The history of Hessen was literally written in Marburg when, according to historical tradition, the state was founded here in 1248. Starting in the 13th century, Marburg was one of the two main residences of the Landgrave of Hessen. However, when Landgrave Ludwig IV died in 1604 with no heirs apparent, the castle lost its status as a royal residence. Over the centuries, the imposing castle overlooking the old city has been utilized in a number of ways, including serving as a prison and as a state archive. Today, the rooms of the castle are open to the public, as is the Museum for Cultural History found in the castle's Wilhelmsbau.
The spires of the Braunfels Castle stand as an imposing reminder of the town's medieval history, and this baroque castle is home to an extensive collection of artifacts from the period. In the summer, the castle hosts an international jousting festival. A team of international stunt men re-enacts battle scenes, and many sideline attractions help transport visitors back to the days of old. Tours in English or French can be booked online. The castle is open daily from April to October and sporadically the rest of the year.
Tel: 06442-50 02
Wilhelmsturm in Dillenburg
Dillenburg's landmark is the Wilhelm Tower, so named because it was here that Wilhelm I, Count of Nassau-Dillenburg, led the Dutch resistance against Spain in the 16th century. Today, the tower is a museum which displays artifacts from the Nassau and Orange-Nassau dynasty. Dillenburg is also one of the highlights along the Orange tourist route, which stretches through 25 historically-linked German and Dutch cities.
Tel: 02771-800 065
Ruins of Gleiberg and Vetzberg
These two imposing 12th and 13th century landmarks are located about six kilometers north of Gießen. The castle ruins are just a stones throw apart, and at an elevation of 310 meters offer sweeping views of the landscapes and the city of Gießen. Despite their similarity, each castle has a unique history and is well worth a visit. There is also a restaurant, and a beer garden is open in the summer.
Although it dates back to the 13th century, the Castle Greifenstein is very much a living cultural institution. It has been well restored, and there are numerous events and concerts held on the grounds throughout the year. The castle also houses a small baroque church, which is a favorite location for weddings. The German Bell Museum (Deutsches Glockenmuseum) is also located on the castle grounds. As confirmation of its historical significance, Castle Greifenstein was listed as a national historical landmark in 1995.
Tel: 06449-64 60
Owned by the 18th generation of the Solms-Laubach clan, the Castle Laubach is one of the few residences still in the hands of its original family. Built in the 13th century, the castle has one of the largest private libraries in Europe, with over 120,000 titles. An original Gutenberg Bible, on display in the Johannes Gutenberg Museum in Mainz, came from this private collection. In the summer months, the castle hosts operas and concerts. The castle grounds, which include a huge park with a swan lake, are open to the public.
Tel: 06405-910 40