Darmstadt: A friendly town with lots of cultural activities

Darmstadt is a city characterised by magnificent Art Nouveau villas and thousands upon thousands of roses. Cosy cafés, beautiful parks, giant Californian trees and international festivals ensure you feel at home in this university town in the heart of Germany.

by Sophie Nagel

Waldspirale by Hundertwasser © Alex Deppert
Waldspirale by Hundertwasser . © Alex Deppert

Facts & Figures

Monthly rent:
348 €
Have a relaxing evening with a picnic, a good movie and a refreshing drink!

Welcome to Darmstadt

Darmstadt, the "city of science", is one of Germany's most attractive cities. It is home to numerous research institutes that have produced many well-known scientists. Situated in the southern part of the German state of Hesse, Darmstadt is also considered the centre of the Art Nouveau movement and attracts art lovers and theatre-goers alike.

Darmstadt is not a typical industrial city but boasts lots of green areas where you can relax and unwind. Darmstadt is particularly proud of its artists' colony, the Mathildenhöhe, which was established over 100 years ago. The "Hochzeitsturm", or "wedding tower" and magnificent artists' workshops next to the Russian Chapel create a very special atmosphere. From here, you can enjoy a wonderful view of the city centre and discover a number of villas that are classified as listed buildings.

Mathildenhöhe © Nagel/DAAD
Mathildenhöhe . © Nagel/DAAD

North of the city centre is the building complex Waldspirale, an especially representative example of the revolutionary and colourful architecture of famous architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser. Just outside the city boundaries is the Park Rosenhöhe with the landmark "Rosarium" and Rose Dome. Between May and November, over 10,000 roses come into flower here. Expansive lawns and shady spots make the park a beautiful and peaceful place to relax.

In the city centre, behind the Technical University, is Herrngarten, Darmstadt's biggest and oldest park. This park was established back in the 16th century. Darmstadt has fifteen twin towns and frequently hosts intercultural festivals where you can sample international dishes and get to know other cultures.

Rose Dome © Nagel/DAAD
Rose Dome . © Nagel/DAAD

Living in Darmstadt

The Schlossgarten in the city centre is a popular meeting place for students. Here, you can watch the sun set from the sun deck or sit in the shade of the trees in the beer garden. You can also order breakfast here until 3 pm! Later in the evening, you can visit the Schlosskeller which hosts all kinds of reasonably priced cultural events, concerts, parties and club evenings. In the summer months, the Schlosskeller becomes an admission-free open-air cinema on Wednesdays.

If you like singing, try out the Irish pub "An Sibin". There's karaoke here on Thursday evenings and live music at the weekends. The "Goldene Krone" is a good place for dancing. If your German's up to par, visit the Staatstheater with its theatrical productions, opera and dance performances, or the smaller fringe theatres. The "Comedy Hall" in the south of the city is also a popular venue. If you'd like to perform yourself, why not join the Technical University's Schauspielstudio! The "Partyamt" website will help you plan your evening's entertainment.

My tip

After a picnic with friends in the Prinz-Emil-Garten next to the Gartenschlösschen, you can take in a film at the small arthouse cinema Rex and then stop off in the Schlossgarten for a refreshing drink.

If you want to go swimming or meet up with friends, a trip to the natural swimming lake on the eastern edge of the city centre is well worth a visit. The "Große Woog" was developed back in 1567 and offers two bathing areas and an island. If it's raining but you still want to get some exercise, check out the university's numerous free sports activities. The university also has its own swimming pool. More expensive but rather special is the Art Nouveau "Jugendstilbad" where you can swim and treat yourself to a sauna.

If you don't fancy cooking yourself, you can get typical German fare and fresh beer from the "Hausbrauerei" right next to the Schlossgarten. In the Ratskeller on Marktplatz, relax in the old town hall's historical vaulted cellar or outside on the terrace and enjoy a view of the market fountain and Residenzschloss. Traditional home fare is also served alongside more exotic dishes at "Vis à Vis" on Fuhrmannstrasse.

If it's coffee and cake you're after, "Café Gretchen" on Spessartring in the north-eastern part of town is worth a visit. The cheesecake served with seasonal berries is especially good! Or go to the market and treat yourself to some fresh strawberries. A must during a good German summer!

Interview with Asalkhon from Uzbekistan

Asalkhon Shukurova from Uzbekistan is 29 years old and studying for a Master's degree in Governance and Public Policy at the TU Darmstadt.

Asalkhon from Uzbekistan © Nagel/DAAD
Asalkhon from Uzbekistan . © Nagel/DAAD

Why did you decide to study in Darmstadt?

I wanted to study in Germany because I associate life here with freedom, being able to travel freely. For example, Paris isn't that far away. To get into the university, I had to take a preparatory course at a "Studienkolleg". I was sent to Darmstadt to do this. I really liked it here so I decided to stay.

What should future students organise before they come to Germany?

Everything is easier if you have all the documents you need beforehand. It's really important to coordinate dates because in Germany deadlines really are deadlines! It may also be less expensive to take a language course in your home country. Being well prepared definitely saves a lot of time and money.

Schlossgarten © Nagel/DAAD
Schlossgarten . © Nagel/DAAD

What was difficult for you when you first arrived in Germany?

The picture I had of Germany was slightly unrealistic. At first I thought money grew on trees here! It wasn't easy making friends here either. I had to learn to distinguish between party friends and fellow students. It's also useful to say when you don't understand something. It avoids misunderstandings.

Do you work part-time? How can students find a job?

For the past five years, I've been involved in various projects where I am mainly responsible for looking after international students. I'm currently working at the International Office at the TU Darmstadt where I supervise international students. I've also worked quite a bit in catering, for example in the "Schlosskeller". Whether you can work as a waiter in a restaurant or an assistant at university depends on how well you speak German. In time, the quality of your job definitely improves.

Ratskeller © Nagel/DAAD
Ratskeller . © Nagel/DAAD

What most surprised you about life in Darmstadt?

It's a very friendly city. When you're on Luisenplatz, you soon bump into somebody you know. And there are lots of nice spots to discover. I particularly like Park Rosenhöhe with its giant Californian trees. That's where I like to go jogging with friends.

What's the best way of getting to know other students?

The university organises lots of activities such as salsa classes which you can go to. It's also worth joining a learning group. This helps you get to know fellow students and makes it easier to prepare for exams. But, of course, parties are also a very important way of meeting people!

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