Fairy Forests are a quite traditional attraction. Different stages tell you the stories of fairy tales, typically illustrated by puppets or similar measures. In Altenberg Northwest of Cologne, there is one of the oldest “Märchenwälder”, how fairy forests are called in German. Found in 1931, it used to be called Deutscher Märchenwald (“German Fairy Forest”). Nowadays, it is typically called Märchenwald Altenberg. In fall 2019, I visited this traditional attraction.
German Fairy Forest – Location & Admission
Altenberg is some 40 minutes away from Cologne. The Altenberg Cathedral is the iconic sight of the village and quite well known. It is in very close proximity to the fairy forest.
In summer months (March to October), the Fairy Forest is opened from 10:00 to 18:30 hours. In winter, the park is only opening its gates from 10:00 to 16:00 on weekends and during the school Christmas holidays. Adult admission is 5 Euro, kids of the ages 3 to 14 are 3.50 Euro. In addition, you more or less have to pay some three Euros for parking close to the forest, which felt to be a rip-off in my point of view.
German Fairy Forest – The Visit
Even before you cross the gates to the park entrance, there are some displays which include moving puppets which tell you certain fairy stories. I did not spent too much time there, as these displays require payment and were (in my point of view) just too pricey.
The fairy forest itself is quite large. There is not a fixed or recommended path through the area, which has scattered houses and displays (over 20 in total). Typically, there is a button around, which switches on the light and starts a narrator (in German) telling you the story of the fairy tale in display. These story pieces are of course shortened, but still comparably long. Sometimes, figures are also moving. You also see that the park used to be even large – for example the The Frog King / Iron Heinrich display is quite far away. The part is majorly dedicated to the Grimm Brothers’ stories.
As you see on the pictures, the place is very traditional, the figures and puppets used are majorly wooden and similar techniques. Overall, the state of maintenance was fine during our visit. A few scenes did not work, though. Some other scenes looked a bit of run down, unfortunately. While most of the scenes work for free, some require a low amount of cash. For example, the ass on the The Wishing-Table, The Gold-Ass, and the Cudgel in the Sack display needs some cash to give “golden coins” (which are in fact chocolate).
The visit is also a nice walk at corresponding weather. We have been at the fairy forest for some 90 minutes. Especially depending on how intense you listen to the stories told and also take time at the petting zoo (see below), this time may vary significantly. It is also just nice to hang out there and take some picnic at one of the opportunities.
In addition to the fairy key attractions, there are also a couple of goats which you can feed and pet. The food is available at an additional charge.
German Fairy Forest – Other Services & Attractions
The German Fairy Forest in Alkenrath also drives a cafe / restaurant and even a hotel. The signature attraction of the cafe are indoor water fountains, which run every hour on peak times. The hotel feels to be rather basic, but is also offering very competitive pricing.
These attractions are out the fairy forest gates. There are no major refreshment facilities in the fairy forest itself.
German Fairy Forest – My View
I am completely shaken with this review. On the one hand, I love the place. Beautiful nature, nostalgic – the Märchenwald feels like a travel back in time (far beyond my childhood years). However, times are changing – and I would love to have the option to have a traditional fairy forest with some modern methods. Maybe an app, which is telling me the stories in different languages and guides me through the park? Augmented Reality? There is so much potential in a place like the German Fairy Forest, I feel they spoil it down to an average location. Being a bit of traditional is great – especially in places like this one. But you need to take care that you do not become stubborn – the place is already quite modern when it comes to the parking fees.