It’s hard to believe that this gorgeous place is even real! A town that has been pulled directly from the pages of a fairytale, or perhaps a set for a movie, but definitely not an actual town with almost 1000 years of history! Idstein is a proud member of the “Deutsche Fachwerk Straße” (German Timber-Framed Road), bursting with history, colorful half timber-framed houses, winding cobble stoned streets and an enchanting castle towering over the Altstadt.
Idstein is located in the beautiful Taunus mountains. Located just outside Frankfurt, the Taunus is part of the Rhenish Slate Mountains. A low lying mountain range, about 75 km long and 35 km wide, with three peaks reaching 800 meters or higher. The Taunus is home to two nature parks: the Taunus Nature Park, Hesse’s second largest nature park, and the Rhine-Taunus Nature Park. Undoubtedly, not only is this area dotted with quaint villages, but is also an extremely popular area for outdoor activities like hiking and biking.
Here are my 17 Must See Sights in the town of Idstein. Come take a look, leisurely stroll the alley ways and let yourself be transported in to the pages of your favorite fairytale.
1. Envy and Fright Heads
While strolling, keep your eyes open for “Envy Heads” and “Fright Heads”. These faces are mounted on the facades of several buildings and meant to protect the home owners. The Envy Heads ward off any hatred and to protect against envy and jealousy. The Fright Heads are meant to protect the inhabitants from demons, ghosts and other forms of evil.
2. Take a Stroll through the Alleyways
Every ounce of this town is so beautiful. Make sure you spent some time just wandering.
The Koenig-Adolf Platz is the heart of the Altstadt. It is surrounded by gorgeous half timber-framed houses, most which date back to the 1600.
The Killingerhaus is one of the most beautiful half timber-framed houses found in Idstein. The town clerk Johann Conrad Killing and his wife Anna Margarethe Loeber, daughter of the Nassau Governor of Bad Ems, had this house built in 1615. The amount of ornate wood carvings on the house represents the sheer wealth of the owners. The house had various owners over the centuries until 1916 when the city acquired it.
- Today, the building houses the towns Tourist Information Office. Stop by for maps, brochures and souvenirs.
Location: König-Adolf-Platz 12
5. Unionskirche (Union Church)
Just past the Killingerhaus you will find Union Church, built in 1340. The Church has a rather plain-looking exterior, but the inside is gorgeous. Make sure you look up to see the thirty-eight canvas paintings which adorn the ceiling. And in 1669, the church was coverted into a sermon and burial church for the counts and princes of Nassau. As a result, excessive use of marble from the Lahn Region, was used to redecorate the interior.
Location: Union, Platz der Nassauischen
6. The Rathaus (Town Hall)
The building was built in 1698 with the financial help from the Count of Nassau. Initially, there was only two offices inside, because the remaining rooms of the building were reserved for the fire engine, the flour scales, a guardroom, a prison cell, living quarters for the town clerk and the granary. In 1928, the building was seriously damaged by a rock fall and in 1947 by a fire.
Location: König-Adolf-Platz 2
7. Schiefes Haus (Crooked House)
The Schiefes Haus was built in 1727 by the mayor of the town militia, Johann Jacob Nicolay. Early on, radical changes were made to the structure of the building. The diagonal bracings were removed from the abnormally tall structure of the time, and caused the building to drastically lean to the left.
Location: Rodergasse 1/3
8. Kanzleitor (Gatehouse)
The former Gatehouse, was constructed in 1497 under the reign of Count Philipp of Nassau-Idstein and served as the count’s chambers. The Gatehouse had several other uses as well, a guardroom and prison, torture chamber, granary and living quarters for the clerks. Today, it houses the Idstein registry office and in the larger festive rooms marriage ceremonies are held. Walk though the archway and on the other side you will find the Original Castle and the Witches Tower.
Location: Schossgasse 20
9. Burg Idstein (Castle Idstein)
Although the origin of the castle are in question, it is believed that the ancestors of Udalrich and his brother Konrad von Etichestein built the castle sometime around 1102. In 1255 the Counts of Nassau divided their estates and Idstein became the major focal point of power in the Taunus region and beyond to the south of the river Lahn.
- Today, the old castle is connected with the town hall and are used by the city administration.
Location: Schossgasse 20
10. The Altes Amtsgericht (Old Courthouse)
The Altes Amtsgericht was built in 1588 by Count Johann-Ludwig I of Nassau-Idstein. It was used as a court house from 1867-1938. Today, the city administration uses the different floors for various purposes.
