10 Top-Rated Attractions in Kassel & Easy Day Trips
Kassel, the cultural, economic, and administrative center of northern Hesse, is a delightful old town in central Germany. Despite having a relatively small population — just 200,000 souls call the city home — numerous cultural establishments, including some of the country's most important museums and galleries, are based here, so it has become something of a tourism hub. For example, Kassel is noted for its avant-garde "documenta" (also known as the "100 Day Museum"). One of the city's top things to do, this world-famous art event takes place every five years and combines 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 AD 913, and today boasts numerous well-preserved historic attractions and points of interest. Find out more about the best places to visit with our list of the top attractions in Kassel.
See also: Where to Stay in Kassel
1. Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe Editor's Pick
Stunning Wilhelmshöhe Park (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 (Herkules) 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 be sure to wear appropriate footwear.
Address: 34131 Kassel
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.
Highlights include the superb Gallery of Old Masters (Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister), the nucleus of which is a collection of Dutch paintings, including 17 Rembrandts (one of the largest such collections in the world), 11 van Dycks, and many Italian and Spanish paintings. Other notable features of the collection include a print cabinet; collections of classical and prehistoric antiquities; and displays of furniture, glass, and ceramics. An impressive graphic arts collection is also located on-site. Guided and audio tours are available in English.
Located on the same grounds is Löwenburg Castle, built in the early 1800s as a faux ruined castle. Notable for being one of the country's first Gothic Revival-style structures, it served as both a retreat for its owner and, ultimately, as the place of his burial. In addition to a number of fine rooms and the tomb, visitors can also view the chapel with its collection of medieval religious artifacts as part of a guided tour.
Address: 34131 Kassel
3. The Fridericianum
On the northeast side of Friedrichsplatz in Kassel is the Fridericianum, an immense Neoclassical building completed in 1779, making it one of Europe's oldest museums (and the oldest public museum in the world). Although its vast collections were transferred over time to museums in Berlin, the Fridericianum is now used mainly for temporary art exhibitions — including the world renowned "documenta" art event, established in 1955 and held in Kassel once every five years ever since. It's also well worth visiting for its expansive grounds.
Nearby, on the southeast side of Friedrichsplatz, stands the Staatstheater, used to host opera, ballet, and dramatic performances, as well as classical music concerts performed by the theater's own orchestra, a Kassel institution since the early 1500s. Also worth popping into is the nearby
documenta-Halle. Housed in an attractive and architecturally-pleasing building, this important modern art museum is well-regarded for its exhibits of contemporary artworks from around the world.
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, which adjoins the city's stadium and ice-skating rink. Usually referred to simply as Karlsaue, the park was redesigned as a landscape garden in 1785 with numerous Baroque features and is laid out with many artificial lakes, fountains, and canals.
A major highlight of a visit is the palatial, yellow-painted Orangerie. Originally built in 1654 with later additions, it once served as an exotic winter garden and is today notable for being home to a planetarium and a unique collection of historic scientific instruments in the Cabinet of Astronomy and Physics. Regular gardening events and festivals are also held here.
Also of note is the attractive flower-covered island of Siebenbergen (Blumeninsel 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 and GRIMM WORLD
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. As a result of this important connection, Kassel has received an additional UNESCO designation as a "Memory of the World" in recognition of the city being home to original writings from the famous brothers.
Also commemorating this fact is the city's newest major attraction: GRIMM WORLD Kassel. Using state-of-the-art technology, this fascinating museum explores the work and legacy of the Grimms through displays and exhibits of original writings and artifacts from the period, as well as more recent interpretations of their work. A great deal of space is also dedicated to providing an understanding of the brothers' linguistic and research talents.
Other fun things to do here include joining an English language guided tour, participating in an educational workshop, or dining at the on-site restaurant.
Address: Weinbergstraße 21, 34117 Kassel
Official site: www.grimmwelt.de/en/
6. Schloss Wilhelmsthal
Although located about 11 kilometers northwest of Kassel, Wilhelmsthal Castle (Schloss Wilhelmsthal) was built by Francois de Cuvilliés between 1743-61 as a summer residence for the Elector and should certainly be added to your Kassel vacation itinerary. 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. There's also an impressive collection of French period furniture, as well as Asian furnishings and porcelain.
Admission is via hourly-guided tours only, which take in the best of the well-preserved royal living quarters, the servants' quarters, and the original kitchen. Also of note is the Park Wilhelmsthal with its mix of Rococo and Baroque styles, lovely paths, and flower beds (the grounds are also the site of war graves from a battle that took place here during the Seven Years War in 1762).
Address: Schloss Wilhelmsthal, 34379 Calden
7. Natural History Museum
Once considered the finest theater in Germany, and certainly the oldest (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.
Notable must-sees include the famous Goethe elephant, the skeletal remains of which were used by the writer for research; the remarkable Schildbach Wooden Library, an extremely rare collection of scientific works made from the actual trees they're related to; and a set of pressed plants dating from the mid 1500s.
