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Germany's Gemstone Metropolis

When talking about Idar-Oberstein, gemstones of course come to mind immediately. Originally the mining of gemstones, bringing agates, rock crystals, amethysts and other splendid stones to the daylight, was an important formative influence on the city. For 150 years, however, cutting these stones and trading jewellery and gemstones has become the most important field in gemstone manufacturing and contributed to the city's reputation world-wide. The unique sights related to gemstones, a visit of the ‘Deutsche Edelsteinmuseum’ (German Museum of Precious Stones) or a tour of the ‘Deutsche Edelsteinstrasse’ (German Gemstone Route) will be memorable indeed.

1. Location of Idar-Oberstein in Germany

The town of Idar-Oberstein is located in the Nahe holiday region, approximately 39 km to the south of Frankfurt-Hahn Airport (see map on bottom of page).

The Nahe is one of the nine holiday regions of Germany's Rhineland-Palatinate. This is a landscape full of poetry and colour, dotted with old towns and villages full of history. The region's highlight is undoubtedly the German Gemstone Route, together with the gemstone capital Idar-Oberstein and the German Museum of Precious Stones. The region is also known for its three spa resorts that are located in the Nahe wine-growing area. ... read more about the Nahe holiday region

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2. Gemstone Sights in Idar-Oberstein

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Video: A New Stone Age in Idar-Oberstein

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Gemstone Mines ‘Steinkaulenberg’

The only European gemstone mines which are open for visitors, the gemstone mines of Steinkaulenberg, welcome you for a journey through the fascinating realm of sparkling and precious stones. The existence of these mines is in fact the reason for the foundation of the Idar-Oberstein gemstone manufacturing in this spot. With commercial mining having come to a standstill in 1870, the mine has been completely dedicated to hobby mineralogists and gemstone lovers from all over the world. Besides the visitors’ gallery there is also a mining gallery. Here treasure hunters and collectors are free to experience the adventure of mining agates, amethysts, jasper and other quartzes, supervised by experts. For visits to the mining gallery it is only necessary to register in advance. The numerous tunnels and galleries are situated right in the middle of a nature reserve. The walk from the car park to the mines along a newly installed geological experience trail provides ten minutes of interesting information. The way to the mines as well as the mines themselves have been adapted to the needs of handicapped people. The gemstone mines are open daily in the period between 15th March and 15th November, from 9 a.m. till 5 p.m.

Historical Gemstone Mill ‘Weiherschleife’

The next station on the gemstone journey will take you to the place where gemstones are worked on. At the historical cutting mill ‘Weiherschleife’ from 1634, the last water-driven cutting mill on the Idarbach creek, experienced cutters will demonstrate you the methods applied in earlier centuries. The major part of their exhausting job was done while lying belly-down on so-called ‘tilting cutting chairs’. Situated in a beautiful scenery, the park around the cutting mill with the idyllic Kallwiesweiher-pond and a pleasant restaurant invites you to stay and relax. The Weiherschleife cutting mill is open daily in the period between 15th March and 15th November, from 9 a.m. till 6 p.m.. Also between 15th February and 14th March as well as between 16th November and 15th December Mondays to Fridays, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Gemstone Adventure World (Edelstein-Erlebniswelt)

The ‘Edelstein Erlebniswelt’ (Gemstone Adventure World) is a unique attraction. Here you will have a chance to explore the mysterious world of precious stones. An extraordinary exhibit will fascinate you and take you on a journey through the beautiful world of gemstones, crystals and minerals. Light and colour will captivate your senses. Caves and grottos invite you to explore every corner. Haze and pools contribute to the mystic atmosphere of the fairyland. Get inspired by this fascinating attraction and explore the intriguing secrets of precious stones and minerals. The Gemstone Adventure World is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. till 6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. till 6 p.m.