11. The Hexenturm (Witches Tower)
The tower is Idstein’s oldest remaining monument and is the star landmark of the town. Built during several construction phases, starting in 1170 and finally being completed in 1500. After many smaller alterations and extensions, it gained its current form in 1810.
Today, the watchtower is referred to as the “Witches Tower”, renamed after the towns notorious witch trials. Between 1675 and 1677, the town accused 35 women and 8 men of witchcraft. They were charged, tortured, tried and executed. On the castle wall below the tower there is a plaque commemorating those who lost their lives.
If you are interested in climbing the tower, ask at the tourism office for the medieval key to the tower!
12. The Residenzschloss (The Palace)
The Palace was constructed between 1614 and 1634 for Count Ludwig, and his son Count Johann. In 1721, the family line of Nassau-Idstein died out and in the years that followed it was used for many different things. Among these different uses were, a convalescent home, a military hospital for reservists, military barracks, a country hostel, a teachers training college and since 1946, it has been the Pestalozzi Grammar School.
The Palace can only be visited by guided tours, but the Palace garden is open daily to the public.
Location: Schlossgasse 22
13. The Schlossgarten (Palace Garden)
The Palace Garden garden can be traced back to at least 1566. Today, the garden is open to the public and redesigned according to its original design.
14. The Tithe Barn
The Tithe Barn was built in 1745 inside the castle walls as a part of the count’s corral. The Tithe corn (a required corn contribution enforced by law for the Count) was heaped up and stored on the top two floors and on the ground floor were the royal stables. After the fall of the Idstein-Nassau Royal family the barn became a veterinary hospital. In 1930, the top floors were transformed into several apartments.
Location: Schlossgasse 8
15. The Druckerei (Printing Firm Grandpierre)
This beautiful building was built in 1612 and was run as a tavern until 1720. For the next 100 years it served as a private residence. In 1818, it served as the agricultural institute, from 1835 – 1898 it was the “Tax Collectors Office“, and in 1898 it became the printing firm Grandpierre.
Location: Obergasse 16
16. The Höerhof
In 1620, Count Ludwig II gave Henrich Heer (the architect of the Idstein Palace) this empty site on Obergasse. Heer designed his house with a similar appearance to the palace. From 1910 – 1990 the house belonged to the painter Ernst Toepfer and his family. Since 1992 it has been a lovely four star restaurant and hotel. Check the Höerhof website to make reservations.
Location: Obergasse 26
17. The Marketplatz (Market Square)
As the town expanded, this area became the site of the “lower market place”. The colorful half timber-framed buildings surrounding the market square date back to the beginning of the 18th century. Floods were a regular occurrence in the square. To solve the problem a “gap” in the originally closed group of houses to the north had to be made to provide an escape for the floodwater. The fountain found in the market square is made of Lahn marble. This is where the magical Christmas market is set up every year.
Best Time to Visit
Every season has something special to offer visitors. In the summer, flower boxes are overflowing with blooms, the town is bustling and the street cafes are packed. In the fall, the weather is perfect of a stroll or hike and the fall colors in the surrounding mountains are breathtaking. The winter is cold, but offers the loveliest Christmas Market and beautiful decorations. In the spring, the crowds are light, and the cafes are opening up as the the weather slowly warms.
How to Get There
Arriving by car is the quickest option and offers the most flexibility. It takes approximately 30 mins from Frankfurt. Parking shouldn’t be an issue; there are several parking garages and street parking throughout the town. Map
Taking the train is another excellent option. From Frankfurt Main Hauptbahnhof to Idstein (Taunus) with the regional (RB) train takes approximately 40 mins. Upon arrival, you’ll need to walk about 15-20 minutes to the town center. Find times and tickets on Omio
Travel Planning Resources
Planning a trip? These are some of my favourite travel planning and booking resources!
- Tourist Information: located Killingerhaus, König-Adolf-Platz 65510 Idstein
- Hotels.com: The best place to book hotels and hostels. Save up to 25% on mobile exclusive offers!
- Get your guide: One of my favorites for booking day tours and tickets!
- Germany travel books: – My favorite are the DK Eyewitness travel guides
- Omio: Find time tables and buy tickets all from your phone. Available in English, as a website or App
- Moovitapp.com: A great resource that lists exactly step by step which bus, U-bahn, or S-bahn or combination of them you need to take to get to your destination! In English and available as a website or App
- Rentalcars.com: Free cancellations on most bookings, world’s biggest car rental booking service, with over 60,000 locations worldwide
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