Fodor's Germany - Fodor's (2016)
Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, and Thuringia
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Top Reasons to Go | Getting Oriented | What’s Where | Planning | Following Martin Luther | Bauhaus in Weimar
Updated by Lee A. Evans and Giulia Pines
Germany’s traditional charm is most evident in the eastern states of Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, and Thuringia. Although the area formed the cultural core of the former East Germany, rolling hills, terraced vinyards, and wonderfully restored cities speak to an area reborn and reestablished as the German heartland. The region can be a little gritty at times, but a uniquely unspoiled German state of mind predominates.
Eastern Germans resolutely cling to their German heritage. They proudly preserve their connections with such national heroes as Luther, Goethe, Schiller, Bach, Handel, Wagner, and the Hungarian-born Liszt. Towns in the regions of the Thüringer Wald (Thuringian Forest) or the Harz Mountains—long considered the haunt of witches—are drenched in history and medieval legend. The area hides a fantastic collection of rural villages and castles unparalleled in other parts of the country.
Many cities, such as Erfurt, escaped World War II relatively unscathed, and the East Germans extensively rebuilt towns damaged by bombing. Although historical city centers were faithfully restored to their past glory, there are also plenty of eyesores of industrialization and stupendously bland housing projects, which the Germans refer to as Bausünden (architectural sins). Famous palaces and cultural wonders—the rebuilt historical center of Dresden, the Wartburg at Eisenach, the Schiller and Goethe houses in Weimar, Luther’s Wittenberg, as well as the wonderfully preserved city of Görlitz—are waiting to have their subtle and extravagant charms discovered.
TOP REASONS TO GO
Following Martin Luther: Trace the path of the ultimate medieval rebel in Wittenberg, Erfurt, Eisenach, and the Wartburg, and gain valuable insight into the mind and culture of a person whose ideas helped change the world. Germany will celebrate 500 years of the Reformation in 2017; look out for special events.
Frauenkirche in Dresden: Rising like a majestic baroque phoenix, the church is a worthy symbol of a city destroyed and rebuilt from its ashes.
Görlitz: This architectural gem is relatively undiscovered; you’ll feel as if you have the whole town to yourself.
Weimar: The history of Germany seems to revolve around this small town, whose past residents include Goethe, Schiller, Bach, Liszt, and Gropius.
Wine tasting in the Salle-Unstrut: The castle-topped, rolling hills covered in terraced vineyards are perfect for biking, hiking, and horseback riding.
These three states cover the southeastern part of the former East Germany, and the area holds Germany’s most historical and beautiful cities. It is increasingly difficult to find the dirty, depressing towns of the Communist past. Over 25 years of reconstruction programs and almost €3 trillion transformed the area, restoring its former glory. Dresden revels in its reputation as “the Florence on the Elbe,” and just downstream Meissen has undergone an impressive face-lift. Weimar, one of the continent’s old cultural centers, and Leipzig, in particular, are thriving cultural magnets, bustling with sparkling historic city centers. Görlitz, Germany’s easternmost city, benefited from an infusion of cash and is consistently lauded as one of the country’s 10 most beautiful cities.
Saxony. The pearl of eastern Germany, Saxony’s countryside is dotted with beautifully renovated castles and fortresses, and the people are charming and full of energy. (They also speak in an almost incomprehensible local dialect.) Dresden and Leipzig are cosmopolitan centers that combine the energy of the avant-garde with a distinct respect for tradition.
Saxony-Anhalt. Although long ignored by travelers, Saxony-Anhalt has more UNESCO World Heritage sites than any other region in Europe. The city of Naumburg is famed for its cathedral and for the wines produced in the surrounding vineyards.
Thuringia. Of all the eastern German states, Thuringia has the best travel infrastructure. Visitors to the classical jewel of Weimar and those interested in outdoor sports in the lush Thuringian Forest flock to the area, much as they have for centuries. Thuringia offers unparalleled natural sights as well as classical culture at reasonable prices.
WHEN TO GO
Winters in this part of Germany can be cold, wet, and dismal, so unless you plan to ski in the Harz Mountains or the Thüringer Wald, visit in late spring, summer, or early autumn. Avoid Leipzig at trade-fair times, particularly in March and April. In summer every city, town, and village has a festival, with streets blocked and local culture spilling out into every open space.
It’s easiest, and usually cheapest, to fly into Berlin or Frankfurt and rent a car from there. Dresden and Leipzig both have international airports that are primarily operated by budget carriers serving European destinations. Dresden Flughafen is about 10 km (6 miles) north of Dresden, and Leipzig’s Flughafen Leipzig-Halle is 12 km (8 miles) northwest of the city.
Dresden Flughafen. | Flughafenstr. | Dresden | 0351/881-3360 | www.dresden-airport.de.
Flughafen Leipzig-Halle. | Termanalring 11 | Schkeuditz | 0341/224-1155 | www.leipzig-halle-airport.de.
Long-distance buses travel to Dresden and Leipzig. Bus service within the area is infrequent and mainly connects with rail lines. Check schedules carefully at central train stations or call the service phone number of Deutsche Bahn (German Railway) at local railway stations.
Expressways connect Berlin with Dresden (A-13) and Leipzig (A-9). Both journeys take about two hours. The A-4 stretches east-west across the southern portion of Thuringia and Saxony.
A road-construction program in eastern Germany is ongoing, and you should expect traffic delays on any journey of more than 300 km (186 miles). The Bundesstrassen throughout eastern Germany are narrow, tree-lined country roads, often jammed with traffic. Roads in the western part of the Harz Mountains are better and wider.
Cars can be rented at the Dresden and Leipzig airports, at train stations, and through all major hotels. Be aware that you are not allowed to take rentals into Poland or the Czech Republic.
The fastest and least expensive way to explore the region is by train. East Germany’s rail infrastructure is exceptional; trains serve even the most remote destinations with astonishing frequency. Slower S, RB, and RE trains link smaller towns, while Leipzig, Dresden, Weimar, Erfurt, Naumburg, and Wittenberg are all on major InterCity Express (ICE) lines. Some cities—Dresden and Meissen, for example—are linked by commuter trains.
From Dresden a round-trip ticket to Leipzig costs about €43 (a 1½-hour journey one way); to Görlitz it’s about €38 (a 1½-hour ride). Trains connect Leipzig with Halle (a 30-minute ride, €10), Erfurt (a 1-hour ride, €28), and Eisenach (a 1½-hour journey, €28). The train ride between Dresden and Eisenach (2½ hours) costs €56 one way.
TIP Consider using a Länder-Ticket: a €23 (plus €4 per person up to five people) regional day ticket from the German Railroad that covers local train travel in the respective state (for example, within Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, or Thuringia).
German Railroad (Deutsche Bahn). | 0180/599-6633 | www.bahn.de.
With two luxury ships, Viking K-D operates a full program of cruises on the Elbe River, from Hamburg as far as Prague. They run up to eight days from mid-April until late October. All the historic cities of Saxony and Thuringia are ports of call—including Dresden, Meissen, Wittenberg, and Dessau. There are also popular narrow-gauge train tours.
Harzer Schmalspurbahnen GmbH.
The famous steam locomotive Harzquerbahn connects Nordhausen-Nord with Wernigerode and Gernerode in the Harz Mountains. The most popular track of this line is the Brockenbahn, a special narrow-gauge train transporting tourists to the top of northern Germany’s highest mountain. See website for schedule and further information. | Friedrichstr. 151 | Wernigerode | 03943/5580 | www.hsb-wr.de.
In Saxony, historic narrow-gauge trains still operate on a regular schedule. The Lössnitzgrundbahn, which connects Ost-Radebeul-Ost and Radeburg is perfect for taking in some of Saxony’s romantic countryside. A round-trip ticket is between about €7 and €11, depending on the length of the ride. For schedule and information, contact Deutsche Bahn’s regional Dresden office. | Geyersdorfer Str. 32 | Annaberg-Buchholz | 0351/46165-63684 | www.loessnitzgrundbahn.de | From €7.
Weisse Flotte’s historic paddle-steam tours depart from and stop in Dresden, Meissen, Pirna, Pillnitz, Königsstein, and Bad Schandau. Besides tours in the Dresden area, boats also go into the Czech Republic. | Hertha-Lindner-Str. 10 | Dresden | 0351/866-090 | www.saechsische-dampfschiffahrt.de | From €16.
These tours are perfect for railway enthusiasts: take a tour on this historic narrow-gauge railroad. | Dresdner Str. 280 | Freital | 0351/641-2701 | www.weisseritztalbahn.de | From €7.
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Enterprising young managers and chefs are well established in the East, so look for new, usually small, trendy restaurants. People in the region are extremely particular about their traditional food (rumor has it that one can be deported for roasting Mützbraten over anything other than birch). Some new creative chefs successfully blend contemporary regional German with international influences. Medieval-theme restaurants and “experience dining,” complete with entertainment, are all the rage in the East, and, despite being often quite kitschy, warrant at least one try. As the region slowly rediscovers its tremendous beer heritage, microbreweries and brewpubs have sprouted up in almost every city. Pubs are a good bet for meeting locals.
Hotels in eastern Germany are up to international standards and, due to economic subsidies in the 1990s, often far outshine their West German counterparts. In the East it’s quite normal to have a major international hotel in a 1,000-year-old house or restored mansion. Smaller and family-run hotels are more charming local options, and often include a good restaurant. Most big hotels offer special weekend or activity-oriented packages that aren’t found in the western part of the country. All hotels include breakfast, unless indicated otherwise.
During the trade fairs and shows of the Leipziger Messe, particularly in March and April, most Leipzig hotels increase their prices.
PLANNING YOUR TIME
Eastern Germany is a small, well-connected region that’s well suited for day trips. Dresden and Leipzig are the largest cities with the most facilities, making them good bases from which to explore the surrounding countryside, either by car or train. Both are well connected with Berlin, Munich, and Frankfurt. Leipzig, Dresden, Lutherstadt-Wittenberg, and Dessau can be explored as day trips from Berlin. Dresden is also a perfect stop for the day on the train from Berlin to Prague. Any of the smaller towns offer a quieter, possibly more authentic look at the area. A trip into the Salle-Unstrut wine region is well worth the time, using Naumburg as a base.
DISCOUNTS AND DEALS
Most of the region’s larger cities offer special tourist exploring cards, such as the Dresdencard, Hallecard, Leipzigcard, and Weimarcard, which include discounts at museums, concerts, hotels, and restaurants or special sightseeing packages for up to three days. For details, check with the local visitor-information office.
FOLLOWING MARTIN LUTHER
Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia are currently celebrating the “Luther decade,” preparing to mark the Protestant Reformation’s 500th anniversary in 2017. A drive between the Lutherstädte (Luther Cities) allows for a deeper understanding of Martin Luther and the Reformation.
Dissatisfaction was already brewing, but Martin Luther (1483-1546) was the first German to speak out against the Catholic Church. His 95 Theses, which he brashly nailed to a church door, called for a return to faith in the Bible’s teachings over papal decrees, and an end to the sale of indulgences (letters from the pope purchased by wealthy Christians to absolve them of sins). Luther’s greatest feat was translating the Bible into German, making it accessible to everyone who could read. His translation united the German dialects into the High German that almost everyone speaks today. Despite such so-called heretical beginnings, Luther overcame condemnation by the pope and other authorities. He continued to preach, building a family with Katharina von Bora, a former nun he married after “rescuing” her from a convent. After his death, Lutheranism spread across Europe as an accepted branch of Christianity.
