Officially nicknamed the "City of Science”, Darmstadt lies directly south of Frankfurt near the border between Hesse and Rhineland-Palatinate. It’s dotted with museums showcasing the art and wealth of the Grand Dukes of Hesse and is home to the UNESCO-listed artists’ colony of Mathildenhöhe, which was a major centre for the Jugendstil movement.
Things to do in Darmstadt
Everything from natural history to archaeology and contemporary art is exhibited at the Hessisches Landesmuseum, which occupies a monumental building dating back to 1897. Highlights of the collection include Pieter Brueghel the Elder’s “The Magpie on the Gallows” and a plaque from the 10th-century Magdeburg Ivories, as well as a large collection of Eocene fossils uncovered at the nearby Messel Pit.
Elegant Art Nouveau buildings cluster in Mathildenhöhe, a former artists’ colony listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It features monuments by Austrian architect Joseph Maria Olbrich and the German-born Peter Behrens, with the Russian Orthodox Church of St. Maria Magdalena and the Hochzeitsturm tower highlights. Crop circles were the inspiration behind the district’s Vortex Garden, which was originally envisioned by Jan Hubert Pinand.
A short drive south of Darmstadt is Frankenstein Castle, which is thought to have inspired Mary Shelley’s 1818 Gothic novel of the same name. You can climb the castle’s tower for sweeping views across the valley below and stop by the restaurant for a signature Frankensteiner cocktail. Frankenstein-themed productions are regularly held in the castle’s theatre.
Getting around Darmstadt
Darmstadt is around 30 minutes’ drive from Frankfurt and 20 minutes from Frankfurt Airport. Regular trains connect from Frankfurt to the Darmstadt Central railway station while buses and trams travel throughout the city. Central Darmstadt can easily be explored on foot.