Prior to World War I, Darmstadt was the capital of the Grand Duchy of Hesse. The Grand Dukes used to live in what is now the Schloß Marktplatz. It is also the birthplace of the last Empress of Russia, Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna Romanova, who was born Prinzessin Victoria Alix Helena Louise Beatrice von Hessen und bei Rhein. Sadly, much of the old town was destroyed in carpet bombing by the Allies during World War II, and most of what is still standing was reconstructed after the war. Darmstadt also lost its status as the capital of Hesse after the war, the honour now lying with the nearby city of Wiesbaden.
The popular recreational drug Ecstasy was first synthesised in Darmstadt in 1912 by a chemist known as Anton Kollisch while he was working for the pharmaceutical company Merck. The element Darmstadtium, element 110 on the Periodic Table, is named after the city. Perhaps as many as 11 atoms of this short half-life element have been synthesized to date.
If you speak German, the name might sound peculiar to you as the word "Darm" means "intestine" in German, though - as locals are quick to point out - the etymology of the name has nothing to do with intestines large or small.
The Darmstadt Marketing tourist office is located on the corner of the Luisenplatz.
Trains connect Darmstadt to surrounding cities, including Frankfurt, Heidelberg, Mannheim, Mainz, and Aschaffenburg. Some ICE trains stop at the Darmstadt train station. The S3 S-Bahn line connects Darmstadt and Frankfurt.
For trips from or to the northwest (e.g. Köln, Düsseldorf, Amsterdam) the quickest route is sometimes via Frankfurt Airport, where you can change between ICE trains on the Frankfurt-Köln line and the Airliner bus to or from Darmstadt.
Darmstadt is located about 20 minutes by road from Frankfurt Airport. For those continuing their journey to Darmstadt by public transport, the Darmstadt Airport Shuttle bus service (AirLiner) is far more convenient than the train. It runs every 30 to 60 minutes between 4AM and 11PM and costs €7.60/€5.95 for adults/children. Buy your ticket from the bus driver. The AirLiner ticket is also valid for connecting transport around Darmstadt (RMV zones 40xx).
The AirLiner stops at both terminals of the airport. Look for bay 14 across the street from terminal 1. At terminal 2 the stop is right in front of the terminal. You can download a leaflet with the schedule from the website of HEAG Mobibus.
On its way to Darmstadt Hauptbahnhof the bus stops at Mina-Rees-Straße and Heinrich-Hertz-Straße. In the opposite direction the bus goes directly from the station to the airport.
The freeways A5 and A67 go by to the eastern end of Darmstadt. Follow the signs to Darmstadt/Griesheim onto the very short A672, which merges into the B26 towards Darmstadt. Expect a traffic jam here in the morning.
You can also reach Darmstadt via the B3 and B26 main roads. The B3 runs in north-south direction, connecting Darmstadt with Frankfurt in the north and Heidelberg in the south. It runs largely parallel to the A5 freeway. The B26 runs east-west and is the main connection to Aschaffenburg.
The inner city is a system of tunnels and one-way roads for passing traffic. This can be a bit confusing.
Darmstadt's public transport is part of the greater Rhine Main area network Rhein-Main-Verkehrsverbund (RMV). Darmstadt and its surroundings are designted as tariff area 40. This area is further subdivided into several zones numbered 40xx, Darmstadt city is zone 4001. Fares vary depending on the number of zones touched.
Tram lines are marked by single-digit numbers. The tram network extends from Darmstadt-Arheilgen in the north to Darmstadt-Eberstadt in the south and beyond to Seeheim-Jugenheim and Alsbach, from Griesheim in the west to Darmstadt-Kranichstein in the northeast. Lines 3, 5, 7/8, and 9 constitute the core network. Lines 1, 2, 4, and 6 reinforce the core network during rush hours. Line 6 is an express line, it skips some of the intermediate stops on its route between Eberstadt and Merck.
Single or double letters mark local bus lines. Main bus lines have single-letter designations and often share routes stops with trams in the inner city. In the evening hours most tram and bus lines operate with a frequency of 30 minutes. At minutes :15 and :45 meet at Luisenplatz for connections. The last of these central transfer stops is at 0:15, except for Fridays and Saturdays with two additional rounds at 1:15 and 2:15.
Overland lines to surrounding towns and villages have three- or four-digit numbers, or two-digit numbers preceded by the letter K. Most of these lines stop at Hauptbahnhof and other stops that they pass on their way through the city.
