Experience Germany Like a Local

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A Fall Visit to the Palmengarten in Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Enjoying the dahlias in bloom, cooler weather, and an expansive greenhouse complex while exploring the historic Palmengarten in Frankfurt am Main.

If you’re looking for a tranquil, breath of fresh air while exploring the skyscraper city Frankfurt am Main, I have the place for you. In the middle of the city, is a large, historic, landscaped park showcasing a large greenhouse complex, gardens, playground, lake, and more. Like many of Frankfurt’s attractions, Palmengarten has always been a public park supported by the citizens of Frankfurt. A joint stock company was founded in order to acquire the famous plant collection of the Duke Adolph of Nassau (who found himself on the losing side of a war and needed to sell), and Heinrich Siesmayer, a landscape gardener laid out the initial design for the Palmengarten in 1869 in an English garden style. It's easy to forget that in those times, a majority of the plants on display had never seen before as they were from inaccessible, far away countries. Today, with global travel becoming easier for more people, it's still fascinating to see faraway habits recreated in the middle of Germany. It's possible to visit all of the exhibits in roughly two hours. Check the calendar to see if there are any temporary exhibits being shown in the Palm House.

As a photographer, there was beauty everywhere and I had so much fun shooting plants I’d never seen before in such a calm environment. I’m excited to share my best shots from our visit.

The main entrance to the Frankfurt am Main Palmengarten is a historic greenhouse from 1905

The Palm House was built in 1869, and is the centerpiece of the Frankfurt am Main Palmengarten

Is There a Rose Garden?
Of course there’s a rose garden. What plant collection would be complete without one? It's peak time is in spring and summer, and a favorite rental space for weddings.

Haus Rosenbrunn and its geometrical rose garden in Palmengarten in Frankfurt am Main, Germany

All Year Long
Palmengarten boasts multiple greenhouses, each showcasing habitats from all over the world, even Tazmania and the Arctic! Thanks to the greenhouses, you can enjoy the Palmengarten all year round, no matter the weather. We went in September, and although it was cooler and overcast, the dahlias were in full bloom and we loved visiting the Tropicarium.

Tropicarium in the Palmengarten in Frankfurt am Main, Germany

The spinning globe inside the Tropicarium in Palmengarten in Frankfurt am Main, Germany

When you enter the Tropicarium, you’re met with an oversized spinning globe, surrounded by plants. From there, you choose which simulated natural habitat you’d like to see, arid or humid. There are semi-desert regions, fog desert, deciduous dry forests and thorn forests in the southern, arid habitats. The monsoon forests, cloud forests, mangrove swamps, and lowland rainforests are in the northern humid habitats. I was delighted to see turtles and birds living inside the greenhouse. The turtles were basking on a log by a fountain.

Humid tropic exhibits at the Palmengarten in Frankfurt am Main, Germany

The arid tropic exhibit in Palmengarten in Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Palmen-Express
I was surprised to see an old fashioned style train. The park is a bit of a walk if you do everything. Palmen-express train connects the northern and southern parts of the park for a small fee. Parents with tired kids will love this, but I was enjoying the long walk personally. It's a cute element to the park.

The Palmengarten Park is so big there's a sweet Palmen Express Train that connects the northernmost point and the southernmost point.

Haus Leonhardsbrunn
One of the best things about visiting Germany in September is that the dahlias are in full bloom. I was in dahlia heaven when we made it to the northernmost part of the park. In front of Haus Leonhardsbrunn was an enormous arched bed of plenty of dahlia varieties. A family of swans were daintily posing on the playing field in front, adding to my photographer’s euphoria.

Europaturm can be seen beyond the Haus Leonhardsbrunn in Palmengarten in Frankfurt am Main, Germany

In September, the dahlias are in full bloom in front the Haus Leonhardsbrunn in Palmengarten in Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Rock and Heather Garden by the Lake
The Frankfurt Palmengarten could also be a great date destination. In addition to providing a beautiful, calm backdrop, there’s also a large shallow lake which offers paddle boat rentals. Overlooking the lake is the waterfall from the nearby rock and heather garden.

Overlooking the lake is the waterfall from the nearby rock and heather garden. You can also rent a boat on the lake in Palmengarten in Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Squirrel Haven
If you want to see red German squirrels, Palmengarten is a great place to spot them. I saw four. Normally I count myself lucky if I spy ONE squirrel in two weeks in Germany.

If you want to see red German squirrels, Palmengarten is a great place to spot them. I saw four. Normally I count myself lucky if I spy ONE squirrel in two weeks in Germany.

