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Marburg: Fairytale university town

Marburg is a typical university town, shaped very much by the university and all the people who work and study there. Student parties are a regular fixture on the town's varied cultural agenda. In the picturesque Altstadt with its steep steps, narrow streets and fine half-timbered houses, you feel almost like a character in a medieval fairytale.

by Sophie Nagel

Landgrave Castle © Nagel/DAAD
Landgrave Castle . © Nagel/DAAD

Facts & Figures

Inhabitants:
72,000
Students:
26,062
Universities:
2
Monthly rent:
315 €
Tip:
Try the local speciality "Rostiger Nagel" at Frazzkeller!
Website:
www.marburg.de

Welcome to Marburg

Marburg is a small but vibrant town in the heart of Germany. Situated on the river Lahn not far from Frankfurt am Main, it's a place that attracts all kinds of "scenes": artists, new agers, hipsters, punks and frat students. "Other towns have a university, Marburg is a university" – this is a popular saying in Marburg. Students make up a good quarter of the population. The university shapes the townscape and cultural scene and is also one of the region's biggest employers.

Steps in the old town © Nagel/DAAD
Steps in the old town . © Nagel/DAAD

You'll be struck not only by the many different kinds of people here, but also by Marburg's distinctive architecture: "Venice is famous for its thousands of bridges, Marburg for its steps and alleys," people say. The path up to the Landgrave Castle is very steep. On your way up through the upper town, you'll walk through lots of narrow alleyways past well-kept half-timbered houses. A stroll through Marburg becomes a journey through a medieval fairytale.

The castle perched on the top of Schlossberg is visible from a long way off. You reach the Südstadt via Hirsefeldsteg. One of the town's most prominent landmarks is the St. Elizabeth's Church, which dates back to the 13th century. The Marktplatz with its 16th century town hall is another especially beautiful part of town. In the winter, a Christmas market is held here.

Fairy Tale Route: The Wolf and the Seven Young Kids © Nagel/DAAD
Fairy Tale Route: The Wolf and the Seven Young Kids . © Nagel/DAAD

In the early 19th century, Marburg was the home of two famous law students, the brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. In 1812, they published one of the most important books in the German language: "Children's and Household Tales". This is why this small town on the river Lahn is today part of the Deutsche Märchenstraße, or The Fairy Tale Route. From Steinweg up to the Landgrave Castle, you can follow the Grimm-Dich-Pfad and look for signs of times long gone.

Near the main station are the grounds of the former Waggonhalle. Today, these old halls house an extensive cultural centre with alternative theatre, café, climbing wall and regular open air flea markets. Old things have been transformed into new things and used to create an interesting new venue for cultural events and social meetings. This is typical of Marburg: history exists here side by side with a younger scene made up of students, artists and film-makers.

More photos

Living in Marburg

Even though tourists flock to Marburg, you can still live here relatively cheaply. It's not always easy finding the right kind of accommodation, but the university and its International Office are happy to help you.

Flea market in the Waggonhalle © Nagel/DAAD
Flea market in the Waggonhalle . © Nagel/DAAD

Marburg attaches great importance to a rich cultural scene. Whether you want to explore the Grimm-Dich-Pfad, take in a theatrical performance at the Waggonhalle or Hessisches Landestheater or attend a concert at Trauma, where you're invited to join in yourself: student life here is never boring. There is regular live music at Knubbel, while Kulturladen KFZ hosts concerts and poetry slams. Popular eateries include the Ufercafé, Kostbar, the bistro Early's and Paprica with its special offers.

My tip

Get to know the town's culinary specialities. These include the "Rostiger Nagel" at Frazzkeller, a beer on the Lahntreppen in front of the canteen and an "Auflauf", or baked dish, as a main meal!

And for a small town, the night life here is pretty good too. It's traditional to drink a "Rostiger Nagel" (or "rusty nail") in Delirium mit Frazzkeller. Spock stays open late and has a great bar as well as table football. Quod libet attracts visitors with its "Craft Beer", and in the summer you can sit outside in the beer garden. For dancing, students like to go to Trauma, also known as G-Werk, or Nachtsalon. Studying in Marburg wouldn't be half as enjoyable without the legendary student house parties! If you get an invitation, be sure to go!

In the summer months, Marburg benefits from its rural surroundings which are ideal for cycle tours. Canoeing or paddle boat trips on the Lahn are another fun way of spending a day. Your Semesterticket also allows you to travel other places in the state of Hesse quickly and easily.

Interview with José from Mexico

José García Alanis is 25 years old and comes from Mexico. He's studying Psychology at the Philipps-Universität Marburg.

Picture of José from Mexico © Nagel/DAAD
José from Mexico . © Nagel/DAAD

Why did you decide to study in Marburg?

I did a school exchange in Marburg for ten months in 2006, and I really liked it here. Thanks to my host family, I already had good contacts here. They also encouraged me to study psychology. After I finished the Studienkolleg, I was able to register at university.

What should future students organise before they come to Germany?

You can only get a lot of the documents you need, for example for a visa, in your home country. But being prepared also means knowing exactly what you want to do in Germany. It's also useful to be able to speak some German, people like that. If it's financially possible, it's good if you can visit Germany beforehand so that you can take a closer look at everything.

Narrow street in the old town © Nagel/DAAD
Narrow street in the old town . © Nagel/DAAD

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

If you don't have any contacts here, it's more difficult finding somewhere to live. So you have to get to know people as quickly as possible! I was disappointed by the latent ignorance of some people towards foreigners. Although Marburg is a "leftist stronghold", I forever hear comments like "This is my favourite Mexican", and that bothers me. I don't want to be seen as "the foreigner" any more, but as a person, a good student.

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

I now have three student research jobs. I spent three years working as a cleaner in a cinema, and then at the ticket counter. That really influenced my work ethic. I learnt that I have to earn recognition. The International Office is always a good place to go if you have questions and problems, and they can probably help if you're looking for a job.

Surrounding of Marburg © Nagel/DAAD
Surrounding of Marburg . © Nagel/DAAD

Will you stay in Germany? What are you going to do next?

I'd like to do a PhD in Germany. I really like Scandinavia too, but for the time being, I want to stay here. The friendliness of the people plays an important role in terms of where I decide to live.

Why is Marburg a good place to study?

It's a small town that's full of many interesting people! Every second person here has something to do with the university. They either study or work here. It's a very friendly town and now my little sister actually lives here too.

For me, studying in Germany means ...

Freedom, opportunities, variety!