The magnificent grounds of the 18th-century Schloss and the Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe, at the western edge of Kassel, are said to be Europe's largest hill park. If you have time, plan to spend an entire day at this UNESCO World Heritage Site, exploring its wonderful gardens, water features, museums, and castle. Wear good walking shoes and bring some water if you want to hike all the way up to the giant statue of Hercules that crowns the hilltop.
The Wilhelmshöher Park was laid out as a baroque park in the early 18th century, its elegant lawns separating the city from the thick woods of the Habichtswald (Hawk Forest). Schloss Wilhelmshöhe was added between 1786 and 1798. The great palace stands at the end of the 5-km-long (3-mi-long) Wilhelmshöher Allée, an avenue that runs straight as an arrow from one side of the city to the other.
Kassel's leading art gallery and the state art collection lie within Schloss Wilhelmshöhe as part of the Museumslandschaft Hessen Kassel.
Its collection includes 11 Rembrandts, as well as outstanding works by Rubens, Hals, Jordaens, Van Dyck, Dürer, Altdorfer, Cranach, and Baldung Grien.
Löwenburg. Amid the thick trees of the Wilhelmshöher Park, it comes as something of a surprise to see the turrets of a medieval castle breaking the harmony. There are more surprises at the Löwenburg, for this is not true medieval castle but a fanciful, stylized copy of a Scottish castle, built in 1793 (70 years after the Hercules statue that towers above it). The Löwenburg contains a collection of medieval armor and weapons, tapestries, and furniture. Schlosspark 9, 34131. 0561/3168–0244. www.museum-kassel.de. €4 including tour. Mar.–Oct., Tues.–Sun. 10–5; Nov.–Feb., Fri.–Sun. 10–4.
Statue of Hercules. The giant 18th-century statue of Hercules that crowns the Wilhelmshöhe heights is an astonishing sight. You can climb the stairs of the statue's castlelike base—and the statue itself—for a rewarding look over the entire city. At 2:30 pm on Sunday and Wednesday from mid-May through September, water gushes from a fountain beneath the statue, rushes down a series of cascades to the foot of the hill, and ends its precipitous journey in a 175-foot-high jet of water. A café lies a short walk from the statue. Schlosspark 3, 34131. 0561/312–456. Hercules Octagon €3. Mar.–Oct., Tues.–Sun. 10–5.