“I am more afraid of my own heart than of the pope and all his cardinals. I have within me the great pope, Self.”
“When the Devil … sees men use violence to propagate the gospel, he … says with malignant looks and frightful grin: ‘Ah, how wise these madmen are to play my game! Let them go on; I shall reap the benefit …”
ON THE TRAIL OF MARTIN LUTHER
Start in the town of Wittenberg, the unofficial capital of the Reformation. The comprehensive Lutherhaus museum is in the Augustinian monastery where Luther lived twice, first as a monk and later with his family. This multilevel, bilingual museum will convince the skeptics that Luther is worth remembering. From the museum, it’s a short walk down the main thoroughfare Collegienstrasse to two churches that felt the influence of his teachings. The first is Stadtkirche St. Marien (Parish Church of St. Mary), where Luther often preached. The second, Schlosskirche (Castle Church), is where Luther changed history by posting his 95 Theses. The original wooden doors were destroyed in a 1760 fire, now replaced by bronze doors with the Latin text of the 95 Theses. On the way from one church to the other, stop to admire the statues of Luther and his friend and collaborator Philipp Melanchthon—they are buried next to each other in Schlosskirche.
In the nearby town of Eisleben, the houses where Luther was born, the Luthers Geburtshaus, and died, Luthers Sterbehaus, lie 10 minutes from each other. From there, it’s easy to spot the steeples of two churches: St. Petri-Pauli-Kirche (Church of Sts. Peter and Paul) and St. Andreaskirche (St. Andrew’s Church). The first was Luther’s place of baptism, while the second houses the pulpit where Luther gave his last four sermons. His funeral was also held here before his body was taken back to Wittenberg.
Continuing southwest the stunning medieval castle Wartburg is in the hills high above the town of Eisenach. Luther took refuge here after he was excommunicated by the pope and outlawed by a general assembly called the Diet of Worms, famously translating the New Testament from the original Greek into German.
1517: Luther nails his 95 Theses to Wittenberg’s Schlosskirche.
1521: Refusing to recant, Luther is excommunicated.
1537: Denmark’s Christian III declares Lutheranism the state religion, leading to its spread in Scandinavia.
1555: Charles V signs Peace of Augsburg, ending open hostilities between Catholicism and Lutheranism and granting the latter official status. Due to the rise of Calvinism, conflict bubbles under the surface.
1558: Queen Elizabeth I of England supports the establishment of the English Protestant Church.
1577: The Formula of Concord ends disputes between sects, strengthening and preserving Lutheranism.
1618: Religious tensions explode in Bohemia, thrusting Europe into the Thirty Years’ War. At war’s end, much of Central Europe is in ruins, with 40%-70% of people dead.
1650s and beyond: Lutheran explorers and settlers bring their beliefs to the New World.
BAUHAUS IN WEIMAR
Begun in Weimar, the Bauhaus movement’s futuristic design, “form from function” mentality, and revolutionary spirit have inspired artists worldwide.
Founded in 1919 by architect Walter Gropius, the Bauhaus movement had roots in the past but was also unabashedly modern. Based on the principles of William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement, Bauhaus promoted the idea of creation as a service to society: art should permeate daily life, and the Bauhaus transformed practical objects such as a chair, teapot, or lamp into true works of art. Its style was art deco but less ornate, machine age but not industrial, its goal to put both spaces and materials to their most natural and economical uses. Although the Bauhaus school was shut down by the Nazis in the early 1930s, many former Bauhaus students left Germany and went to work in other parts of the world. Today, their influence can even be seen as far away as Tel Aviv, where Jewish architects fleeing Europe came to build their vision of a modern city.
BAUHAUS IN DESSAU
If you have an extra day, take the train to Dessau, Bauhaus’s second city, to see the iconic Bauhaus Building, adorned on one side with vertical block lettering spelling out “Bauhaus.” Still an architecture school, it now houses the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation, and a multilevel Bauhaus Museum. You can even stay in the monastic Bauhaus studio flats here.
A BAUHAUS WALK IN WEIMAR
Start with the Bauhaus Museum in Weimar’s central Theaterplatz, which offers a film about the history of Bauhaus and rotating exhibitions covering much of what there is to see in Weimar. Head south along Schützengasse and continue down Amalienstrasse to catch a glimpse of the Henry van de Velde-designed main building of Bauhaus University, formerly the Grand Ducal School of Arts and Crafts. A faithful reconstruction of Gropius’s office can be found here as well. The Bauhaus Atelier at the university is a central meeting place for students. It contains a café and shop offering books about the movement as well as Bauhaus-designed souvenirs, and also marks the starting point for university-run Bauhaus walks. Head just south for the Gropius-designed Monument to the March Dead in Weimar’s Historischer Friedhof (Historical Cemetery). This jagged expressionist structure, built in 1921, commemorates those who died in the Kapp Putsch, an attempt to overthrow the Weimar Republic a year earlier. Follow the signs for Goethes Gartenhaus (perhaps the most visited historical structure in Weimar) through the Park on the Ilm, and look just beyond it for the Haus am Horn. This modest, cubical structure designed by Georg Muche for the 1923 Bauhaus exhibition was meant to be a model of Bauhaus’s functional philosophy. It was fully restored in 1999 to mark the 80th anniversary of the founding of Bauhaus.
According to the standards of Bauhaus, good design should be accompanied by good engineering. That’s why so many Bauhaus buildings still look strikingly modern, even industrial, even though they may have been designed as early as the 1920s. Bauhaus’s timelessness results from its use of three basic shapes—square, circle, and triangle—and three basic colors—red, blue, and yellow. To spot its influence, look for unadorned, boxlike structures with repeating parallel lines, flat roofs, and rectangular windowpanes. Furniture and household objects feature strong lines, retro-futuristic shapes, and the abundant use of metals. Bauhaus designers also revolutionized typography: the sign on the Bauhaus Building in Dessau is a prime example: look for clear, boxy typefaces, often combined collagelike with photographs and colorful graphics and shapes to create bold messages. The Swedish furniture chain IKEA owes a lot to Bauhaus.
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Leipzig | Dresden | Meissen | Bautzen/Budyšin | Görlitz
The people of Saxony identify themselves more as Saxon than German. Their hardworking and rustic attitudes, their somewhat peripheral location on the border with the Czech Republic and Poland, and their almost incomprehensible dialect are the targets of endless jokes and puns. However, Saxon pride rebuilt three cities magnificently: Dresden and Leipzig—the showcase cities of eastern Germany—and the smaller town of Görlitz, on the Neisse River.
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184 km (114 miles) southwest of Berlin.
Leipzig is one of the coolest cities in Europe—but not so cool as to be pretentious. With its world-renowned links to Bach, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Martin Luther, Goethe, Schiller, and the fantastic Neue-Leipziger-Schule art movement, Leipzig is one of the great German cultural centers. It has impressive art nouveau architecture, an incredibly clean city center, meandering narrow streets, and the temptations of coffee and cake on every corner. In Faust, Goethe describes Leipzig as “a little Paris”; in reality it’s more reminiscent of Vienna, while remaining a distinctly energetic Saxon town.
Leipzig’s musical past includes Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), who was organist and choir director at Leipzig’s Thomaskirche, and the 19th-century composer Richard Wagner, who was born in the city in 1813. Today’s Leipzig continues the cultural focus with extraordinary offerings of music, theater, and opera, not to mention fantastic nightlife.
Wartime bombs destroyed much of Leipzig’s city center, but reconstruction efforts have uncovered one of Europe’s most vibrant cities. Leipzig’s art nouveau flair is best discovered by exploring the countless alleys, covered courtyards, and passageways. Some unattractive buildings from the postwar period remain, but only reinforce Leipzig’s position on the line between modernity and antiquity.
With a population of about 535,000, Leipzig is the third-largest city in eastern Germany (after Berlin and Dresden) and has long been a center of printing and bookselling. Astride major trade routes, it was an important market town in the Middle Ages, and it continues to be a trading center, thanks to the Leipziger Messe (trade and fair shows) throughout the year that bring together buyers from East and West.
Unfortunately, Leipzig has a tendency to underwhelm first-time visitors. If you take Leipzig slow and have some cake, its subtle, hidden charms may surprise you.
Getting Here and Around
Leipzig is an hour from Berlin by train. Leipzig-Halle airport serves many European destinations, but no North American ones.
Leipzig’s annual music festival is in June. | Augustuspl.
Leipzig can easily be explored in one day; it’s possible to walk around the downtown area in just about three hours. The churches can be inspected in less than 20 minutes each. But if you’re interested in German history and art, plan for two full days, so you can spend one day just visiting the museums and go to the symphony. The Völkerschlachtdenkmal is perfect for a three-hour side trip.
Leipzig Tourismus und Marketing. | Augustuspl. 9 | 0341/710-4260, 0341/710-4301 | www.leipzig.travel.
British “starchitect” David Chipperfield restored and modernized this fine example of German art deco in 2003-05. The building, which opened in 1929, houses three important museums. | Johannispl. 5-11 | www.grassimuseum.de | €8 | Tues.-Sun. 10-6.
Museum für Angewandte Kunst (Museum of Applied Art).
This museum showcases 2,000 years of works from Leipzig’s and eastern Germany’s proud tradition of handicrafts, such as exquisite porcelain, fine tapestry art, and modern Bauhaus design. | Johannispl. 5-11 | 0341/222-9100 | www.grassimuseum.de | €8 | Tues.-Sun. 10-6.
Museum für Völkerkunde (Ethnological Museum).
Presenting arts and crafts from all continents and various eras, this museum includes a thrilling collection of Southeast Asian antique art and the world’s only Kurile Ainu feather costume, in the Northeast Asia collection. | Johannispl. 5-11 | 0341/973-1300 | www.grassimuseum.de | €8 | Tues.-Sun. 10-6.
Museum für Musikinstrumente (Musical Instruments Museum).
Historical musical instruments, mostly from the Renaissance, include the world’s oldest clavichord, constructed in 1543 in Italy. There are also spinets, flutes, and lutes. Recordings of the instruments can be heard at the exhibits. | Johannispl. 5-11 | 0341/973-0750 | €6 | Tues.-Sun. 10-6.
Mädlerpassage (Mädler Mall).
The ghost of Goethe’s Faust lurks in every marble corner of Leipzig’s finest shopping arcade. One of the scenes in Faust is set in the famous Auerbachs Keller restaurant, at No. 2. A bronze group of characters from the play, sculpted in 1913, beckons you down the stone staircase to the restaurant. Touching the statues’ feet is said to bring good luck. A few yards away is a delightful art nouveau bar called Mephisto. | Grimmaische Str.
Leipzig’s showpiece is its huge, old market square. One side is completely occupied by the Renaissance town hall, the Altes Rathaus. | Marktpl., Böttchergässchen 3.
Museum der Bildenden Künste (Museum of Fine Arts).
The city’s leading art gallery is modernist minimalism incarnate, set in a huge concrete cube encased in green glass in the middle of Sachsenplatz Square. The museum’s collection of more than 2,700 paintings and sculptures represents everything from the German Middle Ages to the modern Neue Leipziger Schule. Especially notable are the collections focusing on Lucas Cranach the Elder and Caspar David Friedrich. Be sure to start at the top and work your way down. Don’t miss Max Klinger’s Beethoven as Zeus statue. | Katharinenstr. 10 | 0341/216-990 | www.mdbk.de | €5, special exhibits €6-€8 | Tues. and Thurs.-Sun. 10-6, Wed. noon-8.
