The Fairy-Tale Road - Fodor's Germany - Fodor's

Fodor's Germany - Fodor's (2016)

The Fairy-Tale Road

Welcome to the Fairy-Tale Road

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Top Reasons to Go | Getting Oriented | What’s Where | Planning | Driving the Fairy-Tale Road

Updated by Courtney Tenz and Jeff Kavanagh

With a name evocative of magic and adventure, the Fairy-Tale Road (Märchenstrasse) takes its travelers on a path through the land of the Brothers Grimm and a rolling countryside of farmland and forests that inspired tales of sleeping princesses, hungry wolves, and gingerbread houses. Flowing through the heart of western Germany to its North Sea coast, the Märchenstrasse stops along the way at towns and villages where the brothers spent much of their lives two centuries ago.

It was here among medieval castles and witch towers that the brothers, first as young boys, and then later as students and academics, listened to legends told by local storytellers, and adapted them into the fairy tales that continue to be read around the world today; enchanted and frequently dark tales that include “Sleeping Beauty,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” and “Hansel and Gretel.”

Following the Grimms’ footsteps through a landscape of river valleys and wide-open skies, or down cobblestone streets flanked by half-timber houses and baroque palaces, it’s possible to imagine things haven’t changed that much since the brothers’ time. Traditional taverns serving strong German beers and thick slabs of beef and pork dot the way, and storytelling continues to be a major attraction along the Fairy-Tale Road, though nowadays more commonly in the form of guided tours and interactive museum displays.

The Fairy-Tale Road, of course, is also a modern route, and its wide, smooth roads pass through larger urban areas, such as Kassel and Bremen, full of contemporary hotels, eateries, and stores. Like large parts of the rest of the country, many of these towns and cities were greatly damaged during World War II, and their hurried reconstruction often favored functionality over form, so that many buildings are much more stark than those they replaced. This contrast, however, often only serves to emphasize the beauty of what remained.

Not every town on the road can lay claim to a connection to the Brothers Grimm or the inspiration for a specific tale, but many continue to celebrate the region’s fairy-tale heritage with theme museums, summer festivals, and outdoor plays.

It’s this heritage, the natural appeal of the countryside, and the tradition and culture found in its towns and cities that attract travelers along the Märchenstrasse; that, mixed with the promise of adventure and the opportunity to create some tales of their own.


Valley Road: Drive or bike the scenic highway between Hannoversch-Münden and Hameln (Hamelin)—it’s a landscape of green hills, Weser Renaissance towns, and inviting riverside taverns.

Marburg: Staircase streets cover the steep hillsides of this half-timber university town; sit outdoors and soak up the atmosphere.

Bremen: Browse the shops and galleries lining the picturesque Böttcherstrasse and Schnoorviertel, then savor the city’s rich coffee tradition.

Dornröschenschloss Sababurg: With its spiral staircases, imposing turrets, and fairy-tale setting, this castle was said to have been the Grimm brothers’ inspiration for Sleeping Beauty’s castle.

Schlosspark Wilhelmshöhe: Home to a stunning, crescent-moon palace and a fairy-tale castle, the park’s trees, ponds, and wide-open spaces offer a dramatic contrast to the urbanity below.


The Fairy-Tale Road begins 20 minutes east of Frankfurt in the city of Hanau, and follows the Fulda and Weser rivers as it heads north 700 km (about 430 miles) to the North Sea port of Bremerhaven. Traversing through the states of Hesse and Lower Saxony, the road cuts through countryside as beguiling as any other in northern Europe. It may not have the glamour of the Romantic Road, but it doesn’t have the crowds and commercialism either.


Hesse. Though well-populated in the south of the state, with cities like Frankfurt and Wiesbaden, the northern part of Hesse is a place of forests and castles, which inspired the tales recorded by the Grimm brothers.

Lower Saxony. Germany’s second-largest state after Bavaria, Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen) has a diverse landscape, including the Weser River, which forms a picturesque part of the Fairy-Tale Road, and the Lüneburg Heath. Its capital and largest city is Hannover.



Summer is the ideal time to travel through this varied landscape, although in spring you’ll find the river valleys carpeted in the season’s first flowers, and in fall the sleepy Weser is often blanketed in mist. Keep in mind that retail stores and shops in the smaller towns in this area often close for two to three hours at lunchtime.


The closest international airports to this region are in Frankfurt, Hannover, and Hamburg. Frankfurt is less than a half hour from Hanau, and Hamburg is less than an hour from Bremen.

Airport Information
City Airport Bremen. | Flughafenallee 20 | Bremen | 0421/55950 |
Hannover-Langenhagen Airport. | Petzelstr. 84 | Hannover | 0511/9770 |


The Fulda and Werra rivers have 190 km (118 miles) of bike paths, and you can cycle the whole length of the Weser River from Hannoversch-Münden to the North Sea at Cuxhaven without making too many detours from the river valley. Five- and seven-day cycle tours of the Fulda and Werra river valleys are available. These typically include bike rentals, overnight accommodations, and luggage transport between stops.

Bike Tours

This bike-tour company offers a number of packages for those interested in cycling north along the Weser River. A five-day package along the 84-mile (136-km) route from Hannoversche-Munden to Hamil costs €349; the 235-mile (377-km) route to Bremen over nine days starts at €610. | Hermannstr 46 | Minden | 0571/889-1900 | | From €349.


Eurolines offers bus service across Europe and has stations in Bremen, Kassel, Göttingen, Fulda, and Hanau. | 069/7903-501 | | From €9.


Flotte Weser.
The eight boats of Flotte Weser operate short summer excursions along a considerable stretch of the Weser River between Bremen and Bad Karlshafen. The trip between Corvey and Bad Karlshafen, for example, takes slightly less than three hours and costs €15. | Am Stockhof 2 | Hameln | 05151/939-999 | | From €15.

Personenschiffahrt K. & K. Söllner.
The excursion boat has a 2½-hour round-trip between Kassel and the reservoir at Wahnhausen for €10 in the summer. | Die Schlagd | Kassel | Along the river between the Karl Branner and Fulda bridges | 0561/774-670 | | From €10.

Rehbein-Linie Kassel.
There are a number of short cruises, such as a Sunday brunch tour and a three-hour trip from Kassel to Bad Karlshafen available from two main ports of operation in Kassel and Hannoversch-Münden. The company also prides itself on the only “three-river tour” in the area, where in a single trip you travel on the Fulda and Werra rivers as well as the Weser, where these two rivers meet at the tour’s starting point of Hannoversch-Münden. | Ostpreussenstr. 8 | Fuldatal | 0561/18505 | | From €17.


The best way to travel is by car. The A-1 and A-7 autobahn network connects most major stops on the route, including Hanau, Fulda, Kassel, Göttingen, and Bremen, but you can’t savor the fairy-tale country from this high-speed superhighway. Bremen is 60 km (35 miles) northwest of Hannover.

The Fairy-Tale Road incorporates one of Germany’s loveliest scenic drives, the Wesertalstrasse, or Weser Valley Road (B-80 and B-83), between Hannoversch-Münden and Hameln; the total distance is approximately 103 km (64 miles).


Hanau, Fulda, Kassel, Göttingen, Hannover, and Bremen are reachable via InterCity Express (ICE) trains from Frankfurt and Hamburg. Rail service, but not ICE service, is available to Hannoversch-Münden, Marburg, and Hameln.

Train Information
Deutsche Bahn. | 0800/150-7090 |


In this largely rural area many restaurants serve hot meals only between 11:30 am and 2 pm, and 6 pm and 9 pm. You rarely need a reservation here, and casual clothing is generally acceptable.


Make hotel reservations in advance if you plan to visit in summer. Though it’s one of the less-traveled tourist routes in Germany, the main destinations on the Fairy-Tale Road are popular. Hannover is particularly busy during trade-fair times.


The Fairy-Tale Road isn’t really for the traveler in a hurry. If you only have a day or two to savor it, concentrate on a short stretch. A good suggestion is the Weser River route between Hannoversch-Münden and Hameln (Hamelin). The landscape is lovely, and the towns are romantic. If you have more time, but not enough to travel the whole route, focus on the southern half of the road. It’s more in character with the fairy tales.


Free summer weekend performances along the Fairy-Tale Road include Münchhausen plays in Bodenwerder, the Dr. Eisenbart reenactments in Hannoversch-Münden, the Town Musicians shows in Bremen, and especially the Pied Piper spectacle at Hameln (Hamelin). Kassel, Hannover, and Bremen also sell visitor cards that let you ride free on public transportation, grant reduced admissions at museums, and give other perks.


Deutsche Märchenstrasse.
The official tourist planning office for the Fairy-Tale Road is where you can book tours and hotels and take a look at the area’s event calendar, which is packed through 2019 as the cities and towns celebrate 200 years of Grimms’ Fairy Tales. | Kurfürstenstr. 9 | Kassel | 0561/9204-7911 |


Weaving its way through rolling hills and a gentle river valley, between whispering woods and past stone castles, this drive along the Fairy-Tale Road connects Göttingen, a vibrant university town, with tranquil riverside villages and the modern state capital of Hannover along the way.

Beginning in the south of Lower Saxony and ending in the heart of the state, with a brief excursion into Hesse, this two-day drive is best enjoyed in early spring, when cherry and apple blossoms dot the countryside. Late summer is another good time to go—the weather is at its best and the roads are no longer cluttered with peak-season traffic. Avoiding the high-speed stress of the autobahns, the drive keeps mainly to country roads, which allow time to take in the surroundings between stops. Gazing out at the landscape, it’s not difficult to conjure images of wicked witches lurking among the trees, kind woodsmen, and fair maidens trapped in distant towers.


Flowing placidly between Hannoversch Münden and Hameln, and on to the North Sea, the Weser passes through many towns offering canoe and boating equipment for rent. If time and weather permit, swap the car for a canoe and paddle the river’s glassy waters. Check out for details on canoe operators.

A German breakfast at Bullerjahn in the lively town square in front of Göttingen’s Altes Rathaus is a great way to start your trip. Once sated, jump in the car and drive 29 km (18 miles) west through the Hannoversch-Münden nature reserve to the town itself. Here, you can stroll among its delightful Renaissance architecture and watch the Fulda and Werra rivers converge to form the Weser River. Half an hour up the road is the town of Sababurg, and perhaps the Fairy-Tale Road’s most famous landmark, the Dornröschenschloss, Sleeping Beauty’s castle. Spend some time wandering the castle’s rose gardens and contemplating the princess’s enchanted 100-year slumber. From the castle it’s an easy 20-minute drive across the border to Hesse and the baroque spa town of Bad Karlshafen, where you can soothe whatever ails you with a long soak in a thermal, saltwater spring at Weser-Therme. Suitably relaxed, head to the peaceful riverside town of Bodenweder, which lies just over 50 km (31 miles) to the north along winding country roads. Stay overnight here, and visit the small but fun Münchhausen Museum in the morning, which has artifacts from Baron von Münchhausen’s tall tales, and enjoy the gentle murmur of the Weser as it flows its way past. Before lunch, travel 25 minutes north to Hameln (Hamelin) and the home of the Rattenfänger, the Pied Piper, where you can experience rat-themed dining at the Rattenfängerhaus. Afterward, drive the 47 km (29 miles) up to Hannover for an afternoon of culture in one of the city’s impressive museums and a predinner drink on the terrace of the stunning Neues Rathaus.


Back und Naschwerk.
Delicious breads are baked in the back of this little bakery, using only natural ingredients and real butter. Their maple syrup and walnut or poppy-seed-and-nougat muffins are worth a visit alone. | Kramerstr. 14| Hannover | 0511/7003-5221 | | No credit cards.

