The one-time capital of the Grand Duchy of Hesse, Darmstadt was, in old times, the home of Grand Dukes who lived in what is now the Residenzschloss at the Marktplatz. Its distinctly modern status as a scientific and industrial center belies this regal heritage, as the city had to transform dramatically in the wake of the Second World War. The Allied bombing campaign destroyed much of the old town.
The city has two varied scientific claims to fame. The first is that it has an element on the Periodic Table named after it: Darmstadtium. The second is that it was Darmstadt where ecstasy was first manufactured in 1912 by chemist Anton Köllisch, while working for a local pharmaceutical company.
Despite this, today Darmstadt is most renowned for its Art Nouveau architecture, great examples of which survived the Second World War bombings. Take a trip to the Künstlerkolonie Mathildenhöhe to explore the small park and art museum, both wonderful examples of this style of architecture. You can also pay a visit to Park Rosenhöhe in the east of the city, around the corner from Ostbahnhof Station. This stunning park with a beautiful rose garden is the perfect place for an afternoon stroll.
The city's centerpiece landmark is Langer Ludwig. This statue, erected atop a sandstone column in the city center, is Darmstadt's most arresting sight. The 128-foot (39-meter) attraction is open for the public to climb inside on the first Saturday of every month. So book your place on a walk up to enjoy a captivating view of Darmstadt.
The city is also surrounded by alluring sights. In particular, head for the Castle Frankenstein located just outside Darmstadt. This hilltop castle dates back over a thousand years, and is owned by the Barons von Frankenstein; it has been claimed to have been the inspiration behind Mary Shelley’s novel “Frankenstein.” While you’re there, enjoy a ride on the Feurige Elias, the only steam-powered train on the city’s tram network, which circles Darmstadt Castle and Alsbach in spring (and goes further to Griesheim in summer). It's an ideal opportunity to explore the regal town in full.