Grube Messel

Top choice in Frankfurt & Southern Rhineland

A Unesco World Heritage Site, this one-time coal and oil shale quarry 10km northeast of Darmstadt is renowned for its superbly preserved animal and plant remains from the Eocene era (some 47 million years ago). Early horses found here illustrate the evolutionary path towards the modern beast. A picturesque half-timbered house 3km south of the visitor centre houses a fossil-filled museum. You can visit the pit with a German-speaking guide or pre-arrange an English-speaking tour (extra €20 per group).

Some 40,000 fossils have been unearthed to date. Other interesting finds from the site are showcased at the Hessisches Landesmuseum in Darmstadt and the Senckenberg Museum in Frankfurt.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Frankfurt & Southern Rhineland attractions

1. Grube Messel Museum

1.85 MILES

Fossils excavated at Grube Messel are on show in Grube Messel's own museum, in a pretty half-timbered house.

2. Mathildenhöhe

4.64 MILES

Established in 1899 at the behest of Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig, the former Künstlerkolonie (artists' colony) at Mathildenhöhe is famous for its Darmstädter…

3. Kirche Hl Maria Magdalena


Mathildenhöhe’s western slope is graced by the three golden onion domes of this mosaic-adorned Russian Orthodox church. It was built from 1897 to 1899 for…

4. Schlossmuseum

5.26 MILES

Ornate furnishings, carriages and paintings pack the Schlossmuseum, one block east of Luisenplatz. It occupies the southeast corner of the Schloss complex…

5. Hessisches Landesmuseum

5.26 MILES

An exceptional selection of works by pop artist Joseph Beuys is the highlight of the wide-ranging art collection at the Hesse State Museum. Other displays…

6. Luisenplatz

5.41 MILES

Darmstadt’s focal point is the 18th-century Luisenplatz, a veritable hive of activity thanks to the adjacent shopping precinct, which stretches south from…

7. Burg Frankenstein

9.17 MILES

Built by Lord Konrad II Reiz von Breuberg around 1250, this hulking, partly ruined hilltop castle was visited by Mary Shelley on her German travels in…

8. Museum Giersch

13.49 MILES

Lesser-known Frankfurt-area artists from the 19th and early 20th centuries are the focus of the special exhibitions at this neoclassical riverside villa,…