For a hearty breakfast at this cellar-level restaurant, order the enormous “Ratsfrühstück,” which consists of bread rolls, jams, honey, Gouda, cold cuts, salmon, yogurt and fruit, orange juice, coffee, sparkling wine, and a boiled egg. | Markt 9 | Göttingen | 0551/307-0100 | | No credit cards.

Museums Café.
Afternoon coffee and cake is as strong a culinary tradition in Germany as tea and scones are in England. This elegant café in Hamelin has cakes and tortes that’ll have you embracing the custom like a local in no time. | Osterstr. 8 | Hameln | 05151/21553 | | No credit cards.

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Hanau | Gelnhausen | Steinau an der Strasse | Fulda | Marburg | Kassel | Bad Karlshafen | Sababurg

The first portion of the Fairy-Tale Road, from Hanau to Bad Karlshafen, lies within the state of Hesse. Much of the state’s population is concentrated in the south, in such cities as Frankfurt, Darmstadt, and Wiesbaden; here in the northern part it is quieter, with a pretty, rural, hilly, and forested landscapes. Here you’ll find Steinau, the almost vertical city of Marburg, and Kassel, all of which have associations with the Grimm brothers.


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16 km (10 miles) east of Frankfurt.

The Fairy-Tale Road begins in Hanau, the town where the Brothers Grimm were born. Although Grimm fans will want to start their pilgrimage here, Hanau is now a traffic-congested suburb of Frankfurt, with post-World War II buildings that are not particularly attractive.

Getting Here and Around

Less than a 50-minute S-bahn (Line No. 9) journey from Frankfurt Airport, Hanau is also reachable by high-speed ICE trains from Berlin and Munich, or a combination of ICE and regional trains from Hannover, Bremen, and Hamburg.


Visitor Information

Tourist Information Hanau.
This small tourist office in the town hall can help with hotel and restaurant recommendations as well as city maps and information about local landmarks; they’re only open Monday through Thursday 9 to 1 and 1:30 to 4:30, Friday 9 to 1 and Saturday 9 to noon. | Am Markt 14-18 | 06181/295-950 |


Nationaldenkmal Brüder Grimm (Brothers Grimm Memorial).
Hanau’s main attraction can be reached only on foot. The bronze memorial, erected in 1898, is a larger-than-life-size statue of the brothers, one seated, the other leaning on his chair, the two of them pondering an open book. | Marktpl. | Free.

Schloss Philippsruhe.
Completed in 1880, this palace mixes a bit of rococo, neo-Renaissance, and neoclassism in its design; a museum inside has a small Grimm exhibit that includes clothing, artifacts, and writings. It’s on the bank of the Main in the suburb of Kesselstadt (Bus 5 will take you there in 10 minutes). Historical Hanau treasures, including a priceless collection of faience, are also on display here. | Philippsruher Allée 45 | 06181/295-564 | | €2.50 | Tues.-Sun. 11-6.

Rathaus (Town Hall).
The solid bulk of Hanau’s 18th-century Rathaus stands behind the Grimm brothers statue. Every day at noon its bells play tribute to another of the city’s famous sons, the composer Paul Hindemith (1895-1963), by chiming out one of his canons. | Marktpl. 14.


20 km (12 miles) northeast of Hanau, 35 km (21 miles) northeast of Frankfurt.

Perched elegantly on the side of a hill above the Kinzig River, Gelnhausen’s picturesque Altstadt (Old Town) offers the first taste of the half-timber houses and cobblestone streets that lie in abundance farther north. In spring and summer, school children dressed in traditional garb are guided down its winding streets and through lively little squares flanked by ice-cream parlors and outdoor cafés, to listen to tales of Red Beard, and the fate of those poor townswomen suspected of being witches.

Getting Here and Around

If you’re flying into Frankfurt, Gelnhausen is an ideal spot for your first night on the Fairy-Tale Road. It’s smaller and more charming than Hanau, and is still less than an hour’s drive from Frankfurt’s main airport. Trains to Gelnhausen leave from Frankfurt’s main station every half hour and take approximately 35 minutes, with frequent connections to and from Hanau. Once here, the historic Old Town is hilly, but small enough to walk around. April through October, a walking tour leaves from the town hall at 2 on Sunday.


Visitor Information

Though small, this tourist office coordinates a number of themed walking tours and events year-round for visitors young and old and can recommend accommodations. Inside, kids will enjoy climbing on a larger-than-life sculpture of a human ear. | Tourist-Information, Obermarkt 7 | House to the rear (Hinterhaus No. 24) | 06051/830-300 |


Hexenturm (Witches’ Tower).
The Hexenturm was originally constructed in the 15th century as a watchtower to protect the town from invaders. What remains today is an imposing 9 meters in diameter and 24-meter-high tower which was used as a grim prison during the time when Gelnhausen was the center of a witch hunt in the late 16th century. Dozens of women were either burned at the stake or bound hand and foot and then thrown into the Kinzig River after being held prisoner here. | Am Fratzenstein | 06051/830-300 | Free.

On an island in the gentle little Kinzig River you’ll find the remains of the Kaiserpfalz. Emperor Friedrich I—known as Barbarossa, or Red Beard—built the castle in this idyllic spot in the 12th century; in 1180 it was the scene of the first all-German Imperial Diet, a gathering of princes and ecclesiastical leaders. Today only parts of the russet walls and colonnaded entrance remain. Still, you can stroll beneath the castle’s ruined ramparts and you’ll get a tangible impression of the medieval importance of the court of Barbarossa. | Burgstr. 14 | 06051/3805 | €3 | Mar.-Oct., Tues.-Sun. 10-5; Nov. and Dec., Tues.-Sun. 10-4.


Romantisches Hotel Burg Mühle.
$ | HOTEL | This peaceful hotel, a few steps from the Kaiserpfalz and within an easy walk of the Altstadt, was once the castle’s mill (Mühle) and sawmill. In the restaurant ($-$$), watch the mill wheel spin as you eat. Should you require more relaxation, the hotel’s wellness facilities include massages, a sauna, and a solarium. Pros: large rooms (many with balconies). Cons: showing a little wear. | Rooms from: €77 | Burgstr. 2 | 06051/82050 | | 40 rooms | Breakfast.

The Brothers Grimm

The Grimm fairy tales originated in the southern part of the Märchenstrasse. This area, mainly in the state of Hesse, was the home region of the brothers Jacob (1785-1863) and Wilhelm (1786-1859) Grimm. They didn’t create the stories they are famous for. Their feat was to mine the great folklore tradition that was already deeply ingrained in local culture.

Collecting the Stories

For generations, eager children had been gathering at dusk around the village storyteller to hear wondrous tales of fairies, witches, and gnomes, tales passed down from storytellers who had gone before. The Grimms sought out these storytellers and recorded their tales.

The result was the two volumes of their work Kinder- und Hausmärchen (Children’s and Household Tales), published in 1812 and 1814 and revised and expanded six times during their lifetimes. The last edition, published in 1857, is the basis for the stories we know today. Earlier versions contained more violence and cruelty than was deemed suitable for children.

That is how the world got the stories of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Rumpelstiltskin, Puss-in-Boots, Mother Holle, Rapunzel, and some 200 others, many of which remain unfamiliar.

The Brothers’ Other Work

Both Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm had distinguished careers as librarians and scholars, and probably would be unhappy to know that they are best remembered for the fairy tales. Among other things, they began what would become the most comprehensive dictionary of the German language and produced an analysis of German grammar.

The brothers were born in Hanau, near Frankfurt, which has a statue memorializing them as well as a Grimm exhibit at Schloss Philippsruhe. They spent their childhood in Steinau, 30 km (18 miles) to the north, where their father was magistrate. There are two Grimm museums there, one in their home. On their father’s untimely death they moved to their mother’s home city of Kassel, where they found the best of their stories. Kassel has an important Grimm museum, the GRIMMWELT, which opened in 2015 and is dedicated to promoting the brothers’ role in enhancing the German language as we know it today. Although they attended the university at Marburg from 1802 to 1805, they later returned to Kassel to work as librarians before they went on to work in the university town of Göttingen; the brothers spent their last years as academics in Berlin.


30 km (18 miles) northeast of Gelnhausen, 65 km (40 miles) northeast of Frankfurt.

The little town of Steinau—full name Steinau an der Strasse (Steinau “on the road,” referring to an old trade route between Frankfurt and Leipzig)—had a formative influence on the Brothers Grimm as they arrived in the town as preschoolers and stayed until they were aged 10 and 11, when they left after their father’s death.

Steinau dates from the 13th century, and is typical of villages in the region. Marvelously preserved half-timber houses are set along cobblestone streets; an imposing castle bristles with towers and turrets. In its woodsy surroundings you can well imagine encountering Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White, or Hansel and Gretel. A major street is named after the brothers; the building where they lived is now named after them.

Getting Here and Around

Regional trains leave hourly from Gelnhausen and take about 15 minutes to reach Steinau an der Strasse. The train station is just over a kilometer (½ mile) from the Old Town’s center and, should the walk be too far, the MKK90 bus goes into the town, albeit at irregular and sometimes lengthy intervals (get off at Ringstrasse). Or you can take a taxi. A city walking tour takes place April to October, the first Sunday of the month, leaving at 2 from the Märchenbrunnen (fountain).


Visitor Information

Steinau an der Strasse.
Though small, the tourist office will work to coordinate tours of the city specialized for children, or with topics such as the half-timber houses or Steinau during the Middle Ages. | Verkehrsbüro, Brüder-Grimm-Str. 70 | 06663/96310 |


Brüder Grimm Haus and Museum Steinau.
Occupying both the house where the Brothers Grimm lived for much of their childhoods as well as the house’s old barn, the Brüder Grimm Haus and Museum Steinau are fun and engaging museums. Featuring a reconstruction of the family’s old kitchen, the brothers’ former house also displays old personal possessions such as letters and reading glasses, and has an upper floor divided into nine rooms with interactive displays that celebrate the Grimms’ stories and other fairy tales from around Europe. Across a small courtyard, the town’s museum documents what life was like on the old trade route that ran through Steinau, incorporating into its exhibits a coach, inn signs, milestones, and the type of pistols travelers used to defend themselves from bandits. | Brüder-Grimm-Str. 80 | 06663/7605 | | €6 | Jan.-mid-Dec., daily 10-5.

Devil’s Cave (Tropfsteinhöhle).
On this half-hour tour through a 2.5-million-year-old cave on the outskirts of Steinau, you may stumble upon sleeping bats as you explore the unique geological formations, including stalactites and stalagmites that reach up to 82 feet (25 meters) high and 36 feet (11 meters) in circumference as well as a so-called chapel room with ceilings up to 26 feet (8 meters) tall. | Auf der Hohle | 06663/96310 | | €3.50 | mid-Apr.-Sept., weekdays 1-5, Sat. 1-6, Sun. 10-6.

Schloss Steinau (Steinau Castle).
Schloss Steinau is straight out of a Grimm fairy tale. It stands at the top of the town, with a “Fairy-tale Fountain” in front of it. Originally an early-medieval fortress, it was rebuilt in Renaissance style between 1525 and 1558 and first used by the counts of Hanau as their summer residence. Later it was used to guard the increasingly important trade route between Frankfurt and Leipzig. It’s not difficult to imagine the young Grimm boys playing in the shadow of its great gray walls or venturing into the encircling dry moat.

The castle houses a Grimm Museum, one of two in Steinau, which exhibits the family’s personal effects, including portraits of the Grimm relatives, the family Bible, an original copy of the Grimms’ dictionary (the German equivalent of the Oxford English Dictionary), and all sorts of mundane things such as spoons and drinking glasses. Climb the tower for a breathtaking view of Steinau and the countryside. | Schloss an der Steinau | 06663/6843 | Museum €2.50, tower €1, tour of castle and museum €8 | Mar.-Oct., Tues.-Sun. 10-5; Nov.-mid-Dec., Tues.-Sun. 10-4.

