Home Travel BlogEurope Travel BlogGermany Travel Blog Marburg Attractions: Uni Students, a Very Tall Handmaid, and a Playful Town Hall Clock

Marburg Attractions: Uni Students, a Very Tall Handmaid, and a Playful Town Hall Clock

by Silke Elzner

We recently spent a day in Marburg, right in the centre of Germany. Read here how we explored many of Marburg’s attractions and why this medieval city really charmed us. This travel blog post may serve you as a starting point when figuring out the best things to do in the city.

Marburg can be best viewed from the Landgrafenschloss Castle. Check out the wonky spire of this church!

Marburg can be best viewed from the Landgrafenschloss Castle. Check out the wonky spire of this church!

Marburg is a medieval city that I had heard about many times since my highschool days. Because when it was time to look for a university to study at, the name Marburg came up more than once. It is a traditional university town with a long academic history that stretches all the way back to the Middle Ages. There is a lot of young folk here, aware of the traditions and keen to make the world a better place. It adds a fresh and young vibe to a city that is steeped in history, an exciting marriage of the old and the new.

As it turned out, after highschool I didn’t end up studying in Marburg. I went to nearby Bochum University instead. It was the more economical solution, and not a bad choice either. But now that i was all grown up, it was time for me to finally visit Marburg and experience some of this vibrant flair and heritage.

What I found was a charming university town with a wonderful castle, the curious story of a very tall handmaid, and a picturesque German timber-frame city which oozed flair in every corner.

The massive castle in Marburg is hard to miss and one of the must-do things when visiting the city.

The massive castle in Marburg is hard to miss and one of the must-do things when visiting the city.

Marburg, the University Town

Marburg is one of these cities that you simply have to fall in love with the minute you put your eyes on it. Its most remarkable attraction, Landgrafenschloss castle, can be seen from afar – sitting on top of the hill it dominates the landscape with its romantic turrets, arched covered walkway and Gothic windows. A massive building, imposing and representative. Below, we spot the wild mix of medieval buildings of the Oberstadt. Houses big and small, with the occasional church tower breaking up the sea of houses.

The Hexenturm (witch tower) in the foreground

The Hexenturm (witch tower) in the foreground.

The castle mountain is steep so we decide to take the car all the way to the top to save us from the hike up the mountain. As it turns out it is a more adventurous start to our day, as the roads are meeting us at weird angles. Probably a legacy of the old medieval paths that used to wind up the mountain in former times. But we finally arrive and from atop the views are fantastic. We can even spot a traditional fraternity house with flagpoles and lookout on top of the roof like a sailing boat.

What a fantastic lookout point from the rooftop of one of the fraternity houses, don't you think?

What a fantastic lookout point from the rooftop of one of the fraternity houses, don’t you think?

We walk around the castle grounds, have a look at attractions like the Hexenturm (with tower) and the vineyard on the slope below the castle. We step inside the inner courtyard of the castle with the pretty tableau where in golden letters the history of the castle is explained. You can sense that the walls are old, very old, and have a lot of stories to tell. We realise that the best way to see the castle from the inside is by visiting the castle museum. In Marburg’s case, the museum is managed by the university, and so the exhibition is first-class.

The Story of the Tall Barb

There are quite a few things that we find fascinating once we are inside the castle. The old chapel comes with the impressive Gothic windows and the original paint still on the ceramic floor tiles. Marvellous also the banquet hall which is today used by official groups and the university. A wonderful exhibition on locally produced ceramics which is much nicer than it sounds.

A medieval teething toy for babies.

A medieval teething toy for babies.

Our personal highlight, however, are the rooms dedicated to local history. In the medieval hall we see wonderful church artwork like a giant handwoven tapestry, stained glass church windows and pagan stonework. We are quite impressed.

When we arrive at the exhibition about medieval civic life in Marburg, the museum guard senses our interest. No wonder, I am snapping away at the massive wooden doors, delicate children’s toys and original dresses from the 16th century. He points out a particular painting, that of a woman.

Early toys such as this building set for cities can be seen at the castle museum in Marburg.

Early toys such as this building set for cities can be seen at the castle museum in Marburg.

He explains to us that we are looking at a handmaid, a girl named Barb, short for Barbara. She had been extraordinarily tall, not just for her time but also for our time. In fact, the painter had added a measure to the picture so that one could work out her actual size.

Barb had been quite a celebrity back in her day. Not only did people paint pictures of her, she was also made immortal in a cookie stamp which shows a man on a ladder holding a cup of water to her lips and which is also exhibited in the museum. Quite an extraordinary find which we only discover among all the other treasures as they were pointed out to us by the museum staff member.

