Why visit Darmstadt ?
As already mentioned several times, I live here since almost 18 years and do not have a real relationship to this town. Or, maybe a very split one.
The city had been badly bombed during WW II, so there is no old town centre. There are hardly any half-timbered housed here, and if, only in remote places, where no traveller usually goes, because they are too unknown.
The town centre itself is very much ugly, and has this after-war architecture without any specific charm.
The gardens are nice, but well, they don't stick out among the other gardens in German towns, so this alone is also not a reason to come here for purpose.
Museums: well, there are some, e.g. State Museum of Hessen, with nice exhibits, but there is no logical line in there and it lacks the educational effect I know from Historical Museum of the Palatine in Speyer or the Technical Museum in Mannheim. But :-)
Darmstadt is Germany's centre of Art Nouveau, and that is its main attraction.
Mathildenhöhe, how this part of Darmstadt is called, awaits visitors with a beautiful selection of Art Nouveau architecture and also a museum with exhibits of some daily objects of Art Nouveau time, which have been designed here.
There is a lot of beautiful architecture around, off Mathildenhöhe, and I'll also point out some of the streets in other parts of town with exceptional houses' decoration, just in case, you are here and want to stoll around for those things (they are the in the off-the-beaten path section).
If you are here and want to relax in lush and green surroundings, we have several parks, yes, the most beautiful one being Rosenhöhe, just some minutes off Mathildenhöhe. And then there is Prinz Georg Garten, a beautiful Rococo garden.
Oh, and Darmstadt has a Hundertwasser Haus, just in case, you like this kind of art and architecture.
Jugendstilbad – do yourself some good
So Darmstadt has managed to renovate this gorgeous piece of Art Nouveau art. The bath was built in 1909, when Darmstadt was in its Art Nouveau heydays. It had separated baths (of course in these days) for men and women and bathtubs and steam baths for the ones who could afford it. But then as so many gems in this town, it was heavily bombed in WWII and left abandoned. I remember that I saw it when I came to the city 19 years ago and felt sorry for this wonderful building – it was fallen into full disrepair. But at a point in time it was decided to renovate it – good idea! Renovation started in 2005 and end of February 2008 it was reopened. In our coldish spring I thought it would be a good idea to treat myself a bit and so I went with a friend last Sunday. We spend almost the whole day there (from midday to 10 pm) and had fun. Well, fun in the facilities and fun in people watching. The facilities are nice, yes, but not that extra special as they wants us to believe.
They have all sorts of bathes, SPAs and saunas, different temperatures, sizes and aromas. And yes, it seems to be an interesting concept to spend some time for yourself, if there wouldn’t be the majority of people who don’t get the concept… Wellness and meditative bathing implies a bit of a calmness around you, but this doesn’t work if the people (including kids) keep screaming and squeaking all the time. Or: I was thrilled to read that they have an Onsen bath – just to realise that whoever came up with the name, messed that completely up and Onsen here stands for throwing cold or warm water over your body – look at the photo (second from above, left) to see what I mean. And they also make you believe that everything is included in the price, but you need to read the fine print to find out that Rasoul is an additional 12 Euro. And then there are the peeping toms – I think you can’t avoid having them in saunas. I was laughing so much when I saw these elderly roundish with definitely-not-Brad-Pitt bodys guys eyeballing my friend (a young perfect shaped blonde girl, student at where I work) and felt a big relief that at least I (= gravity works, haha) won’t be their centre of attraction.
Ok, but back to the facilities: they have several different saunas with 40°, 65° (and rose aroma), 65° (and herb aroma) and 90° with half hourly infusions (the type of aroma they use during the whole day is written on a blackboard, so you can pick up the best time, given your preferred aroma). There are showers in between, cold tubs and a warm tub, which we found colder than the announced 34°C. The amount of chaise longues to rest is definitely not enough, so (remember this is Germany, and we Germans have invented to spread our towels to mark “this is MY place”) we had to run around looking for a free one all the time. The bath basin at the ground floor is nice (= the one you see when you click on the link I have added in “website”), and it wasn’t that crowded when we took our dip (but this was already late in the evening). The brine basins (3 in total) are nice as well, one is in a area but illuminated under water and has what they call meditative underwater music (albeit the one who has chosen the music when we’ve been in there chose a type of rock music, haha).
They also have a restaurant, which serves a very delicious milk-yoghurt drink with either cherry or passion fruit (for 2,50 €), beer, several kinds of coffee and also something to eat (and unfortunately also Curry sausage – eeks, what a horrid smell here in this ambience… but some types of Germans seem to need it. Hopefully management will decide to take it from the menu one day). You need to bring full bathing and sauna equipment, as they don’t rent any at the entrance. Bring flip-flops or plastic shoes as well. Be aware that they don’t have separate changing rooms for men and women (something I felt a bit uncomfortable with, but well…). When you have paid your entrance, you’ll get a wristbad with a chip, which is used to lock your locker (but they don’t have enough lockers, so expect to wait a bit for a free one). This chip also allows you entering the different parts of the bath, but be aware that you will charged later when you enter a part you didn’t pay for. And the chip works for all you eat and drink at the bar or in the restaurant.
Opening hours: 10 am to 10 pm daily;
Entrance fees: they differ, depending on the facilities you want to use: bath only, spa or sauna. Spa includes bath and sauna includes spa and bath. And prices differ depending how long you want to stay (2 hours, 4 hours or whole day):
Bath only: 5 €, 7 € and 9 €
Spa: 7,50 €, 10 € and 12 €
Sauna: 11 €, 13,50 € and 16 €
Reduced rates are available, but only for handicapped (with entry B in the ID) and kids under 18 years. There is NO reduced rate for seniors or students!!
Families also get a rebate, but the kids must (!!) belong to the same family.
There is a facility map availavle on the website as well, but as the website is in German only, it might be difficult to find: map of Jugendstilbad.
Now would I go there again? Yes, most probably, as it is the only sauna variety close by. But if I would live in Mannheim for example, I wouldn’t come here to have a bath in an Art Nouveau ambience, as then I would go to Herschelbad, as it is also much more cheaper with 3,10 € for the full day!
German and international food
Cozy Thai atmosphere, relatively quiet, by still close enough to the town center
Splendid food at fair prices -- and usually
also very large servings!
Anything that is labelled as 'spicy'
No fixed preference; just pick the menu of the day!
White Tower - guards the city
Originally, Weisser Turm (White Tower) was part of Darmstadt's city wall in 14th century, which was built by the dukes of Katzenelnbogen, the city’s founders. But it was much smaller than today, and also served as defence tower with pinnacles. Early 18th century, it was built up to it's today's height. It is said that it had some secret passages in these days, which was used by the dukes quite frequently to leave the castle and do whatever they wanted to do secretly.
In the course of time it was bell tower, dungeon, treasure chamber for the county's archive and today as little museum which houses exhibitions from time to time. During the bombing night of September 11, 1944 in WWII , it was heavily bombed, but reconstructed in the 50-ies.
Today, it's also one of Darmstadt's main meeting points :-)
Guided tours are available; the tower is open Wednesday 15:00-19:00 and Saturday 13:00-17:00.
Update January 2008:
new weblink below (still German only) and revised opening hours.
Platanenhain is a smal park almost in front of the wedding tower. It exists since 1830, (Grossherzogin Mathilde und Großherzog Ludwig I wanted to have it) but 1914 it was decorates with sculptures from the artist Bernhard Hoetger. In the Plantanenhain, you find 4 different reliefs, representing the 4 seasons. Most important thing for him was the relationship between the human beings and the nature.