Deutsche Edelsteinstrasse (German Gemstone Route)
By two circular routes the Deutsche Edelsteinstrasse (German Gemstone Route) connects all the sites in the region that are characterized by working with gemstones. The origins of gemstone cutting go back to the Middle Ages when rich mineral occurrences were discovered and subsequently mined in the regions. From the traditional craft of gemstone a rich variety of tourism offers have developed. Today's mineral deposits along the Deutsche Edelsteinstrasse (German Gemstone Route) still delight passionate collectors and hobby geologists.
Guided Tours of Jewellery Design Studios
Here, where gemstones and minerals have been processed from time immemorial, a great diversity of creative craftsmanship has grown up. Today the region's jewellery studios, young jewellery designers and goldsmiths invite you for a visit. They show you how new creations in precious stone and metal are created. Or try your hand at being your own designer and craft your personal piece of jewellery assisted by an expert.

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3. Chapel-in-the-Rocks (Felsenkirche)

Penitence for a fratricide committed by the Lord of the Oberer Stein — this is the explanation offered by legend for the construction of the unique Chapel-in-the-Rocks (Felsenkirche) in the years 1482 to 1484. There is a vividly bubbling spring situated inside the Chapel, which hints at the real origin of the crevice in the rocks which later housed the Chapel at about 60 metre above ground level. Ever since its constructions, the sacral landmark of the city has gained fame all over the world. Inside the church building there is an unusual altar painting by an anonymous Master, representing the ‘School of Mainz’. Valuable table paintings, artfully crafted ornamental woodworks, a naturally grown agate crucifix and a historical organ from 1756 round off the impressive interior. There are many interesting details waiting to be discovered besides these, like for example a Gothic baptism stone, paintings of the apostles from the era of baroque, and a Renaissance painting portraying the Count Sebastian von Daun-Oberstein-Falkenstein. The Chapel-in-the-Rocks is open daily between April and October from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (provided there is no wedding or church service).

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4. Castle Ruins Oberstein and Bosselstein

Like brothers the Castles of Bosselstein and Oberstein reside above the city of Oberstein. It is a worthwhile experience indeed to climb up to them from the Marketplace downtown. On your way up you will stroll through a romantic beech wood past the Chapel-in-the-Rocks (Felsenkirche). The spectacular view of all the city and its surroundings will more than make up for the climb. And around the idyll of the Castle pond there are a multitude of interesting opportunities for walking or hiking. The Castle Bosselstein ruins, situated on the church rock, remind of its foundation in the year 1196 by the Lords of Stein (Oberstein). Destroyed in war times, the castle was not built up again. Instead, the Lords of the Castle moved to Castle Oberstein, which had been built in the year 1320. In the Middle Ages, a fall shaft construction was the only access possibility to get inside. Quite striking and rather atypical for the region is a Gothic bay window on the south-western façade of the castle. Not having been subjected to destruction in several skirmishes and battles, Castle Oberstein nevertheless fell prey to flames in 1855. Since then, dedicated citizens have taken care of rebuilding the impressive construction. When you have reached the ruin or the new castle, the view will offer you a spectacular impression of the scenery from the Nahe valley far into the picturesque and sometimes bizarre landscape of the Hunsrück mountains.

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5. Museums

Deutsches Edelsteinmuseum (German Museum of Precious Stones)

All of the world-wide existing gemstones may be admired here in the shape of no less than 9,000 exhibits. Besides rough and cut stones, artfully crafted sculptures and engravings present themselves to the visitor. Even experts are usually quite overwhelmed at the splendid multitude displayed here. The historical mansion housing the gemstone Museum is in itself an interesting landmark from the German ”Gründerzeit” period at the end of the 19th century. The museum is situated in the Idar part of the city and is open daily from 9 a.m. till 6 p.m. in the period between May and October, in the months November till April daily from 9 a.m. till 5 p.m.

Museum Idar-Oberstein

Below the Chapel-in-the-Rocks, right on the Oberstein marketplace the Museum Idar-Oberstein shows its exhibits. Here the visitor will find anything which made Idar-Oberstein well-known and famous. Here you can admire an important and unique collection of minerals, as well as samples showing the craftsmanship of local engravers, gold and silversmiths. In the most beautiful German crystal hall there are displayed the largest overseas minerals ever to be imported by European countries. And you really should not miss taking a glance into the fascinating fluorescence cabinet. Besides these highlights, there is also a quaint collection related to the city’s history which offers historical impressions of the city of gemstones. The museum is open daily from 9 a.m. till 5.30 p.m., in the months November till March only from 10 a.m. till 5.30 p.m.

