Gateway to the ‘Naturpark Pfälzerwald’
Pirmasens is the focal point of a region that has a scenic charm unmatched in central Europe. It is surrounded by huge tracts of forest and the town is the ‘Gateway to the Naturpark Pfälzerwald (Palatinate Forest Nature Reserve)’ — the biggest coherent forest of Europe. Vibrant urban living combined with a closeness to nature make the town a great holiday destination for families, budding explorers, people looking for a relaxing breaks, history fans, culture vultures and sports enthusiasts. Pirmasens close location to France make it an ideal holiday destination that has the right balance of everything you expect from a relaxing yet fascinating holiday.
The town of Pirmasens is located in the Pfalz holiday region, approximately 118 km to the south of Frankfurt-Hahn Airport (see map on bottom of page).
The Pfalz is one of the nine holiday regions of Germany's Rhineland-Palatinate. The Pfalz, the southernmost part of the Rhineland-Palatinate, is a veritable Garden of Eden. Fruits such as almonds, figs and kiwis thrive here thanks to a climate that is exceptionally mild. This is a land of superlatives: with more than 150 million vines, the Pfalz has the largest uninterrupted wine-growing area in Rhineland-Palatinate. In Bad Dürkheim, you will find not only the biggest wine barrel in the world but also the biggest wine festival, the Bad Dürkheim Wurstmarkt. The Pfalz also has plenty to offer in the way of historical interest. Speyer's cathedral, for instance, is a UNESCO world heritage site. ... read more about the Pfalz holiday region
The Pfalz region has been of military importance since ancient times. The story of Europe's military history is very much evident in and around Pirmasens, from the circular Celtic walls and medieval castle ruins to the more recent Siegfried Line strongholds. Passion for the military was how the town was founded, when in 1741 the eccentric Landgrave Ludwig IX of Hessen-Darmstadt chose Pirmasens to be his residence, as he was not allowed to keep grenadier guards in the French town of Bouxwiller. Just 37 grenadiers formed the first Pirmasens Garrison, but in the space of just a few years this grew to several thousand. This chapter of the town's history is explained in detail in the Old Town Hall's local history museum in the pedestrian zone.
Pirmasens' museum scene centres around the Old Town Hall in the pedestrian precinct. It was built as a replica of the mayor's official residence at the time of the Landgraves, and is home to the Shoe Museum, where visitors are shown the fascinating, unseen side of this everyday object. A selection from the largest shoe collection in Germany (over 20,000 pairs) offers an insight into the craft of shoe-making, an industry that we just couldn't do without. This necessity of daily life and symbol of civilisation provides the focal point for a globe-spanning journey into the past. It begins with Australian human hair shoes made for ritual purposes, spanning Afghan pointed toe shoes, boots of the palace guards in Greece, all the way to Native American moccasins. The ‘German Shoe Museum’ in nearby Hauenstein offers a window into the shoe-making industry. You'll find out what this utterly indispensable item of clothing is made from and how it's made.
Today, Pirmasens is a dynamic, charming town with a traditional feel, reflected not only in its individual yet attractive architecture, but also in the demeanour of the locals. Built on seven hills, this town of 45,000 people has the ideal mix of nature, history, culture and wellness.
One of the new main attractions in Pirmasens — the Dynamikum Science Centre — is an interactive museum that promotes the understanding of natural and technical phenomena on the topic of ‘motion’. Here visitors of all ages can discover by intuitive activity the various physical phenomena around this topic. The interactive exhibits of the Dynamikum can be found on the two floors of the Science Centre, with a total exhibition space of 4,000 sqm. Interactive exhibits about the themes ‘moving something’ or ‘moving yourself’ await you. The exhibits emphasize in eight divisions what distinguishes movement. Basic phenomena are explained such as friction, impulse, energy and its use with motional machines, research of natural motion, aspects of biological mechanics and the power of mind and in dance. A variety of events in the museum make it a vivid place. The Dynamikum Science Centre guarantees fun for the whole family.