Nikolaikirche (St. Nicholas Church).
This church with its rough undistinguished facade was center stage during the demonstrations that helped bring down the Communist regime. Every Monday for months before the government collapsed, thousands of citizens gathered in front of the church chanting “Wir sind das Volk” (“We are the people”). Inside are a soaring Gothic choir and nave. Note the unusual patterned ceiling supported by classical pillars that end in palm-tree-like flourishes. Martin Luther is said to have preached from the ornate 16th-century pulpit. The prayers for peace that began the revolution in 1989 are still held on Monday at 5 pm. | Nikolaikirchhof | 0341/960-5270 | Free | Mon.-Sat. 10-6; Sun. services at 9:30, 11:15, and 5.
Inside the Altes Rathaus, this museum documents Leipzig’s past. The entrance is behind the Rathaus. The museum is expanding its exhibition space behind the Museum for Applied Arts. | Böttchergässchen 3 | 0341/965-130 | www.stadtgeschichtliches-museum-leipzig.de | €6 | Tues.-Sun. 10-6.
Fodor’s Choice | Thomaskirche (St. Thomas’s Church).
Bach served as choirmaster at this Gothic church for 27 years, and Martin Luther preached here on Whitsunday 1539, signaling the arrival of Protestantism in Leipzig. Originally the center of a 13th-century monastery, the tall church (rebuilt in the 15th century) now stands by itself. Bach wrote most of his cantatas for the church’s famous boys’ choir, the Thomanerchor, which was founded in the 13th century. Today, the church continues to serve as the choir’s home as well as a center of Bach tradition.
The great music Bach wrote during his Leipzig years commanded little attention in his lifetime, and when he died he was given a simple grave, without a headstone, in the city’s Johannisfriedhof (St. John Cemetery). It wasn’t until 1894 that an effort was made to find where the great composer lay buried, and after a thorough, macabre search, his coffin was removed to the Johanniskirche. That church was destroyed by Allied bombs in December 1943, and Bach subsequently found his final resting place in the church he would have selected: the Thomaskirche. You can listen to the famous boys’ choir during the Motette, a service with a special emphasis on choral music.
Bach’s 12 children and the infant Richard Wagner were baptized in the early-17th-century font; Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels also stood before this same font, godfathers to Karl Liebknecht, who grew up to be a revolutionary as well.
In front of the church is a memorial to Felix Mendelssohn, rebuilt with funds collected by the Leipzig Citizens Initiative. The Nazis destroyed the original in front of the Gewandhaus. | Thomaskirchhof | 0341/222-240 | www.thomaskirche.org | Free, Motette €2 | Daily 9-6; Motette Fri. at 6 pm, Sat. at 3; no Motette during Saxony summer vacation (usually mid-July-Aug.).
Bach-Museum im Bach-Archiv Leipzig (Bach Museum at the Bach Archives Leipzig).
The Bach family home, the old Bosehaus, stands opposite the Thomaskirche, and is now a museum devoted to the composer’s life and work. The exhibition offers several interactive displays; arranging the instrumental parts of Bach’s hymns is by far the most entertaining. | Thomaskirchhof 16 | 0341/913-7200 | www.bach-leipzig.de | €8; free 1st Thurs. of month | Tues.-Sun. 10-6.
With 26 platforms, Leipzig’s main train station is Europe’s largest railhead. It was built in 1915 and is now a protected monument, but modern commerce rules in its bi-level shopping mall (the Promenaden). The only thing the complex is missing is a pub. Many of the shops and restaurants stay open until 10 pm and are open on Sunday. Thanks to the historic backdrop, this is one of the most beautiful shopping experiences in Saxony. | Willy-Brandt-Pl. | 0341/141-270 for mall, 0341/9968-3275 for train station.
Leipziger Universitätsturm (Leipzig University Tower).
Towering over Leipzig’s city center is this 470-foot-high structure, which houses administrative offices and lecture rooms. Dubbed the “jagged tooth” or “wisdom tooth” by some University of Leipzig students, it supposedly represents an open book. Students were also largely responsible for changing the university’s name, replacing its postwar title, Karl Marx University, with the original one. The Augustusplatz spreads out below the university tower like a space-age campus. | Augustuspl. 9.
Mendelssohn Haus (Mendelssohn House).
The only surviving residence of the composer Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy is now Germany’s only museum dedicated to him. Mendelssohn’s last residence and the place of his death has been preserved in its original 19th-century state. Concerts are held every Sunday at 11. | Goldschmidtstr. 12 | 0341/127-0294 | www.mendelssohn-stiftung.de | €4.50, concert €15 | Daily 10-6.
Museum in der Runden Ecke (Museum in the Round Corner).
This building once served as the headquarters of the city’s detachment of the Communist secret police, the dreaded Staatssicherheitsdienst. The exhibition Stasi—Macht und Banalität (Stasi—Power and Banality) presents not only the Stasi’s offices and surveillance work, but also hundreds of documents revealing the magnitude of its interests in citizens’ private lives. Though the material is in German, the items and atmosphere convey an impression of what life under the regime might have been like. The exhibit about the death penalty in the GDR is particularly chilling. For a detailed tour of the Revolutions of 1989, be sure to download the museum’s app. | Dittrichring 24 | 0341/961-2443 | www.runde-ecke-leipzig.de | Free; tour in English, by appointment, €4 | Daily 10-6.
Museum zum Arabischen Kaffeebaum (Arabic Coffee Tree Museum).
This museum and café-restaurant tells the fascinating history of coffee culture in Europe, particularly in Saxony. The café is one of the oldest on the continent, and once proudly served coffee to such luminaries as Gotthold Lessing, Schumann, Goethe, and Liszt. The museum features many paintings, Arabian coffee vessels, and coffeehouse games. It also explains the basic principles of roasting coffee. The café is divided into traditional Viennese, French, and Arabian coffeehouses, but no coffee is served in the Arabian section, which is only a display. The cake is better and the seating more comfortable in the Viennese part. | Kleine Fleischerg. 4 | 0341/960-2632 | www.coffe-baum.de | Free | Tues.-Sun. 11-5.
Völkerschlachtdenkmal (Memorial to the Battle of the Nations).
In the fall of 1813, Prussian, Austrian, Russian, and Swedish forces defeated Napoléon in the Battle of the Nations. This was the first in a series of defeats that served as a prelude to the French general’s defeat two years later at Waterloo. An enormous, 300-foot-high monument erected on the site in 1913 commemorates the battle. Despite its massiveness, the site is well worth a visit, if only to wonder at the lengths—and heights—to which a newfound sense of German nationalism went to celebrate their military victories, and to take in the view from a windy platform (provided you can climb the 500 steps to get there). The Prussians did make one concession to Napoléon in designing the monument: a stone marks the spot where he stood during the three-day battle. An exhibition hall explains the history of the memorial, which can be reached via Streetcar 15 or 2or by the S1 or S3 commuter train. (leave the tram or the train at the Völkerschlachtdenkmal station). | Str. des 18 Oktober 100 | 0341/878-0471 | www.stadtgeschichtliches-museum-leipzig.de | €8 | Nov.-Apr., daily 10-4; May-Oct., daily 10-6; tour Tues. at 5.
Zeitgeschichtliches Forum Leipzig (Museum of Contemporary History Leipzig).
This excellent history museum focuses on issues surrounding the division and reunification of Germany after World War II. | Grimmaische Str. 6 | 0341/225-0500 | www.hdg.de | Free | Tues.-Sun. 10-6.
WHERE TO EAT
Fodor’s Choice | Auerbachs Keller.
$$ | GERMAN | The most famous of Leipzig’s restaurants is actually two restaurants: one that’s upscale, international, and gourmet (down the stairs to the right) and a rowdy beer cellar (to the left) specializing in hearty Saxon fare, mostly roasted meat dishes. The fine-dining section’s seven-course menus (€89) are worth a splurge, and it also has a good wine list. The beer cellar has been around since 1530, making it one of the oldest continually running restaurants on the continent. Goethe immortalized one of the vaulted historic rooms in his Faust, and Bach was a regular here because of the location halfway between the Thomaskirche and the Nikolaikirche. | Average main: €20 | Mädlerpassage, Grimmaische Str. 2-4 | 0341/216-100 | www.auerbachs-keller-leipzig.de | Closed Mon. | Reservations essential.
$ | GERMAN | The English-language menu at this restaurant explains not only the cuisine but the history of Leipzig. Waitresses wear traditional Trachten dresses, but the rooms are quite modern. With a prominent location on the Markt, the restaurant is popular with locals, especially for the incredible breakfast buffet. Barthels has managed to elevate the local Leipziger Allerlei (vegetables and crayfish in beef bouillon) to an art form. Enjoy a meal here with a fresh Bauer Gose. | Average main: €14 | Hainstr. 1 | 0341/141-310.
Gasthaus & Gosebrauerei Bayrischer Bahnhof.
$ | GERMAN | Hidden on the far southeast edge of the city center, the Bayrischer Bahnhof was the terminus of the first rail link between Saxony and Bavaria. The brewery here is at the heart of a cultural renaissance, and is the only place currently brewing Gose in Leipzig. The restaurant is well worth a visit for its solid Saxon and German cuisine. Brewery accents surface in dishes such as rump steak with black-beer sauce, and the onion rings can’t be beat. If the Gose is too sour for your taste, order it with one of the sweet syrups—raspberry is the best. Groups of four or more can try dinner prepared in a Römertopf (a terra-cotta baking dish; the first was brought to Germany by the Romans, centuries ago). In summer the beer garden is a pleasant place to get away from the bustle of the city center. | Average main: €13 | Bayrischer Pl. 1 | 0341/124-5760 | www.bayrischer-bahnhof.de | No credit cards.
$ | CAFÉ | The restored art nouveau house dates from 1908. Riquet is a company that has had dealings in the coffee trade in Africa and East Asia since 1745, as is indicated by the large elephant heads adorning the facade of the building. The upstairs section houses a pleasant Viennese-style coffeehouse—the best views are had from up here—while downstairs is noisier and more active. Afternoon coffee and cake are one of Leipzig’s special pleasures (in a country obsessed with coffee and cake), and Riquet is the best place in the city to satisfy the urge. Enjoy Leipzig Medowlark pastry for €2.50. | Average main: €4 | Schulmachergässchen 1 | 0341/961-0000 | No credit cards | No dinner.
$$ | GERMAN | One of Germany’s oldest restaurants and pubs (dating back to 1454) served its hearty Thuringian and Saxon fare to Martin Luther and the like—who certainly had more than a mere pint of the beers on tap. The menu in the reconstructed, cavernous, and always buzzing dining hall doesn’t exactly offer gourmet cuisine, but rather an impressively enormous variety of game, fish, and bratwurst dishes. The Thuringian sausages (served with either sauerkraut and boiled potatoes or onions and mashed potatoes) and the famous Thuringian Sauerbraten (beef marinated in a sour essence) are musts. | Average main: €15 | Burgstr. 19 | 0341/994-4999 | www.thueringer-hof.de.
$$ | GERMAN | The “tunnel” refers to the barrel-ceiling ground-floor restaurant, where foaming glasses of excellent Gose beer are served with a smile. The friendly staff will also help you decipher the Old Saxon descriptions of the menu’s traditional dishes. Upstairs there’s a larger wine restaurant with an open fireplace. Try some of the best pan-seared Rinderroulladen, a filled beef roll, in the city. | Average main: €15 | Barfussgässchen 9 | 0341/960-2078 | www.zillstunnel.de.
