“Other towns have a university; MARBURG is a university” – so runs the saying, and there’s a grain of truth to it, for the prestigious Philipps University dominates the life of the town. It’s the oldest Protestant university in the world, founded in 1527 by Landgrave Philipp the Magnanimous without imperial or papal recognition. Notable figures associated with it include Nobel Prize-winning physiologist Emil von Behring, the philosopher Martin Heidegger and the political theorist Hannah Arendt.
Physically, the town is dominated by the splendid hilltop Landgrafenschloss, a reminder of Marburg’s former status as the seat of the Hessian Landgraves, visible from all over town and a handy navigation aid. Below, the perfectly preserved medieval Oberstadt (upper town), which centres on the steeply sloping Markt, tumbles downhill towards the River Lahn. The lower town, the Unterstadt, curves around Oberstadt following the course of the Lahn, its chief glory being the Gothic hall church dedicated to St Elisabeth of Hungary.