- Local History Museum
- In the neighbouring building the local history museum tells the story of how the town was founded back in 1740, when Landgrave Ludwig IX chose Pirmasens to be his residence. Furniture, tin-figure dioramas and models of the Landgrave's castle offer an insight into how Pirmasens used to look. Paintings of the Landgrave's grenadiers, portraits of the count himself and a description of uniforms demonstrates to visitors what life was like when the streets of Pirmasens rang to the sound of military drill commands and marching boots. » show on google maps
- Silhouette Cabinet
- It's black and white on the next floor up where visitors can see the silhouette cabinet, which displays a selection of the work of the Pirmasens-born silhouette artist Elisabeth Emmler. She ranked as one of the most important silhouette artists and numerous publishing houses wanted to use her work for their illustrations. » show on google maps
- Bürkel Gallery
- It is located in Pirmasens' Old Town Hall — not far from the place where Heinrich Bürkel's childhood home once stood. Born in 1802 in Pirmasens his work is still popular today. The twenty oil paintings on display here show a cross-section of his work, and the depth of his talent is clear from the almost photo-like quality of his depictions of everyday life, which transport visitors back to the world of the 19th century. » show on google maps
- The fortification at ‘Gerstfeldhöhe’, one of the most significant of the Siegfried Line (also known Westwall in Germany), was build in 1936 during the time of the German Third Reich. 60 years later, it is the largest remaining section of the Siegfried Line with a total length of approximately 14 km. One kilometer of the underground tunnel system will explain its construction and its utilization during World War II. » show on google maps
- Interactive museum about the natural and mechanical phenomena of motion. The exhibits emphasize on 4,000 sqm what distinguishes movement and explain basic phenomena of movement around the themes ‘moving something’ or ‘moving yourself’. The Dynamikum Science Centre is fun for the whole family. » show on google maps
- Guided Tours
- Tours that cover the town, its history and its attractions can be booked at any time in one of Pirmasens' museums. For example: ‘Shoemakers, soles and Schlabbe schoes’, is the theme of a tour which gives an overview of the town's shoemaking history. Other tours cover Pirmasens' churches, the Landgrave's passion for the military, the hill topography of Pirmasens, a guided tour in the Palatinate Forest biosphere reserve, and much more. Between February and November there is an open guided tour of the town on the first Saturday of the month and you do not need to prebook. It begins at the Old Town Hall in the pedestrian precinct. The tour guide will take all those present on a tour of Pirmasens that takes around 90 minutes.
Pirmasens has inspired many a great artist, including Heinrich Bürkel, born in 1802 in Pirmasens. As a child he sketched his first drawings in the Pirmasens Hauptstrasse, progressing to become a celebrated artist in Munich. In the Old Town Hall's Bürkel Gallery in the pedestrian precinct, twenty of his oil paintings and a selection of his complete artistic works are on display, works that were once collected by tsars and kings and still go under the hammer at Sotheby's and Christie's.
Another son of Pirmasens played a part in revolutionising art history. In 1917 in Zurich, Hugo Ball laid the foundation for Dadaism, a movement that represented the first true avant-garde phase in the 20th century. Artists from across the globe made a pilgrimage to Ball's ‘Cabaret Voltaire’ in Zurich to gain inspiration for their own work. The world's largest collection of Ball's work is found in Pirmasens' municipal library, illustrating his influence on literary movements and the art of following generations.
More conventional art can be seen in the sculpture park in the old cemetery. The remains of artistic, turn-of-the-century gravestones are tastefully combined with new sculptures from a sculptors' symposium held in 1998. A 40-strong artistic community have devoted themselves to the avant-garde, maintaining studios and workshops in a disused factory. They host regular exhibitions, that have drawn attention throughout Germany, as well as annual courses and workshops for newcomers to the art scene.
The ‘Art and Culture’ association also hosts cultural events that attracts visitors from beyond the immediate region, and not just in the newly refurbished exhibition rooms of their former postal building.
Pirmasens is the place to shop for shoes. For over 200 years Pirmasens has been the home of footwear and footwear manufacturing. The Testing and Research Institute for the footwear industry is based here and there are countless design studios. Fashion-conscious ladies have been wearing shoes made by ‘Peter Kaiser’ for over 100 years now. Almost all factories have a factory outlet shop with great prices. They offer discounts on discontinued lines as well as factory seconds.
