My husband and I will be visiting a niece in Giessen later this year. Anyone familiar with that area and things to do there? And where to go from there - perhaps a small place to truly experience German culture? Thanks!
Close to Giessen is Büdingen, a medieval walled town. Never been bombed, or burnt down in the 30 Years War. There is a train that runs between Giessen and Gelnhausen that stops at Büdingen. Gelnhausen is also a great stop too, as Barbarossa had a palace there, for his hunting excursions. Another cool place would be Glauberg, once a huge Celtic settlement. The museum there is fantastic! Very interactive with all text in English, German, and French. Well worth a trip.
Giessen (or Gießen, as it's written in German) is a fairly uninteresting industrial town. But fortunately, there's a lot of really great towns and castles you can visit in the area, particularly around the valley of the Lahn river. Nearby Wetzlar, however, is a wonderful Altstadt with an interesting cathedral. A little further north, the univeristy town of Marburg is stunning. The old town winds around a hill, and is topped with a well-preserved castle and a very nice public park. Nearby Gießen there's two prominent castle ruins that stand like sentinels guarding the valley from atop hills. Another, the large castle in the village of Münzenberg, is visible for miles.
Jo already mentioned Büdingen, but for another very well-preserved walled town, go a little further north to the Waldeck region to visit Fritzlar. It's one of the best preserved towns I've seen anywhere in Europe, but it's virtually unknown in the English speaking world. Unlike the more famous Rothenburg, there's not a trinket shop to be found anywhere in the vicinity. The surrounding countryside also has several castles, including the very well preserved Felsburg.
Look under the "Trip Report" section of this website. I recently wrote about two other worthwhile towns to visit in the region, Dillenburg (home of the George Washington of the Netherlands, Willem the Silent) and Braunfels (home of a huge castle).
Other recommendatons- Butzbach, Bad Nauheim, Alsbach, and Bad Hersfeld.
Thanks for the info. I am looking through this site and others. I didn't think there was much to do in Giessen, but am learning there are many small towns and places to experience in Germany. I appreciate the help. I brought my niece here to Kentucky last year and am anxious to visit her. It was our first time meeting - she's 26 years old and was born and raised in Germany.
South of Gießen is Butzbach, a town close enough to do a thorough day's visit. The town's center is nice and worth a visit. Depending on far you want to explore in this area, I would suggest Feldberg, Wetzlar, esp the Zeiss Museum and Goethe's House, if you're into that in particular.
A little further towards Frankfurt, if you like open-air folk museums, check out Hessenpark. Now, this is not the best of its kind that I've ever visited, because it's only about half complete. But on weekends when they often hold a market on site and most of the completed buildings are staffed, it's worth a visit.
I would second Marburg as a must-visit. One of the best Altstadts I have experienced in small-town Germany. It's has a large university there, so overall it's a fairly young and lively town. I go there often and love it.
Currently, I live in Fulda. It's a bit farther out than most other places being recommended here (1hr 45min by regional train), but possibly worth a visit. Has a decent Altstadt with some lovely baroque architecture, including a gorgeous cathedral, a palace and some lovely palace gardens.