Situated on the edge of the Palatinate Forest in Germany’s Bundesland is the historic city of Kaiserslautern. It’s home to an atmospheric 9th century centre and numerous castle ruins, together with one of Germany’s most appealing football grounds.
Although Kaiserslautern was extensively damaged during wartime bombing, a scattering of historical landmarks remain. These include the ruins of Emperor Barbarossa’s Kaiserpfalz castle which have been transformed into the Count Palatine Hall, as well as those of Hohenecken Castle which overlook the city from Schlossberg hill. Other historic buildings of note include the Spinnrädl restaurant which is one of the oldest surviving timber-framed houses in the city and first mentioned on a 1742 map, as well as the Renaissance-style Fruchthalle, designed on Florence’s Palazzo Medici. Kaiserslautern’s modern town hall is one of the tallest in the European Union, with fantastic views across the city from its 21st floor, while the 92.5-metre spire of the Roman Catholic Marienkirche dominates the city centre. The Stadtmuseum at the bottom of Steinstraße offers visitors an insight into Kaiserslautern’s history, while the Museum Palatine Gallery houses an impressive collection of artworks and sculptures. Kaiserslautern is undeniably proud of their football team, FC Kaiserslautern, with a museum dedicated to the club’s triumphs and tragedies being an essential stop for football fanatics, together with a visit to their home ground at Fritz Walter Stadion which is considered one of Europe’s most atmospheric. Kaiserslautern’s botanical gardens are also renowned for their tranquil Japanese gardens, the largest of their kind in Europe, while the nearby Palatinate Forest is traversed by walking trails and dotted with picturesque lakes.
Although Kaiserslautern boasts one of the largest military airports in Europe at Ramstein Air Base, there is no commercial airport servicing the city and train is the most convenient way to access it. The S-Bahn connects the city with Neustadt, Mannheim and Heidelberg and regular private buses serve Frankfurt, while the city itself is compact enough to explore on foot.
There is evidence of human settlement in the area that is now Kaiserslautern dating back to at least 800 BC, and it was named for the hunting retreat of the 12th century Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. His influence extends to the city’s nickname of “Barbarossa City”, and the open-mouthed pike which appears on its coat of arms is believed to have been his favourite dish.