Kassel — where culture, art and history are omnipresent

Löwenburg Castle in Kassel

Kassel, also occasionally called “Casselfornia” by its inhabitants, is located in the northern part of Hesse. Kassel has an important place in German history and bears many attractions and sights which have recently been awarded the certificate of UNESCO World Heritage sites. Culture, art and history are omnipresent: behind the doors of museums and galleries, in plain sight in the middle of Kassel’s central piazza or even next to streets — such as Joseph Beuys’ project “Tree and Basalt” which has shaped Kassel’s alleys and pathways since the 1980s.

Things to see and do

Documenta city

Himmelsstürmer (Man walking to the sky) by Jonathan Borofsky designed for documenta IX is outside Kassel railway station

Every five years, the largest exhibition of contemporary art takes place in Kassel, the documenta, which attracts those interested in cultural events and modern art from all over the world. The official title of the city is “documenta Stadt” (documenta city) which underlines the importance of this big event for Kassel. Unlike other cultural exhibitions, documenta does not exclusively take place in galleries and museums. Installations and projects can be found all over the city with some of the ideas tailored to the modalities of public places. Even if one does not get the chance to visit Kassel during one of the 100 days of documenta, artworks can still be visited as some remain there even after the official end of the exhibition and become an important part of the city ‘s landscape.

World of Brothers Grimm

Exterior of Grimmworld in Kassel

Kassel was where the Brothers Grimm collected and wrote down famous fairy tales such as Snow White, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood and Sleeping Beauty, and attempted to write the first dictionary of the German language. With ‘Grimmwelt’ (Grimm’s world), Kassel has a new museum focusing on the life and work of the brothers as well as on the stories and characters of the fairy tales. It has won several awards and has received international praise due to its innovative equipment and the exclusive insight into the world of the men behind the famous fairy tales. The museum sometimes hosts special exhibitions and can be found in a building set in one of Kassel’s most elegant neighbourhoods with a beautiful view of the city and its ‘Weinberg’ (vineyard). Other places which presumably are the original settings of these fairy tales can be found in Kassel and its surrounding areas, for example Sababurg or ‘Dornröschenschloss’ (Sleeping Beauty’s castle) and the tower where presumably the tale around Rapunzel revolved, which stands in the Wilhelmstal Park.

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Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe

Hercules statue with water cascades

Kassel’s pride is ‘Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe’ (Wilhelmshöhe Mountainpark) which became a UNESCO world heritage site in 2013 and unites several remarkable places in one. The park itself is already an attraction as it is the biggest hillside park in Europe and a place to be all year round: take a walk, build a snowman or enjoy the sunshine. The ‘Herkules’ (Hercules monument) is the statue visible throughout most of the city and beyond. Responsible for the name is a statue of the ancient Greek God Heracles which overlooks the mountain park with the ‘Kaskaden’ (cascades) at his feet. This is where the water features begin. The mechanisms are still the same as in the 18th century which means that no electricity whatsoever is used. On Sundays and public holidays, waterfalls run throughout the park, passing an aqueduct and resuming in a giant fountain.

Wilhelmshöhe castle

Another sight in the Bergpark is the ‘Löwenburg’ (Lion’s fortress) which was built in the 18th century as an artificial castle ruin inspired by a Scottish castle. As one of the first German buildings in neo-Gothic style it is considered significant for German architectural history. Today it contains an exhibition of armoury for interested visitors. The most dominant feature of the Mountain Park is Schloss Wilhelmshöhe (Wilhelmshöhe castle), a neoclassical castle, originally a summer residence and retreat for the Landgraves of Hesse.

Karlsaue/ City centre

View of the Orangerie castle

Kassel has one of the greenest city centres in Europe. Although it had to be completely rebuilt after World War II, ‘Karlsaue’ (Karl’s meadow), a 150-hectare big baroque park is now a prominent feature of the city centre. Whether during summer or winter, a walk or a break in the Aue for a breath of fresh air is an everyday luxury for Kassel’s inhabitants. It’s spacious enough for joggers, boule players, dog walkers and whoever else wants to enjoy nature in the middle of a city. For those who have had enough of looking at trees, meadows and bodies of water, the view of the beautiful Orangerie castle that stretches beyond the alley lined by decorative trees offers a some variation. Further up one can enter Kassel’s planetarium with a unique collection of scientific measuring tools to observe the stars. At the other end of the Aue is Siebenbergen Island. This section of the park, also called Flower Island, is surrounded by smaller rivers and is home to several peacocks which give the impression of being on an exotic island.

Starting point for day trips

Timber framed buildings in Hannoversch Münden

In the city’s surroundings, other lovely places can be found. Enjoy the ‘Edersee’ (Edersee reservoir) which is a conservation area with a unique landscape and serves as a recreation area for the whole region. Alternatively, one can visit the picturesque small town Hannoversch Münden, also called Hann. Münden with its medieval half-timbered houses, or Weimar: the home of Goethe and Schiller. Kassel itself is worth a visit but it is also the perfect starting point to visiting other sites. Its train station is a famous meeting point for travellers, wherever they might go: north to south, or west to east; Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich or beyond — through Kassel they go.

How to get here

From Frankfurt Airport a direct rail connection (ICE) runs to Kassel-Wilhelmshöhe. Other nearby airports are Paderborn Lippstadt (57km), Hannover Airport (119km), Erfurt Airport (120km) and Dortmund Airport (123km).