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North Hills Monthly

German Fairy Tale Route Makes for a Magical Trip

Nov 01, 2016 06:59AM ● By Vanessa Orr

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

I’ve always wanted to have a fairy-tale vacation, and when I woke up in rose-entwined tower room in the Sleeping Beauty castle in Sababurg, Germany, I knew that it had finally happened. I wasn’t as surprised as you might think, though, as I had been following in the footsteps of the Brothers Grimm along the German Fairy Tale Route.

The route, which runs about 372 miles (including numerous turn-offs) from Hanau to Bremerhaven, is full of picturesque landscapes, spectacular castles, narrow alleys and charming, timber-framed houses. It is also home to the legends that inspired the Grimm Brothers’ famous book, Children and Household Tales—tales that might be more familiar to Americans as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Mother Hulda and Sleeping Beauty, among others.

Homage is paid to all of these literary characters along the drive, which encompasses numerous towns including Marburg, where the Brothers Grimm studied from 1802-06, to Bergfreiheit, Bad Wildungen, Hessisch Lichtenau, Sababurg and Kassel. While I was not able to complete the full route on my trip, time spent in each of these areas helped me see just how the landscape influenced the brothers’ work—and many children’s nighttime fantasies.

Marburg is a charming university town that includes the Grimm Path, a winding, hilly walk up to Landgrave Castle, which now serves as a museum of cultural history after numerous incantations as a fortified castle, residence, garrison, prison and archive center. The path is decorated with fairytale figures along the walls, in gardens, and hanging on the eaves of houses, and it’s almost like a scavenger hunt to spot all of the fairy-tale references, from Cinderella’s bright red shoe to the magic mirror hanging among the vines along the castle’s stone walkway. The town is a mix of historical architecture and high-end shops, and the view is absolutely breathtaking when looking down on the city’s red rooftops from the castle above.

Bergfreiheit is all about Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and a stop into the Schneewittchenhaus, or the Snow White House, brings the story quickly to life. Located in what was once a miner’s one-room home, it features a small table with seven settings and seven small hoods hung up along the wall, which you can wear as you immerse yourself in the tale. A wonderful sculpture of the dwarves and Snow White can be found on the way to the ore mine, which you can tour while you’re in town. 

You can also visit Castle Friedrichstein on your way to Bad Wildungen, which is where Princess Margaretha von Waldeck once lived; the Brothers Grimm based their story of Snow White on the tragic real-life princess who was poisoned when Spain’s Prince Philip chose her over the English princess he was supposed to marry. 

One of my favorite towns was Hessisch Lichtenau, where you can follow the trail of painted feathers on the ground to find Mother Hulda and the Frau Holle Museum. Located at the base of the High Meissner, the mountain from which Mother Hulda shook the beds causing feathers to snow down upon the earth, the town is like taking a step back in time. I especially enjoyed walking through Frau Holle Park with the actress dressed as Mother Hulda and watching kids flock to her as if she were America’s Mickey Mouse.

I got my own taste of feeling like royalty during my stay in Sababurg, where you can actually sleep in a castle built in 1490. Seriously. The 17-room castle overlooks a stunning rose garden and the oldest nature reserve in Hesse where some of the trees are more than 800 years old. Briar Rose (the original Sleeping Beauty) and her prince tell their story to guests (in both German and English), and visitors can enjoy local delicacies in the gourmet restaurant on-site as well as libations from privately owned, family-run wineries.

The last stop on our all-too-short tour was Kassel, the capital of the Fairy Tale route. This is where the Brothers Grimm compiled their tales into their now-famous book, and it is also home to GRIMMWORLD Kassel, which opened in 2015. More urban than the other stops along the route, the city stands under the watchful eye of the Hercules monument that towers above the Wilhelmshöhe baroque hillside park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The view from the top of the park is amazing—just make sure to plan your trip on one of the days when the water is running through the numerous fountains so that you can see it in its full glory.

There is so much to see on the German Fairy Tale Route that I would suggest giving yourself a lot of time to wander through this magical part of the country.

There is so much to see on the German Fairy Tale Route that I would suggest giving yourself a lot of time to wander through this magical part of the country. To learn more, visit or

Hotel Marburger Hof:  +49 6421 590750
Gasthaus Zur Sonne:  +49 6421-991213

Sababurg Castle:  +49 (0) 5671-8080

Hotel Schweizer Hof:  +49 (0) 561/9369-9 
Gasthaus am Rammelsberg: 0561-3162730