My parents and I took a recent trip down memory lane to the charming city of Wiesbaden, located in Hessen, Germany. For many years, Wiesbaden was the centre point for us while travelling home for the summer holidays, however we never spent too much time in tourism, as we did in shopping. This trip however, was quite different; we returned as tourists and made it a priority to learn more about this charismatic city.
While Wiesbaden today is characterized by an extensive cultural life, it has a long history as a spa town. Over 2,000 years ago, the Romans discovered hot thermal springs in this area and established a fort called “Aquae Mattiacorum”. Upon their defeat by the Germanic tribe called “Wisibada”, this area was set up as a trading post along the Rhine river. Between 1200 – 1243, the settlement flourished as it welcomed visitors from all over the world seeking to restore their health in the thermal bathhouses. Throughout the years world-renowned musicians, writers, architects and enthusiasts established a cultural life for the city; and today, it proudly maintains its historical foundation having been hardly touched during both world wars.
Our first sightseeing experience was to visit Neroberg, a hill located on the outskirts of the city with panoramic views. This prime destination has been ranked as the #1 attraction in Wiesbaden …keep reading, you will soon find out why! The hill can be accessed by car, however a much more adventurous and historical mode of transport is on the authentic funicular railway established in 1888.
Being one of it’s kind, the funicular is powered by gravity and water propulsion and ascends a gradient of 26% up the hill (the average is 19%). So how exactly does water displacement work? Quite simply – large water tanks are filled on the downbound carriage at the top of the hill to ensure it is heavier than the upbound carriage. The heavier weight and gravity of the lower carriage slowly descend the funicular and once the carriage arrives to the lower station, all the water is released. The carriage then ascends up the hill by pulleys holding no weight differentiation. How fascinating!
On top of Neroberg we were greeted by the Monopteros temple which was built in 1851 as a viewing point for visitors to enjoy the panoramic views of Wiesbaden and Mainz. This is a a great place to enjoy a peaceful moment while soaking in the sun’s rays and enjoying the scenery.
The most characteristic attraction on the hill (apart from the views) – is the Russian Orthodox Church of St. Elizabeth. A short 10 minute walk down the hill, one catches a glimpse of the majestic golden domes and like in a fairy tale, in the middle of the forest appears the church. Built between 1847 – 1855, the Russian Orthodox Church was commissioned by the Duke of Nassau as a tribute to his wife who passed away suddenly. The church was named after St. Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist and patron saint of the deceased princess. The impressive building is laid on a foundation of sandstone and marble and holds the stunning mosaics and frescoes. Visiting the church is open to anyone with an entrance fee of 2 Euro and mass is held regularly for the Russian Orthodox community.
Walking back to the top of Neroberg we passed by the Opelbad – a large outdoor swimming pool with magnificent views of the city. Surrounded by expansive forest and vineyards, this facility was built in 1934 and maintains a constant water temperature of 24 degrees Celsius which is controlled by modern solar technology. Although we didn’t bring our swimwear to try it out – we were in need of a break and enjoyed refreshments at the restaurant Wagner, which boasts a sunny glazed terrace overlooking the panoramic views (and delicious mussels for the foodies out there!) With enough energy to walk to the top of Neroberg, we stopped at the panorama wall for a few photos and to admire the vineyards on which the Neroberg wines flourish. A tribute to the fallen heroes during the First World War can also be seen here.
We then descended the hill with the funicular and a few bus stops later we were back in the city centre. I would compare Wiesbaden to a smaller and younger version of Vienna as history and culture can be seen in almost every building. An elegant landmark of the city is the Kurhaus which is today the city’s convention centre. Historically however, it was the first spa house built in 1810 and refurbished to its majestic glory in 1907. The Kurhaus, with its iconic ballrooms is often used for theatre events, ballet performances and concerts throughout the year, highlighting the cultural scene.
One of my favourite things about this city is its vibrant shopping. Is there anything better than getting lost in the historical elegant boulevards while you shop? Wiesbaden boasts kilometres of pedestrian zones flooded with well-known brands, major department stores, boutiques and vintages shops. And after you shop ’til you drop – take a break in any of the restaurants, cafes, pubs and ice cream shops dotted along the city, offering culinary delicacies for every taste. Speaking of taste, Wiesbaden is impeccably known for its wine culture, with its renowned vineyards and wine cellars cultivating Pinot noir and Riesling vines and showcasing them during international festivals and events.
Having spent a week in this charming city not only brought back so many memories from my childhood visits, however opened a new curiosity to this historic city. There is something for everyone whether you are looking for recreation and leisure, relaxation and rejuvenation, or whether you just really need a good shopping spree and fabulous bottle of wine 😉
- Wiesbaden Tourism – wiesbaden.de/en/index.php
- Wiesbaden History– historicgermany.travel/historic-cities/wiesbaden/history
- Neroberg on Tripadvisor– tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g187346-d2294372-Reviews-Neroberg-Wiesbaden_Hesse.html
- Shopping– mygermancity.com/wiesbaden-shopping