After the town's founder died in 1790 the people of Pirmasens were forced to find new ways of making money. ‘Schlabbe’, the first simple shoes, were put together from scraps of material and leather offcuts, and then sold all over Southern Germany. From these humble beginnings a booming footwear industry developed, encompassing the machinery required to make the shoes, leather working, right through to the annual production of several million pairs of shoes, which are held in high esteem all over the world. At one time the town had over 100 factories.
Today, the largest proportion of footwear production in Germany is still based in and around Pirmasens; in particular it is the focal point of research and development activities and the footwear retail sector. With its footwear vocational college and university with faculties such as logistics, leather working and footwear technology, Pirmasens has moulded itself as the centre of expertise in the footwear industry.
There's a whole world of chocolate-themed fun to be had in WAWI 's chocolate factory. It's the ideal destination for people with a sweet tooth, and not just at Easter and Christmas. Where do chocolate bunnies come from, why do they look so happy when they're destined for your stomach, and what sort of dish will you get if you order a genuine Palatinate Schlachtplatte? Find out the answers to these questions and a whole lot more on a tour round the windowed production area and the small chocolate museum. Don't forget to try some for yourself in the modern cafe, and round off your trip with some discounted chocolate from the factory shop.
Fans of the French way of life should head to Bitche, just 20 minutes away by car, where they can find a great range of French cuisine, including cheese, baguettes, quiche lorraine, fish, and lots more beside. Lovers of fine, ornate crystal glass can hunt for a bargain in one of the many cristalleries in the area surrounding Bitche.
Visitors to Pirmasens are instantly spellbound by the town's unique geography. Its location on seven hills ensured the town was built in harmony with nature. You can break off to take a day-long walk amid the unspoilt nature of the Naturpark Pfälzerwald (Nature Park Palatinate Forest), only 500 metres from the centre of town. Bizarre rock formations are to be found on the outskirts of town, and streams spring up on the edge of a town and then lead into picturesque valleys. Arched rocks lead into the forests and tiny brooks gush over rocks; Hexenklamm Valley and Gersbach Valley are home to stunning natural wonders, adventure playgrounds on the banks of forest ponds are fun for all ages, and the numerous castle ruins in the surrounding area capture the imagination of visitors.
A unique system of marked trails guides hikers and walkers on a stunning tour through the magical forests, where they can experience the natural beauty of the Palatinate and neighbouring France. These cross-border trails are off the beaten tourist track and there is so much space to enjoy genuinely unspoilt nature; and where they come to an end you will almost always find a cosy inn, where you can rest weary feet and enjoy the hearty, traditional fare washed down with an ice-cold glass of PARK, Pirmasens' local beer.
There's almost no end to the natural attractions near Pirmasens, including forests that echo to the sound of woodpeckers, where peregrine falcons circle the skies, and the lynx are able to prowl around once more.
Nature conservation areas also attract biologists from all over Europe. The importance of these areas is illustrated in an educational and entertaining fashion in the nearby biosphere centre (includes treetop trail) in Fischbach/Dahn and the environmental sustainability centre in Johanniskreuz.
- Walking and Cycle Tours
- A seemingly endless network of cycle paths open up the surrounding forests, where the cycling pro Udo Bölts goes through his daily training. The Palatinate Forest mountain bike park is also accessible from the town. For those who want to get involved there is the Schlabbeflicker cycle marathon, the Wasgau mountain bike marathon, team triathlon and also the cycling weeks and walking weeks. The Pirmasens walking and cycling clubs are always pleased to take visitors on a guided tour of our local nature, and that goes for hikers and leisure cyclists as well as mountain bikers. Numerous walking events and carfree days, Pirminius cycle tour week, cycle tour (RTF) and countryside cycle tour (CTF). The Schlabbeflikker cycle marathon and the Wasgau mountain bike marathon in Lemberg are held every year.
- Rock Climbing
- The giant rock formations are an insiders' tip for climbers from all over Europe, although specialist trainers can also help beginners to take their first steps up the red sandstone rocks. The south-west Palatinate is a true paradise for climbing enthusiasts, with over 200 rock massifs and towers that jut up dramatically into the sky, and over 4,000 climbing tours for all abilities. There's fun to be had for novices and professionals alike. Like a piece of red twine the colourful sandstone threads its way through the Palatinate Forest and makes the south-west Palatinate one of the best-known regions for climbing in Germany.