If you're able to squeeze yet another museum visit into your Kassel travel itinerary, consider making it Technik-Museum Kassel. Highlights of this fun museum include rare historical artifacts related to the fields of engineering and computing, as well as an interesting collection of old trains and firetrucks. There's also a large operational model railway, too.
Address: Steinweg 2, 34117 Kassel
8. The Neue Galerie
Kassel's New Gallery (Neue Galerie) is a must-visit for art enthusiasts. Opened in 1976, its collection includes a number of contemporary artwork from the 19th and 20th centuries, including many pleasing landscape paintings. 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. Regular visiting displays are also held here throughout the year.
Caricatura: Gallery for Comic Art may also be of interest to those who enjoy the lighter side of art. Established in 1984, this fascinating gallery includes displays of cartoons and comic drawing, as well as live comedy shows and cabaret evenings.
Address: Schöne Aussicht 1, Kassel
9. Museum for Sepulchral Culture
The fascinating Museum for Sepulchral Culture (Museum für Sepulkralkultur) is a popular tourist attraction in Kassel, which focuses less on the "Grimm" and more on the "grim." It takes an in-depth look at all aspects related to death and its role in the human experience, and in particular how it has shaped and influenced cultures around the globe. Established in 1992, this unique museum includes displays of tombstones, memorials, and coffins, along with artworks that deal with the sometimes- romanticized historical perspective of artists over the ages.
Other important topics dealt with include issues of grief and the celebration of life. Guided tours and a variety of education programs are also available, as well as concerts and lectures. There's also an on-site shop and café.
Address: Weinbergstraße 25, 34117 Kassel
Official site: www.sepulkralmuseum.de/12/Home.html
10. Museum of Hessian History
Those seeking a better understanding of the region's rich history would do well to pay a visit to the Museum of Hessian History. Founded in 1913 to mark Kassel's 1,000th anniversary, the museum's large and diverse collections cover the Paleolithic age right up to modern times. Notable among its many displays and exhibits are sections dealing with its history before the arrival of man, as well as life in the earliest settlements. Of particular interest is the museum's handling of local traditional folklore, including, of course, during the life and times of the Brothers Grimm.
Address: Brüder-Grimm-Platz 5, 34117 Kassel
Where to Stay in Kassel for Sightseeing
- Luxury Hotels: The four-star Best Western Plus Hotel Kassel City is a great option for those seeking a quality luxury stay near the city's best shopping, with rooms boasting fresh modern décor. There's also an on-site French bistro, along with a fitness center with a hot tub. Also worth booking is Schlosshotel Bad Wilhelmshöhe, popular for its location within the spectacular Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe and its chic spa and great indoor swimming pool. For a truly memorable experience, check into the Renthof Kassel, a classy boutique hotel located in a former 13th-century monastery with unique rooms and décor, just minutes' on foot from Karlsaue park.
- Mid-Range Hotels: For those seeking a good quality stay that won't break the bank, pentahotel Kassel offers good rates in a sleekly designed building near the city's train station. Amenities include a pool table plus a fitness center with a sauna. Hotel Gude is another good option and comes with bright, modern rooms; spacious suites with seating areas; and a free breakfast. Similar quality rooms and suites can be enjoyed at Best Western Hotel Kurfuerst Wilhelm I, an Art Nouveau-inspired establishment with plush beds, private balconies, and views over the city.
- Budget Hotels: Of the top-rated budget hotel options in Kassel, the Days Inn Kassel Hessenland delivers quality, clean accommodations with comfortable beds in a handy central location. Also worth looking into are the IntercityHotel Kassel, notable for its friendly staff and proximity to public transit, and Golden Tulip Kassel Hotel Reiss, located near the main train station and offering clean, bright rooms and suites, free parking, and complimentary snacks.
Day Trips from Kassel
Hamelin and Tündern
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.
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 old Marriage House (Hochzeitshaus), 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 (Dom 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 German Fairy Tale Route (Deutsche Märchenstrasse) is the small town of Hofgeismar, famous for its handsome half-timbered houses and old town walls. The Romanesque and Gothic Old Town Church (Altstädter Kirche) has a beautiful Passion Altar dating from 1335, and in the Town Hall (Rathaus) 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 (Dornroeschenschloss), best known for being the home of Sleeping Beauty from the tales of the Brothers Grimm.
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Germany's Top UNESCO Attractions: Other great travel destinations in Germany that have attained prestigious UNESCO World Heritage Site status include the northernmost section of the beautiful Rhine Valley, famous for its medieval towns and villages. Classical Weimar is the designation given to the city known as Germany's "cultural capital" and is where the likes of literary greats Goethe, Schiller, and Nietzsche all lived. Also worth exploring, the medieval townscape of Regensburg has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site for its many fine churches and old aristocratic homes dating back to the 13th and 14th centuries.
Germany City Travel Ideas: One of the top most-visited city destinations in Germany is the country's capital of Berlin, popular for such important landmarks as the iconic Brandenburg Gate and, of course, the infamous Berlin Wall. Magnificent Munich, the capital of Bavaria, is also packed with tourist attractions, including fine old palaces and the Late Gothic Frauenkirche, and Cologne is famous for its many lovely old Romanesque churches, including the splendid Cologne Cathedral.