8 Top Tourist Attractions in Kassel & Easy Day Trips
Kassel, the cultural, economic, and administrative center of northern Hesse, is a delightful old town in central Germany. Numerous cultural establishments are based here, and Kassel is noted for its avant-garde "documenta," a world famous event that takes place every five years combining both modern and contemporary art styles. The city is home to many lovely palaces and parks, the most notable of which, Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe, has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The town itself was first mentioned in records as far back as 913 AD, and today boasts numerous well-preserved historic buildings and museums.
1 Editor's Pick Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe
Stunning Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was famously described by art historian Georg Dehio as "the most magnificent achievement of the Baroque style in the blending of architecture and landscape." Covering an area of two-and-a-half square kilometers, Europe's largest hillside park was started in 1696 and took 150 years to complete - and it was well worth the wait. The park's highest point is the 526-meter-tall Karlsberg mountain. On top of this sits the stunning Hercules Monument from which a long cascade of water plunges to the gardens far below. It's an impressive sight, particularly on summer evenings when the huge Great Fountain, the cascades, and the figure of Hercules are illuminated (guided tours are available). Also of note is Kurhessen-Therme, a series of baths designed for sport and recreation. Note that plenty of walking is required to explore this amazing park and its many tourist attractions, so don appropriate footwear.
2 Wilhelmshöhe Castle Museum
The 17th-century palace in Wilhelmshöhe - Schloss Wilhelmshöhe - has played an important role in German history, perhaps most notably as the summer residence of Kaiser Wilhelm II. Today, its sumptuously appointed interior is home to the Wilhelmshöhe Castle Museum, including the superb Gallery of Old Masters, the nucleus of which is a collection of Dutch paintings, including 17 Rembrandts, 11 van Dycks, and many Italian and Spanish paintings. Other highlights include a print cabinet, collections of classical and prehistoric antiquities, as well as displays of furniture, glass, and ceramics. Guided and audio tours are available.
3 Museum Fridericianum
On the northeast side of Friedrichsplatz in Kassel is Museum Fridericianum, an immense Neoclassical building completed in 1779, making it one of Europe's oldest museums. Although now used mainly for temporary art exhibitions - including the famous "documenta" art event held here every five years - it's well worth a visit, as are its expansive grounds. On the southeast side of Friedrichsplatz stands the Staatstheater, used to host opera, ballet, and dramatic performances.
Address: Friedrichsplatz 18, 34117 Kassel
4 Karlsaue Park and the Orangerie
On the banks of the Fulda lies Karlsaue Park, a beautiful wooded park with an area in excess of 400 acres. Created as a landscape garden with numerous Baroque features, the park is laid out with many artificial lakes, fountains, and canals. A major highlight of a visit is the palatial Orangerie, with its Planetarium and collection of scientific instruments. Also of note is the spectacular flower-covered island of Siebenbergen and the Marble Baths built in 1720. To the east extends Fulda-Aue, a recreation area popular for its bathing and windsurfing, as well as summer regattas.
Address: 34121 Kassel
5 The Brothers Grimm
Kassel has the distinction of being the hometown, at least for a few years, of the famous Brothers Grimm. After graduation, brothers Jacob and Wilhelm secured employment at the town's library where they conducted much of the research that was to form the foundation of their famous folktales. Commemorating this fact is the Brüder Grimm-Museum, with its original copies of their fairy tales, scholarly works, letters, and translations in many languages.
Fans of the Brothers Grimm will also enjoy a visit to the little town of Hamelin (Hameln in German), about 140 kilometers north of Kassel, the setting of the famous Pied Piper of Hamelin folktale. The version written by the Brothers Grimm is much-loved around the world and is re-enacted in the town center every Sunday during the summer. Also of interest here is Tündern, five kilometers south of Hameln, with a village museum featuring exhibits on local history, crafts, and farming. In Hof Zeddies visitors can see a permanent Country Life Exhibition run by the Hameln Museum.
Address: Schöne Aussicht 2, 34117 Kassel
6 Schloss Wilhelmsthal
About 11 kilometers northwest of Kassel, Schloss Wilhelmsthal was built by Francois de Cuvilliés between 1753-67 as a summer residence for the Elector. It's widely regarded as one of the most charming Rococo palaces in Germany, with a sumptuous interior that includes the Gallery of Beauty with paintings of women from this period of time by Johann Heinrich Tischbein. Also of note is the Park Wilhelmsthal with its mix of Rococo and Baroque styles, lovely paths, and flower beds. Admission is via hourly-guided tours only.
Address: Palace and Park Wilhelmsthal, Calden
7 Natural History Museum
Once considered the finest theater in Germany - and certainly the oldest, having been built in 1696 - the Ottoneum is now home to the Naturkundemuseum im Ottoneum Kassel, the city's Natural History Museum. Highlights include exhibits relating to the region's natural history from the Paleozoic to the present day, as well as artifacts related to local trades and traditions.
Address: Steinweg 2, 34117 Kassel
8 The Neue Galerie
Kassel's Neue Galerie (New Gallery) is a must for art enthusiasts. Opened in 1976, its collection includes a number of contemporary paintings from the 19th and 20th centuries. Other highlights include works in the Romantic and Impressionist styles by artists such as Max Slevogt, and a substantial collection of German Expressionists, including numerous sculptures by Joseph Beuys.
Address: Schöne Aussicht 1, Kassel
Day Trips from Kassel
The Town of Fritzlar
About 25 kilometers southwest of Kassel on the left bank of the Eder River is the town of Fritzlar. With some 450 half-timbered buildings, Fritzlar has preserved much of its medieval architecture, including the Hochzeitshaus (the Marriage House), dating from 1580 and now a regional museum with prehistoric antiquities and a detailed history of the town. On the highest point of the town stands the 12th-century twin-towered Cathedral of St. Peter, in the crypt of which is the Late Gothic tomb of St. Wigbert, the town's first abbot. Also of interest are the 14th-century cloister, the rich Treasury, the Cathedral Museum, and the Cathedral Library with its rare manuscripts from the 8th to 17th centuries.
Hofgeismar and Sababurg
Some 23 kilometers north of Kassel on the famous Deutsche Märchenstrasse (German Fairy Tale Route) is the small town of Hofgeismar, famous for its handsome half-timbered houses and old town walls. The Romanesque and Gothic Altstädter Kirche (Old Town Church) has a beautiful Passion Altar dating from 1335, and in the Town Hall is the Municipal Museum with its many historical exhibits, including silver and ceramics. Also of interest is the small town of Sababurg, home of the Briar Rose Castle, best known for being the home of Sleeping Beauty from the tales of the Brothers Grimm.