Steinauer Marionettentheater.
Located in what was once the stables at Schloss Steinau, this marionette theater portrays Grimm fairy tales and other children’s classics. Performances are held most weekends at 3. | Schloss Steinau, Am Kumpen 2 | 06663/245 | | €7.50.


$ | GERMAN | This cheery hotel-restaurant is a long, long way from the center of Steinau, uphill all the way. But it’s worth it. As your nose will tell you immediately, just about everything on the menu is charcoal-grilled. The name (“Roast Chicken Farm”) sets the theme, though other grilled meats are available. It’s also good for peace and quiet and has several single and double rooms in the attached guesthouse (from €70). | Average main: €14 | Im Ohl 1 | 06663/228 | | No credit cards | Closed Mon. and late Dec.-mid-Feb.

$ | B&B/INN | Previously a 16th-century customs house, sitting on 1,000-year-old foundations and a secret tunnel that runs to the nearby Schloss and church, this friendly travelers’ inn is the type of place made for history buffs. The inn’s half-timber rooms have been restored to resemble what life might have been like in the time of the Brothers Grimm, but with modern comforts like Wi-Fi. Weary travelers can rest their feet beneath the 100-year-old chestnut tree in the inn’s beer garden in summer or around a table in the “fire room” in winter. Pros: in the middle of Steinau; tasty regional beer on tap. Cons: restaurant ($) serves solid, if unspectacular German food. | Rooms from: €78 | Brüder Grimm Str. 49 | 06663/911-2602 | | No credit cards | 5 rooms | No meals.

EN ROUTE: Deutsche Fachwerkstrasse.
In case you don’t get enough half-timber on the Fairy-Tale Road there is also the German Half-Timber Road (Deutsche Fachwerkstrasse), with lots more storybook architecture. A map and brochure can be obtained from the Deutsche Fachwerkstrasse. | Propstei Johannesberg | Fulda | 0661/43680, 0661/9425-0366 |


32 km (20 miles) northeast of Steinau an der Strasse, 100 km (62 miles) northeast of Frankfurt.

The cathedral city of Fulda is worth a brief detour off the Fairy-Tale Road. There are two distinct parts to its downtown area. One is a stunning display of baroque architecture, with the cathedral, orangery, and formal garden, which grew up around the palace. The other is the Old Town, where the incredibly narrow and twisty streets are lined with boutiques, bistros, and a medieval tower. TIP You’ll find Kanalstrasse and Karlstrasse in the Old Town lined with good, inexpensive cafés and restaurants, serving German, Mediterranean, and other dishes.

Getting Here and Around

InterCity Express trains connect Fulda with Frankfurt, Hannover, and Hamburg, while regional trains link the city with many other Fairy-Tale Road destinations. Within Fulda itself, the Old Town and the city’s other main attractions are all in walking distance of each other.


Visitor Information

Tourismus und Kongressmanagement Fulda.
Located in the heart of the city, the tourist office coordinates group tours in addition to the award-winning hour-long daily tours that take place at 11:30 and 3 pm and which can be combined with an hour-long tour of the city’s castle. | Bonifatiuspl. 1 | 0661/102-1813 |


Dom zu Fulda.
Fulda’s 18th-century cathedral, an impressive baroque building with an ornate interior, has two tall spires and stands on the other side of the broad boulevard that borders the palace park. The basilica accommodated the ever-growing number of pilgrims who converged on Fulda to pray at the grave of the martyred St. Boniface, the “Apostle of the Germans.” A black alabaster bas-relief depicting his death marks the martyr’s grave in the crypt. | Dompl. 1 | | Apr.-Oct., weekdays 10-6, Sat. 10-3, Sun. 1-6; Nov.-Mar., weekdays 10-5, Sat. 10-3, Sun. 1-6.

Cathedral Museum.
The Cathedral treasury contains a document bearing St. Boniface’s writing, along with several other treasures, including Lucas Cranach the Elder’s fine 16th-century painting Christ and the Adulteress. | Dompl. 2 | 0661/87207 | | €2.10 | Apr.-Oct., Tues.-Sat. 10-5:30, Sun. 12:30-5:30; Nov., Dec.-mid-Jan., and mid-Feb.-Mar., Tues.-Sat. 10-12:30 and 1:30-4, Sun. 12:30-4.

Germany’s first children’s museum has interactive exhibits to help explain science and technology, including a walk-through heart. | Mehlerstr. 4 | 0661/902-730 | | €9 | Weekdays 10-5:30, Sun. 1-5:30, and Apr.-Oct., Sat. 1-5.30.

Dating back to 819 AD, this is one of Germany’s oldest churches. Formerly a part of the Benedictine order, the church’s interior is bare bones and yet impressive with its domed ceiling and arched cupola. | Fulda | Free | Apr.-Oct., Tues.-Sun. 10-6; Nov.-Mar., Tues.-Sun. 10-noon and 2-5.

Fodor’s Choice | Stadtschloss (City Palace).
The city’s grandest example of baroque design is the immense Stadtschloss, formerly the residence of the prince-bishops. The Fürstensaal (Princes’ Hall), on the second floor, provides a breathtaking display of baroque decorative artistry, with ceiling paintings by the 18th-century Bavarian artist Melchior Steidl, and fabric-clad walls. The palace also has permanent displays of fine Fulda porcelain.

Also worth seeing is the Spiegelsaal, with its many tastefully arranged mirrors. Pause at the windows of the Grünes Zimmer (Green Chamber) to take in the view across the palace park to the Orangery, a large garden with summer-flowering shrubs and plants. | Schlossstr. 1 | 0661/1020 | | €3.50 | Tues.-Sun. 10-5; tours Nov.-Mar., Tues.-Fri. at 2, weekends 10:30 and 2; Apr.-Oct., Tues.-Thurs. and Sat. 10:30 and 2, Fri. 2.

Vonderau Museum.
The Vonderau Museum is housed in a former Jesuit seminary. Its exhibits chart the cultural and natural history of Fulda and eastern Hesse. A popular section of the museum is its planetarium, which has a variety of shows, including one for children. Since it has only 35 seats, an early reservation is advisable. Shows take place Friday at 7, and on weekends at 2:30 and 3:30. | Jesuitenpl. 2 | 0661/928-350 | | Museum €3.50, planetarium €4 | Tues.-Sun. 10-5.


$ | GERMAN | An intimate atmosphere in a 350-year-old house near the city’s baroque quarter complements the gourmet menu, which focuses on using regional, in-season ingredients in its traditional German dishes. An extensive wine list ensures you’ll always have the right glass to go with your locally caught trout or grilled pork loin. Arrive early on warm summer days to grab a seat on the sunny terrace. | Average main: €14 | Pfandhausstr. 8 | 0661/74112 | | Closed Mon. and Tues. | No credit cards.

What to Eat on the Fairy-Tale Road

A specialty of northern Hesse is sausages with Beulches, made from potato balls, leeks, and black pudding. Weck, which is local dialect for “heavily spiced pork,” appears either as Musterweck, served on a roll, or as Weckewerk, a frying-pan concoction with white bread. Heading north into Lower Saxony, you’ll encounter the ever-popular Speckkuchen, a heavy and filling onion tart. Another favorite main course is Pfefferpothast, a sort of heavily browned goulash with lots of pepper. Trout and eels are common in the rivers and streams around Hameln, and by the time you reach Bremen, North German cuisine has taken over the menu. Aalsuppe grün, eel soup seasoned with dozens of herbs, is a must in summer, and the hearty Grünkohl mit Pinkel, a cabbage dish with sausage, bacon, and cured pork, appears in winter. Be sure to try the coffee. Fifty percent of the coffee served in Germany comes from beans roasted in Bremen. The city has been producing the stuff since 1673, and knows just how to serve it in pleasantly cozy or, as locals say, gemütlich surroundings.

Hotel zum Ritter.
$ | B&B/INN | Centrally located but tucked away on a side alley, this charming hotel and restaurant has quiet, comfortable rooms and very friendly staff, making it a great base for city exploring or for business travelers. Pros: friendly staff; great location. Cons: rooms are charmlessly modern. | Rooms from: €99 | Kanalstr. 18-20 | 0661/250-800 | | 33 rooms | Breakfast.

Maritim Hotel am Schlossgarten.
$$ | HOTEL | At the luxurious showpiece of the Maritim chain, guests can breakfast beneath frescoed ceilings and enormous chandeliers in a stunning 18th-century orangery overlooking Fulda Palace Park. Guest rooms housed in a modern wing with a large central atrium are standard for the chain; the hotel’s Dianakeller restaurant ($-$$) is inside an impressive cavern of centuries-old vaulted arches. Based on location alone, this is the best place to stay in Fulda. Pros: large, comfortable rooms; lovely terrace with views of park and nearby cathedral. Cons: no air-conditioning. | Rooms from: €175 | Pauluspromenade 2 | 0661/2820 | | 111 rooms, 1 suite | No meals.

Fodor’s Choice | Romantik Hotel Goldener Karpfen.
$$ | HOTEL | An institution in Fulda for more than 100 years, the Goldener Karpfen has remained family owned and run, with an elegant disposition and engaging hosts that have brought singers, actors, and archbishops through its doors. A couple other points in the hotel’s favor are its Hollywood rooms with diner-style furniture and checkered tiles, and the high quality of the German food and wines on offer in its restaurant ($$$), which is open daily 11-11. Pros: luxury lodging; a short stroll to the town’s major attractions; excellent breakfast buffet. Cons: public spaces can feel cluttered with knickknacks. | Rooms from: €165 | Simpliziusbrunnen 1 | 0661/86800 | | 46 rooms, 4 suites | Breakfast.

EN ROUTE: Marburg is the next major stop on the road. Take B-254 to Alsfeld (34 km [21 miles] northwest of Fulda), where you can make a short stop to admire its half-timber houses and narrow streets; then take B-62 into Marburg.

Alsfeld’s Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall) was built in 1512. Its exterior—combining a ground floor of stone arcades; half-timber upper reaches; and a dizzyingly steep, top-heavy slate roof punctuated by two pointed towers shaped like witches’ hats—would look right at home in Walt Disney World.


60 km (35 miles) northwest of Fulda.

“I think there are more steps in the streets than in the houses.” That is how Jacob Grimm described the half-timber hillside town of Marburg, which rises steeply from the Lahn River to the spectacular castle that crowns the hill. Many of the winding, crooked “streets” are indeed stone staircases, and several of the hillside houses have back doors five stories above the front doors. The town’s famous university and its students are the main influence on its social life, which pulses through the many cafés, restaurants, and hangouts around the marketplace. The Grimms themselves studied here from 1802 to 1805.

Many of the streets are closed to traffic, and are filled with outdoor tables when the weather cooperates. There is a free elevator near the tourist-information office on Pilgrimstein that can transport you from the level of the river to the Old Town.

Getting Here and Around

Two hours from Fulda by train, the cheapest way to get here is by taking a regional train to the town of Giessen, and changing there; and every two hours a regional train runs between Marburg and Kassel. By car, take the B-254 and then B-62 from Fulda.


