World Heritage Site Mathildenhöhe Darmstadt
Get to know the historic highlight of Darmstadt

Christina from the #studentsofTUdarmstadt shares with you the historic place in Darmstadt that fascinates her the most: the Artists' Colony Mathildenhöhe.

Published: 13th September, 2022

Christina,
Computer Science B.Sc

When exploring the Artists' Colony Mathildenhöhe, I felt as if I found some hidden treasure.

#studentsofTUdarmstadt, Ambassador Christina, Athena, Athens, TUDa Darmstadt
Picture: Juan Aleman

In the heart of the city of Darmstadt lies a jewel of the arts and architecture! One I was not aware of, despite living here for quite some time. The Artists' Colony in Mathildenhöhe came to my attention as I started to look into the city’s history. To my surprise, this historic site marks a very important era in the artistic movements that were prominent in Germany and Europe.

Ernst Ludwig House 1901, South Portal, Museum Artists' Colony Darmstadt

Ernst Ludwig, the last Grand Duke of Hesse, founded it in 1899. Ernst’s vision was to create a cultural centre that would combine art and trade and promote the economy of the city. Famously his motto was: “My Hessian land shall flourish and in it, the art”. Ernest Ludwig himself worked also as an author and composer. In order to fulfil his vision, Ernst Ludwig brought together several artists, many of whom would go on to have very successful careers. The first exhibition opened on 15th of May in 1901, accompanied by a festival. It invoked interest far beyond Darmstadt, but it ultimately was a financial failure, which made several artists abandon the colony. The exhibit featured the artists’ homes, sculptures and studios. The colony’s forth and last exhibition took place in 1914. The start of the first World War marked the end of Ernst’s vision, and though some artists tried to keep it running, the Duke’s abdication in 1918 effectively put an end to it.

Darmstadt‘s World Heritage: the Artists' Colony Mathildenhöhe

Since July 24, 2021 the artists' colony has been included in the UNESCO World Heritage programme. The construction project includes both the artists' old workplaces and the buildings they erected on the Mathildenhöhe. The most well-known buildings, which still shape the cityscape today and probably attract numerous tourists, include the swan temple, the Russian chapel and the wedding tower, which is also known to “Heiner”, meaning the inhabitants of Darmstadt, as the five-finger tower.

Wedding Tower 1908

Thankfully, those buildings are still in great condition, thanks to the restorations over the years, and can be easily visited. When walking around the colony, there is a perfect blend of nature and art. The intricate buildings find themselves near and within a park and several trees, making the exploration even more fascinating. Every time I reached a spot in the map, I felt as if I found some hidden treasure. And maybe that was exactly what it was.

One of the most unique looking buildings is the wedding tower. It is one of the few structures that can be viewed from the inside. While I looked forward to seeing the interior and climbing the stairs to the top floor, in order to enjoy the entirety of the colony, I realized that the wedding tower is still very much functional. I witnessed four weddings (no funerals =) ) and after a long time of just hanging around, I had to go.

At the end of my visit, as I returned to Luisenplatz, it became clear how otherworldly this place actually is. In contrast to the modern or past city view, the colony was so colourful and bold in design, with buildings that looked like they belonged in a set of a fairy-tale and sculptures of figures with hidden messages, written in an abstract form of letters.

The artists’ colony in Mathildenhöhe may only have lasted for a small period of time in the history of Darmstadt, but it managed to become a safe space for new and revolutionary artists at the time, establishing itself as a center for the art nouveau movement. To this day, it is evident how much hard work and creativity was put into it.

Plan your trip

Visiting Mathildenhöhe is free of charge, the grounds are open at all times. Tickets are required for the Museum Künstlerkolonie and the Hochzeitsturm. Admission prices, opening hours and online tickets are available on the Mathildenhöhe website.

There is even a World Heritage shuttle that takes you from Darmstadt city centre (Kongresszentrum darmstadtium) to the hill free of charge. Further information on how to get there and the departure times can be found at Darmstadt Tourismus.

Tip: If you want to visit the Hochzeitsturm, it's better to do it during the week!

By the way, we can warmly recommend the guided tours to Mathildenhöhe offered by the city of Darmstadt.

If you want to take a step into the past, the Artists’ Colony offers exactly what you are looking for! 

See you at the next adventure!

#studentsofTUdarmstadt, Ambassador Christina, Athena, Athens, TUDa Darmstadt
Picture: Juan Aleman

Christina

Hey! I’m Christina and come from Greece. Right now, I’m studying Computer Science and I chose TU Darmstadt because it provides the perfect combination of innovation and learning opportunities. I find Computer Science very interesting because there is always something new to learn and discover!

Learn more