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Kassel: A hub of contemporary art

In Kassel, everything revolves around art. It's the home of documenta, the world's most important exhibition of modern art. Kassel is located in the heart of Germany – making travelling to other parts of the country quick and easy. With its numerous public parks, you can relax and unwind right in the middle of town. And because of its compact size, everything is within easy walking distance.

by Corinna Schlun

Fridericianum © leafnode/wikicommons
Fridericianum . © leafnode/wikicommons

Facts & Figures

Inhabitants:
190,765
Students:
25,100
Universities:
2
Monthly rent:
299 €
Tip:
Have a picnic with your friends in the beautiful Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe!
Website:
www.kassel.de

Welcome to Kassel

Kassel is situated in the heart of Germany and is the economic and cultural centre of the northern part of the state of Hesse. Almost completely destroyed by bombs in the Second World War, you will struggle to find many historical buildings here. But Kassel more than makes up for this with its numerous parks and wooded areas, making it one of the greenest cities in the country.

Kassel is clearly influenced by art. The city is famous for hosting "documenta", the world's most important exhibition of modern and contemporary art. Every five years famous artists display their work throughout the town over a period of 100 days. The "Museum der 100 Tage" was built specially for documenta. During the exhibition, documenta attracts almost a million visitors to Kassel.

Transformers statue  © Schlun/DAAD
Transformers statue . © Schlun/DAAD

And students are also drawn to the city because of the exhibition. Some former exhibits have since become permanent features here, most notably Joseph Beuys' 7,000 Oaks which were planted all over the city in 1982 on the occasion of "documenta 7". But the city also has other attractions. For example, the 10-metre high Transformer Statue by a Chinese artist. It was brought to Kassel for the world premiere of the film "Transformers" in 2012.

Kassel was rebuilt in the 1950s after the war and today's townscape is characterised very much by the typical charm of 1950s architecture. The first pedestrian zone in Germany, the “Treppenstrasse”, was built in Kassel during reconstruction. It’s a shopping street that is now under preservation order. Amidst the more modern architecture, you can spot the occasional Renaissance and Baroque building, such as Ständehaus on Ständeplatz or the "Orangerie" on Karlsaue.

Treppenstrasse © Dirk Schmidt
Treppenstrasse . © Dirk Schmidt

One particularly attractive part of Kassel is the Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe, which covers 2.4 square kilometres and is the biggest park on a hill in Europe. With wide expanses of lawn, countless fountains and the city's landmark, the Herkules statue, the park is undoubtedly one of the region's most beautiful attractions.

Kassel is situated in the heart of Germany and has good train connections. So it's the ideal place to travel from!

Fairytales play an important role in Kassel because this is where the brothers Grimm studied. Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm were the authors of such fairytales as "Hansel and Gretel" and "The Valiant Little Tailor". This is why the Deutsche Märchenstrasse, or Street of Fairytales, passes through Kassel.

Herkules statue © Kaufhold
Herkules statue . © Kaufhold

600 kilometres long, it goes from Hanau, near Frankfurt am Main, to Bremen. Apart from the hiking trail, Kassel also has a Brüder Grimm-Museum where you can find out about the lives of the two brothers. Several of their stories were penned in Kassel, including "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves". Thanks to their studies of the German language, the Brothers Grimm are considered to be the founding fathers of German studies.

Another annual highlight is Connichi, Germany's biggest anime convention, which is organised by anime enthusiasts. Some 15,000 fans flock to Kassel dressed as their favourite animated characters.

Living in Kassel

Nothing is very far away in Kassel, and the best way to get about is either on foot or by bike. If you don't fancy walking, you always can take a tram, which you're entitled to use free of charge as a student.

After a hard day's work, you can get some exercise in one of the university's sports courses. All kinds of sport are offered, from gymnastics to canoeing. Courses are soon full so sign up quickly!

My tip

You've really arrived in Kassel if you've had a picnic in the Bergpark with your friends!

If you want to relax, try out the popular student "Xallo Bar". Here, you're sure to find something to suit your taste: salads and regional dishes, such as the famous stuffed pasta. Then you can party until dawn in one of the student clubs; "K 19" is a particularly popular one.

Interview with Sara from Spain

Sara Mehrgut is 22 years old and comes from Spain. She is studying Fine Art.

Picture of Sara from Spain © Sara Mehrgut
Sara from Spain . © Sara Mehrgut

Why did you decide to study in Kassel?

I decided to study in Kassel because this is where documenta takes place. It's the most important international exhibition of contemporary art in the world. This was a bonus point because I'm studying art. The University of Kassel also has an excellent reputation. Kassel is also in the middle of Germany, which makes it easy to get to other parts of the country.

How did you prepare for your study programme in Germany?

I learnt German while I was studying in Spain. I also decided to come to Germany in the holidays and worked as an au pair here. This is how I got to know the culture, the town and the language before the semester started.

Bergpark © Lloyd Morgan
Bergpark . © Lloyd Morgan

Was it easy to find an apartment? And how did you look for accommodation?

During my studies, I shared two different apartments with other students. I found both through friends. But I also looked on the internet. Some websites are very useful.

How do you find life here?

It's really interesting finding out what it's like to live with people of different nationalities. I like the atmosphere of respect and trust that it generates.

What's your student life like in Kassel?

It's very easy to get from one place to another on the tram in Kassel. On an average day, I go to my courses and work in the library. Most students eat together in the canteen. The food there is really good, and varied and cheap. It's very convenient. In the afternoons, I study, go for a walk in the beautiful parks, attend a sports course at uni or I go to work. I've had a really good part-time job at a printer's since the beginning of the year. It's easy for students in Germany to find work. Thanks to this job and my Erasmus scholarship, I can finance my course and various trips. Kassel is a university town so there are lots of cultural events and festivals going on here.

What struck you most when you came to Germany?

I was very surprised by the climate and the character of the people here. I am very happy to be here but I do miss the sun.

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