Visitor Information

Marburg Tourismus und Marketing.
Located in the heart of the city, the tourist office sells souvenirs and event tickets as well as organizing public tours, including a two-hour tour (€6) every Saturday at 3 pm, which meets at Elisabethkirche, and an English-language hour-long tour of the Altstadt that meets at the fountain on the Market Square on the first Monday of each month from May to October at 6:30 pm. | Pilgrimstein 26 | 06421/99120 |


Elisabethkirche (St. Elizabeth Church).
Marburg’s most important building is the Elisabethkirche, which marks the burial site of St. Elizabeth (1207-31), the town’s favorite daughter. She was a Hungarian princess, betrothed at age 4 and married at 14 to a member of the nobility, Ludwig IV of Thuringia. In 1228, when her husband died in the Sixth Crusade, she gave up all worldly pursuits. She moved to Marburg, founded a hospital, gave her wealth to the poor, and spent the rest of her very short life (she died at the age of 24) in poverty, caring for the sick and the aged. She is largely responsible for what Marburg became. Because of her selflessness she was made a saint four years after her death. The Teutonic Knights built the Elisabethkirche, which quickly became a pilgrimage site, enabling the city to prosper. You can visit the shrine in the sacristy that once contained her bones, a masterpiece of the goldsmith’s art. The church is a veritable museum of religious art, full of statues and frescoes. Walking tours of Marburg begin at the church on Saturday at 3, year-round. Tours inside the church are held Monday to Friday at 3 from April to October (€3.50) and Sunday shortly after Mass (around 11:15). | Elisabethstr. 1 | | Free | Nov.-Mar., Mon.-Sat. 10-4, Sun. 11-4; Apr.-Oct., Mon.-Sat. 9-5, Sun. 11-5.

Sitting at the highest point in the town, this castle was finished in 1500 and survived the war unscathed. It offers panoramic views of Marburg below and a small museum with displays of weaponry, pottery, religious art, and local history. | Landgrafenschloss | 06421/282-5871 | | €4 | Apr.-Oct., daily 10-6; Nov.-Mar., daily 10-4; tours (in German) Apr.-Oct., Sun. at 3.

Fascinating narrow lanes, crooked steps, superbly restored half-timber houses, and venerable old churches abound in the old town of Marburg; the narrow Wendelgasse takes you up 175 stairs through the city, surrounded by old timber-framed houses. | Wendelg. | Free.


Cafe Vetter.
$ | CAFÉ | This café has the most spectacular view in town—and Marburg is famous for its panoramas. Both an outdoor terrace and a glassed-in terrace take full advantage of the site. It’s all very “Viennese coffeehouse traditional” here, and the homemade cakes and chocolate creams are hard to resist. This institution, four generations in the same family, has piano music on weekend afternoons. | Average main: €7 | Reitg. 4 | 06421/25888 | | No credit cards | No dinner.

$ | WINE BAR | If you’ve tired of the big glasses of beer and plates of enormous schnitzel on offer in traditional eating establishments, this half-timbered wine bar’s fine selection of German wines, and light, crispy Flammkuchen (a flambéed tart) is a welcome break. Just up the street from the Old Town’s main marketplace, it’s a busy spot, popular with patrons of all ages. When the weather is good, get there early, grab a table on its little terrace for a view down the hill, order a cheese platter and glass of white, and watch the world idle by. | Average main: €9 | Schlosstreppe 1 | 06421/14244 | | No credit cards.

Welcome Hotel Marburg.
$$ | HOTEL | While the plain facade of this large, modern hotel may suffer in comparison with much of Marburg’s traditional architecture, its generous rooms, comfy beds, and excellent breakfast buffet draw guests back. At river level just below the Old Town, its Tartaruga restaurant ($$) serves seasonal menus of German fare, and there’s a terrace for fair-weather dining. You can retire to the hotel’s bar for an after-dinner nightcap, or sweat off some of the calories in the sauna. Pros: across from the elevator to the Altstadt. Cons: no real views from many of the rooms. | Rooms from: €131 | Pilgrimstein 29 | 06421/9180 | | 147 rooms, 3 suites | Breakfast.


100 km (62 miles) northeast of Marburg.

The Brothers Grimm lived in Kassel, their mother’s hometown, as teenagers, and also worked there as librarians at the court of the king of Westphalia, Jerome Bonaparte (Napoléon’s youngest brother), and for the elector of Kassel. In researching their stories and legends, their best source was not books but storyteller Dorothea Viehmann, who was born in the Knallhütte tavern, which is still in business in nearby Baunatal.

Much of Kassel was destroyed in World War II, and the city was rebuilt with little regard for its architectural past. The city’s museums and the beautiful Schloss Wilhelmshöhe and Schlosspark, however, are well worth a day or two of exploration.

Getting Here and Around

On a main InterCity Express line between Munich and Hamburg, you can also travel to Kassel-Wilhelmshöhe from Hannover and Bremen by high-speed train. By car, travel northeast from Marburg on the B-3 to Borken, then take autobahn A-49 into Kassel.


Guided bus tours of Kassel set off from the Stadttheater on Saturday at 11.

Discounts and Deals

When you arrive, you may want to buy a Kassel Card, which gives you a reduced rate for the city bus tour, free travel on the local transportation system, and reduced admission to the museums and the local casino. It’s available at the tourist office for €9 for 24 hours and €12 for 72 hours, for two people per card.


Visitor Information

Kassel Marketing GmbH.
Though small, the “documenta” city—a reference to the 100-day-long outdoor art exhibition that takes place there every five years—knows how to show visitors its good side. Every Friday at 4, the tourist office organizes a walking tour of the major sites for €7 and in summer months, adds themed guided tours highlighting the Grimm brothers’ time in the city. | Wilhelmsstr. 23 | 0561/707-707 |


Every five years, a 100-day contemporary and modern art show takes over the city of Kassel. Begun in 1955, the next exhibit will occur in 2017. |


GRIMMWELT (Grimm’s World).
Opened in 2015, this museum and exhibition space brings the world of the Grimm brothers to life with a combination of artifacts from their time in Kassel and interactive exhibitions devoted to furthering awareness of their important role in the development of the German language. Temporary exhibits include video art installations focusing on language or take a playful view of the brothers’ fairy tales. | Weinbergstr. 21 | 0561/598-6190 | | Museum €8, presentation €5, combined museum and presentation €10 | Tues.-Thurs. and weekends 10-6, Fri. 10-8.

Fodor’s Choice | Schloss und Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe (Wilhelmshöhe Palace and Palace Park).
The magnificent grounds of the 18th-century Schloss and the Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe, at the western edge of Kassel, are said to be Europe’s largest hill park. If you have time, plan to spend an entire day at this UNESCO World Heritage Site, exploring its wonderful gardens, water features, museums, and castle. Wear good walking shoes and bring some water if you want to hike all the way up to the giant statue of Hercules that crowns the hilltop.

The Wilhelmshöher Park was laid out as a baroque park in the early 18th century, its elegant lawns separating the city from the thick woods of the Habichtswald (Hawk Forest). Schloss Wilhelmshöhe was added between 1786 and 1798. The great palace stands at the end of the 5-km-long (3-mile-long) Wilhelmshöher Allée, an avenue that runs straight as an arrow from one side of the city to the other.

Kassel’s leading art gallery and the state art collection lie within Schloss Wilhelmshöhe as part of the Museumslandschaft Hessen Kassel. Its collection includes 11 Rembrandts, as well as outstanding works by Rubens, Hals, Jordaens, Van Dyck, Dürer, Altdorfer, Cranach, and Baldung Grien.

The giant 18th-century statue of Hercules that crowns the Wilhelmshöhe heights is an astonishing sight. You can climb the stairs of the statue’s castlelike base—and the statue itself—for a rewarding look over the entire city. At 2:30 pm on Sunday and Wednesday from mid-May through September, water gushes from a fountain beneath the statue, rushes down a series of cascades to the foot of the hill, and ends its precipitous journey in a 175-foot-high jet of water. A café lies a short walk from the statue. | Schloss Wilhelmshöhe, Schlosspark 1 | 0561/316-800 | | Museum Schloss Wilhelmshöhe €6; Hercules Octagon €3 | Tues., Thurs., and Fri.-Sun. 10-5, Wed. 10-8.

Löwenburg (Lion Fortress).
Amid the thick trees of the Wilhelmshöher Park, it comes as something of a surprise to see the turrets of a medieval castle breaking the harmony. There are more surprises at the Löwenburg, for this is not a true medieval castle but a fanciful, stylized copy of a Scottish castle, built in 1793 (70 years after the Hercules statue that towers above it). The Löwenburg contains a collection of medieval armor and weapons, tapestries, and furniture. | Schlosspark 9 | 0561/3168-0244 | | €4 including tour | Mar.-Oct., Tues.-Sun. 10-5; Nov.-Feb., Fri.-Sun. 10-4.


Brauhaus Knallhütte.
$ | GERMAN | This brewery and inn, established in 1752, was the home of the village storyteller Dorothea Viehmann, who supplied the Grimms with some of their best stories, including “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Hansel and Gretel,” and “Rumpelstiltskin.” To this day “Dorothea” tells her stories here (in German only) every first and third Saturday of the month at 5:30. Once a wayside inn on the road to Frankfurt, the Knallhütte now sits alongside a busy highway. However, this hasn’t diminished its popularity, and if you’re planning on visiting on the weekend, it’s best to book ahead. Those that arrive hungry can tour the brewery and then eat and drink as much as they want for €24.90. | Average main: €14 | Rengershausen, Knallhütte. 1 | Baunatal | 0561/492-076 |

Fodor’s Choice | Hotel Gude.
$$ | HOTEL | It may be 10 minutes by tram away from the city center, but this modern, friendly hotel and its spacious rooms, sauna, and excellent restaurant ($$$) justify the journey. The Pfeffermühle is one of the region’s finest places to eat, and its superb breakfast buffet is in keeping with the inventive international menu served at night. A modern terrace catches the sun until late in the day, and the hotel’s Salz bar serves reasonably priced cocktails. Massage and physiotherapy can also be arranged. Pros: close to the autobahn; easy parking; comfortable beds. Cons: removed from the city center; on a busy street. | Rooms from: €119 | Frankfurter Str. 299 | 0561/48050 | | 84 rooms, 1 suite | Breakfast.

Schlosshotel Wilhelmshöhe.
$$ | HOTEL | Positioned beside the lovely baroque gardens and woodland paths of the hilltop Wilhelmshöhe Park, this comfortable, modern hotel and its rooms take in views on the park grounds on one side and stunning vistas over Kassel on the other. The hotel’s elegant restaurant ($$) serves contemporary cuisine with an emphasis on German and Mediterranean dishes, and its sunny terrace is not only popular with guests, but also with day-trippers to the park and celebrities in town for the city’s renowned Documenta festival. Pros: tranquil atmosphere; historic setting; views. Cons: no mini-refrigerator/minibar in “classic” rooms; a modern-looking hotel, despite its romantic name. | Rooms from: €129 | Am Schlosspark 8 | 0561/30880 | | 120 rooms, 2 suites | Breakfast.


50 km (31 miles) north of Kassel.

Popular with holidaymakers in mobile homes and trailers, who park up on the banks of the Weser directly across from its historic center, Bad Karlshafen’s a pretty little spa town with baroque architecture that is best viewed from the campsite side of the river, as the town is surrounded by hills covered in dense forest. Its elevation and rural location provide fresh air, and there are salt springs that the locals believe can cure just about whatever ails you.

Getting Here and Around

Regional trains run here from Göttingen, but only infrequently, so check train timetables well ahead of any visit.


Visitor Information

Bad Karlshafen.
Tours of the town leave from the Tourist Office at the Rathaus on Sunday at 3 pm from May to October (€4) and follow the trail of the Protestant Huguenots responsible for much of the baroque architecture. | Kur- und Touristik-Information, Hafenpl. 8 | 05672/999-922 |


Bad Karlshafen’s baroque beauty, the town’s best example of the stunning architectural style, stands in surprising contrast to the abundance of half-timber houses found along the rest of the Weser. Inside, the building is still used for administrative purposes so it is not accessible to the public. | Hafenpl. 8.