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Flowers and Whimsy at Mainau Island

An island of flowers? It's not the first image that pops into my mind when I think of Germany. As we were planning our family trip to Lake Constance and it's towns, the flower-filled island of Mainau popped up. I’m passionate about flowers, and deeply appreciate the labor that goes into making beautiful gardens. Seeing the recommendations that you can easily spend a half day, or full day there, I was really looking forward to exploring Mainau.

To kick off our flower adventure, we needed to cross Lake Constance. We rented a house for the week in Meersburg, and the fastest, cheapest way to get there was by ferry boat. And not just any ferry boat, a ferry boat that carries cars! It would be my first time on a car ferry. We were so lucky, as we pulled up to the ferry boat, we realized we would be the first in the line of cars. Our view from our car would be perfect! While we were waiting, a man walked up and down the cars selling newspapers. It boggled my mind that this was for many an every day commute! Lake Constance was foggy this early in the morning, and there was a nip of chill in the air. Torn between wanting to hear the water and the birds or staying warm inside the car, we compromised and rolled one window down. It made for better photos that way too.


After the ferry ride, it was just a short drive to the parking lot where we left all wheels behind. We paid our admission, and walked along a short path by the lake and spied the feathered residents enjoying breakfast. We saw several ducks and swans diving down and up again.

Birds resting on a foggy Lake Constance | Germany

Birds resting on a foggy Lake Constance | Germany

There are several circuits that you can take around the island and we chose to walk counterclockwise. Right away, we saw a group of duck sculptures built out of flowers, then an extravagant peacock built out of flowers! It was like being in Cypress Gardens again. There was once a fantastic botanical park in Winter Haven, Florida called Cypress Gardens, and they had numerous animal sculptures built entirely of flowers. My grandparents used to take my brother and I every time we came to visit. It's no longer open, and has been transformed into a Legoland Theme Park. It made my heart smile to know in Germany flower animal sculptures still exist.

Duck Flower Sculptures on Mainau Island, Germany

Peacock Flower Sculptures on Mainau Island, Germany

Then we discovered a miniature farm where a rabbit had chickens and roosters for roommates. The rabbit had an extra espresso carrot that morning and sprinted in between the roosters, startling them. It was comical to watch. There was a goat who said good morning, and we visited with a calm, orange tabby cat that was not phased by anything. With the morning sunshine starting to bust up the fog clouds, his orange fur was angelically lit.

Mainau Island Farm & Petting Zoo | Germany

The farm was beside an area with a charming wooden bear stuck in a tree log, and a moss-covered troll couple.

Wooden Bear Stuck in a Log Garden Statue | Mainau Island, Germany

'Together in the Garden' Planted Statue in Mainau Island, Germany

The path we were on wound up and down the shore of Lake Constance. I loved the Dahlia garden which were in season, and they had about 75 to 80 different varieties on display.

Posing by the stunning Dahlia Gardens in full bloom on Mainau Island, Germany

Further along, we saw the Italian cascading fountain, and the map of Lake Constance illustrated through flowers.

Italian Style Flower & Water Cascade | Mainau Island, Germany

Floral Map of Lake Constance

We took a break at a garden cafe where the tables had built-in flower planters. It was just what we needed, walking halfway around Mainau Island already.

Garden Cafe Where Tables Had Built-in Flower Planters | Mainau Island, Germany

On top of the hill, the 13th-century Baroque palace and church stands from the time the Teutonic Knights owned the island. Alongside the church is an Italian rose garden complete with statuary and fountains. Wherever we looked there were colorful blooms surrounded by lots of greenery.

13th-century Baroque palace and church | Italian rose garden | Mainau Island, Germany

We passed giant redwood trees on our way to the butterfly house. The butterfly house was overwhelmingly crowded, both with people and butterflies. A pond with a waterfall entertained a gang of turtles, gorgeous orchids hung from the ceiling, and butterflies were everywhere. Specific feeding trays put out for the butterflies was a sure-fire way to get a good photo. I made myself dizzying trying to photograph a few of them! There was always a fluttering of wings passing overhead.

Mainau Island Butterfly House

By the end of the day it felt like we had seen the entire Nature Encyclopedia. It was refreshing, and a wonderful experience not to be missed, if your ventures take you to Lake Constance.

Flowers of Mainau Island

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Flowers and Fairy Tales in Ludwigsburg's Blooming Baroque

Denise in Friedrichsgarten in Blühendes Barock, Ludwigsburg, Germany | German red squirrel Denise saw

“It's just like in Rocky!” I proceed to loudly sing “Eye of the Tiger,” because I’m a jukebox on two legs. Despite how tired we both were, the flowers and the presence of a palace nearby had made me giddy, and singing the Rocky song helped me to muster up the energy to sprint up the hillside’s steps.