Besides Hauptbahnhof, several train stops are scattered throughout the city: Wixhausen and Arheilgen in the north serviced by the S3 S-Bahn line, Darmstadt-Süd and Darmstadt-Eberstadt in the south where Regionalbahn trains to and from Heidelberg stop, Darmstadt Nordbahnhof and Darmstadt-Kranichstein on the line to Aschaffenburg, and Darmstadt Ostbahnhof and Darmstadt TU-Lichtwiese on the line to Erbach(Odenwald).
For schedules and fares see the website of RMV.
When buying a ticket from a vending machine at a tram or bus stop, you need to specify a destination. The machine has a chart giving numeric codes for a variety of destinations. If you plan to travel only in the central part of Darmstadt, then enter the destination code for Stadtmitte (city centre).
For 2-5 people traveling together for multiple trips within a day, a group day ticket (Gruppentageskarte) is probably the economic choice.
Darmstadt is famous for its Jugendstil (art nouveau) buildings. Many of the buildings survived the massive destruction of Darmstadt in September 1944.
- Künstlerkolonie Mathildenhöhe. to see the most interesting ones. This is the most beautiful part of Darmstadt. There is also a small park, an art museum and a Russian-style Chapel there. In 1899 Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig invited seven artists to come to Darmstadt and, thus, the Artists’ Colony Mathildenhöhe was founded. The first of four large art exhibitions took place in 1901. The artists presented their ideas of a new living and working world. They designed a colony, the focal point of which is the Studio House, the Ernst Ludwig House. Since 1990 it houses the Artists’ Colony Museum.
- Park Rosenhöhe (Rose heights). A park in the east of Darmstadt, just around the corner from the Ostbahnhof (east railway station). Don't miss out on the rose garden!
- Langer Ludwig. Darmstadt's landmark, a statue on a huge sandstone column located right in the city center. When you visit Darmstadt, you can't miss it. On the first Saturday of every month (and during special events) it is open for the public, meaning that you can climb the column (through a stair located on the inside) and get a beautiful view over Darmstadt.
- Waldspirale (Forest Spiral). The huge Hundertwasser house was finished in 2000. It is a wonderful example for Friedensreich Hundertwasser's (the famous Austrian architect and painter) colourful architectural designs.
- Castle Frankenstein. Is a hilltop castle located near Darmstadt in Mühltal. The castle is first mentioned in the records in the year 948, and initial construction of the castle ruins remaining today began in the 13th century. The 14th and 15th centuries saw expansion, followed by construction of reinforcements in the 16th. It was owned by the Barons von Frankenstein who owned most of the surrounding land until 1662, when the Baron of that time sold the property to the Landgrave of Hesse-Darmstadt. There have been claims that the castle may have inspired the Mary Shelley novel, Frankenstein. While Shelley is known to have travelled through this area in 1814, historical scholars believe that she did not visit this castle. There are special dinners for Halloween and for other occasions. It is also possible to hike up to the castle.
- Orangerie (To get there take the tram number 3 and exit at the station Orangerie.). A nice baroque garden with several fountains is in the south of Darmstadt in the heart of Bessungen. In the summer people are playing boule or just relaxing in the grass.
- Jagdschloss Kranichstein, Kranichsteiner Straße 261, ☎ .
- Eisenbahnmuseum Darmstadt-Kranichstein (Railway Museum), Steinstraße (Tram 4,5 to Kranichstein Bahnhof, or train towards Aschaffenburg to Kanichstein station). Sundays and public holidays 10AM-4PM, during the summer also Wednesdays (Apr-Sep) 10AM-4PM. Railway museum operated by volunteers. Various special events through the year. During special events you might get a chance to ride to and from central station on a historic train. Adult €6, Child €3, Family of 2 adults 3 children €15; prices are higher on special event days..
- Jugendstil Bad, Mercksplatz 1. relax in the pool, sauna, and spa and enjoy the art nouveau atmosphere. Influenced by the late Jugendstil, the former “Central Bath” was built in 1909. In 2007 it was renovated to become a wellness centre.
- Vivarium, Schnampelweg 4, ☎ . A small little zoo hosting 700 animals of 150 species.
- ESOC (European Space Operations Center) Guided Tour. Tours for individuals and the general public (ONLY via pre-registration) take place on particular Wednesdays and Fridays. Cost & duration: 1.5-hour tour: €7 per person (reduced €5). Tours for individuals available only via pre-registration at Wissenschaftsstadt Darmstadt Marketing GmbH. Tickets can be obtained on the homepage of Wissenschaftsstadt Darmstadt Marketing GmbH under the section "Stadtführungen" or at the Darmstadt Shop, Luisenplatz 5.
