Hesse (German: Hessen) is one of the states of the Federal Republic of Germany.



Kurhaus Wiesbaden and Bowling Green

Other destinations

Geography of Hesse


Column of phonolite rocks on Dalherdakuppe in the Rhön Mountains

What is now Hesse, was governed mostly by two states, Hesse-Darmstadt and Hesse-Kassel, both named for the residence of their ruling house. Other places like Frankfurt were de facto independent in medieval times already. Hesse, lying at the crossroads of Europe was an important place for trade and exchange and Frankfurt rose to a trade and financial center early on. Frankfurt still enjoys its status as the seat of many important banks (like the European Central Bank) as well as Germany's and Continental Europe's most important stock exchange, whose movements are followed by analysts and politicians throughout the world. This importance has led to Frankfurt being called "Bankfurt" or "Mainhattan" (a pun on the river Main it sits at). Despite being the biggest and most important city, Frankfurt is not the capital, nor are the historical residences Darmstadt or Kassel with that honor going to Wiesbaden instead, which in turn is just across the river from Mainz, the capital of neighboring Rheinland-Pfalz. Hesse has a lot of highlands, mostly in the North but also to the East and West. The valley of the Main is the main lowland and also a major center of population with cities like Frankfurt, Wiesbaden or Darmstadt. In the North Kassel is the most important city, which was one of the first to be connected to Germany's high speed rail network, when a new line was built from Würzburg to Hannover, running mostly North South through Hesse and neighboring Niedersachsen. Owing in part to the airport in Frankfurt (Germany's busiest), the good Autobahn and rail connections, Frankfurt as a financial center and several small and medium sized world industrial leaders, Hesse is one the richest regions in Germany, only being beaten on a state level by Hamburg and Bremen in per capita GDP. Unlike the city states, however Hesse also has a relatively low unemployment rate, which of course affects prices with Frankfurt being particularly expensive. Hesse also was a hotbed for political radicalism as early as 1848 when the first attempt at a democratic constitution was made by the revolutionary national assembly that deliberated in St. Paul's church in Frankfurt. Later Frankfurt became a center for leftist radicalism and the so called Sponti-Szene, a member of which was a certain Joschka Fischer, who would go on to become minister for the environment in Hesse (famously wearing sneakers while being sworn in) and later foreign minister of Germany (1998-2005), both in a coalition government of his green party and the Social Democrats.


German is the main language in most of the state, although Hessian, the local dialect, is spoken natively by many rural and old people and can sound quite different from standard German. However, since almost all Hessian speakers also speak standard German and most people also speak at least rudimentary English you shouldn't have any problems communicating with them.

You can talk English in Hesse without a problem, but it's better when you speak slowly, as many people are not confident about their English and do not want to embarrass themselves with a native speaker. In smaller towns and out in the country, it's more likely that you will encounter old people who cannot speak or understand English.

However, as students take English as a second language, you'll find that almost all young people speak English well, albeit possibly accented. Even slightly older people usually do have at least some command of English, and in the cities you should not be surprised to find a 60 year old who speaks English quite well.

You may be surprised at how friendly the people can be, as (like most Germans) the Hessians are very friendly and nice when you are friendly too with the exception of the Odenwald were there is a tendency to be suspicious of foreigners.

You can get some good tips on local events and places to visit from the locals if your take the time to ask.

Feel free to try out any German you have—either you'll get what you want, or at the least impress/amuse your victim!

Get in

By plane

International visitors will arrive mostly at Frankfurt Airport, the second largest airport in Europe and a major hub for the German carrier Lufthansa. Frankfurt's central station is less than 15 minutes away by subway.

Hahn, somewhat misleadingly officially called "Frankfurt Hahn" even though the hamlet is over 100 km away from Frankfurt, is a former military airfield being used by "no frills" low budget airlines. Getting from Hahn to Frankfurt takes about 90 minutes by bus (there is no train, the next station is about 9 km away from the airport).

By train

Regular and high-speed InterCity (Express) trains connect Hesse to the rest of the nation as well as to various international destinations, such as Vienna, Basel, Brussels and Amsterdam. TGV also connect Hesse to French cities like Paris Marseille and Strasbourg.

By car

The A3 and A5, crossing near Frankfurt, provide a fast way into and through Hesse.

Get around

There are large regional networks of public transport:

Be aware when using a car that Hessen likes to put speed cameras (tall thin cylindrical grey towers) not just on major roads and feeders into towns but also on county roads.






Local specialities include wine from grapes, especially white grapes, and from apples (a kind of cider). This apple wine (Ebbelwei or Ebbelwoi) may be enjoyed straight (pur) or mixed (gespritzt). The latter versions distinguish between "sweet" and "sour", i.e. mixed with either some citrus soda (Süßg'spritzter) or sparkling mineral water (Sauerg'spritzter).


Across the state and the country is a dense network of Youth Hostels (membership required).


Internet Cafes

Good luck if you're out of the major cities like Frankfurt or Wiesbaden.


Public telephones are rare in many areas, and to complicate matters there was a transition from coins to rechargeable/disposable cards a few years before mobile phones made public telephones mostly obsolete. You can buy public telephone cards at the Post or some shops. If you have a mobile phone that takes SIM cards, consider buying a disposable SIM at a mobile phone shop. In the case of an emergency, most people would let you use their mobile phone.


The number for the Police (Polizei) is 110, and for the fire department (Feuerwehr) and ambulance service 112. They can often speak some English.

Go next

As a very central state of Germany - and the site of its biggest airport -, this is a good starting point to explore the rest of the country.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Friday, January 08, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.