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Text: Vesna Šteblaj Photos: iStock, Shutterstock

In the heart of Europe, on the edge of the Teutoburg Forest range in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, lies the city of Paderborn, an important industrial and technological centre that is also a university town and a centre of sport and culture with a history dating back more than 1,200 years.

Its blend of ancient history and modern spirit gives the city an unforgettable charm, where its different characteristics combine to form a harmonious whole that attracts and enthuses.

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A notable sight rarely seen in the centre of a city are the gushing springs of the river Pader, which gave the city its name. The area around the springs is a pedestrian zone and ideal for a tranquil stroll.

Walk a few steps in any direction and you will come across one of the city's many notable buildings, in many different architectural styles: the unusual town hall with its three-gabled façade, the renovated imperial palace, the imposing cathedral with its famous window featuring three hares (Dreihasenfenster), the half-timbered Adam-and-Eve House, the Theological Faculty (a fine example of Renaissance architecture), the former brewery by the springs, several churches and chapels, the city library, art galleries, numerous museums, and so on. The list of attractions that combine an interesting appearance and interesting content is practically endless. A walk through the city centre is like a journey through history – Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance – right up to the equally impressive modern buildings constructed in recent decades.

The streets are full of lively activity all year round, while an attraction particularly worth mentioning in the coming months is the colourful Christmas market in the square in front of the cathedral, which this year will run from 23 November to 23 December.

Paderborn's city centre invites you to surrender to its unique charms. Again and again.

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The mysterious walls of Wewelsburg, a castle of unusual triangular design, conceal more than they reveal. The castle’s origins date back to the early Middle Ages, when it became the residence of Paderborn's prince-bishops.

In the turbulent years that followed, the three round towers connected by massive walls changed hands – and uses – several times. Repeatedly razed or ruined, it was always rebuilt, along with a new legend that added more mystery to the old stone walls. Perhaps you too will sense something magical in a place where – it is said – witch trials once took place.

Today the castle contains two museums: the Historical Museum of the Prince-Bishopric of Paderborn, offering a picturesque presentation of life in the castle and the surrounding area over the course of centuries, and the Wewelsburg 1933–1945 Memorial Museum. Periodic thematic exhibitions and events further add to the attractiveness of the two museums.

The castle's east wing hosts one of the largest youth hostels in Germany and has inspired many artists, who have mentioned it in books, films and even computer games.

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As though cast across the slopes of Teutoburg Forest by the hand of an angry giant, these mighty stone columns tower into the sky in the south-eastern part of the range and the sight of them will take your breath away.

The thirteen columns of hard sandstone formed over the course of millions of years, hidden beneath the surface, as powerful tectonic shifts moved the layers of rock into an almost vertical position. Then it was the turn of rain, ice and wind, washing away the earth that covered them and exposing the mighty rocks to the wondering gaze of generations of visitors.

Each column is special in its own way, but the most impressive is the one that conceals three interconnected chambers in its interior – the largest of them a full eleven metres long.

The history of the various uses to which the rock formation has been put is not entirely certain, which gives the columns an additional hint of mystery. The mighty columns have been a place of pagan rituals, a refuge for Stone Age hunters, a retreat for hermits, an astronomical centre and a gathering place for cult members.

Relief sculptures, steps and apertures have been carved into the rocks, and the touch of human hands has added to the mighty work of nature.

The Externsteine are located 20 km from Paderborn. A train service operates every hour. The journey takes 32 minutes and the ticket costs between €2 and €4. A taxi service is also available.

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When you need to escape the pressures and pace of daily life, when you want peace or an active break in the great outdoors, the countryside around Paderborn has something remarkable to offer: one of the biggest nature parks in Germany, where you can enjoy unspoilt nature with all your senses.

The remarkable beauty and natural characteristics of the park, together with the area's rich history, will enchant you forever. The park contains several springs of natural hot and cold water which you can enjoy in numerous spas and health resorts, with all the comforts and conveniences you would expect.

The park and the surrounding area also offer numerous opportunities for hiking, cycling, water sports, fishing, and much more besides.

A network of trails of various lengths, along with a number of themed trails, covers a total of 2,000 kilometres and offers something for everyone. One themed trail is dedicated to climate change and its consequences, while there are also some special barrier-free trails suitable for physically disabled visitors.

Nourishing your soul with all these beautiful sights can be hungry work, so why not explore the wide range of excellent local dishes and beverages that the area has to offer.