Weser Therme.
This huge spa facility sitting on the banks of the Weser River has whirlpools, sauna and steam baths, thermal saltwater pools, and an outdoor pool that is said to be as salty as the Dead Sea. The spa’s waters are famed for their therapeutic benefits, and a couple of hours bathing in them often helps relieve aches and stress. Massages are available to further aid the relaxation process. | Kurpromenade 1 | 05672/92110 | | Pools €12.50 for 3 hrs, €16 with sauna; €17/€20 for full day | Sun.-Thurs. 9 am-10 pm, Fri. and Sat. 9 am-11 pm.


Hessischer Hof.
$ | HOTEL | Located in the heart of town, this inn started as a tavern and now includes several comfortably furnished bedrooms, plus an apartment for larger families and the numerous cycling groups that visit. The restaurant ($$) serves good, hearty German fare. Pros: centrally located; reasonable rates; friendly staff. Cons: no elevator; décor dated in places. | Rooms from: €78 | Carlstr. 13-15 | 05672/1059 | | 20 rooms | Breakfast.

Hotel zum Weserdampfschiff.
$ | HOTEL | From the snug riverside rooms of this popular hotel-tavern, guests can watch passengers step directly off Weser pleasure boats and into the hotel’s welcoming beer garden below. With some of the best views in town, the hotel is also only a short wander along the Weser away from the town’s thermal pools. Its simple, lace-curtained restaurant ($) offers the type of solid meat and fish dishes you might crave after a swim. Pros: river view; low rates; near spa and city center. Cons: no wireless Internet; no credit cards accepted. | Rooms from: €90 | Weserstr. 25 | 05672/2425 | | No credit cards | 14 rooms | Breakfast.

EN ROUTE: Fürstenberg Porcelain factory.
Germany’s second-oldest porcelain factory is at Fürstenberg, 24 km (14 miles) north of Bad Karlshafen and 8 km (5 miles) south of Höxter, in a Weser Renaissance castle high above the Weser River. The crowned Gothic letter F, which serves as its trademark, is known worldwide. You’ll find Fürstenberg porcelain in Bad Karlshafen and Höxter, but it’s more fun to journey to the 18th-century castle itself, where production first began in 1747, and buy directly from the manufacturer. Fürstenberg and most dealers will take care of shipping arrangements and any tax refunds. Porcelain workshops can be booked ahead of time, and there’s also a sales outlet, museum, and café. The view from the castle is a pastoral idyll, with the Weser snaking through the immaculately tended fields and woods. You can also spot cyclists on the riverside paths. | Schloss Fürstenberg, Meinbrexener Str. 2 | Fürstenberg | 05271/401-161 | | Museum is free through 2017 due to renovations | Museum: Apr.-Oct., Tues.-Sun. 10-5; Nov.-Mar., weekends 10-5 (closed Dec. 20-Jan. 8); Shop: mid-Jan.-Oct., Tues.-Sun. 10-6.


50 km (31 miles) west of Göttingen, 100 km (62 miles) south of Hannover.

Sababurg’s not really a village as such, but it is the location of an enchanting, 700-year-old Renaissance castle, an impressive animal park, and Germany’s oldest forest nature reserve, all of which lie within the peaceful, wooded surrounds of the Reinhardswald. The castle, which sits proudly on the crest of a hill in the forest, is also known as Dornröschenschloss, widely believed to be the source of inspiration for the Grimms Brothers’ tale of “Sleeping Beauty.”

Getting Here and Around

Removed from the main highway and with no rail connection, Sababurg, Dornröschenschloss, and the nearby Sababurg Tierpark are best visited by car.


Fodor’s Choice | Dornröschenschloss (Sleeping Beauty’s Castle).
The story goes that after Sleeping Beauty had slumbered for 100 years, the thick thorn hedge surrounding her castle suddenly burst into blossom, thereby enabling a daring prince to find a way in to lay a kiss upon her lips and reawaken her. Nowadays home to a handsome hotel, the stony exterior of Dornröschenschloss continues to be clad in colorful roses, and its walled garden is home to an impressive collection of the flowers. Even if you don’t stay the night, a drive here is scenic, and there are ruins as well as the garden to explore, and a pleasant outdoor terrace with views over forest-covered hills to enjoy afterward. | Sababurg 12 | | Free.

Tierpark Sababurg.
The Tierpark Sababurg is one of Europe’s oldest wildlife refuges. Bison, red deer, wild horses, and all sorts of waterfowl populate the park. There’s also a petting zoo for children. | Sababurg 1 | 05671/766-4990 | | €8 | Apr.-Sept., daily 8-7; Oct., daily 9-6; Nov.-Feb., daily 10-4; Mar., daily 9-5.


Dornröschenschloss Sababurg.
$$ | HOTEL | The medieval fortress thought to have inspired the tale of “Sleeping Beauty” is today a small luxury hotel, complete with domed turrets, spiral staircases, and tower rooms with four-poster beds and spa baths. Sitting on the crest of a hill, surrounded by a forest of ancient oaks, wild deer, and boar, the castle’s an understandably popular spot for weddings and honeymoons. Game and fresh trout are served in the hotel’s excellent restaurant ($$-$$$), which also specializes in rose-themed dishes, including pasta and desserts made with the flowers. Pros: sylvan setting; incredibly romantic. Cons: some dated rooms; takes some effort to find the place. | Rooms from: €165 | Sababurg 12 | Hofgeismar | 05671/8080 | | 17 rooms | Breakfast.

Fodor’s Choice | Hotel Burg Trendelburg.
$$ | HOTEL | Ivy-bedecked towers, a shadowy foyer decorated with suits of armor and swords, and guest rooms with four-poster beds and little bathrooms hidden behind cupboard doors endow this fine establishment with an atmosphere of fairy-tale adventure. Legend has it that the castle’s tower is the one in which a wicked witch imprisoned Rapunzel; guests can climb the tower for views of the surrounding countryside, or relax in a sauna in another tower. The hotel’s leafy courtyard and hilltop terrace are perfect for spending warm summer evenings sipping cool drinks; the hotel’s restaurant ($$) serves a good selection of meat and fish dishes and has regular fairy-tale-themed dining experiences. Pros: great views; authentic castle experience. Cons: some rooms small; in a otherwise uninspiring village. | Rooms from: €155 | Steinweg 1 | Trendelburg | 05675/9090 | | 22 rooms, 2 suites | Breakfast.

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Lower Saxony

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Hannoversch-Münden | Göttingen | Höxter | Bodenwerder | Hameln (Hamelin) | Hannover | Bergen-Belsen | Bremen | Bremerhaven

Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen) was formed from an amalgamation of smaller states in 1946. Its picturesque landscape includes one of Germany’s most haunting river roads, along the Weser River between Hannoversch-Münden and Hameln (Hamelin). This road, part of the Fairy-Tale Road, follows green banks where it’s hard to see where the water ends and the land begins. Standing sentinel are superb little towns whose half-timber architecture gave rise to the term “Weser Renaissance.” The Lower Saxon landscape also includes the juniper bushes and flowering heather of the Lüneburg Heath.

Lower Saxony

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24 km (15 miles) north of Kassel, 150 km (93 miles) south of Hannover.

You’ll have to travel a long way through Germany to find a grouping of half-timber houses as harmonious as those in this delightful town, seemingly untouched by the modern age—there are some 700 of them. Hannoversch-Münden is surrounded by forests and the Fulda and Werra rivers, which join here and flow northward as the Weser River.

Getting Here and Around

Regional trains linking Hannoversch Münden to both Kassel and Göttingen run every hour.


Visitor Information

The tourist office has maps to the surrounding national park and coordinates walking tours, including a daily tour that takes place May to October at 10:30 and 2:30, leaving from the town hall (€5.50). | Touristik Naturpark Münden, Lotzestr. 2 | Hannoversch Münden | 05541/75313 |


Johann Andreas Eisenbart.
Much is made of the fact that the quack doctor to end all quacks died in Hannoversch-Münden. Dr. Johann Andreas Eisenbart (1663-1727) would be forgotten today if a ribald 19th-century drinking song (“Ich bin der Doktor Eisenbart, widda, widda, wit, boom! boom!”) hadn’t had him shooting out aching teeth with a pistol, anesthetizing with a sledgehammer, and removing boulders from kidneys. He was, as the song has it, a man who could make “the blind walk and the lame see.” This is terribly exaggerated, of course, but the town takes advantage of it.

The good Dr. Eisenbart has “office hours” in the town hall at 1:30 on Saturday from May through December; and a glockenspiel on the town hall depicts Eisenbart’s feats, to the tune of the Eisenbart song, daily throughout the year at noon, 3 pm, and 5 pm. There’s a statue of the doctor in front of his home at Langestrasse 79, and his grave is outside the St. Ägidien Church. | Lotzestr. 2 | 05541/75313 |


30 km (19 miles) northeast of Hannoversch-Münden, 110 km (68 miles) south of Hannover.

Distinguished by its famous university, where the Brothers Grimm served as professors and librarians between 1830 and 1837, the fetching town of Göttingen buzzes with student life. Young people on bikes zip past bookshops and secondhand boutiques; when night falls, the town’s cozy bars and cafés swell with students making the most of the drinks specials and free Wi-Fi on offer.

In the streets around the Rathaus you’ll find magnificent examples of Renaissance architecture. Many of these half-timber, low-gable buildings house businesses that have been here for centuries. It’s also a large and modern place and boasts the shiny stores, chain coffee shops, and other trappings you’d expect of a 21st-century German town. Though not strictly on the Fairy-Tale Road (despite its association with the Grimms), Göttingen is still well worth visiting.

Getting Here and Around

Göttingen is a stop on the same InterCity Express line between Munich and Hamburg as Kassel-Wilhelmshöhe, and is also easily reached from Bremen.


Visitor Information

Göttingen Tourist Information.
Göttingen offers walking tours in English on the first and third Saturday of the month, April to October at 11 from the Old Town Hall. | Altes Rathaus, Markt 9 | 0551/499-800 |


Altes Rathaus.
The Old Town Hall was begun in the 13th century and houses a completely preserved Gothic heating system in the part-medieval, part-Renaissance building. The tourist-information office is on the first floor. | Markt 9 | 0551/499-800 | | Free | Weekdays 9:30-6, Sat. 10-6, Sun. 10-4.

The statue of Gänseliesel, the little Goose Girl of German folklore, stands in Göttingen’s central market square, symbolizing the strong link between the students and their university city. The girl, according to the story, was a princess who was forced to trade places with a peasant, and the statue shows her carrying her geese and smiling shyly into the waters of a fountain. The students of Göttingen gave her a ceremonial role: traditionally, graduates who earn a doctorate bestow a kiss of thanks upon Gänseliesel. Göttingen’s citizens say she’s the most kissed girl in the world.


$$$ | MEDITERRANEAN | In a town rich with cozy taverns and hearty local food, the appearance of this Mediterranean restaurant, with its terra-cotta-and-blue color scheme, arty chandeliers, and light, airy spaces, stands out as much as its cuisine. Right in the middle of Göttingen’s historic Börner Viertel, the restaurant is a favorite with staff from the university, who feast on its fine consommés, tapas, pasta, and fish and meat dishes. The food and excellent service are worth the extra cost here. | Average main: €24 | Rote Str. 16 | 0551/531-3001 | | Closed Sun. No lunch Mon.

Landgasthaus Lockemann.
$$ | GERMAN | If you like to walk and hike, consider heading to the Stadtwald (city forest) and then eating a hearty meal at this half-timber lodge. Take Bus 10 from the Busbahnhof, direction Herbershausen, to the last stop; then walk left on Im Beeke. The trip will take 20 minutes. | Average main: €16 | Im Beeke 1 | 0551/209-020 | | No credit cards | Closed Mon. No lunch weekdays.

Romantik Hotel Gebhards.
$$$ | HOTEL | Though within walking distance to the main train station, this family-run hotel stands aloof and serene on its own grounds, a modernized 18th-century building that’s something of a local landmark. Rooms are furnished in dark woods and floral prints highlighted by bowls of fresh flowers. It has a whirlpool and a sauna. Pros: across from the train station. Cons: on a busy street; expensive. | Rooms from: €208 | Goethe-Allée 22-23 | 0551/49680 | | 45 rooms, 5 suites | Breakfast.


