Museen Burg Altena

One of the most beautiful hilltop castles in Germany towers high above the old wire-drawing town. It was built from the 12th century onward to protect the region's iron production. Under the motto "knights, smiths, wanderers" it shows the history of the industrially outstanding Märkisches Sauerland next to the first youth hostel in the world. Today you can reach the castle with a spectacular adventure elevator ...

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… What is the actual weight of a coat of mail? In the "Knight's Playground" visitors can try it on right away. Next door they find out what an iron named Osemund tells them about the competitive relationship with the Ruhr area. A special highlight is the world's first youth hostel, which is still located here. And the adventure lift to and from Altena leads directly to the fairytale kingdom of legends.

Considering the number of smelting sites – more than 2,000 since the 10th century – the Märkisch Sauerland turns out to have once been a major power in the iron industry. Its backbone are the so-called Reidemeisters, who process pig iron from the Siegerland into forgeable Osemunde iron in their hammer mills and into wire in wire drawing workshops. This keeps entire families busy, and it is not uncommon for widows to continue their husband's business or trade. Since their home and workplace are identical, the women know the business partners and clients visiting the workshop. For example, the Altena residents' list for the years 1740/41 explicitly includes six female Reidemeisters. In addition, there is evidence of women as owners and lessors of wire drawing mills, and some of them even did the hard work of wire drawing themselves. The children assist by, for example, pointing wires, winding them up or operating the wire winches.

Industrialisation and factory work herald the end of the Reidemeister families. Suddenly, there is no further demand for the Märkisch Osemund. In the Ruhr area, cheaper puddle iron is introduced, which is melted and stirred in large furnaces and then easily processed in rolling mills. The Sauerland small-scale iron trade responds with consistent specialisation and, thanks to this strategy, has since produced dozens of world market leaders. The museum tour of Altena Castle is so exciting because it links the different worlds - the Middle Ages, the Reidemeister trade, industrialisation and modern-day Sauerland.


The "Steel Time Travelers" Luise & Alfred: Museen Burg Altena


That's what I call a proud castle! Almost as lofty as my little house in Bredeney - also on a hill ...

Full dialog text
Al: That's what I call a proud castle! Almost as lofty as my little house in Bredeney - also on a hill.

Lu: At least my moated castle in Balve is on flat land. How do you get up there? It looks almost impregnable!

Al: One of those elevators - that would be a gain and an incentive for my hard-working engineers. They're on the ball. Wire? The people of Altena are world-famous for that. I'd need a few more rings...

Lu: Come on Alfred - the view over the town must be fabulous. I wish I had a tower room like that. And for you, I'm sure there's a real rotten dungeon ...

Al: A strong castle - in those days you had to bring in really heavy guns to protect the local iron trade. Nowadays that's ...

Lu: ... hopefully never again necessary! But if you also produce for the military, you quickly become a target yourself!

Visitor information

Fritz-Thomée-Str. 80
58762 Altena
Phone. 02352/966 7034

Opening hours:
Tue-Fri: 9.30 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Sat/Sun/Holidays: 11 a.m. -6 p.m.

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Castle of protection of the iron trade

Museen Burg Altena

EisenStahl 20 Burg Altena

One of Germany's most beautiful hilltop castles towers high above the old wire-drawing town. It was built from the 12th century onwards to protect the regional iron production. Under the motto 'Knights, smiths, wanderers', it shows the history of the industrially outstanding Märkisches Sauerland and that of the world's first youth hostel. Today you can reach the castle by a spectacular adventure lift …

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Weyhe-Park on the Wulfsegge


I have to clear up three misunderstandings here. First: The Nette Valley is indeed a nice valley with many wire drawing factories, but it is called so because the Nette provides water power there. Second: The castle hill above Nette and Lenne received highest consecrations, but it was the royal horticultural director Weyhe, who provided here for English flair. And thirdly: There are no more wolves here.

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History and nature trail Altena


The fortified castle is truly worth the climb! And now you want to go even higher? I'll accompany you Alfred - but woe betide you if the promised Hexentanzplatz or the enchanted fountain in the deepest forest are just ALberne fantasies to lure me into this green classroom. Be that as it may - the view is in any case fabulous!

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