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Kassel: a city of fairytales and works of art.

Kassel: a city of fairytales and works of art.

Kassel, the city that became the hub of the contemporary art world with its documenta exhibition, also owes much of its cultural renown to the legacy of the Brothers Grimm. A city that has always fused tradition with innovation to great effect; a city in possession of one of Europe's most palatial gardens, the Wilhelmshöhe Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe, and with it a landmark like no other, the Hercules monument.

Once upon a time... there were two brothers who lived many a year in Kassel, where they penned timeless classics such as their collection of 'Children's and Household Tales' and their reference book of German grammar. Because they were so famous, the literary pair are still honoured in Kassel to this day at the Grimm World, as well as at anniversary celebrations, conferences and exhibitions. Two hundred years ago brothers Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm published their first book of fairytales, having already made names for themselves as linguists, legal historians and committed democrats. In 2013 the Brothers Grimm year of celebrations in Kassel will also pay tribute to their younger brother, painter Ludwig Emil Grimm. It goes without saying that Kassel is one of the major checkpoints along the German Fairytale Route, a 600km tour dedicated to the life and works of the Brothers Grimm.

Kassel puts as much emphasis on preserving its Grimm heritage as it does promoting the city's defining modern-day event. The documenta is the world's leading contemporary art exhibition, an occasion of great distinction, a showcase for the latest trends in international art. The venue for the exhibition has been the Fridericianum since 1955, while the Documenta Hall was added in 1992 for documenta 9. The number of visitors has continued to grow ever since the first show, reaching 860,000 in 2012. And with megastars such as Brad Pitt among the guests, it's likely to attract even more art fans next time round. A date for your diary (should your diary go that far): the next documenta is on from 10 June to 17 September 2017.

The outdoor exhibits are a firm fixture at the documenta. Some of the most spectacular are now integral parts of the cityscape, for instance the 7,000 Oaks project by Joseph Beuys, Claes Oldenburg's giant pickaxe on the banks of the Fulda and Jonathan Borofsky's Man Walking to the Sky. These eye-catching artistic landmarks enhance a city that owes its appearance to a conscious effort to erect new buildings after the Second World War, rather than to restore the old ones that had been destroyed – so as to make a clean break from the legacy of the past. Today, Kassel is very proud of its numerous successful examples of 1950s architecture, such as the Treppenstrasse ensemble, which has long been under a preservation order. In recent decades, however, there has been a drive to rejuvenate the city centre and significantly increase its appeal with modern new buildings, public art and the redesign of open spaces in an unconventional style. Kassel also has one of the oldest theatre scenes in Germany. The Ottoneum, the country's first permanent theatre and the precursor to today's Kassel State Theatre, dates back to 1605. Wilhelmshöhe Palace with its spectacular collection of Rembrandts is a must-see, as are the city's excellent museums. Art from the previous two centuries is on display at the New Gallery, and Goethe's famous elephant is exhibited at the Natural History Museum in the Ottoneum. The Museum of Astronomy and Physics, meanwhile, reveals captivating insights into the secrets of astronomy, the measurement of time, geodesy, mathematics and physics. Not a secret, however, is the fact that Wilhelmshöhe with the Hercules monument is Europe's largest hillside park. Its 240 hectares, laid out in the English style, are a work of art combining nature, architecture and landscape design. And when it comes to works of art, you'll soon realise that they are everywhere you turn in Kassel.

City Highlights

Kassel has made a name for itself as the venue for the documenta art exhibition and its often bold works of art, which are a mystery to many and a source of endless fascination for others. Often referred to as the 'museum of 100 days', the exhibition is held every five years and invites visitors to admire, discuss and experience art. The Documenta Hall was built specifically for documenta 9 in 1992. The multi-purpose building offers an exhibition space totalling 1,400 square metres, with a further 700 square metres of additional usable space. Designed by architects Jourdan and Müller, it hosts a number of exhibitions, seminars and conferences in the years between documenta exhibitions.

Covering 240 hectares and laid out in the style of an English country garden, Wilhelmshöhe Park is Europe's largest hillside park, a fascinating ensemble offering the perfect blend of culture, history and ordered nature. Water bubbles up over the cascades, splashes down Steinhöfer waterfall and the Devil's Bridge, and runs down the aqueduct to its final destination, the Great Fountain in Schlossteich lake, which uses natural pressure to shoot the water 52 metres into the air. Lit up in the evenings, the cascades and fountains between the Hercules monument and Wilhelmshöhe Palace are a sight to behold. Read more

Jacob Grimm (1785-1863) and Wilhelm Grimm (1786-1859) are two of the leading figures in German cultural history.

From 2015 in Kassel, the GRIMM WORLD will present the world-famous Brothers Grimm in the place where they used to live and work. This is where they collected the children’s and household fairy-tales and began the German dictionary. Valuable original documents will be on display; interactive features will invite visitors to take part, encouraging cultural and intercultural dialogue.

The German Fairytale Route runs for more than 600km from Hanau to Bremen via Kassel, linking towns, villages and landscapes associated with the Brothers Grimm and their fairytales. Many places along the route offer concerts and theatre, while culture and history abound at the castles and palaces. One festival after another brings myths, legends and fairytales to life and visitors are welcome to join in the celebrations. Other entertaining highlights along the way include puppet theatres, open-air plays and fairytale weeks. We recommend that you leave the car behind and walk or cycle along a stretch of the route to enjoy the scenic surroundings up close.

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