Germany's 16 states: Hesse

4 Jun

Hesse lies in the middle of Germany and is a state of contrasts: idyllic towns with half-timbered houses in northern and southern Hesse on the one hand, and, on the other, the famous skyline of skyscrapers in Frankfurt.


You don't have to be an architectural expert to be inspired by both worlds.

A Frankfurt sightseeing tour

Frankfurt may not be the state capital — that's Wiesbaden — but with just under 800,000 inhabitants, it’s the largest city in Hesse. It’s also Germany's main financial center, a metropolis for art lovers, the birthplace of the poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and the home of Äppelwois, or apple cider. There are plenty of reasons to join us on this sightseeing tour in Hesse. Check-in moderator Lukas Stege has an appointment to try stand-up paddling on the River Main. He visited the pulsating metropolis on the Main before the coronavirus crisis. 

Frankfurt from a bird's eye view 

Destroyed in World War II by bombing raids, Frankfurt has had its old town back since 2018: The narrow alleys and old Franconian facades have been reconstructed, behind which old buildings, which have been rebuilt in keeping with their historical value, alternate with new buildings that appear historic. 

UNESCO World Heritage Site in Darmstadt

Darmstadt, located about 30 kilometers south of Frankfurt, has not been the focus of Germany's visitors until recently. But that could soon change because in summer 2021, Darmstadt became a UNESCO World Heritage Site, more specifically, the Mathildenhöhe artists' colony. DW presenter Nicole Frölich visited this unique location known for its architecture and art history shortly before it was awarded the UNESCO title. 

Active holidays on the River Lahn

The Lahn is a tributary of the Rhine that is very popular with people who like to holiday on the water. An especially lovely section lies in southern Hesse, according to DW's travel magazine Check-in host, Nicole Frölich: the romantic Lahn valley. She toured it before the coronoavirus crisis. 

The Brothers Grimm collected many of the folk tales for which they became known worldwide in northern Hesse, around the city of Kassel. The city has devoted an entire world to their work.  

The baroque park Wilhelmshöhe

The landscape park with the water features and Hercules statue was created at the beginning of the 18th century. The unique park was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2013 as an exceptional cultural monument. Let us show you Europe's largest hilltop park from a bird's eye perspective.

Braunfels Castle

A medieval castle with many towers and bay windows sits on a basalt hilltop high above the town of Braunfels. Over the centuries, its enthusiastic owners kept adding new Baroque and Gothic revival elements, creating a distinctive fairy tale castle in the Middle Hesse region.

Author Frederike Müller


10 reasons to love Hesse

Exquisite timber-framed houses

There are some 400,000 timber-framed buildings in Hesse. A lot is done to preserve them. Their facades are the workmanship of medieval craftsmen, who with wood and clay created something sustainable and durable. Visitors can spend an idyllic night in some timber-framed houses like the Guild building on the market of Fritzlar.

Frankfurt Skyline

Frankfurt’s skyline comprises hundreds of skyscrapers. One that stands out from the crowd is the headquarters of the European Central Bank. For critics, it’s a monstrosity representing the follies of capitalism. Others consider it a proud hallmark of Hesse’s largest city.

Grimm's Fairytale

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm are known the world over for their collection of 86 children's stories, like "Little Red Riding Hood" or "Sleeping Beauty". Born in Hanau, they later, as students in Marburg, developed an interest for linguistics and for the 1848 Revolution. In Kassel they concentrated on their effort on releasing standard setting works on German grammar and a German dictionary.

Art for everyone


Every five years Kassel hosts the world's most important contemporary art exhibition, the Documenta. Every time the town on the Fulda river purchases a work of art, like this bronze sculpture, featuring a large granite boulder. This man-made tree by Guiseppe Penone is located on the edge of the Karlsaue, one of the most attractive inner-city parks in Germany.

Baroque water features

Powered by gravity as much as 350,000 liters of water run down the cascades, and visitors can walk along side the flow. In 2013 the Bergpark Kassel Wilhelmshöhe was awarded World Heritage status by UNESCO. The landscape park with the water features and Hercules statue was created at the beginning of the 18th century.

Enjoy Hesse's landscapes

Green countryside is always close by. Primeval forests grow here, like the nature park Kellerwald-Edersee in northern Hesse. A century ago one of the biggest reservoir lakes in Germany measuring an impressive 27 kilometers (16 mi) was created here. Other landscapes worth visiting are the Odenwald in the south, and to the east the Rhön with Hesse's highest peak the 950 meter (3116 ft) Wasserkuppe.

All the world's a stage

Stiftsruine Bad Hersfeld is regarded as the biggest Romanesque monastery ruin in the world. Every summer it is turned into an open-air stage to host a theatre festival. Architect Frei Otto, famous for his roof construction in Munich's Olympic Stadium, built a mobile roof for the church ruin. Deployed in a matter of minutes, the 1600 strong audience is always protected from any wind or weather.

An art noveau marriage

On the Mathildenhöhe in Darmstadt the so-called Hochzeitsturm or Wedding Tower reaches into the sky like a hand. Around 1900 Darmstadt became a center of the Art Noveau movement. To this day the "Wedding Tower" landmark is dedicated to the art movement's patron, Ernest Louis, Grand Duke of Hesse. Some 500 weddings still take place every year in this church.

Be pampered in style

The state capital Wiesbaden due to its many hot mineral springs has been a renowned spa town since the 19th century. Russian aristocracy in particular used to like to mill around the Kurhaus or spa house which also boasts Europe's longest colonnade. The Russian orthodox Saint Elizabeth church in was built on Wiesbaden's Neroberg hill around this time.

Original and digital Goethe

Frankfurt’s Städel Museum celebrated recently its 200th anniversary. The institution doesn’t just boast a rich history however; it’s also fully embraced the digital age. You can admire many masterpieces of the museum online. One of its most prized paintings, "Goethe in the Roman Campagna" by Johann Tischbein will be among the digital collection.

Author: Ille Simon



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