What to Eat in Saxony
The cuisine of the region is hearty and seasonal, and almost every town has a unique specialty unavailable outside the immediate area. Look for Sächsische Sauerbraten (marinated sour beef roast), spicy Thüringer Bratwurst (sausage), Schlesische Himmelreich (ham and pork roast smothered in baked fruit and white sauce, served with dumplings), Teichlmauke (mashed potato in broth), Blauer Karpfe (blue carp, marinated in vinegar), and Raacher Maad (grated and boiled potatoes fried in butter and served with blueberries). Venison and wild boar are standards in forest and mountainous areas, and lamb from Saxony-Anhalt is particularly good. In Thuringia, Klösse (potato dumplings) are virtually a religion.
Eastern Germany is experiencing a renaissance in the art of northern German brewing. The first stop for any beer lover should be the Bayrische Bahnhof in Leipzig, to give Gose a try. Dresden’s Brauhaus Watzke, Quedlinburg’s Lüddebräu, and even the Landskron Brauerei in Görlitz are bringing craft brewing back to a region inundated with mass-produced brew.
Saxony has cultivated vineyards for more than 800 years, and is known for its dry red and white wines, among them Müller-Thurgau, Weissburgunder, Ruländer, and the spicy Traminer. The Sächsische Weinstrasse (Saxon Wine Route) follows the course of the Elbe River from Diesbar-Seusslitz (north of Meissen) to Pirna (southeast of Dresden). Meissen, Radebeul, and Dresden have upscale wine restaurants, and wherever you see a green seal with the letter S and grapes depicted, good local wine is being served. One of the best-kept secrets in German wine making is the Salle-Unstrut region, which produces spicy Silvaner and Rieslings.
WHERE TO STAY
Fodor’s Choice | Hotel Fürstenhof Leipzig.
$$$ | HOTEL | The city’s grandest hotel—part of Starwood’s Luxury Collection—is inside the renowned Löhr-Haus, a revered old mansion 500 yards from the main train station on the ring road surrounding the city center. The stunning banquet section is the epitome of 19th-century grandeur, with red wallpaper and black serpentine stone; the bar is a lofty meeting area under a bright glass cupola. Rooms are spacious and decorated with cherrywood designer furniture. Pros: an elegant full-service hotel with stunning rooms; safes big enough for a laptop are a nice touch. Cons: the ring road can be noisy at night, especially on Friday and Saturday. | Rooms from: €179 | Tröndlinring 8 | 0341/140-370 | www.hotelfuerstenhofleipzig.com/ | 80 rooms, 12 suites | No meals.
Park Hotel-Seaside Hotel Leipzig.
$ | HOTEL | A few steps from the central train station, this hotel is primarily geared to the business traveler. The modern rooms may lack some character, but the warm service and exceptional bathrooms make for a pleasant stay. The Orient Express restaurant, a reconstruction of the famous 19th-century train, is another plus. Pros: pleasant swimming-pool area. Cons: not the place for romantic weekends. | Rooms from: €95 | Richard-Wagner-Str. 7 | 0341/98520 | www.parkhotelleipzig.de/ | 281 rooms, 9 suites | Breakfast.
Ringhotel Adagio Leipzig.
$ | HOTEL | The quiet Adagio, tucked away behind the facade of a 19th-century city mansion, is centrally located between the Grassimuseum and the Neues Gewandhaus. All rooms are individually furnished; when making a reservation, ask for a “1920s room,” which features the style of the Roaring ‘20s and bathtubs almost as large as a whirlpool. Pros: large rooms with luxurious bathrooms; breakfast available all day. Cons: room decor is slightly bland; hotel not built to accommodate guests with disabilities. | Rooms from: €77 | Seeburgstr. 96 | 0341/216-690 | www.hotel-adagio.de | 30 rooms, 2 suites, 1 apartment | Breakfast.
NIGHTLIFE AND PERFORMING ARTS
With a vast assortment of restaurants, cafés, and clubs to match the city’s exceptional musical and literary offerings, Leipzig is a fun city at night. The Kneipenszene (pub scene) is centered on the Drallewatsch (a Saxon slang word for “going out”), the small streets and alleys around Grosse and Kleine Fleischergasse and the Barfussgässchen.
A magnet for young people, this is reputedly Europe’s largest student club, with bars, a disco, a café, a theater, and a cinema. Nonstudents are welcome … if you’re cool enough. | Universitätsstr. 9 | 0341/702-590.
A favorite hangout among the city’s business elite, this stylish bar serves great cocktails. | Bosestr. 1 | 0341/960-0596.
This hip place is one of the city’s top dance clubs. | Markt 9 | 0341/960-8043.
In the august setting of the Schauspielhaus (city theater), the Tanzpalast attracts a thirtysomething crowd. This was the place to be seen in GDR Leipzig. | Bosestr. 1 | 0341/960-0596.
This upscale bar, pub, and restaurant in a Renaissance building offers a huge selection of good wines. | Markt 7 | 0341/1406-0606.
This variety theater features a blend of circus, vaudeville, and comedy that is fairly accessible for non-German speakers. | Magazing. 4 | 0341/140-660 | www.krystallpalast.de.
One of Germany’s most famous cabarets has a lively bar off a courtyard opposite the Thomaskirche. On pleasant evenings the courtyard fills with benches and tables, and the scene rivals the indoor performance for entertainment. | Katharinenstr. 17 | 0341/960-3196 | www.kabarett-leipziger-pfeffermuehle.de.
This uninspired touch of socialist architecture is home to an undeniably splendid orchestra. Tickets to concerts are difficult to obtain unless you reserve well in advance. Sometimes spare tickets are available at the box office a half hour before the evening performance. | Augustuspl. 8 | 0341/127-0280 | www.gewandhaus.de.
Opernhaus (Opera House).
Leipzig’s stage for operas was the first postwar theater to be built in Communist East Germany. Its solid, boxy style is the subject of ongoing local discussion. | Augustuspl.
Small streets leading off the Markt attest to Leipzig’s rich trading past. Tucked in among them are glass-roof arcades of surprising beauty and elegance, including the wonderfully restored Specks Hof, Barthels Hof, Jägerhof, and the Passage zum Sachsenplatz. Invent a headache and step into the Apotheke (pharmacy) at Hainstrasse 9—it is spectacularly art nouveau, with finely etched and stained glass and rich mahogany. For more glimpses into the past, check out the antiquarian bookstores of the nearby Neumarkt Passage.
Leipzig’s main train station has more than 150 shops, restaurants, and cafés, all open Monday through Saturday 9:30 am-10 pm; many are also open on Sunday, with the same hours. | Willy-Brandt-Pl.
EN ROUTE: Colditz.
The A-14 leads to Dresden, but for a scene out of World War II, head south toward Borna, taking B-176 to Colditz. A pretty river valley holds a pleasant Saxon village whose name still sends a chill through Allied veterans. During the war the Germans converted the town’s massive, somber castle into what they believed would be an escape-proof prison for those regarded as security risks. Many managed to flee, however, employing a catalog of ruses that have since been the stuff of films and books. The castle is now a home for the elderly, but the courtyards and some of the installations used during the war can be visited. The town itself is worth a stop and is an interesting day trip from Leipzig. To avoid driving, take the train from Leipzig to Grossbothen or Grimma and a bus to Colditz. | Colditz.
25 km (16 miles) southeast of Meissen, 140 km (87 miles) southeast of Leipzig, 193 km (120 miles) south of Berlin.
Sitting in baroque splendor on a wide sweep of the Elbe River, Dresden has been the capital of Saxony since the 15th century, although most of its architectural masterpieces date from the enlightenment of the 18th century and the reigns of Augustus the Strong and his son, Frederick Augustus II. Today the city’s yellow and pale-green facades are enormously appealing, and their mere presence is even more overwhelming when you compare what you see with photographs of Dresden from February 1945. That’s when Allied bombing destroyed almost all of the Altstadt (Old City). Today, Dresden has risen from these ashes, regaining its reputation as “the Florence on the Elbe.”
Although parts of the city center still look stuck between demolition and construction, the city’s rebuilding is an enormous tribute to Dresdeners’ skill, dedication, and thoroughness. The resemblance of today’s riverside to Dresden cityscapes painted by Canaletto in the mid-1700s is remarkable. Unfortunately, war-inflicted gaps in other parts of the city are far too massive to be reconstructed anytime soon. Main sights are contained within the Altstadt. On the other side of the river, the Neustadt (New City), which escaped wartime destruction, is the place to go out at night.
Getting Here and Around
Dresden is two hours from Berlin on the Hamburg-Berlin-Prague-Vienna train line. The city’s international airport serves mostly European destinations with budget airlines. The newly completed Norman Foster train station is a short walk along the Prager Strasse from the city center. Streetcars are cheap and efficient.
Dresden bus tours (in German and English, run by the Dresdner Verkehrsbetriebe) leave from Postplatz daily at 10, 11:30, and 3; the Stadtrundfahrt Dresden bus tours (also in German and English) leave from Theaterplatz/Augustusbrücke (April-October, daily 9:30-5, every 30 minutes; November-March, daily 10-3, every hour) and stop at most sights.
Filmnächte am Elbufer (Elbe Riverside Film Nights).
In addition to the annual film festival in April, open-air Filmnächte am Elbufer take place on the bank of the Elbe from late June to late August. | Am Königsufer, next to State Ministry of Finance | 0351/899-320.
May brings an annual international Dixieland-style jazz festival, and the Jazz Autumn festival follows in October. | Altmarkt.
A long full day is sufficient for a quick tour of historic Dresden with a brief visit to one of the museums. The focus of your day should be a visit to the Grünes Gewölbe. If you plan to explore any of the museums at length, such as the Zwinger, or take a guided tour of the Semperoper, you’ll need more time. One of the best ways to see Dresden is as a stop between Berlin and Prague.
Dresdner Verkehrsbetriebe AG. | Service Center, Postpl. 1 | 0351/857-2201.
Stadtrundfahrt Dresden. | Theaterpl. | 0351/899-5650.
Dresden Tourist. | Schlossstr. 1, inside the Kulturpalast | 0351/491-920 | www.dresden.de.
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Fodor’s Choice | Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady).
This masterpiece of baroque church architecture was completed in 1743. The huge dome set on a smaller square base, known as the Stone Bell, was the inspiration of George Bähr, who designed the church to be built “as if it was a single stone from the base to the top.” On February 15, 1945, two days after the bombing of Dresden, the burned-out shell of the magnificent Stone Bell collapsed. For the following five decades the remains of the church, a pile of rubble, remained a gripping memorial to the horrors of war. In a move shocking to the East German authorities, who organized all public demonstrations, a group of young people spontaneously met here on February 13, 1982, for a candlelight vigil for peace.
Although the will to rebuild the church was strong, the political and economic situation in the GDR prevented it. It wasn’t until the reunification of Germany that Dresden began to seriously consider reconstruction. In the early 1990s a citizens’ initiative, joined by the Lutheran Church of Saxony and the city of Dresden, decided to rebuild the church using the original stones. The goal of completing the church by 2006, Dresden’s 800th anniversary, seemed insurmountable. Money soon started pouring in from around the globe, however, and work began. The rubble was cleared away, and the size and shape of each stone were cataloged. Computer-imaging technology helped place each recovered stone in its original location.