- Der Feurige Elias. Der Feurige Elias (The Fiery Elias) is a steam-powered train that runs through the streets of Darmstadt on the tracks of the Darmstadt tram system. (Before electrification, many tram systems used steam locomotives of which Elias is one of the survivors.) Elias makes 4 round trips mostly on Sundays in June and September. The June trips are along the Bergstraße from tram stop Darmstadt-Eberstadt Frankenstein. The September trips are to Griesheim from a downtown location between the Schloß and the Kongresszentrum. This info is of 2014. Consult the web site for dates, times and changes in itinerary. Adults € 4, Child € 2, Family of 5 (2 adults, 3 children) € 8. Double price for a return trip..
Festivals and regular events
- Heinerfest. Held once a year at the end of June/beginning of July. The Festival occupies the whole inner city for 4–5 days. It is the largest "Inner City Festival" of Germany.
- Schloßgrabenfest. An annual music festival (usually in May) in the city center. Free entry.
- Darmstädter Dichterschlacht. One of the best poetry slam series in the country, located in the 'Centralstation Darmstadt' on irregular dates. Check out calendar for dates and tickets.
- Filmfest Weiterstadt, Braunshardter Tännchen (Braunshardter Weg), Weiterstadt (Bus 5515, 5513 or 5506 to Hallenbad, or 15 minutes of walking from Weiterstadt train station.). mid-August. Open-air film festival with short films from all over the world. Bring warm clothes, screenings go on till 3AM and August nights can be pretty cold. Admission free, donations welcome..
- Just for Fun, several locations: Herrngarten, Riegerplatz, city center. Street theater festival in August. Don't forget to leave a few euros in the artists' hat.
- Jazzinstitut Darmstadt. The Jazzinstitut sponsored by the city of Darmstadt, harbors one of Europe's largest public jazz collections, including books, journals, recordings and photos. They also organize concerts.
- loop5, Gutenbergstraße 5, Weiterstadt (bus 5506, 5513 or 5515 from Hauptbahnhof, or by car via A5 or B42). 10AM - 8PM, Fri/Sat until 9PM. Large shopping mall out of town, free parking. In an area with several other large shops including furniture, home wares & pet store.
- Boathouse, Hügelstraße 71. Designer clothes.
- AVVA, Ludwigstraße 8 (city center). Turkish label for men's fashion; Darmstadt has one of currently only two stores in Germany.
- City Braustüb'l. Wilhelminenstraße 31. Local food and beer, steaks; country style interieur and a small, cosy beer garden in summer. Maybe here the best Schwein-haxe (Pork knuckle/shanks) of Hessen with beer sauce, two dumplings and raw sauerkraut.
- Mondo Deli. City Center, Grafenstraße 31. Good vegetarian food: Indian curries, pasta, soups, salads; selfservice style, menue changes every day, international travellers welcome.
- Habibi. City Center near Schloss, Landwehrstraße 13. Vegetarian and vegan dishes, mostly organic and fair trade ingredients. Sometimes there are political-cultural events happening, also you can play some boardgames. As the restaurant 1st rather small, it is recommended to order a table in advance. 6151 / 66 02 760
- Asia, ☎ . Kasinostrasse 69. Old Chinese restaurant (since 1974); good sushi: Sushi-Flatrate served as running sushi, delicious Chinese restaurant HotPot, Steamboat (3Pers. up) and much more classical Chinese dishes.
- Restaurant Sitte, Karlstraße 15, ☎ .
- Einsiedel, Dieburger Straße 263, ☎ .
- Mezzo, Pallaswiesenstraße 19, ☎ . Fresh German cuisine with mediterranean flair.
- Corroboree - Aussie Bar & Grill (64293), Kasino strasse 4 - 6 (Darmstadt).
- Snack Point (Best Worscht in Town), Rheinstraße, Pavillon No. 4 (near Friedensplatz in front of Galeria Kaufhof department store). Mo-Fr 11-20h, Sa 10-18:30. Currywurst prepared to your specification. Select the flavour of the curry and how spicy you want your sausage to be. Request intensity levels C and above at your own risk, C is really hot and the scale goes on to F. They will warn you and they mean it. Talkative staff. 5€ for sausage, fries and small drink.
Darmstadt has several breweries, as well as a large amount of smaller taverns.
- Grohe Brauerei, ☎ , fax: +49 6151-716644. Nieder-Ramstädter-Str.3. A smaller traditional brewery. It has its own tavern, where you can drink the freshly brewed beer, and eat typical local foods. It is in the Nieder-Ramstädter-Straße 3, and can easily be reached by tram or by foot from the city center. The beer is also available for sale in bottles or barrels. Many locals believe that this is the best beer available in Darmstadt.
