Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Wörlitz

From the World Heritage inscription:

The Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Wörlitz is an outstanding example of the application of the philosophical principles of the Age of the Enlightenment to the design of a landscape that integrates art, education, and economy in a harmonious whole.

The first essays in landscape design began with the foundation of Oranienbaum, with its unified layout of the town, palace, and park from 1683 onwards. The resulting complete Baroque ensemble, with obvious Dutch connections deriving from its designer, Cornelis Ryckwaert, has survived to the present day. Further developments on these lines took place around 1700 with the reclamation of marshy areas along the Elbe and the creation of planned villages and farmsteads. During the reign of Prince Leopold III Friedrich Franz of Anhalt-Dessau (1740-1817), an extensive landscape design project was begun around 1765 over the entire principality. This ambitious programme was launched in close collaboration with the architect and art theorist Friedrich Wilhelm von Erdmannsdorff (1736-1800). Landscape design, public education, and encouragement of the arts were closely integrated in this scheme. Wörlitz became the point of departure for wide-ranging improvements based on English landscape gardens and neoclassical architecture.

This unified scheme of buildings, gardens, and works of art, with a pervasive educational theme, became the outward expression of the Enlightenment. Schloss Wörlitz was built in 1769-73 and it was the first neoclassical building in Germany. The Gothic House (1774) established a vogue for Gothic Revival buildings all across Europe. A number of other landscape projects in the principality date from this period. One of the most innovatory was the Chinese garden at Oranienbaum (1790), based on the theories of the English architect Sir William Chambers.

The roads and dykes that were essential for infrastructural development were planted with avenues of fruit trees, giving them an ornamental aspect. By the time Prince Franz died in 1817 virtually the entire principality had become a unified garden. Despite industrialization and the consequent expansion of Dessau since 1900, the characteristic features of the landscape have been preserved.

Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Wörlitz

There are two major things to see if you visit Wörlitz: the palace and the park.

The palace is one of the better-preserved buildings you will see in Germany. Not only was it (relatively) recently built in the 18th century, but it was untouched by WWII. It is also considered to be one of the first neoclassical buildings in Europe.

The park surrounding the palace is one of the best and earliest examples of an English garden in continental Europe.

Despite the name being “Dessau-Wörlitz”, the site is located in the town of Wörlitz, not in the nearby city of Dessau. It is very close to the Dessau part of the Bauhaus and its Sites in Weimar and Dessau world heritage site. Both can easily be visited in the same day.


Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Wörlitz

The Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Wörlitz is a cultural UNESCO World Heritage Site in Germany. It was inscribed in 2000 and is one of the largest English parks in Germany and in all of Europe. It is also commonly referred to as the English Grounds of Worlitz.

The Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Wörlitz was built and developed in the late 18th century during the rule of Duke Leopold III of Anhalt-Dessau. The Duke, along with his architect friend Friedrich Wilhelm von Erdmannsdorff, was strongly influenced by The Enlightenment. They wanted to break away from the traditional formal garden concept during the Baroque era. They wanted to build a naturalistic landscape, which eventually laid out the grounds for what was to become the cultural landscape for the Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Wörlitz. The total land area protected by UNESCO is 142 square kilometers.

About the Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Wörlitz

Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Wörlitz

The Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Wörlitz is the first English-style landscaped garden in Europe. This 18th-century garden is a cultural landscape that depicts a garden design that features harmony with the architecture. Duke Leopold III is credited for developing this landscaped garden as he is known to be an adherent of the Enlightenment. His beliefs extended beyond his political views but also in terms of architecture and landscape gardening. This is exactly what transpired with the creation of this garden.

Aside from the garden, the cultural landscape of the Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Wörlitz also features another important structure: the Wörlitz House. This is the first-ever classical building to be built in mainland Europe (it was constructed in 1769 to 1773). It is located at the center of Wörlitz Park. For the next 40 years, there were more parks and grand houses that were built in Dessau. Some of these buildings include Georgium Palace, Luisium Palace, Mosigkau Palace and Garden, Grosskühnau Palace and Garden, Sieglitzer Berg Hill, Kuhnau Park, and Wörlitz Park.

The central Worlitz Park is located at the part of the river which is an anabranch of the Elbe River. Hence, the park has access to a rich water source. When Duke Leopold III commissioned for this park to be built, he envisioned it as an educational institution in gardening, architecture, and agriculture. The majority of the park is therefore open to the public since the park was completed. A dam was built to protect the park from flood coming from the Elbe River, while also serving as a belt-walk with numerous views.

On the other hand, the Worlitz Palace features cabinets and interior finishing that was taken from the studio of Abraham and David Roentgen. Meanwhile, it also features a massive collection of Wedgwood porcelain that is accessible by the public. The wife of Duke Leopold III also had her own private room in the Grey House, which is located adjacent to the palace.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Germany.

Gary Arndt
Gary Arndt

Gary began traveling the world in 2007. His travels have taken him to over 200 countries and territories and 400 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

He is a 3x Lowell Thomas Award winner and a 3x North American Travel Photographer of the Year.