During construction, guided tours and Frauenkirche concerts brought in donations. The biggest supporter of the project in the United Kingdom, the Dresden Trust, is centered in the city of Coventry, itself bombed mercilessly by the German Luftwaffe during the war. The Dresden Trust raised more than €600,000, and donated the gold pinnacle cross that now graces the church dome.
On Sunday, October 30, 2005 (almost a year ahead of schedule), Dresden’s skyline became a little more complete with the consecration of the Frauenkirche. Leading the service was the bishop of Coventry. Although the church is usually open to all, it closes frequently for concerts and other events. Check the English-language schedule next to Entrance D. | An der Frauenkirche | 0351/498-1131 | www.frauenkirche-dresden.org | Free; cupola and tower €8; audio guides in English €2.50 | Weekdays 10-noon and 1-6, cupola and tower daily 10-6.
Residenzschloss (Royal Palace).
Restoration work is still under way behind the Renaissance facade of this former royal palace, much of which was built between 1709 and 1722. Some of the finished rooms in the Georgenbau (Count George Wing) hold historical exhibits, among them an excellent one on the reconstruction of the palace itself. The palace’s main gateway, the Georgentor, has an enormous statue of the fully armed Saxon count George. From April through October, the palace’s old Hausmannsturm (Hausmann Tower) offers a wonderful view of the city and the Elbe River. The main attraction in the Royal Palace, though, is the world-famous Grünes Gewölbe (Green Vault). Named after a green room in the palace of Augustus the Strong, the collection is divided into two sections.
The palace also houses the Münzkabinett (Coin Museum) and the Kupferstichkabinett (Museum of Prints and Drawings), with more than 500,000 pieces of art spanning several centuries. Changing exhibits at the Kupferstichkabinett have presented masterworks by Albrecht Dürer, Peter Paul Rubens, and Jan van Eyck; 20th-century art by Otto Dix, Edvard Munch, and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner; East European art; and some Southeast Asian prints. The Türckische Cammer (Turkish Chamber) comprises a huge number of Ottoman artifacts collected by Saxon dukes over centuries. It’s worth going just to see the six carved Arabian horses, bedecked with jeweled armor. | Schlosspl. | 0351/491-4619 | www.skd.museum | All museums and collections except Historic Green Vault €12; Historic Green Vault €12; combination ticket €21 | Wed.-Mon. 10-6; Historic Green Vault by appointment.
Historisches Grünes Gewölbe (Historic Green Vault).
This section of the castle most reflects Augustus the Strong’s obsession with art as a symbol of power. The intricately restored baroque interior is an integral part of the presentation, highlighting the objects in the collection. The last section of the museum houses the Jewel Room, which displays the ceremonial crown jewels of Augustus the Strong and his son. Access to the Historic Green Vault is limited to 100 visitors per hour and is by appointment only, reserved by phone or online. | Taschenberg 2 | 0351/4919-2285 for tours | www.skd.museum | €12 | By appointment.
Neues Grünes Gewölbe (New Green Vault).
The exquisite collection here consists of objets d’art fashioned from gold, silver, ivory, amber, and other precious and semiprecious materials. Among the crown jewels are the world’s largest “green” diamond, 41 carats in weight, and a dazzling group of tiny gem-studded figures called Hofstaat zu Delhi am Geburtstag des Grossmoguls Aureng-Zeb (the Court at Delhi during the Birthday of the Great Mogul Aureng-Zeb). The unwieldy name gives a false idea of the size of the work, dating from 1708; some parts of the tableau are so small they can be admired only through a magnifying glass. Somewhat larger and less delicate is the drinking bowl of Ivan the Terrible, perhaps the most sensational artifact in this extraordinary museum. | Taschenberg 2 | www.skd.museum | €12 | Wed.-Mon. 10-6.
Semperoper (Semper Opera House).
One of Germany’s best-known and most popular theaters, this magnificent opera house saw the premieres of Richard Wagner’s Rienzi, Der Fliegende Holländer, and Tannhäuser and Richard Strauss’s Salome, Elektra, and Der Rosenkavalier. The Dresden architect Gottfried Semper built the house in 1838-41 in Italian Renaissance style, then saw his work destroyed in a fire caused by a careless lamplighter. Semper had to flee Dresden after participating in a democratic uprising, but his son Manfred rebuilt the theater in the neo-Renaissance style you see today, though even Manfred Semper’s version had to be rebuilt after the devastating bombing raid of February 1945. On the 40th anniversary of that raid—February 13, 1985—the Semperoper reopened with a performance of Der Freischütz, by Carl Maria von Weber, the last opera performed in the building before its destruction. There is a statue of Weber, another artist who did much to make Dresden a leading center of German music and culture, outside the opera house in the shadow of the Zwinger. Even if you’re no opera buff, the Semper’s lavish interior can’t fail to impress. Velvet, brocade, and well-crafted imitation marble create an atmosphere of intimate luxury (it seats 1,323). Guided tours (must be reserved in advance) of the building are offered throughout the day, depending on the opera’s rehearsal schedule. Check the website for schedules. Tours begin at the entrance to your right as you face the Elbe River. | Theaterpl. 2 | 0351/491-1496 | www.semperoper-erleben.de | Tour €10.
Fodor’s Choice | Zwinger (Bailey).
Dresden’s magnificent baroque showpiece is entered by way of the mighty Kronentor (Crown Gate), off Ostra-Allee. Augustus the Strong hired a small army of artists and artisans to create a “pleasure ground” worthy of the Saxon court on the site of the former bailey, part of the city fortifications. The artisans worked under the direction of the architect Matthäus Daniel Pöppelmann, who came reluctantly out of retirement to design what would be his greatest work, begun in 1707 and completed in 1728. Completely enclosing a central courtyard filled with lawns, pools, and fountains, the complex is made up of six linked pavilions, one of which boasts a carillon of Meissen bells, hence its name: Glockenspielpavillon.
The Zwinger is quite a scene—a riot of garlands, nymphs, and other baroque ornamentation and sculpture. Wide staircases beckon to galleried walks and to the romantic Nymphenbad, a coyly hidden courtyard where statues of nude women perch in alcoves to protect themselves from a fountain that spits unexpectedly. The Zwinger once had an open view of the riverbank, but the Semper Opera House now occupies that side. Stand in the center of this quiet oasis, where the city’s roar is kept at bay by the outer wings of the structure, and imagine the court festivities once held here. | Zwinger entrance, Ostra-Allee | www.skd.museum | €10 | Tues.-Sun. 10-6.
Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister (Gallery of Old Masters).
This museum, in the northwestern corner of the complex, was built to house portions of the royal art collections. Among the priceless paintings are works by Dürer, Holbein, Jan Van Eyck, Rembrandt, Rubens, van Dyck, Hals, Vermeer, Raphael, Titian, Giorgione, Veronese, Velázquez, Murillo, Canaletto, and Watteau. On the wall of the entrance archway you’ll see an inscription in Russian, one of the few amusing reminders of World War II in Dresden. It rhymes in Russian: “Museum checked. No mines. Chanutin did the checking.” Chanutin, presumably, was the Russian soldier responsible for checking one of Germany’s greatest art galleries for anything more explosive than a Rubens nude. The highlight of the collection is Raphael’s Sistine Madonna, whose mournful look is slightly less famous than the two cherubs who were added by Raphael after the painting was completed, in order to fill an empty space at the bottom. | Dresden | 0351/491-4679 | €10: Zwingerticket for all museums in the Zwinger | Tues.-Sun. 10-6.
Porzellansammlung (Porcelain Collection).
Stretching from the curved gallery that adjoins the Glockenspielpavillon to the long gallery on the east side, this collection is considered one of the best of its kind in the world. The focus, naturally, is on Dresden and Meissen china, but there are also outstanding examples of Japanese, Chinese, and Korean porcelain. | Dresden | 0351/491-4619 | €6, Zwingerticket €10 | Tues.-Sun. 10-6.
Holding medieval and Renaissance suits of armor and weapons, the Rüstkammer is in two parts: the main exhibitt and the Türckische Cammer, both in the Residenzschloss. | Dresden | 0351/491-4619 | €12 | Tues.-Sun. 10-6.
Named after Saxony’s King Albert, who between 1884 and 1887 converted a royal arsenal into a suitable setting for the treasures he and his forebears had collected, this massive, imperial-style building houses one of the world’s great galleries featuring works from the romantic period to the modern. The Galerie Neue Meister (New Masters Gallery) has an extensive collection ranging from Caspar David Friedrich and Gauguin to Ernst Kirchner and Georg Baselitz. | Am Neumarkt, Brühlsche Terrasse | 0351/49849-14973 | www.skd.museum | €10 | Wed.-Mon. 10-6.
Altmarkt (Old Market Square).
Although dominated by the nearby unappealing Kulturpalast (Palace of Culture), the Altmarkt is a fascinating concrete leftover from the 1970s (check out the “workers and peasants” GDR mosaic), and the broad square and its surrounding streets are the true center of Dresden. The colonnaded beauty (from the Stalinist-era architecture of the early 1950s) survived the efforts of city planners to turn it into a huge outdoor parking lot. The rebuilt Rathaus (Town Hall) is here (go around the front to see bullet holes in the statuary), as is the yellow-stucco, 18th-century Landhaus, which contains the Stadtmuseum Dresden im Landhaus. Dresdeners joke that you should never park your car here because the square is under almost constant construction and you might never find it again. | Dresden.
Augustusbrücke (Augustus Bridge).
This bridge, which spans the river in front of the Katholische Hofkirche, is the reconstruction of a 17th-century baroque bridge blown up by the SS shortly before the end of World War II. It was restored and renamed for Georgi Dimitroff, one of the Bulgarian communists accused by the Nazis of instigating the Reichstag fire and first communist leader of postwar Bulgaria. After the fall of Communism the original name, honoring Augustus the Strong, was reinstated. | Dresden.
OFF THE BEATEN PATH: Deutsches Hygiene-Museum Dresden.
This unique (even in a country with a national tendency for excessive cleanliness) and unfortunately named museum relates the history of public health and science. The permanent exhibit offers lots of hands-on activities. The building itself housed the Nazi eugenics program, and the special exhibit on this period is not recommended for children under 12. | Lingnerpl. 1 | 0351/48460 | www.dhmd.de | €7 | Tues.-Sun. 10-6.
At one time the royal stables, this 16th-century building now houses the Verkehrsmuseum (Transportation Museum), a collection of historic conveyances, including vintage automobiles and engines. The former stable exercise yard, behind the Johanneum and enclosed by elegant Renaissance arcades, was used during the 16th century as an open-air festival ground. A ramp leading up from the courtyard made it possible for royalty to reach the upper story to view the jousting below without having to dismount. More popular even than jousting in those days was Ringelstechen, a risky pursuit in which riders at full gallop had to catch small rings on their lances. Horses and riders often came to grief in the narrow confines of the stable yard.
On the outside wall of the Johanneum (behind the building on the Auguststrasse) is a remarkable example of porcelain art: a 336-foot-long Meissen tile mural of a royal procession. More than 100 members of the royal Saxon house of Wettin, half of them on horseback, are represented on the giant mosaic, known as the “Procession of Princes,” which is made of 25,000 porcelain tiles, painted in 1904-07 after a design by Wilhelm Walther. The representations are in chronological order: at 1694, Augustus the Strong’s horse is trampling a rose, the symbol of Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation. The Johanneum is reached by steps leading down from the Brühlsche Terrasse. | Am Neumarkt at Augustusstr. 1 | 0351/86440 | www.verkehrsmuseum-dresden.de | €9 | Tues.-Sun. 10-6.