- Ratskeller. A tavern located in the city center, at the market place, brew their own beer, which is also very tasty. The tavern is in the cellar vault of an older building and has a nice, traditional atmosphere. Everyday (only in winter) between 5.30 and 6.30PM there is the "Schoppestund" It's a happy hour where you can get a freshly brewed beer or dark beer for €1.50. It's definitely worth a try.
- Rummel Brauerei. The largest in Darmstadt, brews the "Darmstädter" Bier, which is available in many restaurants and taverns in Darmstadt.
Hesse's national drink, apple cider (Apfelwein, or, in the local dialect, "Äbbelwoi"), is very popular here too. It is available in pure form, or blended with sparkling water ("sauer gespritzt") or lemonade ("süß gespritzt"). Foreigners not used to the unusual taste (it is much more sour and less sweet than the cider common in other countries) might want to try the version blended with lemonade first.
- Bembelsche, Irenenstraße 1, ☎ .
- Bayrischer Biergarten, Kastanienallee 4, ☎ .
- Dieburger Biergarten, Dieburger Strasse 97, ☎ .
- Herrngarten Café, Schleiermacherstr. 29, ☎ .
- Zum alten Forsthaus Kalkofen, Kalkofenweg 90, ☎ .
- Schlossgarten Darmstadt.
- Centralstation. The place to be. The Centralstation is a concert hall, club and lounge during the night and a café and restaurant during the day. Has many events going on.
- Nachtcafé. Carree 4. Nightclub, crowd is mainly in its twenties, house music. Only open Friday & Saturday 10pm - 6am
- Schlosskeller. Non-profit bar and disco run by university students in the dungeons of the Darmstadt Castle.
- Level 6. Kasinostrasse 60. Cocktail Lounge and Web Lounge and K-60. Billiard, Snooker, Darts, Fussball, Air Hockey. A bistro with 3 TVs and a projector for sports events.
- Goldene Krone, Schustergasse 18, ☎ . Alternative center for cheap drinks, music and concerts.
- An Sibin Irish Pub, Landgraf-Georgstr. 25, ☎ . The largest Irish Pub in Darmstadt, with live music on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Also Quiz Night on Tuesday and Karaoke on Thursday. Half price pizzas everyday until 8PM, and Fridays and Saturday cocktails are buy 1 get 1 free.
Darmstadt is a popular alternative for business travellers if trade fairs in Frankfurt result in overbooked hotels. Therefore trade fairs in Frankfurt have a high impact on fluctuating price levels. Try Neu-Isenburg or Dreieich if hotels in Darmstadt are booked out already
- Maritim Hotels
- Welcome Hotel Darmstadt, Karolinenplatz 4, ☎ , fax: +49 6151-3914-444.
- IBIS Hotel, Kasinostrasse 6, ☎ , fax: +49 6151-3970123.
- ETAP Hotel, Kasinostrasse 4-6, ☎ .
- Hotel Contel, Otto-Röhm-Straße 90, ☎ , fax: +49 6151 882888.
- Bestwestern Dartmstadt, Grafenstraße 31., ☎ , fax: +49 6151-293908.
- Hotel Jagdschloß Kranichstein, Kranichsteiner Straße 261, ☎ .
- Hotel Bockshaut, Kirchstr. 7-9, ☎ , fax: +49 6151-9967-67.
- Prinz Heinrich, Bleichstraße 48, ☎ , fax: +49 6151-8137-13.
- Youth Hostel (Deutsche Jugendherberge), Landgraf-Georg-Str. 119, ☎ , fax: +49 6151-422535, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Messel Pit Fossil Site a UNESCO World Heritage Site located a few kilometers outside Darmstadt. Messel has a small railway station on the Darmstadt – Aschaffenburg line. From the station it is about a 20-minute walk (there is no bus) out of town to the south.
- Worms, medieval town
- Heidelberg Historic city known for its picturesque old town
- Bensheim (Bergstraße)
- Heppenheim (Bergstraße)
- Weinheim (Bergstraße)
If you are planning a day trip by rail to a town/city served by the Rhein-Main-Verkehrsverbund (RMV) network such as Michelstadt or Mainz, you can buy a day ticket from a ticket vending machine at a Darmstadt tram stop, and that ticket will include local tram/bus rides to/from the railway station at both ends as well as the train trips. The tram ticket machine allows you to select your destination city. For 2-5 people traveling together on a day trip within the RMV network, a group day ticket (Gruppentageskarte) can be particularly economical.