Siegen is located at the point where the German Länder (or states) of North Rhine-Westphalia, Hesse and Rhineland-Palatinate meet. The town is often nicknamed ‘Rubens City’, thanks to its most famous inhabitant — the Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens. Around 100,000 people live there today.
Things to see and do
The main part of the city is surrounded by eight hills. One of these hills, the ‘Siegberg’, is home to two castles. The Upper Castle was first mentioned in recrods in 1259 and was then the main residence of the House of Nassau, a European aristocratic dynasty.
Nowadays, most parts of the castle have been turned into the ‘Siegerlandmuseum’, which documents the region’s history. For more about this museum, please see below.
The second castle on Siegberg is the Lower Castle, known for its ‘Dicker Turm’ (or ‘Fat Tower’). The castle is currently being renovated and will soon be part of the University of Siegen. Previously, the castle was used as a Franciscan monastery, before becoming another residence for the House of Nassau.
If you’d rather look around shopping malls than castles, downtown is the place to go.
The City Galerie shopping centre is right next to the main train station, but nice shops can also be found on Station Street, the Sieg Carré and other parts of town.
During the summer, you can also relax on the banks of the river Sieg; during the winter, a gorgeous Christmas market pops up in this part of the town.
The landmark of Siegen is the golden coronet on top of Nikolai Church (known in German as Nikolaikirche). The coronet was a present from John Maurice, Prince of Nassau-Siegen.
The Nikolaikirche has other unique characteristics such as a 16th-century silver baptismal bowl and its hexagonal floor plan, which is the only one in Europe north of the Alps.
In addition to Nikolaikirche, the beautiful Marienkirche can also be found in Siegen.
Peter Paul Rubens
Rubens, one of the most famous baroque painters, was born in Siegen in 1577; although he later went on to live and work in Antwerp, Siegen still carries the nickname ‘Rubens City’.
You can take a look at some of his spectacular paintings at the Siegerlandmuseum, which is located in the Upper Castle.
After having mentioned it now on several occations, it seems only appropriate to write about the Siegerlandmuseum in a few more details. The museum was founded in 1905, and covers arts and culture of the local region, which is known as Siegerland. At the museum, you’ll find portraits of members of the House of Nassau alongside paintings by Peter Paul Rubens.
The museum also shows visitors how people used to live in the Siegerland region during the 19th century, and allows you to find out more about the mining and iron industries that shaped Siegen for centuries. A highlight of the museum is an artificial mine, where you can find out for yourself what it was like to work below ground.
Culture and arts
There are a lot of other museums to visit in Siegen. The ‘Museum für Gegenwartskunst’, for example, shows a large variety of contemporary exhibitions. There is also the ‘Aktives Museum Südwestfalen’, built on the former site of the Siegen Synagoge, which was destroyed by the Nazis. The museum, which shows local Jewish and Nazi-era history, is a place of remembrance and learning. The Apollo Theatre offers its audience a variety of drama, concerts and music theatre.
How to get there
Frankfurt, Cologne and Düsseldorf are the nearest international airports, from where you can take the train or hire a car.
British-German Town Twinnings
Town twinnings between British and German cities play an important role in promoting cultural exchange. Siegen has been twinned with Morley in West Yorkshire since 1966, with the continuation of the partnership with amalgamated City of Leeds since 1974.