Katholische Hofkirche (Catholic Court Church).
The largest Catholic church in Saxony is also known as the Cathedral of St. Trinitatis. Frederick Augustus II (who reigned 1733-63) brought architects and builders from Italy to construct a Catholic church in a city that had been the first large center of Lutheran Protestantism (like his father, Frederick Augustus II had to convert to Catholicism to be eligible to wear the Polish crown). Inside, the treasures include a beautiful stone pulpit by the royal sculptor Balthasar Permoser and a painstakingly restored 250-year-old organ, said to be one of the finest ever to come from the mountain workshops of the famous Silbermann family. In the cathedral’s crypt are the tombs of 49 Saxon rulers and a reliquary containing the heart of Augustus the Strong, which is rumored to start beating if a beautiful woman comes near. | Schlosspl. | 0351/484-4712 | Free | Mon.-Thurs. 9-5, Fri. 1-5, Sat. 10-5, Sun. noon-4:30.
Kreuzkirche (Cross Church).
Soaring high above the Altmarkt, the richly decorated tower of the baroque Kreuzkirche dates back to 1792, but Dresden’s main Protestant church has graced this spot for more than 800 years. The church’s massive exterior is punctuated by a very simple and dignified nave. It was here that Lutherans celebrated their first mass in Saxony in 1539. A famous boys’ choir, the Kreuzchor, performs here regularly (check website or call for times). | Altmarkt | 0351/439-390 | Tower €1.50 | Nov.-Mar., weekdays 10-4, Sun. 11-4; Apr.-Oct., daily 10-6.
Pfund’s Molkerei (Pfund’s Dairy Shop).
This decorative 19th-century shop has been a Dresden institution since 1880, and offers a wide assortment of cheese and other goods. The shop is renowned for its intricate tile mosaics on the floor and walls. Pfund’s is also famous for introducing pasteurized milk to the industry; it invented milk soap and specially treated milk for infants as early as 1900. | Bautzener Str. 79 | 0351/808-080 | www.pfunds.de | Mon.-Sat. 10-6, Sun. 10-3.
Stadtmuseum Dresden im Landhaus (Dresden City Museum at the Landhaus).
The city’s small but fascinating municipal museum tells the ups and downs of Dresden’s turbulent past—from the dark Middle Ages to the bombing of Dresden in February 1945. There are many peculiar exhibits on display, such as an American 250-kilogram bomb and a stove made from an Allied bomb casing. The building has the most interesting fire escape in the city. | Wilsdruffer Str. 2 | 0351/656-480 | www.stmd.de | €5 | Tues.-Sun. 10-6 (Fri. until 8).
WHERE TO EAT
$$ | GERMAN | Set in the historic mansion of the architect who rebuilt the Zwinger, and named after the school of medieval painters that includes Dürer, Holbein, and Rembrandt, the Alte Meister has a sophisticated old-world flair that charms locals and tourists alike. The food is very current, despite the decor, and the light German nouvelle cuisine with careful touches of Asian spices and ingredients has earned chef Dirk Wende critical praise. In summer this is one of the city’s premier dining spots, offering a grand view of the Semperoper from a shaded terrace. | Average main: €20 | Theaterpl. 1a | 0351/481-0426.
Ball und Brauhaus Watzke.
$ | GERMAN | One of the city’s oldest microbreweries, the Watzke offers a great reprieve from Dresden’s mass-produced Radeberger. Several different homemade beers are on tap—you can even help brew one. Tours of the brewery cost €5 with a tasting, or €12.50 with a meal, and you can get your beer to go in a 1- or 2-liter jug called a Siphon. The food is hearty, contemporary Saxon. When the weather is nice, enjoy the fantastic panoramic view of Dresden from the beer garden. | Average main: €14 | Koetzschenbroderstr. 1 | 0351/852-920.
$ | GERMAN | One of the liveliest restaurants in town re-creates an 18th-century beer cellar in the basement of the Taschenberg Palace. The furniture and porcelain are as rustic as the food is traditional, including the typically Saxon Gesindeessen (rye bread, panfried with mustard, slices of pork, and mushrooms, baked with cheese). The Sophienkeller is popular with larger groups; you might have to wait if you’re a party of three or fewer. During the wait, check out the bread baker near the entrance. | Average main: €14 | Taschenbergpalais, Taschenberg 3 | 0351/497-260.
Dresden’s Experience Dining
One of the most touristy but fun experiences to be had in Dresden is a meal at Erlebnis Restaurants (Experience Dining). They run two period restaurants that have meals, decor, and costumes of a particular historical era. Yes, it’s tacky, perhaps corny, but it’s also extremely entertaining, and even Dresdeners get a big kick out of it. Both restaurants have the same basic menu of standard German food, with specialties relevant to their particular themes. The food is good and the prices decent. Be sure to try the Dresdner Trichter (Dresden Funnel), an interesting story of the excesses of Augustus the Strong followed by a sample of a homemade herbal liqueur. Reservations, though not essential, are recommended.
Dine with remnants of the Saxon army as they defend Dresden against enemy invaders. Each room is decorated in the style and with the weapons of Dresden’s attackers, be they Turkish, Swedish, or Russian. The ambience at this eatery is militarily spartan, with medieval weaponry, the odd cannon, and lots of roast meat. Try the Spanferkel (suckling pig); groups of 10 can enjoy the “Executioner’s Last Meal.”|An der Frauenkirche 12 | 0351/262-600 | www.pulverturm-dresden.de.
Watzke Brauereiausschank am Goldenen Reiter.
$ | GERMAN | The Ball und Brauhaus Watzke microbrewery operates this smaller restaurant with the same beer and hearty menu, directly across from the Goldene Reiter statue of Augustus the Strong. | Average main: €14 | Hauptstr. 11 | 0351/810-6820.
WHERE TO STAY
$ | HOTEL | This hotel keeps the promise of its name: it’s all modern, designed by Italian interior architect Denis Santachiara, and decorated with more than 600 works of art by Dresden-born painter and sculptor A. R. Penck. Some find the heavily styled rooms a bit much, but it’s definitely a place for the artsy crowd. Apart from offering art, the hotel’s rooms and service have genuine first-class appeal at reasonable prices. Pros: art elements make the hotel fun. Cons: bathrooms have an opaque window into the room; decor is not for everyone. | Rooms from: €75 | Ostra-Allee 33 | 0351/49220 | www.artotels.com | 155 rooms, 19 suites | Breakfast.
$ | HOTEL | One of the most intimate first-class hotels in eastern Germany, the Bülow-Residenz is in a baroque palace built in 1730 by a wealthy Dresden city official. Each spacious room has thick carpets and mostly dark, warm cherrywood furniture as well as individual accents and modern amenities. In summer the verdant courtyard is a romantic setting for dinner. The Caroussel restaurant serves a large variety of sophisticated fish and game dishes. Pros: extremely helpful staff. Cons: air-conditioning can be noisy; hotel is located in Neustadt, a 10-minute walk across the river to the city center. | Rooms from: €69 | Rähnitzg. 19 | 0351/80030 | www.buelow-residenz.de | 25 rooms, 5 suites | No meals.
$ | HOTEL | This centrally located hotel with Dresden’s somewhat presumptuous nickname (“Florence on the Elbe”) contains Italian-designed rooms bathed in red and yellow and arranged alongside a garden courtyard. There’s a fine sauna and relaxation area, and the hotel’s restaurant, Quattro Cani della Citta, serves delicious Italian seafood and other specialties. Pros: extraordinary breakfast buffet. Cons: in need of renovation; located at edge of city center. | Rooms from: €71 | Rosenstr. 36 | 0351/86400 | www.hotel-elbflorenz.de | 212 rooms, 15 suites | Breakfast.
Kempinski Hotel Taschenbergpalais Dresden.
$$$ | HOTEL | Rebuilt after wartime bombing, the historic Taschenberg Palace—the work of Zwinger architect Matthäus Daniel Pöppelmann—is Dresden’s premier address and the last word in luxury, as befits the former residence of the Saxon crown princes. Rooms are as big as city apartments, and suites earn the adjective “palatial”; they are all furnished with bright elm-wood furniture. Pros: ice-skating in the courtyard in winter; concierge knows absolutely everything about Dresden. Cons: expensive extra charges for breakfast and Internet. | Rooms from: €179 | Taschenberg 3 | 0351/49120 | www.kempinski-dresden.de | 188 rooms, 25 suites | No meals.
$ | HOTEL | One of Dresden’s smallest and oldest luxury hotels, the historic Rothenburger Hof opened in 1865, and is only a few steps away from the city’s sightseeing spots. A highlight is the dining room, which gives some insight as to how Dresden’s wealthy wined and dined 150 years ago. The rooms are not large, but they’re comfortable and enticingly decorated with furniture that looks antique but, in fact, is reproduction. Pros: nice garden and indoor pool. Cons: across the river in Neustadt, about 20 minutes from the city center; street can be noisy in summer. | Rooms from: €99 | Rothenburger Str. 15-17 | 0351/81260 | www.dresden-hotel.de | 26 rooms, 13 apartments | Breakfast.
NIGHTLIFE AND PERFORMING ARTS
Dresdeners are known for their industriousness and efficient way of doing business, but they also know how to spend a night out. Most of Dresden’s pubs and Kneipen (bars) are in the Neustadt district, across the river from most sights, and along the buzzing Münzgasse (between the Frauenkirche and the Brühlsche Terrasse).
This groovy and hip place is one of the best bars in town. | Louisenstr. 56 | 0351/810-6116 | www.aqualounge.de.
Folk and rock music are regularly featured here. | Brühlscher Garten | 0351/495-1409 | www.baerenzwinger.de.
Hot African rhythms attract a young and stylish crowd. | St. Petersburger Str. 9 | 0351/487-4150.
The name ironically refers to the planned socialist economic system; it attracts an alternative crowd. | Louisenstr. 20 | 0351/801-3187.
Tonne Jazz Club.
Jazz musicians perform most nights of the week at this friendly, laid-back club. | Waldschlösschen, Am Brauhaus 3 | 0351/802-6017.
Philharmonie Dresden (Philharmonic Orchestra Dresden).
Dresden’s fine orchestra takes center stage in the city’s annual music festival, from mid-May to early June. | Kulturpalast am Altmarkt | 0351/486-6286 | en.dresdnerphilharmonie.de.
Semperoper Dresden (Semper Opera House).
The opera in Dresden holds an international reputation largely due to its opera house. Destroyed during the war, the building has been meticulously rebuilt and renovated. Tickets are reasonably priced but also hard to come by; they’re often included in package tours. Try reserving tickets on the website, or stop by the box office (just left of the main entrance) about a half hour before the performance. If that doesn’t work, take one of the opera-house tours, a nice consolation that gets you into the building. | Theaterpl. | 0351/491-1705 Evening box office | www.semperoper.de.
Dating to 1434, this market was named after the city’s famous Stollen, a buttery Christmas fruitcake often made with marzipan and sprinkled with powdered sugar. The market hosts a festival in its honor, complete with a 9,000-pound cake, on the Saturday of the second weekend of Advent. Traditional wooden toys produced in the nearby Erzgebirge mountains are the other major draw. | Altmarkt | www.dresden-striezelmarkt.de | Nov. 24-Dec. 23, daily 10-9; Dec. 24, 10-2.