A sharp crack of a twig and an explosion of leaves startles me as a red squirrel springs up the steps ahead of me.

“Shh!!” Sebastian hushes me, as the squirrel bounds up the steps faster than I ever could, and jumps into a nearby tree, where he sits for awhile, long enough for a few photos.

“I think he liked my singing!” I whisper! We creep up the steps slowly to where we can see the squirrel. We’d been coming to Germany for years, and although I looked and hunted and walked in squirrel-prone areas, or so I was told, and I’d NEVER seen a German squirrel. Until now.

It's official, the Blühendes Barock gardens of Residenzschloss Ludwigsburg are straight out of a fairytale and magical things are already happening.

South Garden of Blühendes Barock, Ludwigsburg, Germany

History of Blühendes Barock
The gardens surrounding the palace were opened to the public in 1928, but were not maintained. By the time Albert Schöchle was assigned as director of the gardens in 1947, the paths were almost grown over. In 1951, Schöchle was inspired by what he saw at the Hannover Federal Garden Show, and proposed the concept of the Blühendes Barock, gained funding, and executed the garden show in time for the palace’s 250th anniversary in 1954. It was so popular and successful that it was financially self-sustaining at the end of the year. The gardens were so beloved and financially viable, that they’ve been kept up ever since.

Gate leading to the rose gardens in Blühendes Barock, Ludwigsburg, Germany

Red rose and facade of the palace | Blühendes Barock, Ludwigsburg, Germany

South Garden
The park is huge, just simply huge. In my mind, there’s four very separate areas, but rain came before we could explore the fourth. There’s the massive South Gardens that checks off all the gorgeous checkboxes with roses, statuary, fountains, and sculptural flower beds. They honestly could have stopped there. Either side of the South Garden has a more private, smaller garden, one for the lord, Friedrichsgarten, and for the lady, Mathildengarten.

Statue in Friedrichsgarten | Blühendes Barock, Ludwigsburg, Germany

Mathildengarten, private garden of the queen | Blühendes Barock, Ludwigsburg, Germany

North Garden
To the north, which is on a steeply declining hill, is the oldest part of the grounds. It is currently designed as it was in King Friedrich’s time, in the 1800s. The shapes made with the flowers leads the garden as a whole to look like an embroidery sampler, and so it is called the Barocke Broderie. Broderie is french for embroidery.

North Facade of the Castle and the Oldest Garden | Blühendes Barock, Ludwigsburg, Germany

North Garden | Blühendes Barock, Ludwigsburg, Germany

Fairy Tale Garden
Another gamble the park director Albert Schöchle took was betting on adding a Fairy Tale Garden for children. This time he was inspired by the Fairy Tale Forest he visited in Tilburg, Netherlands, which is still open today. He executed his idea despite opposition, and opened the Fairy Tale Garden in 1959. His gamble paid off in a big way, and in 1960 the gardens’ revenues were 100% more than the previous year. Scenes are brought to life from Cinderella, Ali Baba, Rapunzel (who lives in Emichsburg, pictured below), Snow White, Red Riding Hood, Hänsel and Gretel and more. As a big kid at heart, I loved walking through the Fairy Garden.

Seerosenkönig (King of the Water Lillies) attraction in the Fairy Tale Garden Ludwigsburg

Emichsburg, Rapunzel's Tower in the Fairy Tale Garden in Ludwigsburg

Be sure to also check out the Eastern Garden. It rained before we could make it over there, but they have a reconstructed historical playground and gardens inspired by other regions, such as Japan and Sardinia. There’s so much to discover on the palace grounds, and we haven’t even made it INSIDE the Residenzschloss Ludwigsburg. That’s coming up next week!
South Garden with the Palace | Blühendes Barock, Ludwigsburg, Germany

Bonus Resources
The Blühendes Barock Ludwigsburg website is in German only, so here are direct download links to their official PDFs.

Click this link to download the English Blühendes Barock Ludwigsburg Brochure PDF.
Click this link to download the German Map Blühendes-Barock Ludwigsburg PDF.
Click this link to download the German Fairy Tale Garden Brochure with Fairy Tale Map PDF.

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Roses from Friedrichsgarten in Blühendes Barocks, Ludwigsburg, Germany
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Thank you For Reading! Denise & Sebastian | Photo by Irene Fiedler