Let’s be honest, when it comes to traveling to Germany, Frankfurt is rarely at the top of the list. Places such as Berlin, Munich, and even Rothenburg seem to trump Frankfurt. While Frankfurt is not the most beautiful German city or its historical center, it does have its positive attributes. Mainly, its central location means getting around Europe is easy. After living here for a year, I love how much we can see within less than two hours from our home.
That includes exploring the impact the Romans had on Germany. One of the most well-preserved and reconstructed forts along the German Limes is Fort Saalburg, just outside Bad Homburg, is worth a visit with kids of all ages.
The Romans in Germany
The American education system really misses the mark on world history, and I had no idea how far the extent of the Roman empire. The Romans were everywhere in Europe! Even in a decent amount of Germany. My kids got a good dose of this when visiting Trier last year (which had been one of the capital cities for the Roman empire). Now we’re learning about the German Limes Road, which is the former border between the Roman Empire and the “barbarians” on the other side. Turns out that border is right near our home in the Taunus. Even during walks in the forest, we often stumble along foundations for watch towers where the border had once been.
Taking a Family Visit to Saalburg
In Roman times, the Saalburg was a fort that served to monitor a Limes section in the Taunus. The Limes formed the border of the Roman Empire for about 150 years from the beginning of the 2nd century AD.
In the fort were about 600 men, foot soldiers and riders, stationed. Before the main gate of the defensive wall lay a bathhouse and a guest house. A village with artisans, traders and taverns joined. Graves and smaller sanctuaries lined the Roman road to Nida, today’s Frankfurt-Heddernheim. Up to 2,000 people may have lived in the fort and in the village.
Today, Saalburg is an indoor and outdoor museum. Perfect weather isn’t a requirement, but pouring rain isn’t going to be your friend if the kids want to explore the walls. If heading out on a weekend, go early. The parking is limited and by noon, especially on a nice day, parking may only be available along the trails.
Perfect weather isn’t a requirement, but pouring rain isn’t going to be your friend if the kids want to explore the walls. If heading out on a weekend, go early. The parking is limited and by noon, especially on a nice day, parking may only be available along the trails.
Related: Take a Day Trip to HessenPark
The indoor spaces have several museum exhibits which include displays of Roman weapons, jewelry, clothes, shoes, and money. English translations are hit and miss throughout the museum, and currently, guides give tours only in German. While most buildings are not entirely original, many have been restored to give an idea of what it was like. Visitors can still see the baths, barracks, bakery, and a temple.
Before entering the fort, the gift shop has a few guidebooks in English with more details about both the Limes and the fort. Be sure and grab those before you head inside. [Note: I emailed them after our visit saying as a UNESCO heritage site they should consider offering more descriptions in other languages. They said they are working to include more English translations.]
In the workshop building, a movie about the fort and the Limes runs every 10 minutes or so in English. It’s in a room through the toilet exhibit (I’ll come back to that) to the left. If it’s running in German, just wait as it will then run again in English. Also back in that area, which was under construction at the time, are exhibits on food and clothing. They are in both German and English.
Of course before you get to that part, you’ll likely see the toilet exhibit in the front part of the building. It’s completely hard to miss. A running joke in our family is how every place we go, guides love to point out the toilets. This exhibit is pretty funny and worth some time. Unfortunately, it is only in German, but I think it’s pretty self explanatory.
The grounds are fun to explore both inside and outside the walls. Usually guides dressed in period costumes are walking around, happy to answer questions, and show you how to use a bow and arrow. Kids can climb on the walls around the fort. Wander outside the walls to the side and the back and check out the Limes and a moat area. The museum cafe even serves “Roman favorites.”
Saalburg is open March to October daily 9am to 6pm; November to February Tue-Sun 9 am to 4 pm (Mon closed). Adults are €7 and Students are €3. The Family ticket is the best deal at €14.
Photos ©Linda Kerr, TravelTeening