- Those who still like their sport but prefer something a little more serene, can practise their swing on the nearby golf courses. Forget all your worries and enjoy a relaxing round of golf. There are three golf courses in the area surrounding Pirmasens, which is no surprise considering its wealth of natural beauty on both sides of the border. Relax amid the calm tranquillity of the stunning countryside, and enjoy the incomparable views of the Palatinate Forest and Northern Vosges nature reserve. There are courses in Rieschweiler-Mühlbach in the village of Hitscherhof, in Waldfischbach-Burgalben or in Bitche in France.
- Nordic Walking
- A popular new sport among locals and tourists alike. The walkers with the Nordic poles are now a common sight in Pirmasens. Nordic walking is suitable not only for active, sporty people, but also for those who don't usually do sport. Age is no barrier — so everyone can join in the fun! Our Nordic walking trainers are experts on the best way to keep your back straight when walking, and they also know these forests like the back of their hands, so you can take your pick of picturesque scenery, sun-kissed spots, or cool, shaded areas.
- The region surrounding Pirmasens is great for motor-cycle fans. There are a whole range of exhilarating, picturesque and winding routes that take you through the fantastic scenery of the Wasgau hills, the Sickinger Höhe hill and the Palatinate Forest; past countless castles, rocks and places of interest, and into France, home of the quiche lorraine.
PLUB, Pirmasens' pool complex and open-air park, has a 3,400 square metre hall that houses swimming pools for swimmers and nonswimmers, a jacuzzi, a wave pool, a heated outdoor pool with water cannons and massage water jets, a giant water slide, a children's paddling pool with a slide and fountains and a cafeteria. There is also a sauna park which includes a Finnish sauna (with or without hot stones), Roman steamroom, aromatherapy baths, sanarium (low temperature sauna and meditation room), diving pool, fantasy shower, ice fountain, heated benches, heated foot spas, quiet room, open fire, open-air inner courtyard, sauna bar, tanning studios and an artificial sunbathing lawn.
PLUB is also home to a massage parlour where mud pack treatments and extension and exercise therapy are offered alongside the classic massage. The open-air grounds have a 12,000 square metre sunbathing lawn with a 50 metre pool on the edges of the Palatinate Forest, children's paddling pools with fountains, a 12 metre slide, springboards, children's playground, boules court, cafeteria and beach volleyball court.
In the town centre, Exerzierplatz, the old parade ground, is an architectural treat for visitors. The circular market place stages big open-air events in the warm summer months. A multitude of showmen draw crowds from all over the region to the May Market and September's Grenadier Market, while the Krämermarkt street markets are also a big attraction. Pirmasens hosts festivals with a local flavour all year round. It all kicks off in spring with the historically themed Landgrave Festival, when the pedestrian precinct is thronged with Landgraves, grenadiers and market women, all in authentic costumes.
12.1 Events & Festivals Highlights
August sees the start of the Schlabbeflickerfest (shoe-maker festival), which takes place over a number of days. Every September the Euro Classic festival, which is run in conjunction with neighbouring Zweibrücken and the French town of Bitche in Lorraine, brings first-rate operas and concerts by renowned artists to the region. In September it is also home to the Exerzierplatz Festival, a culinary spectacle in the town centre. The November Market Festival has a fantastic funfair in the town centre, while in December the Belznickelmarkt — the somewhat different Christmas market — fills the lower Schlossplatz Square with festive cheer.
12.2 Events Finder
The Events Finder gives you an overview about what is on, where and when. Here you can search for events and festivals in the region.
Here you have direct access to the online accommodation reservation service of the Tourist Board of Rhineland-Palatinate. No other hotel reservation system on the Internet offers you such a broad and comprehensive list of accommodation in Germany's Rhineland-Palatinate regions. You can list accommodation, search accommodation, contact accommodation establishments and make online reservations.
Frankfurt-Hahn Airport has no direct railway connection. However, the buses from the airport will take you to the railway stations in Koblenz, Trier, Mainz, Frankfurt Main Airport, Frankfurt Main City, Kirn, Idar-Oberstein and Saarbrücken where you can connect with Deutsche Bahn trains or local transport links.