German dumplings with mushroom sauce - irresistible!

German dumplings with mushroom sauce for lunch – irresistible!

The Town Hall Clock and Pretty Timber-Frame Houses

After our visit to the museum we slowly find our way down to the city centre to explore more of the Marburg attractions. We leave the car where it is and take the direct way down. We stop at Bücklingsgarten Restaurant just next to the castle for a fantastic lunch with freshly made dumplings in an earthy mushroom sauce, simply delicious!

Along the road down to the city we see artwork commemorating the Brothers Grimm and their fairytales – Marburg is on the Fairy Tale Road and the Brothers Grimm had been active in this area back in the day.

The Oberstadt of Marburg is well preserved and offers lots of little details to discover.

The Oberstadt of Marburg is well preserved and offers lots of little details to discover.

Down we go, the walk is easy. Pretty timber-frame houses line the road. There are engraved building stones in some of the corners of these buildings dating back to the 16th century. Carved wooden devil masks in the timber, painted in black, green, red. Old-fashioned shop signs protruding from the facades, carefully crafted grapes announcing a wine shop.

The attractions keep on coming. By the time we arrive at the historic town hall with its crow stepped gables and tall roofs we are just in time to witness the town hall clock strike to the full hour.

As the bell rings, the figures set into motion, flapping wings and blowing the trumpet. Justicias’ scales come alive, Death turns the hourglass upside down once again.

We walk some more, soak in the atmosphere of young folks around us, an attraction in itself. Busy students who sip their coffees, ride their bikes, browse the academic book stores. It is refreshing to see all these uni students adding a youthful air to the historic backdrop.

One of the best known attractions in Marburg is the town hall clock.

One of the best known attractions in Marburg is the town hall clock.

Things to Know Before Visiting Marburg’s Attractions

Marburg is a wonderful city to visit on a day trip or as part of a road trip. It is also a great base if you want to discover a couple of other places in this charming part of Germany. There are many wonderful attractions to see in the city and surrounds.

If you are driving into the city consider planning ahead. Find suitable spots to park the car before you get there. I can imagine that in particular in summer things can get busy and you won’t be able to find a parking spot near the castle like we did back in March. To get up the mountain you may want to check out the tourist train.

At the museum, all exhibits are explained in German as well as in English which is great if you want to understand the many things you can explore there.

Marburg is a city that tastefully combines the old with the new.

Marburg is a city that tastefully combines the old with the new.

We didn’t get to see all of the major sights in Marburg. If you are into medieval churches, then Marburg is your place. Elizabeth Church is particularly fascinating. You will also find plenty of authentic atmosphere in Weidenhausen, a historic suburb right on the river Lahn.

For Marburg hotels, check out TripAdvisor where you can see rates, photos and reviews (Affiliate link).

More photos of Marburg as you scroll down ↓

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The history of the castle is recorded in golden letters on the inside wall of the courtyard

The history of the castle is recorded in golden letters on the inside wall of the courtyard

The marvellous gothic windows in the castle chapel

The marvellous gothic windows in the castle chapel.

Original paint can still be seen on the floor tiles of the chapel

Original paint can still be seen on the floor tiles of the chapel.

One of the many wooden doors exhibited at the museum.

One of the many wooden doors exhibited at the museum.

This iron sphere is a medieval hand warmer. You just needed to put a hot coal inside.

This iron sphere is a medieval hand warmer. You just needed to put a hot coal inside.

Well crafted iron lock

Well crafted iron lock.

Anatomical doll, maybe for medicine students?

Anatomical doll, maybe for medicine students?

Wonderfully preserved medieval jigsaw puzzle game

Wonderfully preserved medieval jigsaw puzzle game.

This little box contains a sun clock, on the outside you will find coordinates in Germany to determine your position.

This little box contains a sun clock, on the outside you will find coordinates in Germany to determine your position.

This artwork proves the wealth of the people living in Marburg city in the Middle Ages.

This elaborate artwork proves the wealth of the people living in Marburg city in the Middle Ages.

Sample of ancient church windows found at the castle museum.

Sample of ancient church windows found at the castle museum.

Views from the walk down to the city centre.

Views from the walk down to the city centre.

Pretty house along the way.

Pretty house along the way.

16th century founding stone.

16th century founding stone.

The wonderful gothic town hall door.

The wonderful gothic town hall door.

Timber-frame houses surrounding the market square.

Timber-frame houses surrounding the market square in Marburg.