One Day in Bad Dürkheim
Bad Dürkheim is a quaint spa town, located on the German Wine Route at the edge of the Palatinate forest. It's a great option for a day trip from Mannheim, Kaiserslautern or Karlsruhe for both spa enthusiasts and hikers, with things to do in and around the town. I visited here on a hot summer day in July 2022 to check it out, so read on to learn about things to see in Bad Dürkheim and how my day trip went.
I arrived by train from Neustadt an der Weinstraße, and Hardenburg castle ruins were the first thing on my to-do list. The route that Google maps took me on from the train station to Hardenburg was about a hour long and after a little bit of walking through the town, it led along the main road (B47) pretty much all the way.
After a short walk on an asphalted cycle and walking path, I saw some ruins at the top of a hill, which I thought were the castle, although it seemed a bit too close. As it turned out, they were of in fact the ruins of Limburg Abbey, which I will come back to later.
A bit more of the asphalted path and suddenly I saw some signs for hiking routes towards Hardenburg castle leading away from the main road. Naturally, I decided to follow those instead, as it's a lot more fun to walk on forest trails. One thing to note though, while more fun, the forest trails are also more challenging and wearing appropriate footwear is highly recommended. The Converse trainers I was wearing were certainly prettier than hiking boots, but they had thin soles, no grip and no ankle support, which I would have benefited from on the narrow and uneven forest trails, so not the best choice.
The next pretty point on the hike is a pond called Herzogweiher, a picturesque area with some benches to relax on. The pond was artificially created in the middle ages and is about 500 metres long.
I continued past the pond and followed the signs for the hiking route until Hardenburg castle came into view.
Built in the 13th century by the counts of Leiningen, a very influential local noble family, Hardenburg castle was turned into a renaissance residence in the 16th century. Unfortunately, when the French revolutionary troops conquered Bad Dürkheim in the 18th century, they destroyed a lot of the castle and let the area be used as a source of building materials. Luckily, though it's not standing intact in all its glory, there is still a lot left to see in the ruins of the castle, with lots of climbing up and down sandstone staircases and discovering gorgeous views over the castle and the Palatinate forest. Definitely well worth a visit and the €4.50 entry fee. Below are some photos to give you an idea of how pretty it is out there.
Please note that Hardenburg castle is not open every day. Opening days and times depend on the time of the year, so, to avoid disappointment on arrival, please check before heading out, either through Google or on the castle website. As a rough guide, Monday is the usual day off in the summer season.
After I'd explored enough of the castle, it was time to continue the hike. There is a restaurant closeby, so I was hoping to grab a snack there before moving on. As it turned out, it's only open Wednesday through Sunday, and I was there on Tuesday, so no luck.
The forest trail that led me to the castle was a circular trail for Hardenburg and Limburg Abbey, so I figured if I just continued on, I would get to the see abbey ruins soon enough. And indeed, following the forest trail for about 30 minutes or so got me there. The abbey was built here in the 11th century and was of great importance back in the days. It burned down in the 16th century in the course of a war.
These days, Limburg Abbey is not just a disused ruin, it is an event location, with concerts taking place here, plus it's a wedding venue. Great to see this beautiful abbey hasn't been forgotten! There is also a restaurant in the ruins of the abbey, but it is closed on Tuesdays, so no lunch for me there either.
By this time, I was starving, so the next point of my Bad Dürkheim day trip just had to be consuming some food somewhere, so I followed the hiking trail back into the centre of the town. Bad Dürkheim does have quite a few restaurants, cafes and bakeries in the centre, so I finally got something to eat and could rest my tired feet for a while.
A few photos of Bad Dürkheim old town:
After a quick walk through the old town, which is very compact, I ended up in the Kurpark (spa gardens). It is a pretty park with a good choice of cafes and restaurants to relax in.
There is a proper thermal spa in the Kurpark with swimming pools and all that jazz, but it's currently undergoing a massive renovation (as of 2022), so while it's still partially open, I am not sure how enjoyable a visit there would be. I skipped it for the time being. If you want to check out what's open and what's under construction, you can check out the spa's website.
But fear not, even while the spa is maybe not at its most relaxing at the moment, there is another super cool attraction in Bad Dürkheim Kurpark that you absolutely have to visit - the graduation tower (Saline or Gradierbau in German). When I went there, I actually didn't even know what it was - just some weird construction that I saw on many photos when googling Bad Dürkheim. So imagine my surprise when I discovered that it was there to produce salty air, which is great for the lungs.
The dark wall in the photo above is entirely made up of little twigs. Salty water drips down along the wall and is distributed in the air by gusts of wind, so it's kind of creating a marine microclimate without a sea. Even just being in the vicinity of the saltworks is healthy, but for a small fee (€1.50 at the time of writing) you can go up to the walkway and spend some time directly next to the wall to get an even bigger concentration of salt. Of course, that's exactly what I did and loved every minute!
The graduation tower in the Kurpark became a part of Bad Dürkheim's attractions back in the 19th century, when it was originally used for salt production. The salt production aspect has been since removed, so these days the graduation tower is only used for improving lung health. On a hot day, it is also delightfully refreshing!
The current graduation tower only dates back to 2010, as the original one completely burned down as a result of arson in 2007. It's not the only graduation tower in Germany, but it's the largest one. Salt is everywhere - on the floor, on the wooden beams, on the railings etc. - a nice thick salty crust!
Apart from the walkway, there are a few spots with benches, where you can hang out for a while. I naturally stuck my hands into the salty water, which is a cool feeling and you get a thin white layer of salt left on the skin as the water dries! But even without sticking your hand in, as the wind blows the water away from the wall, it gets all over you and your clothes. Wearing black is maybe not the best idea, as the white salt becomes very visible as it dries out. But who would have thought you could have so much fun just walking around and breathing?!
After getting salt all over myself, it was time to head back to the train station for the journey home. My one day in Bad Dürkheim was tons of fun and I hope that reading this has inspired you to go there too.
Practical information for your day trip to Bad Dürkheim:
Bad Dürkheim is perfect as a day trip from Mannheim or Ludwigshafen because there's a direct tram line connecting the two locations, RNV 9. For timetables, check the RNV website.
It is also located on the Neustadt an der Weinstrasse to Freinsheim rail line, with trains leaving roughly every 30 minutes. The journey from Neustadt will take you 20 minutes. From Neustadt, there are connecting trains to other destinations, such as Mannheim, Karlsruhe and Kaiserslautern.
If you prefer to travel by car, Bad Dürkheim is about 30 minutes drive away from Mannheim and 45 minutes from Kaiserslautern. There is free parking on the Wurstmarktplatz.
Entrance fees (as of August 2022):
Hardenburg castle: €4.50.
Limburg abbey: free entrance
Graduation tower (or Gradierbau/Saline, as it's referred to in German): €1.50; free with a Pfalz card