Among the delights of Göttingen are the ancient taverns where generations of students have lifted their steins. Among the best known are the Kleiner Ratskeller and Trou. Don’t be shy about stepping into either of these taverns or any of the others that catch your eye; the food and drink are inexpensive, and the welcome is invariably warm and friendly.


24 km (14 miles) north of Bad Karlshafen, 100 km (62 miles) south of Hannover.

Höxter is not actually in Lower Saxony, but just over the border in North Rhine-Westphalia. The town’s appeal lies in its Rathaus, a perfect example of the Weser Renaissance style, and its proximity to the impressive Reichsabtei Corvey, an abbey that’s a short drive away. There’s not much Grimm here; overshadowed by Sababurg’s claim to Sleeping Beauty’s castle and Bodenwerder’s Baron von Münchhausen, Höxter’s connection to a fairy tale is limited to a small Hansel and Gretel fountain in the middle of town.

Getting Here and Around

Every couple of hours buses and regional trains run from Bad Karlshafen to Höxter Rathaus and take about 45 minutes, or you can take a combination of regional trains from Göttingen that take from 90 minutes to 2½ hours.


Visitor Information

Located in the historical Rathaus, the tourist office coordinates walking tours of the city every Wednesday at 3 and Saturday at 11 from May to September (€4). | Tourist-Info, Weserstr. 11 | 05271/963-431 |


Fodor’s Choice | Reichsabtei Corvey (Imperial Abbey of Corvey).
The impressive Reichsabtei Corvey, or Schloss Corvey, is idyllically set between the wooded heights of the Solling region and the Weser River. During its 1,200-year history it has provided lodging for several Holy Roman emperors. Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben (1798-1874), author of the poem “Deutschland, Deutschland über Alles,” worked as librarian here in the 1820s. The poem, set to music by Joseph Haydn, became the German national anthem in 1922. A music festival is held in the church and great hall, the Kaisersaal, in May and June of every even-numbered year. Corvey is reached on an unnumbered road heading east from Höxter (3 km [2 miles]) toward the Weser. There are signposts to “Schloss Corvey.”|Schloss Corvey | 05271/68120 | | €6, abbey church €0.80, tour €3 | Apr.-Oct., Tues.-Sun. 10-6.


$ | GERMAN | In summer you can dine on flambéed tart and salad under centuries-old trees. When it’s cooler, slip inside the Reichsabtei Corvey’s excellent and elegant restaurant for a hot coffee and a piece of one its delicious cakes. With advance notice, a Fürstenbankett, or princely banquet, can be arranged for groups in the vaulted cellars. | Average main: €12 | Schloss Corvey | 05271/8323 | Closed Nov.-Mar.


34 km (21 miles) north of Höxter, 70 km (43 miles) south of Hannover.

The charming Weser town of Bodenwerder is the home of the Lügenbaron (Lying Baron) von Münchhausen (1720-97), who was known as a teller of whoppers and whose fantastical tales included a story about riding a cannonball toward an enemy fortress but then, having second thoughts, returning to where he started by leaping onto a cannonball heading the other way. Stretched out along a peaceful valley, the nicest part of the town is around the Baron’s old home, now the town hall, its half-timber architecture set against a backdrop of the river and surrounding hills. A regular stop for cyclists on the Wesertal route, the town also attracts canoeists, and anglers who can tell their own whoppers about the one that got away.

Getting Here and Around

Reachable from Höxter by a combination of bus and regional train, or by bus from Hameln (Hamelin), changes are required along the way and any visits requiring public transport should be planned in advance.


Visitor Information

Bodenwerder Tourist-Information.
The regional tourist office can organize tours for Bodenwerder as well as Münchhausen, including a special tour featuring the literary figure Baron von Münchhausen. | Münchausenpl. 3 | 05533/40542 |


Münchhausen Museum.
Housed in an old, renovated farm building right next to the imposing family home in which Baron von Münchhausen grew up (it’s now the Rathaus), the Münchhausen Museum is crammed with mementos of his adventurous life, including his cannonball. A fountain in front of the house represents another story. The baron, it seems, was puzzled when his horse kept drinking insatiably at a trough. Investigating, he discovered that the horse had been cut in two by a closing castle gate and that the water ran out as fast as the horse drank. The water in the fountain, of course, flows from the rear of a half-horse. At 3 on the first, second, and fourth Sundays of the month from May through October, townspeople retell von Münchhausen’s life story with performances in front of the Rathaus. | Münchhausenpl. 1 | 05533/409-147 | Museum €2.50 | Apr.-Oct., daily 10-5.


Hotel Goldener Anker.
$ | HOTEL | The riverside rooms of this friendly, family-owned and -run hotel on the banks of the Weser river come with the best view in town. The rooms are plain and modern but it’s the view here that counts. Weser boats tie up right outside near the restaurant’s beer garden. Flanked by a couple of leafy birch trees, the beer garden is popular with cyclists who fuel their travels through the valley with a cold drink and some Flammkuchen (tart flambé). Its restaurant ($), which has the same pleasing outlook, prepares hearty German fare and fresh fish year-round. Upgrade to a deluxe room with a river view, it’s well worth the money spent. Pros: directly beside the river; friendly staff. Cons: standard rooms are very simple; close to the town’s main bridge. | Rooms from: €84 | Brückenstr. 5 | 05533/400-730 | | 19 rooms | Breakfast.

Parkhotel Deutsches Haus.
$ | HOTEL | Clean, comfortable, and friendly, this country hotel combines a traditional half-timber facade with uncomplicated, if a little dated, interior styling. Directly across the road from the old home of Baron von Münchhausen, now Bodenwerder’s town hall, the hotel’s extensive grounds adjoin the town park, and the Weser River is a short walk away. Its tidy rooms are a decent size, and the restaurant ($) has an extensive steak menu. Pros: elevator; rooms get plenty of natural light. Cons: on a busy street; plain furnishings. | Rooms from: €97 | Münchhausenpl. 4 | 05533/400-780 | | 39 rooms | Breakfast.

Fodor’s Choice | Schlosshotel Münchhausen.
$$$ | HOTEL | This 17th-century castle was converted into a top-class luxury hotel in a manner that retains much of the original charm and decoration without sacrificing modern amenities, including a spa and swimming area. Pros: accommodations in a real castle; gorgeous park surroundings; pool. Cons: several rooms are in the Zehntscheune (former barn) out back; a/c not in all rooms. | Rooms from: €200 | Schwöbber 9 | Aerzen bei Hameln | 05154/70600 | | 68 rooms | Breakfast.


24 km (15 miles) north of Bodenwerder, 47 km (29 miles) southwest of Hannover.

Given their relationship with one of the most famous fairy-tale characters of all time, it’s unsurprising that Hameln’s townsfolk continue to take advantage of the Pied Piper. Known locally as the Rattenfänger, or “rat-catcher,” these days he tends to be celebrated more than exploited (even if his name does adorn everything from coffee mugs to restaurants), and regular costumed tours through the town relive his deeds, while a bronze statue of him stands proudly in the town’s lovely pedestrian zone. Not as exciting as Hannover to the north or as relaxing as Bodenwerder to the south, Hameln is still one of the top places to visit along the Fairy-Tale Road thanks to its fairy-tale legacy, elegantly painted and inscribed half-timber buildings, and laid-back atmosphere.

Getting Here and Around

At 45 minutes away from Hannover by S-bahn (Line No. 5), Hameln is within easy reach of the Lower Saxon capital.


Visitor Information

Hameln Marketing und Tourismus.
Walking tours of Hameln are held year-round, leaving from the tourist office (April to October, daily at 10:30 and 2:30; November and January to March, Saturday at 2:30, Sunday at 10:30; December, daily at 10:30). | Deisterallee 1 | 05151/957-823 |


Hochzeitshaus (Wedding House).
On central Osterstrasse you’ll see several examples of Weser Renaissance architecture, including the Rattenfängerhaus (Rat-Catcher’s House) and the Hochzeitshaus, a beautiful 17th-century sandstone building now used for city offices. From mid-May to mid-September the Hochzeitshaus terrace is the scene of two free open-air events commemorating the Pied Piper legend. From May to September, local actors and children present a half-hour reenactment each Sunday at noon, and there is also a 40-minute musical, Rats, each Wednesday at 4:30 during the same months. The carillon of the Hochzeitshaus plays tunes every day at 9:35 and 11:35, and mechanical figures enact the piper story on the west gable of the building at 1:05, 3:35, and 5:35. | Osterstr. 2.

Museum Hameln.
The story of the city of Hameln comes to life in this museum, which contains the Rattenfänger Theater, a unique mechanical theater that shows the Pied Piper in action with a sound-and-light show that lasts 12 minutes and occurs hourly from 11:30 to 5:30 each day. | Osterstr. 8-9 | 05151/202-1215 | | €5 | Tues.-Sun. 11-6.


$ | GERMAN | This brilliant example of Weser Renaissance architecture is Hameln’s most famous building, where the Pied Piper supposedly stayed during his rat-extermination assignment (it wasn’t actually built until centuries after his supposed exploits). A plaque in front of it fixes the date of the incident at June 26, 1284. “Rats” are all over the menu, from the “rat-killer liqueur” to a “rat-tail flambé.” But don’t be put off by the names: the traditional dishes are excellent. | Average main: €13 | Osterstr. 28 | 05151/3888 |

Hotel zur Börse.
$ | HOTEL | A few paces off Hameln’s picturesque pedestrian shopping zone, this pleasant, modern hotel is also within easy walking distance of the rest of the town’s main attractions. Many of its rooms on the upper floors offer views over the town’s half-timbered architecture. The Börsenbistro ($$) here complements the usual fare of steaks and schnitzels with dishes from around Europe. Friendly staff and underground parking round off the package. Pros: in the pedestrian zone. Cons: modern look seems out of place; bathrooms on the small side. | Rooms from: €93 | Osterstr. 41a, entrance on Kopmanshof | 05151/7080 | | 31 rooms, 2 apartments | Breakfast.

Hotel zur Krone.
$$ | HOTEL | On the Old Town’s pedestrian zone, Hotel zur Krone has a terrace that lets you watch locals coming and going, and afternoon coffee here is a summer delight. The hotel’s half-timber architecture, dating from 1645, fits in nicely with the romantic surroundings. The rooms in the older section are on the small side, but some have old-fashioned touches like beams from the 17th century. Pros: a half-timber marvel; lovely terrace. Cons: modern annex lacks charm; some guest rooms a little small. | Rooms from: €102 | Osterstr. 30 | 05151/9070 | | 32 rooms | Breakfast.


47 km (29 miles) northeast of Hameln.

A little off the Fairy-Tale Road, and better known internationally as a trade-fair center than a tourist destination, the Lower Saxon capital holds an attractive mix of culture, arts, and nature. With several leading museums, an opera house of international repute, and the finest baroque park in the country, it’s a place that packs a surprising amount into a city of only half a million people. Conveniently centered between the city’s main train station and its pleasant inner city lake, most of Hannover’s major attractions, including its fine New and Old Town Halls, are within an easy walk of one another. In spring and summer the city’s parks fill with picnicking families, while fall and winter are celebrated first with the second-biggest Oktoberfest in the world and then cheery Christmas markets.

Getting Here and Around

Travel northeast from Hameln on autobahn A-33 to Hannover in under an hour. There is also frequent direct rail service from Hameln and InterCity Express (ICE) trains run to and from larger cities nearby. Hannover has an airport and is served by Eurolines buses.

