Just 35km south of Frankfurt, the picturesque city of Darmstadt is renowned for its Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) architecture, the remarkable pre-WWI work of the city’s legendary Mathildenhöhe artistic colony, founded by Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig of Hessen. Stroll around the ornate artist’s villas, then check out the Museum Künstlerkolonie in the Ernst-Ludwig-Haus, devoted to preserving the works of the colony. The eccentric masterpiece of Austrian architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser, Waldspirale (‘Forest Spiral’),  is another unmissable structure – a giant U-shaped building striped with color and featuring over 1000 uniquely designed windows.

Aside from its striking architecture, Darmstadt also boasts a number of other attractions, including the 48.5-meter tall Hochzeitsturm or Wedding Tower presented to the Grand Duke in celebration of his 1905 wedding; the 13th century hilltop Castle Frankenstein – named after its former owner, Barons von Frankenstein, rather than Mary Shelley’s famous character; the Hessian State Museum, home to the world's largest collection of works by painter and sculptor Joseph Beuys; and the pretty rose gardens of Park Rosenhoehe.

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