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Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Wörlitz

By Sandra Ans

What is the Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Wörlitz?  

The Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Wörlitz is one of the first and largest English-style landscape design and planning examples in Europe. The Garden Kingdom covers more than 140km² area (54 square miles) and consists of seven parks and several castles, dozens of different buildings, temples, churches, gardens, lakes, rivers, bridges, and more.

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This unique cultural landscape was created in the 18th century by two friends – Prince Leopold III Friedrich Franz (1740-1817) and Friedrich Wilhelm von Erdmannsdorff (1736-1800). Their studies of the landscaped gardens in England and ancient buildings in Italy inspired them to create their own landscape garden by the rivers Elbe and Mulde. One of their main goals was to make all garden units in perfect design and architectural harmony. The work took over forty years. In 2000 the Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Wörlitz was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.  

A small lake with trees on near and far side, and a sprinkling of objects: an urn, statues, etc.
Wörlitzer Park

The Garden Kingdom includes the following:

  • Schloss Wörlitz: a neo-classicist house designed for Prince Franz
  • The Gothic House: with a collection of stained glass
  • Oranienbaum: a baroque garden and summer residence of Henriette Catharina, Princess of Anhalt-Dessau
  • Mosigkau: a rococo palace with a collection of Flemish and Dutch paintings, summer residence of Princess Anna Wilhelmine of Anhalt-Dessau
  • Luisium: a neo-classical house built for Princess Luise of Anhalt-Dessau, designed by Erdmannsdorff
  • Großkühnau: a rather modest palace built for Prince Albert of Anhalt-Dessau
  • Georgium: an English-style landscape garden
  • The park at the Sieglitzer Berg: a woodland park
A structure made of large stones, half on land, and half built with arches over a small pond. While most of it is raw stone, one room-sized piece on top is finished and painted bright red with white around the windows.
Rock Island

Why is the Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Wörlitz a UNESCO World Heritage site?

The Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Wörlitz is one of the first and absolutely unique examples of a garden landscape that stands for the harmony of nature, architecture, and visual arts.

UNESCO’s description says: ”The Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Wörlitz is an outstanding example of the application of the philosophical principles of the Age of the Enlightenment to the design of a landscape that integrates art, education, and economy in a harmonious whole. The Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Wörlitz includes all elements necessary to express the Outstanding Universal Value of one of the most emblematic and representative European designed landscapes.” 

In the foreground, colorful flowers, mostly in shades of yellow, set very close together. In the background, a tunnel of greenery over a path into the distance.
Floragarden in Wörlitzer Park

What can you expect on a visit to the Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Wörlitz? 

The Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Wörlitz is larger than you can imagine, but it’s an amazing place for a visit! I was most impressed with the Wörlitzer Park. It is the biggest park in the Garden Kingdom and surprised me at every step. There, you can visit places such as Wörlitz Castle, Rose, and Rock Islands, Gothic House and Floratempel, Neo-Gothic St Peter’s Church, Castle Garden, many different statues and bridges and that’s also not all! Wörlitzer Park took me half of the day, so the second part I spent visiting other objects. 

Is the Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Wörlitz worth visiting?  

The Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Wörlitz definitely is a must-visit if you love nature, magnificent buildings, and long walks! This is a very special and beautiful place, for which you have to expect to spend a minimum of one full day.  

Take your time and stay the night; use the map below to find accommodations:

What sorts of travelers would like the Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Wörlitz?  

There aren’t any age or other restrictions, but I would recommend this park to people who love long walks and are more or less active. If you don’t think that walking over 10 kilometers (6 miles) in a day could be difficult for you, then you should consider visiting this park. Nevertheless, the Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Wörlitz is very popular among families with children, couples, friend groups, tourists, and active older people. 

A pretty brick building with small pointed turrets and gothic windows at Dessau-Worlitz.
The Gothic House

Tips for visiting the Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Wörlitz  

As the Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Wörlitz is more than huge and consists of many different parks and places, I recommend before the visit to check the area and make a plan for your day trip.

If you can choose to visit the Garden Kingdom by car, then do it. Moving around from park to park by car is easier and faster.  

Dogs in parks are allowed, but you need to keep them on the leash and pick up after them.

As there aren’t cafes and kiosks on every corner, take with you a bottle of water. You can also take some sandwiches and have a picnic in a park or near a lake.  

Riding a bicycle in many parks isn’t permitted.  

Text: The Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Worlitz, Germany. Images: above, a flower garden; below, the Gothic House.

Where is the Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Wörlitz?  

The Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Wörlitz is located in central Germany, Saxony-Anhalt federal state, between the towns of Dessau, Rosslau, Coswig and Oranienbaum. You can get there in two ways:  

By car: As the Garden Kingdom is pretty central in Germany, it’s a well-reachable destination. It is situated only 80 km (50 mi) from Leipzig, 120 km (75 mi) from Berlin, 170 km (106 mi) from Dresden, and 220 km (137 mi) from Hannover. There is plenty of parking.

By public transportation: From all the above cities you can get to the Garden Kingdom by public transport. Firstly with the train, you need to get to the nearest and biggest town, Dessau, but then travel further depending on your plan: which place, park or castle you want to see the first. You can get to your final destination by bus, train (may ride depending on the season), or bicycle. You can also take a walk, but it may take an hour or more. 

For more information about the Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Wörlitz, its opening hours, and admission fees, see its official website.  

Have you been to the Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Wörlitz? If so, do you have any additional information or advice about this UNESCO World Heritage site? Please add your comments below!

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