Discounts and Deals

A Hannover Card entitles you to free travel on local transportation, reduced admission to seven museums, and discounts on certain sightseeing events and performances at the theater and opera. It’s available through the tourist office for €9.50 per day (€18 for three days).


Visitor Information

Hannover Tourismus.
Directly across from the central station, the tourist office can assist with package arrangements or sell a one- to three-day Hannover Card that will get you discounts and a free travel pass on public transportation. From mid-April through the end of October, hop-on, hop-off city bus tours of Hannover leave from here daily at 10:30, 12:30, and 2:30 (and 11:30, 1:30, 3:30, and 4:30 on Saturday). | Hannover Tourismus, Ernst-August-Pl. 8 | 0511/1684-9700 |


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Top Attractions

Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall).
It took nearly 100 years, starting in 1410, to build this gabled brick edifice that once contained a merchants’ hall and an apothecary. In 1844 it was restored to the style of about 1500, with its exceptional Gothic gables and the ornamental frieze. The facade’s fired-clay frieze depicts coats of arms and representations of princes, and a medieval game similar to arm wrestling using only the fingers. This marvellous picture above the outer right arched window in the Schmiedestrasse can only be seen by following the “red line” around the Old Town Hall. Inside is a modern interior with boutiques and a restaurant. | Karmarschstr. 42 | Free.

Fodor’s Choice | Herrenhausen Palace and Gardens.
The gardens of the former Hannoverian royal summer residence are the city’s showpiece, unmatched in Germany for its formal precision, with patterned walks, gardens, hedges, and chestnut trees framed by a placid moat. There is a fig garden with a collapsible shelter to protect it in winter and dining facilities behind a grotto. The mausoleum in the Berggarten houses the remains of local royalty, including those of King George I of Britain. From Easter until October there are fireworks displays and fountains play for a few hours daily (weekdays 10-noon and 3-5, weekends 10-noon and 2-5). The 17th-century palace on the grounds was completely destroyed in 1943, leaving only the fountains and stairs remaining. In 2013, a relatively faithful reconstruction replaced the castle, which now houses a museum dedicated to its history and is used frequently as an event location. Herrenhausen is outside the city, a short ride on Tramline 4 or 5. | Herrenhauserstr. 5 | 0511/1684-4543 | | Museum tour €5; Gardens Apr.-Oct. €8, Nov.-Mar. €6 | Museum: Apr.-Oct., daily 11-6; Nov.-Mar., Thurs.-Sun. 11-4; Gardens: daily 9-7.

Landesmuseum Hannover.
The priceless art collection of this regional museum includes works by Tilman Riemenschneider, Veit Stoss, Hans Holbein the Younger, Claude Monet, and Lucas Cranach. There are also historical and natural history sections. | Willy-Brandt-Allée 5 | 0511/980-7686 | | €4 | Tues., Wed., and Fri.-Sun. 10-5, Thurs. 10-7.

The former royal palace of the Hanovers—whose members sat on the British throne from 1714 to 1837 as kings George I-IV—stands grandly beside the River Leine, and is now home to the Lower Saxony State Parliament. Although the interior of the palace is largely closed to the public, its imposing Corinthian columns and river setting provide some excellent photo ops. At this writing, it is under renovation through 2017 and hidden behind scaffolding. | Hinrich-Wilhelm-Kopf-Pl. 1.

Sprengel Museum.
An important museum of modern art, the Sprengel holds major works by Max Beckmann, Max Ernst, Paul Klee, Emil Nolde, Oscar Schlemmer, Hans Arp, and Pablo Picasso. A recent addition to the museum known as Ten Rooms, Three Loggias and a Hall, added space to feature contemporary artists reflecting on space, light, and perception. The street where it’s located is named after Kurt Schwitters, a native son and prominent Dadaist, whose works are also exhibited. | Kurt-Schwitters-Pl. 1 | 0511/1684-3875 | | €7 | Tues. 10-8, Wed.-Sun. 10-6.

Fodor’s Choice | Wilhelm Busch Museum.
This section of the Georgenpalais, near Herrenhausen, is devoted to the works of cartoonists and caricaturists through the centuries. The emphasis is on Wilhelm Busch, the “godfather of the comic strip,” whose original drawings and effects are on display. More than a century ago, Busch (1832-1908) wrote and illustrated a very popular children’s book, still in print, called Max und Moritz. The story tells of two boys who mixed gunpowder into the village tailor’s pipe tobacco and, with fishing lines down the chimney, filched roasting chickens off the fire. The first American comic strip, The Katzenjammer Kids (1897), drew not only on Busch’s naughty boys (they even spoke with a German accent) but also on his loose cartoon style. | Georgengarten 1 | 0511/1699-9916 | | €6 | Tues.-Sun. 11-6.

Worth Noting

Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall).
The massive New Town Hall was built at the start of the 20th century in Wilhelmine style (named for Kaiser Wilhelm). The pomp and circumstance were important ingredients of the German bureaucracy of the time. Four scale models on the ground floor depict Hannover in various stages of development and destruction: as a medieval walled city, in the years before World War II, immediately following World War II, and in its present-day form. An elevator rises diagonally to the dome for a splendid view. | Trammpl. 2 | 0511/1684-5333 | Dome €3 | Mar.-Oct., weekdays 9:30-6, weekends 10-6.

Opernhaus (Staatsoper Hannover).
Hannover’s neoclassical opera house, completed in 1852, has two large wings and a covered, colonnaded portico adorned with statues of great composers and poets. The building originally served as the court theater, but now is used almost exclusively for opera. It was gutted by fire in a 1943 air raid and restored in 1948. Unless you have tickets to a performance, the only part of the interior you can visit is the foyer (official tours are held on a near-monthly basis). | Opernpl. 1 | 0511/9999-1111 |


$$$ | ECLECTIC | Constructed in 1867 as a riding hall for the Royal Prussian military, this upmarket restaurant’s home is as striking as the menu. Cast-iron pillars support the vaulted brick ceiling, and two-story drapes hang in the huge windows. The menu, which changes every few weeks, includes dishes from the Mediterranean to Asia. Game, fish, and white Spargel (asparagus) are served in season. | Average main: €22 | Dragonerstr. 30 | 0511/622-636 | | Closed Sun. No lunch.

Brauhaus Ernst August.
$ | GERMAN | This brewery has so much artificial greenery that you could imagine yourself in a beer garden. Hannoverian pilsner is brewed on the premises, and regional specialties are the menu’s focus. Besides beer paraphernalia such as mugs and coasters, you can also buy, empty or full, a huge old-fashioned beer bottle with a wired porcelain stopper. There’s also live music and DJs on Friday nights and weekends. | Average main: €13 | Schmiedstr. 13 | 0511/365-950 |

Broyhan Haus.
$$ | GERMAN | The claim of “Hannoverian hospitality over three floors” written on the exterior of this half-timber tavern in the middle of town isn’t made frivolously. Convivial waitstaff ferry plates loaded with standard brew-house fare like rump steak (sirloin) and sauerkraut and pork, along with large glasses of the local, crisp-tasting Einbecker beer to diners in the tavern’s upstairs room, and to tables outside on the pedestrian zone in summer. On the ground floor there’s a well-stocked bar to pull up a seat at, and downstairs the cellar can be booked for private parties and events. | Average main: €16 | Kramerstr. 24 | 0511/323-919 | | No credit cards.


Concorde Hotel am Leineschloss.
$$ | HOTEL | Near the elegant Altes Rathaus and the stately Leineschloss, and only a leisurely stroll from the Neues Rathaus, Opernhaus, and the city’s main museums, this simple, modern hotel has easily one of the best locations in the city. Popular with those headed to Hannover’s many trade fairs, the Concorde has the type of features generally favored by business travelers, including helpful staff, a generous breakfast buffet, and uncomplicated, comfortable rooms. Pros: in the middle of the shopping district; close to the U-bahn (U3, 7, and 9); every double room has a bath. Cons: no restaurant; not much character. | Rooms from: €136 | Am Markte 12 | 0511/357-910 | | 81 rooms (30 of which are singles) | Breakfast.

Fodor’s Choice | Kastens Hotel Luisenhof.
$$ | HOTEL | Antiques are everywhere in this elegant hotel, which is traditional both in appearance and service; tapestries adorn the lobby walls, oil paintings hang in the foyer, and copper engravings enliven the bar. Modern amenities include generous guest rooms, a fitness center with a sauna on the sixth floor, and a restaurant ($$$$) serving international cuisine with a French touch. Pros: near the train station; helpful staff; elegant. Cons: expensive; on a narrow, ordinary street. | Rooms from: €169 | Luisenstr. 1-3 | 0511/30440 | | 131 rooms, 11 suites, 4 apartments | No meals.


Hannover’s nightlife is centered on the Bahnhof and the Steintor red-light district.

Play in the town’s elegant casino is divided over two floors, with roulette and blackjack on one, slots and other automated games on the other. Open daily from 10 am to 3 am, there’s also a substantial bar and a business dress code to keep the atmosphere classy. | Leistermeile 2 | 0511/980-6641 |

Hannover’s opera company is internationally known, with productions staged in one of Germany’s finest 19th-century classical opera houses. The rotating program includes a number of classics as well as special shows for children above the age of four. | Opernpl. 1 | 0511/9999-1111 |


58 km (36 miles) northeast of Hannover.

A visit to the site of the infamous prisoner of war and concentration camp where Anne Frank, along with tens of thousands of others, perished isn’t an easy undertaking. All that remains are foundations and burial mounds, but the interpretive center helps to contextualize what you’ll see.

Getting Here and Around

Although it’s possible to get here via public transport, it requires traveling first to the town of Celle by train, and then taking an hour-long bus journey. Buses run every two hours and require multiple changes. By car, take autobahn exits Mellendorf or Solltau Süd and follow the signposts to the memorial.


Gedenkstätte Bergen-Belsen (Bergen-Belsen Memorial).
The site of the infamous POW and concentration camp is now a memorial to the victims of World War II and the Holocaust. Anne Frank was among the more than 70,000 Jews, prisoners of war, homosexuals, Roma, and others who died here.

A place of immense suffering, the camp was burned to the ground by British soldiers, who liberated it in April 1945, arriving to find thousands of unburied corpses and typhus, typhoid, tuberculosis, and other diseases spreading rapidly among the survivors. Today, all that physically remains of the camp, which is inside a nature preserve, are the foundations of some of its prisoner barracks and a number of burial mounds overgrown with heather and grass and bearing stark inscriptions such as “Here lie 1,000 dead.”

The history of the camp and its victims is explained further through a series of moving video, audio, photo, and text exhibits within the slender, minimalist structure of the 200-meter-long (656-foot-long), 18-meter-wide (59-foot-long) Documentation Center. Built almost entirely of plain concrete panels, the center is softly lit and peaceful inside, its floor sloping gently upward from the entrance and beyond the exhibits to windows that let in light and views of the trees outside.

Visitors to the Memorial should plan to stay at least two or three hours. Free 90-minute tours of the site in German and English leave the Documentation Center information desk at 2:30 on Thursday and Friday and at 11:30 and 2:30 on weekends, from March to September. Don’t try to see everything when visiting the memorial, but do take some time to walk around outside, visiting the site of the barracks to gain a better understanding of the atrocious living conditions inmates of the camp were forced to suffer.

Bear in mind that the memorial is not recommended for children under the age of 14. Older children should be in the company of an adult. | Anne-Frank-Pl. | Lohheide | 05051/47590 | | Free | Apr.-Sept., daily 10-6; Oct.-Mar., daily 10-5.


110 km (68 miles) northwest of Hannover.

