take a stroll through the town’s market place, where timber-framed houses and cobbled alleys are prominent. If you’re in the mood for a workout, go for a hike in Hausberg, part of the Taunus mountain range. Hausberg also has a look-out tower you can climb.
Visit Hessen, Germany
If you’re looking for your destination, Hessen is the answer. Here, contemporary style and medieval design are expertly married. Hessen is also home to many iconic German places that inspired your favorite fairytales.
The cobbled streets and half-timbered houses should be enough to draw you in. But, if those don’t do it, the landscape certainly will. So, what are you waiting for? Plan your trip to Hessen, Germany. You definitely won’t regret it.