Bad Karlshafen Harbour Basin

The Bad Karlshafen harbour basin is the northernmost property of the State Castles and Gardens of Hesse. When it was laid out at the beginning of the 18th century, it was part of a bold project: Landgrave Charles of Kassel wanted to connect his land directly to the North Sea with a canal between the Lahn and Weser rivers.

At a glance

34385 Bad Karlshafen

Harbour area freely accessible

A map of Hessen HESSEN


In the tranquil harbour of Bad Karlshafen, the northernmost municipality in Hesse, small yachts and leisure boats anchor today in front of the impressive backdrop of the baroque town hall. The complex at the confluence of the Weser and Diemel rivers was planned as part of a bold project that Landgrave Charles of Hesse-Kassel (1654-1730) pushed from 1710 onwards.

He wanted trade goods to be transported from there via a canal to the Fulda and the royal seat of Kassel. In perspective, the waterway was to continue from there to Marburg into the Lahn and thus ultimately into the Rhine to connect the Rhine and Weser in the territory of the Landgraviate of Hesse-Kassel.

Bad Karlshafen, docks

Since May 2019, excursion boats can dock in Bad Karlshafen again.

Photo: Michael Leukel, 2019

Bad Karlshafen, detail of the monument for landgrave Carl

A monument commemorates Landgrave Charles, the initiator of the large-scale project.

Foto: Michael Leukel, 2019

Bad Karlshafen at the blue hour

At blue hour at the harbour.

Foto: Michael Leukel, 2019

Building Project Should Strengthen the Economy

This almost unbelievable idea, which today appears to be pure utopia and was also only realised for barely 19 kilometres, had a good reason from the point of view of the time. Landgrave Charles wanted to strengthen his country, which was still scarred by the Thirty Years’ War, politically and economically.

According to the principles of the prevailing economic policy of the time (Mercantilism), this meant increasing domestic production, exporting the surplus and thus generously promoting the economy at home.

A New Home for Huguenots

In this endeavour, Charles had founded the town of Sieburg in the northernmost part of his country in 1699, which was renamed Karlshafen (Charleshaven) in his honour in 1717. Here he settled Huguenots, French Protestants who had fled France after King Louis XIV had made Catholicism the sole state religion there in 1685.

Huguenots were specialists in the textile trade and made their new home a centre of this industry. Textile goods were to be exported via the planned canal without having to forcibly haggle them on their way from the Weser into the Fulda in Hannoversch Münden (which belonged to the Principality of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel), or to circumvent this stacking right of the city by paying customs duty.

Bad Karlshafen, harbour

Barges were to transport goods from the harbour to Kassel. This ambitious plan failed, but left behind an impressive facility in the Baroque city.

Foto: Michael Leukel, 2019

A City Complex around the Harbour Basin

Construction of the Karlshafen harbour began in 1713. In 1715, the foundation stone was laid for a magnificent packing and customs house, which was used as the town hall after 1730. The Baroque town complex was built around the harbour basin. The ambitious canal project was continued from 1710 to 1730 between Karlshafen and Schöneberg near Hofgeismar. With the death of the Landgrave, it was not pursued further. Since the 1930s, the harbour basin was cut off from the port by the construction of the Weser road (B80).

Harbour in Operation Again Since 2019

In 2017, the project “Reconnection of the historic harbour to the Weser”, funded by the Federal Republic of Germany as a “National Urban Development Project”, was launched to revitalise the economy and tourism in Bad Karlshafen. In spring 2019, the historic harbour was reopened for shipping and can be navigated from the Weser via a new lock.