Germany’s smallest city-state, Bremen, is also Germany’s oldest and second-largest port (only Hamburg is larger). Together with Hamburg and Lübeck, Bremen was an early member of the merchant-run Hanseatic League, and its rivalry with the larger port on the Elbe River is still tangible. Though Hamburg may still claim its title as Germany’s “gateway to the world,” Bremen likes to boast, “But we have the key.” Bremen’s symbol is, in fact, a golden key, which you will see displayed on flags and signs throughout the city.

Getting Here and Around

Bremen’s international airport is a gate to many European destinations, and Intercity (IC) and Intercity Express (ICE) trains connect the city with much of the rest of Germany, including Hamburg and Hannover in just one hour.


Visitor Information

Bremen Tourist Information.
Bremen offers both bus and walking tours in English organized by the Tourist Information Center on Oberstrasse. The walking tours in German/English begin daily at 2 from there (€6.90); bus tours depart daily at 11 and 12:30 (€13.90) from the central bus station on Breiteweg. | Obernstr. 1 | 0421/308-0010 |

Discounts and Deals

Bremen has an ErlebnisCARD, which lets you ride free on the public transportation, gets you into museums and other cultural facilities at half price, and gets you a reduction on tours. It costs €8.90 for one day and €11.50 for two days. You can buy it at tourist-information centers.


Top Attractions

Böttcherstrasse (Barrel Makers’ Street).
Don’t leave Bremen’s Altstadt without strolling down this street, at one time inhabited by coopers. Between 1924 and 1931 the houses were torn down and reconstructed, in a style at once historically sensitive and modern, by the Bremen coffee millionaire Ludwig Roselius. (He was the inventor of decaffeinated coffee, and held the patent for decades.) Many of the restored houses are used as galleries for local artists. | Bremen.

Bremen’s impressive market square sits in the charming Altstadt. It’s bordered by the St. Petri Dom, an imposing 900-year-old Gothic cathedral; an ancient Rathaus; a 16th-century guildhall; and a modern glass-and-steel state parliament building, with gabled town houses finishing the panorama. Alongside the northwest corner of the Rathaus is the famous bronze statue of the four Bremen Town Musicians, one atop the other in a sort of pyramid. Their feats are reenacted in a free, open-air play at the Neptune Fountain near the cathedral, at noon each Sunday, from May to September. Another well-known figure on the square is the stone statue of Roland, a knight in service to Charlemagne, erected in 1404. Three times larger than life, the statue serves as Bremen’s good-luck piece and a symbol of freedom and independence. It is said that as long as Roland stands, Bremen will remain a free and independent state. | Bremen.

Fodor’s Choice | Schnoorviertel.
Stroll through the narrow streets of this idyllic district, a jumble of houses, taverns, and shops. This is Bremen’s oldest district, dating back to the 15th and 16th centuries. The neighborhood is fashionable among artists and craftspeople, who have restored the tiny cottages to serve as galleries and workshops. Other buildings have been converted into popular antiques shops, cafés, and pubs. The area’s definitely a great source for souvenirs, with incredibly specialized stores selling porcelain dolls, teddy bears, African jewelry, and smoking pipes, among many other things. There’s even an all-year-round Christmas store. | Bremen.

Worth Noting

Museen Böttcherstraße.
Two separate museums are housed in this 17th-century building that stands at one end of Böttcherstrasse. Ludwig Roselius-Haus showcases late-medieval art and a silver treasury, and a unique collection of German and Dutch art. These pieces contrast with the paintings of Paula Modersohn-Becker, a noted early expressionist of the Worpswede art colony whose work is housed in the same building. Notice also the arch of Meissen bells at the rooftop. Except when freezing weather makes them dangerously brittle, the bells chime daily on the hour from noon to 6 from May to December (and only at noon, 3, and 6 January-April). | Böttcherstr. 6-10 | 0421/336-5077 | | €6 | Tues.-Sun. 11-6.

A 15th-century statue of Charlemagne, together with seven princes, adorns the Gothic town hall, the only European town hall built in the late Middle Ages that has not been destroyed or altered, managing to survive in its original form over the centuries. It was Charlemagne who established a diocese here in the 9th century. The Rathaus acquired a Weser Renaissance facade during the early 17th century. Tours, given when no official functions are taking place, are in German and English and take you into the upper hall as well as the Golden Chamber, a magnificent plenary hall. Inside, the model ships that hang from the ceiling bear witness to the importance of commerce and maritime trade for the city. Their miniature cannons can even be fired if the occasion demands. | Am Markt 21 | Tour €5 | Tours Mon.-Sat. at 11, noon, 3, and 4, Sun. at 11 and noon.

St. Petri Dom (St. Peter’s Cathedral).
Construction of the cathedral began in the mid-11th century. Its two prominent towers, one of which can be climbed, are Gothic, but in the late 1800s the cathedral was restored in the Romanesque style. It served as the seat of an archbishop until the Reformation turned the cathedral Protestant. It has a small museum and five functioning organs. | Sandstr. 10-12 | 0421/365-0447 | Free; Tower €1 | Weekdays 10-5, Sat. 10-2, Sun. 2-5; Tower: Apr.-Oct., weekdays 10-4:30, Sat. 10-1:30, Sun. 2-4:30.


Fodor’s Choice | Grashoffs Bistro.
$$$$ | FRENCH | An enthusiastic crowd, willing to put up with cramped conditions, descends at lunchtime on this restaurant and deli. The room is so small that there’s little room between the square tables; a table has to be pulled out for anyone who has a seat next to the wall. The menu has a French touch, with an emphasis on fresh fish from the Bremerhaven market. The deli has a whole wall of teas, another of cheeses, and a huge assortment of wines. | Average main: €27 | Contrescarpe 80 | 0421/178-8952 | | Closed Sun. and Mon. No dinner Sat. | Reservations essential.

$$ | GERMAN | This cavernous cellar with vaulted ceilings is said to be Germany’s oldest and most renowned town-hall restaurant—it’s been here for 600 years. Its walls are lined with wine casks, and there are small alcoves with sliding wooden doors, once shut tight by merchants as they closed their deals. The food’s solid traditional northern German fare and the menu is limited outside of the standard meal times. By long tradition only German wines are served here, and the only beer you can get is Beck’s and Franziskaner from the barrel. | Average main: €15 | Am Markt 1 | 0421/321-676 |

Fodor’s Choice | Dorint Park Hotel Bremen.
$$$$ | HOTEL | This palatial hotel comes with an enviable location between a small lake and an extensive area of park and forest not far from the main train station. Full of large, open spaces and light, the hotel also has a heated outdoor pool and a fireplace in the lounge, which may tempt you to linger in the public areas, no matter what the season. The rooms have large windows and swank furnishings. The Park Restaurant ($$$$) serves classic French and German dishes in a room of shimmering crystal chandeliers. Pros: traditional luxury; on a lake. Cons: expensive; outside the city. | Rooms from: €239 | Im Bürgerpark | 0421/340-800 | | 160 rooms, 15 suites | No meals.

Hotel Pension Weidmann.
$ | HOTEL | There are only five rooms in this small and friendly family-run pension in one of the brick buildings so characteristic of Bremen. It has the most luxurious bathroom you’ll find (but you have to share it). Pros: English-speaking staff; welcomes dogs (even large ones). Cons: no restaurant; shared bathroom; minimal decor. | Rooms from: €50 | Am Schwarzen Meer 35 | 0421/498-4455 | | No credit cards | 5 rooms | No meals.


Bremen may be Germany’s oldest seaport, but it can’t match Hamburg for racy nightlife. Nevertheless, the streets around the central Marktplatz and in the historic Schnoor District are filled with all sorts of taverns and cafés. The Bremen coffee tradition will be evident when you have your coffee and cake at a café in a charming old building with plush sofas, huge mirrors, and chandeliers.

Bremen casino.
Try your luck at American roulette, poker, slot machines, and blackjack at the Bremen casino, open for play daily 3 pm-3 am; slots open at noon. Dress code includes closed shoes (no sandals or sneakers) and a collared shirt for men. | An der Schlachte 26 | 0421/329-000.


66 km (41 miles) north of Bremen.

This busy port city, where the Weser empties into the North Sea, is technically part of Bremen, which is an hour to the south. You can take in the enormity of the port from a promenade that runs its length. In addition to being a major port for merchant ships, it is the biggest fishery pier in Europe, and its promenade is lined with excellent seafood restaurants.

Getting Here and Around

Regional trains run every hour from Bremen to this North Sea port, and take 35 minutes to get here. Reederei HaRuFa offers a one-hour trip around the Bremerhaven harbor for €10. If you’d like to go farther afield and view Schnoorviertel and the stark, red-cliff island of Helgoland from the sky, OFD has a daily round-trip flight for €187 per person.


Visitor Information
Bremerhaven Tourism. | H.-H.-Meierstr. 6 | 0471/8093-6100 |
OFD Airlines. | Flughafen, Am Luneort 15 | 0471/77188 |
Reederei HaRuFa. | H.-H.-Meierstr. 4 | 0471/415-850 |


Fodor’s Choice | Deutsches Auswandererhaus (German Emigration Center).
Located at the point where 7 million Europeans set sail for the New World, the Deutsches Auswandererhaus is made to order for history buffs and those wanting to trace their German ancestry. “Passengers” get boarding passes; wait on dimly lit docks with costumed mannequins and piles of luggage; and once on board navigate their way through cramped and creaky sleeping and dining cabins. After being processed at Ellis Island, visitors can then research their genealogy using the museum’s emigration database and its extensive collection of passenger lists. Further on, there is a section of the museum dedicated to immigrants to Germany, complete with an impressive 1970s-era shopping mall, and a retro movie theater screens short films about German emigrants and their families. | Columbusstr. 65 | 0471/902-200 | | €12.80 | Mar.-Oct., daily 10-6; Nov.-Feb., daily 10-5.

Deutsches Schifffahrtsmuseum (German Maritime Museum).
The country’s largest and most fascinating maritime museum, the Deutsches Schifffahrtsmuseum, includes a harbor, open from April through October, that shelters seven old trading ships. | Hans-Scharoun-Pl. 1, from Bremen take A-27 to exit for Bremerhaven-Mitte | 0471/482-070 | | €6 | Nov.-Mar., Tues.-Sun. 10-6; Apr.-Oct., daily 10-6.

Klimahaus Bremerhaven 8° Ost.
This unique interactive museum takes visitors through nine stations covering the various climatic regions of the Earth. The history of the climate, ranging from the origins of the Earth 3.9 thousand million years ago and looking forward to the year 2050 is on display in this museum dedicated to helping visitors understand what factors determine the weather and the climate. Located directly on the seafront, it also has information about an offshore wind farm that will put the city’s relationship to the sea and the changing climate into perspective. | Hermann-Henrich-Meier-Str. | 0471/902-0300 | | €15 | Apr.-Aug., weekdays 9-7, weekends 10-7; Sept.-Mar., daily 10-6.


Atlantic Hotel SailCity.
$$ | HOTEL | Designed in the shape of a sail catching the wind, this glass skyscraper located directly on the harbor and within walking distance to all the major sights is popular with travelers hoping to catch a glimpse of the Atlantic—which they can from most rooms. Pros: friendly staff; great location with sea views. Cons: can fill up with business and convention travelers. | Rooms from: €134 | Am Strom 1 | 0471/309-900 | | 120 rooms | Breakfast.

Hotel Haverkamp.
$$ | HOTEL | Not far from Bremerhaven’s harbor and world-class museums, this modern hotel may not look like much from the outside, but its enviable reputation is built on excellent service, a fine restaurant, and quiet, tidy guest rooms with modern furnishings. Add to this a cozy whiskey and cigar bar, a sauna, and the only indoor pool in Bremerhaven, and it’s hard to find a better place to stay in town. Pros: convenient location; quiet area; good restaurant. Cons: plain exterior; pool is very small; no views. | Rooms from: €129 | Pragerstr. 34 | 0471/48330 | | 85 rooms | Breakfast.