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Altena is a town in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. It is located at the north of the Sauerland in the Lenne river valley, at 51° 18' North, 7° 40' East. Population: 21,831 (2001). Area: 44.29 km². It belongs to the district Märkischer Kreis.


The history of Altena starts with the construction of the castle in the 12th century, which was the original seat of Counts of the Mark. In 1198 the count of Altena did buy the Oberhof Mark near Hamm and together with changing their main seat to that they also changed their dukedom to be called Mark. The castle in Altena was only rarely used from that time.

In 1367 the settlement below the castle did receive the rights to become a free trade zone. In 1609 the whole dukedom changed to belong to Brandenburg, and later to Prussia. Even though Altena never got city rights officially, it was then the capital of the distric Altena.

In 1968 Altena was merged with the municipality Dahle, most part of Evingsen (formerly part of Hemer, the Rahmede valley and part of Nachrodt-Wiblingwerde to form the present city. The distric of Altena and Lüdenscheid were merged to one distric, which in 1975 became the Märkischer Kreis.

Points of interest

Biggest attraction is the castle Burg Altena. After being unused for centuries it was in ruins, part of the buildings were used to be hospital. A complete reconstruction finished mostly in 1914 to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the merging of Mark to Prussia in 1909.

In 1912 the first youth hostel was created by Richard Schirrmann inside the castle, the old rooms are still on display, and new rooms inside the castle area are still part of the hostel now.

The dominant industry in Altena was wire production, thus it has a museum dedicated to this industry only, the Drahtmuseum.

Coat of arms

The coat of arms show Saint Catherine of Alexandria, the patron of the church built in 1310. The red-white checked bordure comes from the coat of arms of the dukedom Mark.

External links