Industriedenkmal Jakob Bengel (Factory Museum)

It is the only original factory that has been preserved. The factory represents over 130 years history of jewellery manufacturing in Idar-Oberstein. In former times over 100 people worked in the factory in production of necklaces, jewellery and accessories. Today, guided tours of the factory museum provide visitors insights into the manufacturing methods that had been used in these times. The antique machines are still working today and demonstrations show you the creativity of the gemstone and jewellery trade. Starting from design, engraving and tools that had been the prerequisites for a successful manufacturing. Since 2003, the antique machines are back in service for manufacturing Art Déco jewellery according to old designs (from the year 1920 - 1930), antique manufacturing methods and with original tools. The Art Déco jewellery is manufactured in a limited edition for special customers. The museum is open from Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. - 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. - 4 p.m. Closed on holidays.

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6. Leisure Time

6.1 ‘Idar-Obersteiner Spießbraten’ Restaurants

Once upon a time gemstone cutters brought back from Brazil something very special — the original Idar-Oberstein ‘Spießbraten’. And just as varied as the world of gemstones are the variations in preparing this delicious and special Idar-Oberstein dish. Basically the rules and ingredients for preparing this grill are clearly defined: the raw meat is marinated in a mixture of onions, pepper and salt, sometimes with a whiff of garlic, for several hours before its preparation. No matter whether the meat is neck of pork, pork loin, roast beef, T-bone (locally termed ‘Hohe Rippe’) or even lamb — there is one characteristic which all these share: the raw weight should be no less than 350 g per portion. The meat is then prepared on an open beech log fire. The tannic acid of the beech logs in combination with the marinade lends the Spießbraten-grill its uniquely delicious flavour. So the smell of fire and sizzling meat are as characteristic of Idar-Oberstein as its gemstones. The preparation of the grill over an open fire is an experience by itself until anticipation is finally fulfilled. You will get a unique gourmet experience which is typical for the region. Some of the restaurants at Idar-Oberstein have even exclusively concentrated on preparing this dish.

6.2 Activities

The Nahe river and the Hunsrück mountains dominate the scenery. Steep rocky slopes and idyllic valleys combine to a special effect. The people enjoy living here in an attractive landscape, in a unique scenery. A large offer for leisure time activities is important for the quality of life offered by a city. Idar-Oberstein and its surroundings are just as multi-faceted in this respect as a well-cut gemstone. Hikers will find 1,500 km of mapped routes, cyclists may enjoy the route systems of Naheland and the Saar-Hunsrück nature reserve which offer trails of varying difficulty and for any age group. Tennis, horseback-riding, golf, squash, badminton, all demonstrated by excellent instructors — you name it, we’ve got it. If you prefer to have your head in the clouds, there is ‘Flugplatz Göttschied’ (airfield) to welcome you. The general friendliness and open-mindedness of the population will make it easy for you to join in the sports activities.

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7. Events Finder

Festivals and events are an integral part of Idar-Oberstein just like gemstones. The largest and best-known fun-fair of the region, the ‘Spießbratenfest’ is the highlight of the year.

But there is always something going on, and this makes cultural life in the multi-faceted city with a heart for tourists a varied and vivid experience. There is the Idar-Oberstein Castle festival, the Jazz Festival, a City festival and Christmas markets, performances of classical music, Rock, theatre plays, exhibitions, literary events — there is something to suit each preference. Experiencing Idar-Oberstein means getting immersed in cultural variety, and getting involved in arts and culture together with other happy and friendly people.

Here you can search for events and festivals in the region.

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8. Hotel & Holiday Flat Finder

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.

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9. How to get there from Frankfurt-Hahn Airport

9.1 By Rental Car

Google Maps: Route from (A) Frankfurt-Hahn Airport to (B) Idar-Oberstein
(39 km distance / 48 minutes driving time) » get directions

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9.2 By Bus

Buses run from Frankfurt-Hahn Airport to Idar-Oberstein.

Bus routes and timetables:

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Tourist Office Address

Hauptstrasse 419
55743 Idar-Oberstein

Tel.: +49 (0) 67 81 - 64 - 871
Fax: +49 (0) 67 81 - 64 - 878