Aschaffenburg is an ideal base for days out in the Spessart hills, the Odenwald forest and the Rhine-Main region. The Spessart hills and Odenwald forest together form Germany’s largest continuous expanse of mixed forest. The region is perfect for nature lovers, with its rare plant species and meadows scattered with fruit trees. The best way to explore these are the walking trails in the Spessart Hills Nature Park, some of which have even won awards, or the region’s European culture routes. Another typical feature of the area are its vineyards, some of were first established 1,000 years ago.
A leafy town that’s a popular destination in Bavaria’s Rhine-Main area
Surrounded by dense forests and sun-drenched vineyards, the town of Alzenau successfully combines the traditional with the modern. Set in beautiful countryside, it offers an excellent quality of life, while at the same time providing 10,000 jobs, many of them in innovative industries, such as the production of solar panels. The town’s most famous landmark is Alzenaus Castle, originally built for the Electors of Mainz, which is used for castle festivals and open-air concerts, providing a link between past and present. Another attraction is the 20th century neo-baroque Church of St Katharine.
Steeped in Roman history
The enchanting old quarter with its lovingly restored timber-framed houses was built on the foundations of a Roman fort. Founded by the 4th mounted Aquitani cohort between 83 AD and 85 AD, the fort was destroyed less than 200 years later. The exhibits at the Roman Museum include finds from the fort. You can explore the local Roman history on two UNESCO geopark culture trails that feature numerous information panels about the period. Five well-preserved towers and part of the old town wall stand as reminders of the time when Obernburg was ruled by the Electors of Mainz. There are also a number of chapels and churches that are open to the public.
Pearl of the Spessart
The picturesque moated castle of Mespelbrunn is a favourite attraction in the Spessart hills, and even appears in the film version of a famous German story, the Spessart Inn. It is located on the Unterm Herrnbild culture trail, which runs through the upper Elsava valley for a length of eight kilometres. Mespelbrunn Castle is only open to the public as part of guided tours during the summer months.
Half-timbered gem on the Main
The small, picturesque town of Miltenberg is situated on a bend in the river Main. It also lies on the 55km Franconian Red Wine Trail, perfect for those who appreciate the finer things in life, as is Germany’s oldest inn, "Zum Riesen", which once provided lodgings for kings and emperors. In addition to the inn, Miltenberg has many other fine examples of timber-framed houses. At the heart of the town is the traditional market square, known as ‘Schnatterloch’, one of the finest in Germany. The Schwarzviertel quarter with its many historical buildings, such as the Bannhaus, is the oldest part of the town. Mildenburg Castle, a border fortification built around the year 1200 high above the market square, offers stunning panoramic views of the Main valley and the Spessart hills. The Franciscan abbey church dominates Engelplatz, Miltenberg’s largest square.
Where the Tauber flows into the Main
Geographically speaking, Wertheim is right at the top of Baden-Württemberg. Wertheim Castle, the town’s most famous landmark, sits in splendour above the historical old quarter. With a population of around 23,000, Wertheim is situated in a holiday region with delightful countryside, between the Spessart hills and Odenwald forest, and combines an excellent infrastructure with a high quality of life. The town offers exemplary educational and care provisions as well as a wide range of culture and leisure options, making it ideally suited for families. It is also the region’s largest business centre, and home to a number of global market leaders. Good transport links in the form of the A3 and A81 motorways, and the proximity to the conurbations of Würzburg and Frankfurt further enhance its appeal as a place to live and work.
Town of legends and fairytales
Surrounded by fields and gently rolling hills, the town of Lohr has managed to retain its intrinsic traditional charm. There’s much to admire here, from the idyllic narrow lanes in the old quarter with its well-preserved Franconian half-timbered houses to historical buildings such as the old town hall, the remnants of the impressive town wall with the Bayersturm tower and above all ‘Snow White’s Castle’, built between 1330 and 1385 by the counts of Rieneck and now home to the Spessartmuseum. The Bayersturm is the only remaining tower from the late 13th century town fortifications. Other attractions open to the public include the impressive Renaissance old town hall and several churches and abbeys.
City of science and centre of culture
Darmstadt is Hessen’s fourth-largest city, with a population of more than 160,000. Its tradition of promoting the arts dates back to the founding of the "Mathildenhöhe Darmstadt" artists’ colony under Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig at the beginning of the 20th century. UNESCO has even added Darmstadt’s Mathildenhöhe to its list of World Heritage sites. A guided walk around the main sights in the city centre, including Residenzschloss (the palace), the White Tower – which used to form part of the city wall – or the domed church of St Ludwig is well worth your while. Architecture enthusiasts will find much to admire, such as the many art nouveau buildings or the extraordinary „Waldspirale“ apartment building designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser.
Mammal fossils in an 800-metre-deep shale pit
In 1995, this fossil site became the first natural monument in Germany to be included on the UNESCO World Heritage list. The Messel Pit provides unique insights into the early evolution of mammals. It documents earth’s history 48 million years ago, when the plant and animal kingdoms underwent dramatic changes following the end of the dinosaur era. Tens of thousands of fossils from the Eocene have so far been extracted from what was at the time a volcanic lake, with around 3,000 new finds being added every year. Apart from the large number and huge diversity of plant and animal fossils, the number of full body skeletons and the level of preservation of skin and fur shadows, feathers and stomach contents are quite unique.
Birthplace of the Brothers Grimm
Hanau is the birthplace of the famous brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. Although Germany’s official ‘Brothers Grimm town’ is primarily associated with the two linguists and fairytale collectors, Hanau is also known for its many museums, historical buildings and verdant parks. Schloss Philippsruhe - Philippsruhe Palace in Hanau resembles a scaled-down version of Versailles. Built in 1701 as a baroque summer residence in the French style for Count Philipp Reinhard, the riverside palace was modernised from 1875 to 1880. Today, its magnificent rooms are used to exhibit art and crafts from Hanau and all over Europe.
Centre of banking and finance
Frankfurt am Main is the largest city in Hessen, and the fifth-largest in Germany, home to more than three quarters of a million people. The towering skyscrapers in the financial quarter dominate the city’s skyline, earning it the nickname ‘Mainhattan’. Home to more than 300 financial institutions from around the globe, the European Central Bank and the German stock exchange, Frankfurt is one of Europe’s main financial hubs, as well as an important exhibition and trade fair centre. But amid all that modernity and international business there are also plenty of counterpoints that make Hessen’s premier city a top travel destination. The ‘new’ old quarter, the Imperial cathedral (Kaiserdom), Römerberg square, St Paul’s Church, the museums along the southern bank of the river Main, and the Goethe House are among the most popular attractions.
A journey into geological history
The Vulkaneum in Schotten houses a fascinating interactive exhibition on the subject of volcanoes. Across several floors, you can find out how volcanoes formed the Vogelsberg hills and what effect they continue to have on them, as well as what roles the climate, the forces of nature and human influence play. Going beyond the science, the Vulkaneum also presents myths and legends based on the volcanic activity.
The exhibition features numerous hands-on experiments and other interactive exhibits and multimedia installations. A successful blend of education and entertainment makes the Vulkaneum an informative and exciting destination for visitors of all ages who are interested in finding out more about the Vogelsberg hills and their volcanic past.