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Goethe's House

Home > Frankfurt > Historic Houses | Indoor | Museums
by Cressida Ryan (subscribe)
Classicist and traveller
Published August 29th 2016
The Goethe museum takes you through the unusual, fabulous house inhabited by Goethe for childhood and early adult life. Along with him lived his mother and sister, and he also gave space to other artists, letting them work at the top of the floor, helping to inspire his own artistic temperament.

goethehaus, frankfurt
The Goethehaus, Frankfurt

This is, in fact, two houses remodelled together by Goethe's father, in the bourgeois rococo style popular in the 1750s. Unfortunately, the original house was destroyed in World War II, but was rebuilt to its original structure by 1951, so important is Goethe to Frankfurt.

One of the first rooms you come to, after entering through a modern addition which leads into a courtyard with a well, is the 'Blaue Stube' or 'Blue Saloon'. A reception room, it takes its name from the colour of the walls.

dining room, goethehaus, frankfurt
Dining room

Downstairs is also a well-equipped kitchen. It is unusual in having its own, private water pump, so that the family did not need to use public ones. A cook and two maids ensured the family were well-looked after.

The Goethe family's fondness for artistic food (in contemporary style) is evident here too, as a large number of bread (and other food) moulds hang on the wall. Elegant and unusual food is a key part of eighteenth-century European bourgeoisie culture.

kitchen, tins, goethehaus, frankfurt
Elaborate food tins

There are four floors and an attic, with a majestic staircase linking all but the last level.

staircase, goethehaus, frankfurt
The main staircase

Up the first flight, you encounter the Peking Salon, so-called because of the chinoiserie wallpaper. These are the more formal rooms for entertaining and include a music room with historical keyboard instruments. Music formed an important part of Goethe's life.

goethehaus, frankfurt
Blaue Stube (Blue Saloon)

Upstairs again are the less formal family rooms. On the landing is the astronomical clock. Its faces tell not only the time, but also about the year and the stars. The Enlightenment quest for knowledge and technology is very much in evidence here.

clock, goethehaus, frankfurt
Astronomical clock

Goethe's mother and sister both had their own rooms on this floor too. In his mother's room, you can see a portrait of her, but also things she used, such as the cunning cups with lids which helped prevent skins forming on her hot chocolate.

goethehaus, frankfurt
Goethe's mother's room

His study itself is open to the public. You can see a high desk where he stood to write letters, along with some of the letters he wrote.

goethehaus, frankfurt
Goethe's study

The library has bespoke bookcases covering the walls and even working their way around the doorframe, with space for short books between the door and the ceiling. His main book collection is in the research library next door, but the room still oozes erudition.

goethehaus, frankfurt
Goethe's library

Some rooms up at the top have been turned into a gallery about his family and his life, also marking the room where he was, supposedly, born. The beams and slanted ceilings also give the rooms a much more intimate feel. His puppet theatre shows his childhood interest in dramatic arts. The gabled room is where Goethe lived and worked after his law studies. One's environment definitely colours one's work, and this house helps to give you a feel for the background which influenced and shaped one of Europe's most famous writers.

Popular with school groups as well as tourists, the house quickly fills up, so it is wise to find less 'peak' times to go if possible. There are a lot of stairs so it is not appropriate for those with accessibility issues. At the entrance is a small shop with toilet facilities. You can join regular tours in German, or book your own bespoke tour. Audio guides are also available in German, English, Chinese, Japanese and Korean for a further 3 Euro fee.
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Why? Goethe's childhood home
When: Monday-Saturday 10-6, Sunday 10-5:30
Where: Großer jirschgraben 23-25
Cost: Adults 7 Euros, concessions 3 Euros, other rates available
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