If German cities were schoolchildren then Darmstadt would be top of the class. Highly educated, well read, cultivated, immaculately groomed and with a range of interests. Through science, literature, art and architecture, Darmstadt has developed a wholly unique appeal that has earned it much acclaim.
The establishment of the Mathildenhöhe artists colony more than 100 years ago played its part in raising Darmstadt to prominence. Magnificent art nouveau houses give this hill of muses an unmistakable character. In the immediate post-war period, general malaise and a lack of housing plagued life in Darmstadt, which at the time was almost completely destroyed. But after 1949, the city experienced a second cultural dawn, which led to the foundation of innovative organisations and the systematic establishment of 'smokeless industry'. Today, Darmstadt boasts a great many publishing houses and graphic design studios, as well as the European Space Agency's satellite control centre and internationally acclaimed institutes for literature, art and music. The award ceremony for Germany's most prestigious literature prize – the Georg Büchner Award – also takes place in Darmstadt. Other cultural highlights include the Hessian State Museum, home to the world's largest Joseph Beuys collection, the Kunsthalle art museum, the State Theatre, a vibrant music and entertainment scene and lots of art galleries. And in 1999 Darmstadt unveiled another fantastic entertainment institution in the shape of Centralstation. This heritage-listed former power station is now a venue for theatre productions, readings, exhibitions, concerts and club nights.
But that's not all. Other attractions include the Old Town Hall, Luisenplatz square, the palace on the market square, St. Ludwig's church, St. Paul's church, the octagonal house and the orangery, as well as Rosenhöhe hill and the Russian Orthodox church with its enchanting grove of plane trees. Then there's the UNESCO World Heritage Messel Pit Fossil Site, which opens a window to the past, and in particular to our planet's early history. Last but not least is the Waldspirale apartment building designed by Austria's Friedensreich Hundertwasser, who sought to realise his unique vision of housing with this, one of his later works. Discussion group Darmstädter Gespräche has also been causing a stir since it was first established in 1950. Renamed Neue Darmstädter Gespräche in 2005, the group's regular talks address current philosophical and social topics. Another survivor of the post-war period is the annual Heinerfest, which was first held in 1951 amid the ruins of the city. This festival offers conclusive proof – if proof were needed – that the erudite people of Darmstadt aren't afraid to let their hair down. Why not join them?