Dresden is almost as famous as Meissen for its porcelain. The wares are manufactured outside the city in Freital, where there’s a showroom and shop. | Carl-Thieme-Str. 16 | 0351/647-130 | Mon.-Sat. 9-5.
Sächsische Porzellan-Manufaktur Dresden.
Open Monday through Saturday 9-5. | Carl-Thieme-Str. 16 | Freital | 0351/647-130.
Exquisite Meissen and Freital porcelain can be found at this department store. | Prager Str. 12 | 0351/490-6833.
Kunststube am Zwinger.
For sale here are wooden toys and the famous Saxon Räuchermännchen (Smoking Men) and Weihnachtspyramiden (Christmas Lights Pyramids) manufactured by hand in the Erzgebirge Mountains. | Hertha-Lindner-Str. 10-12 | 0351/490-4082.
25 km (15 miles) northwest of Dresden.
This romantic city with its imposing castle looming over the Elbe River is known the world over for Europe’s finest porcelain, emblazoned with its trademarked crossed blue swords. The first European porcelain was made in this area in 1708, and in 1710 the Royal Porcelain Workshop was established in Meissen, close to the local raw materials.
The story of how porcelain came to be produced here reads like a German fairy tale: the Saxon elector Augustus the Strong, who ruled from 1694 to 1733, urged his court alchemists to find the secret of making gold, something he badly needed to refill a state treasury depleted by his extravagant lifestyle. The alchemists failed to produce gold, but one of them, Johann Friedrich Böttger, discovered a method for making something almost as precious: fine hard-paste porcelain. Already a rapacious collector of Oriental porcelains, the prince put Böttger and a team of craftsmen up in a hilltop castle—Albrechtsburg—and set them to work.
Getting Here and Around
Meissen is an easy 45-minute train ride from Dresden. On arrival, exit the station and walk to the left; as you turn the corner there is a beautiful view of Meissen across the river. Trains run about every 30 minutes.
Tourist-Information Meissen. | Markt 3 | 03521/41940, 03521/419-419 | www.touristinfo-meissen.de.
The story of Meissen porcelain actually began high above Old Meissen. Towering over the Elbe River, this 15th-century castle is Germany’s first truly residential one, a complete break with the earlier style of fortified bastions. In the central Schutzhof, a typical Gothic courtyard protected on three sides by high rough-stone walls, is an exterior spiral staircase, the Wendelstein, a masterpiece of early masonry hewn in 1525 from a single massive stone block. The ceilings of the castle halls are richly decorated, although many date only from a restoration in 1870. Adjacent to the castle is an early Gothic cathedral. It’s a bit of a climb up Burgstrasse and Amtsstrasse to the castle, but a bus runs regularly up the hill from the Marktplatz. | Meissen | 03521/47070 | www.albrechtsburg-meissen.de | €8 | Mar.-Oct., daily 10-6; Nov.-Feb., daily 10-5.
Altes Brauhaus (Old Brewery).
Near the Frauenkirche, the Altes Brauhaus dates to 1460 and is graced by a Renaissance gable. It now houses city offices. | An der Frauenkirche 3.
Franziskanerkirche (St. Francis Church).
The city’s medieval past is recounted in the museum of this former monastery. | Heinrichspl. 3 | 03521/458-857 | €3 | Daily 11-5.
Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady).
A set of porcelain bells at the late-Gothic Frauenkirche, on the central Marktplatz, was the first of its kind anywhere when installed in 1929. | An der Frauenkirche.
Nikolaikirche (St. Nicholas Church).
Near the porcelain works, this church holds the largest set of porcelain figures ever crafted (8¼ feet tall) as well as the remains of early Gothic frescoes. | Neumarkt 29.
Staatliche Porzellan-Manufaktur Meissen (Meissen Porcelain Works).
Outgrowing its castle workshop in the mid-19th century, today’s porcelain factory is on the southern outskirts of town. One of its buildings has a demonstration workshop and a museum whose Meissen collection rivals that of Dresden’s Porzellansammlung. | Talstr. 9 | 03521/468-208 | www.meissen.de | €9 including workshop and museum | May-Oct., daily 9-6; Nov.-Apr., daily 9-5.
WHERE TO EAT AND STAY
$ | GERMAN | Part of the centuries-old complex of buildings ringing the town castle, this ancient and popular hostelry is a great place to enjoy fine wines and hearty German dishes. It’s also worth a visit for the sensational view of the Elbe River valley from the large dining room and tree-shaded terrace. | Average main: €14 | Dompl. 9 | 03521/457-676.
Restaurant Vincenz Richter.
$$ | GERMAN | Tucked away in a yellow wooden-beam house, this historic restaurant has been painstakingly maintained by the Richter family since 1873. The dining room is adorned with rare antiques, documents, and medieval weapons, as well as copper and tin tableware. Guests can savor the exquisite dishes on the Saxon-German menu while sampling the restaurant’s own personally produced white wine; a bottle of the Riesling is a real pleasure. Try the delicious wild rabbit with bacon-wrapped plums, paired with a glass of Kerner Meissener Kapitelberg , and cleanse your palate between courses with an inspiring Riesling sorbet | Average main: €15 | An der Frauenkirche 12 | 03521/453-285 | Closed Mon. No dinner Sun.
Welcome Parkhotel Meissen.
$ | HOTEL | Most of the luxuriously furnished and appointed rooms are in newly built annexes, but for turn-of-the-century charm, opt for a room in the art nouveau villa, which sits on the bank of the Elbe across from the hilltop castle. For a stunning view book the Hochzeitssuite (wedding suite), on the top floor. The restaurant ($$) serves nouvelle cuisine in a dining room with original stained glass and elegantly framed doors. Pros: gorgeous views; elegant rooms; fine dining. Cons: villa rooms are not as newly furnished; international chain hotel. | Rooms from: €74 | Hafenstr. 27-31 | 03521/72250 | www.welcome-hotel-meissen.de | 92 rooms, 5 suites | Breakfast.
Regular concerts are held at the Albrechtsburg castle, and in early September the Burgfestspiele—open-air evening performances—are staged in the castle’s romantic courtyard. | Meissen | 03521/47070.
Meissen’s cathedral, the Dom, has a yearlong music program, with organ and choral concerts every Saturday in summer. | Dompl. 7 | 03521/452-490.
Sächsische Winzergenossenschaft Meissen.
To wine connoisseurs, the name “Meissen” is associated with vineyards producing top-quality white wines much in demand throughout Germany. Müller-Thurgau, Weissburgunder, and Goldriesling are worthy choices and can be bought directly from the producer, Sächsische Winzergenossenschaft Meissen. | Bennoweg 9 | 03521/780-970 | www.winzer-meissen.de.
Staatliche Porzellan-Manufaktur Meissen.
Meissen porcelain is available directly from the porcelain works as well as in every china and gift shop in town. | Talstr. 9 | 03521/468-700.
53 km (33 miles) east of Dresden.
Bautzen has perched high above a deep granite valley formed by the River Spree for more than 1,000 years. Its almost-intact city walls hide a remarkably well-preserved city with wandering back alleyways and fountain-graced squares. Bautzen is definitely a German city, but it is also the administrative center of Germany’s only indigenous ethnic minority, the Sorbs.
In the area, the Sorb language enjoys equal standing with German in government and education, and Sorbs are known for their colorful folk traditions. As in all Slavic cultures, Easter Sunday is the highlight of the calendar, when ornately decorated eggs are hung from trees and when the traditional Osterreiten, a procession of Catholic men on horseback who carry religious symbols and sing Sorbian hymns, takes place.
Getting Here and Around
Bautzen is halfway between Dresden and Görlitz. Trains leave both cities once every hour; travel time is about an hour.
Tourist-Information Bautzen-Budyšin. | Tourist-Information Bautzen-Budyšin, Hauptmarkt 1 | Bautzen | 03591/42016, 03591/327-629 | www.bautzen.de.
Alte Wasserkunst (Old Waterworks).
Erected in 1558, the Alte Wasserkunst served as part of the town’s defensive fortifications, but its true purpose was to pump water from the Spree into 86 cisterns spread throughout the city. It proved so efficient that it provided the city’s water supply until 1965. It is now a technical museum. | Wendischer Kirchhof 7 | Bautzen | 03591/41588 | €3 | Daily 10-5.
Dom St. Petri (St. Peter’s Cathedral).
Behind the Rathaus is one of Bautzen’s most interesting sights: Dom St. Petri is Germany’s only Simultankirche, or “simultaneous” church. In order to avoid the violence that often occurred during the Reformation, St. Peter’s has a Protestant side and a Roman Catholic side in the same church. A short fence, which once reached a height of 13 feet, separates the two congregations. The church was built in 1213 on the sight of a Milzener (the forerunners of the Sorbs) parish church. | An der Petrikirche 6 | Bautzen | 03591/31180 | www.dompfarrei-bautzen.de | Free | May-Oct., Mon.-Sat. 10-3, Sun. 1-4; Nov.-Apr., daily 11-noon.
Hexenhäuser (Witches’ Houses).
Below the waterworks and outside the walls, these three reddish houses were the only structures to survive all the city’s fires—leading Bautzeners to conclude that they could only be occupied by witches. | Fischergasse | Bautzen.
Bautzen’s main market square is actually two squares, the Hauptmarkt (Main Market) and the Fleischmarkt (Meat Market), separated by the yellow, baroque Rathaus. The current town hall dates from 1705, but there has been a town hall in this location since 1213. Bautzen’s friendly tourist-information center, next door, has a great Bautzen-in-two-hours walking-tour map and an MP3 guide to the city. | Fleischmarkt 1 | Bautzen.
Reichenturm (Rich Tower).
Bautzen’s city walls have a number of gates and towers. This one, at the end of Reichenstrasse, is the most impressive. Although the tower base dates from 1490, it was damaged in four city fires (in 1620, 1639, 1686, and 1747) and rebuilt, hence its baroque cupola. The reconstruction caused the tower to lean, however, and its foundation was further damaged in 1837. The “Leaning Tower of Bautzen” currently sits about 5 feet off center. The view from the top is a spectacular vista of Bautzen and the surrounding countryside. | Reichenstr. 1 | Bautzen | 03591/460-431 | €2 | Daily 10-5.
WHERE TO EAT AND STAY
$ | EASTERN EUROPEAN | The name of Bautzen’s best Sorbian restaurant means “pantry.” Very popular on Sorb holidays, Wjelbik uses exclusively regional produce in such offerings as the Sorbisches Hochzeitsmenu (Sorb wedding feast)—a vegetable and meatball soup followed by beef in creamed horseradish. The restaurant is in a 600-year-old building near the cathedral. | Average main: €14 | Kornstr. 7 | Bautzen | 03591/42060 | www.wjelbik.de.
Hotel Goldener Adler.
$$ | HOTEL | This pleasant hotel occupies a 450-year-old building on the main market square, and great effort has been made to incorporate traditional building elements into the modern and spacious rooms. The restaurant, Bautzen’s oldest, serves regional Saxon cuisine. Fondue by candlelight in the wine cellar is highly recommended but must be booked in advance. Pros: a complete package: comfortable historical hotel, good restaurant, and yummy fondue. Cons: a little too modern for a historical town. | Rooms from: €120 | Hauptmarkt 4 | Bautzen | 03591/48660 | www.goldeneradler.de | 30 rooms | No meals.
