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Giessen: Friendly town surrounded by beautiful countryside

Giessen is famous for stock cubes, theatre people and the world's first ever mathematics museum. The city is a green haven full of creative talent, known for its wild student parties, and the benefits of being close to the city of Frankfurt. The beautiful surrounding countryside with its medieval castles is ideal for taking time out.

by Sophie Nagel

Main building of Justus Liebig University Giessen © Nagel/DAAD
Main building of Justus Liebig University Giessen . © Nagel/DAAD

Facts & Figures

Inhabitants:
76,000
Students:
41,200
Universities:
3
Monthly rent:
279 €
Tip:
Hire a canoe with some friends and go on a tour on the Lahn river!
Website:
www.giessen.de

Welcome to Giessen

You'll like it in this friendly university town in the middle of Germany. Students here have at least one bike, and it won't be long before you get to know fellow students. There are plenty of places where you'll regularly run into each other during your free time.

The history of the town of Giessen is heavily influenced by science. This is where chemist Justus von Liebig invented a meat extract, a kind of seasoning used in soups. Justus von Liebig lent his name to the town's university, one of the oldest, most venerable universities in Germany, and a museum in Giessen is dedicated to him, the Liebig-Museum. The town also boasts the world's first ever mathematics museum, the mathematikum.

Zeughaus © Nagel/DAAD
Zeughaus . © Nagel/DAAD

Bruchstrasse is famous for its fine architecture. The "Altes Schloss" and Zeughaus on Brandplatz are prime examples of past eras. The "Leib'sche Haus" is one of the oldest and biggest half-timbered houses in the state of Hesse. The Botanical Garden from the year 1609 is the oldest university garden in Germany.

The townscape is also influenced by the shopping streets Seltersweg and "Elefantenklo". "Elefantenklo" is a footbridge over a crossroads that has three holes. The entire construction is disproportionately large in relation to the rest of the town. The "Drei Schwätzer" is another eye-catcher. Created in 1983, these bronze sculptures on Plockstrasse answer to the names of Mariechen, Waldemar and Justus. Like the three figures, the people of Giessen often stop to chat with each other at the weekly market.

The Drei Schwätzer © Nagel/DAAD
The Drei Schwätzer . © Nagel/DAAD

The surrounding area boasts some impressive castles and palaces. If you fancy a trip back to the Middle Ages, visit  Gleiberg-Castle, "Kloster Schiffenberg" or the medieval market in Staufenberg. Traditional festivals are regularly celebrated in the villages near Giessen. In Giessen itself, the Landmannstraßenfest and "Bruchstraßenfest" are very popular. These events give you some idea of what life was like a hundred years ago, and you can also go to concerts there with local bands.

Living in Giessen

In addition to medicine, Giessen is famous for theatre studies. "Oh, the theatre people!" – you might hear. Students have a significant impact on the cultural landscape in Giessen: they make use of empty buildings to organise and host exhibitions and festivals.

Gleiberg-Castle © Nagel/DAAD
Gleiberg-Castle . © Nagel/DAAD

Top venues currently include Moltkestraße 11 with its café, the old "Alte Kupferschmiede" and "Schanzenstraße 1". The "Hausgemachtes" label regularly hosts entertaining evenings at "Café Zeitlos". At Lokal International, every evening has its own motto and this is a place where you can meet like-minded people. Members of the literati like to gather at "Café de Paris" on Wieseck. When the weather's good, you can forget about everyday stress under the blossoming trees.

"Elefantenklo" . © Klaus Fohl/wikicommons

The town on the river Lahn is famous for its many students but shortage of clubs. This is why private student house parties take place almost on a daily basis. And there's one thing students agree on: these parties are better than any dance bar! Ludwigstrasse with its bars and beer gardens is a reliable address for parties. On Riegelpfad, just a few hundred metres away, there's a popular venue with a nostalgic atmosphere: at Klimbim, you can play table football, at the weekends it's always crowded and smoke-filled. Students who like to dance hang out at MUK, Monkey's, Ulenspiegel and AK 44. But you can also get to the city of Frankfurt in around 50 minutes by train.

There are several popular eateries on Plockstrasse: you can get fresh pasta at "Gianoli" and the best ice-cream next door in "Heisszeit", including such flavours as goat's milk, honey or basil. On Bahnhofstrasse, "Gutburgerlich" is a good place for freshly prepared burgers.

My tip

On a nice day, hire a canoe with a few friends. You can go as far as Wetzlar on the Lahn and have a picnic on the way. You can get back to Giessen on your Semesterticket and then spend the evening here.

Regional cuisine such as "Linas Schweinebraten" or "Handkäs mit Musik" (sour milk cheese coated in onion and caraway seeds) is available at Hawwerkasten. And summer wouldn't be summer without a beer garden. After a night of partying, many students stop off at "Dönerdreieck" ("donor kebab triangle") on Asterweg, strictly speaking, now a pentagon rather than a triangle.

When the sun's shining, you can lie in the sun on the Lahnwiesen. Slacklines are strung up and beer bottles are placed in the river to cool. For a brief break in the city centre, Zeughauswiese behind the Botanical Garden is a good place to go. You can water ski or wind surf at the Heuchelheimer Seen, and climb on Schiffenberg.

Interview with Lei from China

Lei Huang from China is 31 years old and is doing a PhD on Communication between the Chinese and Germans at Justus Liebig University, Giessen.

Picture of Lei from China © privat
Lei from China . © privat

Why did you decide to do a PhD in Giessen?

After spending two years in Magdeburg where I did a collaborative Master's degree in Vocational Education, I decided I wanted to stay in Germany. I was then accepted by the International Graduate Centre (GCSC) in Giessen and offered a scholarship for the first year.

What should future students organise before they come to Germany?

You need certified copies of all Chinese documents in English or German! For everyday life, I think it's really important that you can cook. If you eat doner kebabs everyday, it soon gets expensive. For Chinese students, it's also useful to have a mobile phone from home because of the keys.

Theatre © Nagel/DAAD
Theatre . © Nagel/DAAD

Did you have a part-time job?

I worked for a year as a student research assistant at the GCSC. I now sometimes work as an interpreter at trade fairs in Frankfurt.

Why is Giessen a good place to study?

The town is very friendly! I feel very safe here. I think supervision at the university is really good, and it's not chaotic. Giessen is definitely a university town, I think that's great!

Behind the Zeughaus  © Nagel/DAAD
Behind the Zeughaus . © Nagel/DAAD

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

There are very many international students in Giessen and around 300 from China. We all celebrate Chinese festivals together! You can get to know other students on trips organised by the GSCS or International Office. The International pub is a good meeting place. Tandem partners are also a very helpful way of discovering the town!