48 km (30 miles) east of Bautzen, 60 km (38 miles) northeast of Dresden.
Tucked away in the country’s easternmost corner (bordering Poland), Görlitz’s quiet, narrow cobblestone alleys and exquisite architecture make it one of Germany’s most beautiful cities. It emerged from the destruction of World War II relatively unscathed. As a result it has more than 4,000 historic houses in styles including Gothic, Renaissance, baroque, rococo, Wilhelminian, and art nouveau. Although the city has impressive museums, theater, and music, it’s the ambience created by the casual dignity of these buildings, in their jumble of styles, that makes Görlitz so attractive. Notably absent are the typical socialist eyesores and the glass-and-steel modernism found in many eastern German towns.
The Gothic Dicker Turm (Fat Tower) guards the entrance to the city; it’s the oldest tower in Görlitz, and its walls are 5 meters (6½ feet) thick.
Getting Here and Around
Görlitz can be reached by hourly trains from Dresden (1½ hours) and from Berlin (3 hours, with a change in Cottbus). Görlitz’s train station (a wonderful neoclassical building with an art nouveau interior) is a short tram ride outside town.
Görlitz-Information und Tourist-Service. | Bruderstr. 1 | 03581/47570, 03581/475-727 | www.goerlitz.de.
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This house is interesting for its Renaissance facade decorated with sandstone reliefs depicting biblical stories. The Catholic Church banned religious depictions on secular buildings, but by the time the house was rebuilt after a fire in 1526, the Reformation had Görlitz firmly in its grip. | Neissestr. 29.
Dreifaltigkeitskirche (Church of the Holy Trinity).
On the southeast side of the market lies this pleasant Romanesque church with a Gothic interior, built in 1245. The interior houses an impressive Gothic triptych altarpiece. The clock on the thin tower is set seven minutes fast in remembrance of a trick played by the city guards on the leaders of a rebellion. In 1527 the city’s disenfranchised cloth makers secretly met to plan a rebellion against the city council and the powerful guilds. Their plans were uncovered, and by setting the clock ahead the guards fooled the rebels into thinking it was safe to sneak into the city. As a result they were caught and hanged. | Obermarkt | €4.
Dating from 1912-13, Germany’s only original art nouveau department store has a main hall with a colorful glass cupola and several stunning freestanding staircases. The store dominates the Marienplatz, a small square outside the city center that serves as Görlitz’s transportation hub. It’s next to the 15th-century Frauenkirche, the parish church for the nearby hospital and the poor condemned to live outside the city walls. Though the department store is closed (the city is trying to open it to the public), you can peek inside through the perfume shop. | An der Frauenkirche 5-7 | 03581/4600.
Kirche St. Peter und Paul (St. Peter and Paul Church).
Perched high above the river is one of Saxony’s largest late-Gothic churches, dating to 1423. The real draw is the church’s famous one-of-a-kind organ, built in 1703 by Eugenio Casparini. The Sun Organ gets its name from the circularly arranged pipes and not from the golden sun at the center. Its full and deep sound, as well as its birdcalls, can be heard on Sunday and Wednesday afternoons. | Bei der Peterkirche 5 | 03581/409-590 | Free | Mon.-Sat. 10:30-4, Sun. 11:30-4; guided tours Thurs. and Sun. at noon.
OFF THE BEATEN PATH: Landskron Braumanufaktur (Landskron Brewery).
Germany’s easternmost Brauhaus is one of the few breweries left that gives tours. Founded in 1869, Landskron isn’t very old by German standards, but it’s unique in that it hasn’t been gobbled up by a huge brewing conglomerate. Görlitzer are understandably proud of their own Premium Pilsner, but the brewery also produces good dark, Silesian, and winter beers. Landskron Hefeweizen is one of the best in the country. | An der Landskronbrauerei | 03581/465-121 | www.landskron.de | Tours €8-€25 | Sun.-Thurs., tours by appointment.
Obermarkt (Upper Market).
The richly decorated Renaissance homes and warehouses on the Obermarkt are a vivid legacy of the city’s wealthy past. During the late Middle Ages the most common merchandise here was cloth, which was bought and sold from covered wagons and on the ground floors of many buildings. Napoléon addressed his troops from the balcony of the house at No. 29. | Görlitz.
Schlesisches Museum (Silesian Museum).
Exploring 900 years of Silesian culture, this is a meeting place for Silesians from Germany, Poland, and the Czech Republic. The museum is housed in the magnificent Schönhof building, one of Germany’s oldest Renaissance Patrizierhäuser (grand mansions of the city’s ruling business and political elite). | Brüderstr. 8 | 03581/87910 | www.schlesisches-museum.de | €6 | Tues.-Sun. 10-5.
Untermarkt (Lower Market).
One of Europe’s most impressive squares, this market is a testament to the prosperity brought by the cloth trade. It’s built up in the middle, and the most important building is No. 14, which formerly housed the city scales. The duty of the city scale masters, whose busts adorn the Renaissance facade of the Gothic building, was to weigh every ounce of merchandise entering the city and to determine the taxes due.
The square’s most prominent building is the Rathaus. Its winding staircase is as peculiar as its statue of the goddess of justice, whose eyes—contrary to European tradition—are not covered. The corner house on the square, the Alte Ratsapotheke (Old Council Pharmacy), has two intricate sundials on the facade, painted in 1550. | Görlitz.
Verrätergasse (Traitors’ Alley).
On Verrätergasse, across the Obermarkt square from the church, is the Peter-Liebig-Haus, where the initials of the first four words of the rebels’ meeting place, Der verräterischen Rotte Tor (the treacherous gang’s gate), are inscribed above the door. The Obermarkt is dominated by the Reichenbach Turm, a tower built in the 13th century, with additions in 1485 and 1782. Until 1904 the tower housed the city watchmen and their families. The apartments and armory are now a museum. There are great views of the city from the tiny windows at the top. The massive Kaisertrutz (Emperor’s Fortress) once protected the western city gates, and now houses late-Gothic and Renaissance art from the area around Görlitz, as well as some impressive historical models of the city. Both buildings are part of the Kulturhistorisches Museum. | Görlitz | 03581/671-355 | www.museum-goerlitz.de | €7, ticket valid 2 consecutive days | Tues.-Thurs. and weekends 10-5.
WHERE TO EAT AND STAY
$ | GERMAN | This small family-run establishment overlooks the Nikolaiturm, one of the towers of the city’s wall. The restaurant offers good solid Silesian fare and absolutely the best Schlesische Himmelreich (ham and pork roast smothered in baked fruit and white sauce, served with dumplings) in town. There are also eight inexpensive, spartan guest rooms where you can spend the night. | Average main: €12 | Nikolaistr. 6 | 03581/405-302 | No credit cards | Sometimes closed in Sept.
$ | HOTEL | The name says it all: this hotel is an homage to Napoléon, whose troops occupied Görlitz, and it’s a splendid departure from a “normal” hotel. Located slightly behind the Marienplatz, the Bon-Apart’s real draw is the antique-meets-modern interior design. Pros: large rooms with kitchens and artistically decorated bathrooms; huge breakfast buffet. Cons: eclectic design may not appeal to everyone; neighboring market can be noisy in the morning; no elevator. | Rooms from: €95 | Elisabethstr. 41 | 03581/48080 | www.bon-apart.de | 20 rooms | Breakfast.
$ | HOTEL | The city’s best hotel is also its most modern accommodation in antique disguise. In a mansion dating to 1528, guest rooms with wooden floors and thick ceiling beams are sparsely furnished with modern, dark cherrywood furniture. The colorful ceilings may remind you of Jackson Pollock paintings, but they are original ornaments from the Renaissance. The Schneider-Stube serves traditional Saxon dishes. Pros: luxury hotel in the heart of Görlitz pedestrian zone. Cons: limited parking near the hotel; lovers of church bells will be happy. | Rooms from: €94 | Peterstr. 8 | 03581/47310 | www.tuchmacher.de | 42 rooms, 1 suite | Breakfast.
OFF THE BEATEN PATH: Zgorzelec.
In 1946 everything on the eastern side on the Neisse River was ceded to Poland and Görlitz lost its eastern suburb. A walk across the river is like a trip back in time. Zgorzelec certainly isn’t as well off as Görlitz, but there are some nice patrician houses and wide parks whose decay resembles the state of Görlitz in the 1980s. For a stroll through, cross the Altstadtbrücke (Old Town Bridge) behind the Peterskirche, turn right, and walk approximately a kilometer (half mile), then cross back into Germany at the former official border crossing.
Great Polish food is in plentiful supply at the Piwnica Staromiejska at Wrocławska 1, just across the bridge.
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Lutherstadt-Wittenberg | Dessau | Halle | Naumburg | Freyburg | Quedlinburg | Goslar
The central state of Saxony-Anhalt is a region rich in history and natural beauty, almost completely undiscovered by modern visitors. In the Altmark, on the edge of the Harz Mountains, fields of grain and sugar beets stretch to the horizon. In the mountains themselves are the deep gorge of the Bode River and the stalactite-filled caves of Rubeland. The songbirds of the Harz are renowned, and though pollution has taken its toll, both the flora and the fauna of the Harz National Park (which encompasses much of the region) are coming back. Atop the Brocken, the Harz’s highest point, legend has it that witches convene on Walpurgis Night (the night between April 30 and May 1).
Saxony-Anhalt’s Letzlinger Heide (Letzling Heath), another home to rare birds and animals, is one of Germany’s largest tracts of uninhabited land. The Dübener Heide (Düben Heath), south of Wittenberg, has endless woods of oaks, beeches, and evergreens that are wonderful to explore by bike or on foot. In and around Dessau are magnificent parks and gardens. Architecturally, Saxony-Anhalt abounds in half-timber towns and Romanesque churches. Quedlinburg has both the oldest half-timber house in Germany and the tomb of Germany’s first king, 10th-century Henry I. In Dessau the Bauhaus School pointed the world to modern architecture and design just before the start of World War II. Music has thrived in Saxony-Anhalt as well. Among its favorite sons are the composers Georg Philipp Telemann, of Magdeburg; George Frideric Handel, of Halle; and in modern times Kurt Weill, of Dessau. And it was in Wittenberg that Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to a church door.
107 km (62 miles) southwest of Berlin, 67 km (40 miles) north of Leipzig.
Protestantism was born in the little town of Wittenberg (officially called Lutherstadt-Wittenberg). In 1508 the fervently idealistic young Martin Luther, who had become a priest only a year earlier, arrived to study and teach at the new university founded by Elector Frederick the Wise. Nine years later, enraged that the Roman Catholic Church was pardoning sins through the sale of indulgences, Luther attacked the policy by posting his 95 Theses on the door of the Schlosskirche (Castle Church).
Martin Luther is still the center of attention in Wittenberg, and sites associated with him are marked with plaques and signs. You can see virtually all of historic Wittenberg on a 2-km (1-mile) stretch of Collegienstrasse and Schlossstrasse that begins at the railroad tracks and ends at the Schlosskirche.
In preparation for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, much of the city will be under massive reconstruction until the summer of 2017. The Lutherhaus and the Schlosskirche are only accessible on special occasions during construction.
Getting Here and Around
Lutherstadt-Wittenberg is approximately halfway between Berlin and Leipzig, and is served by regional and ICE trains. The station is slightly outside the city center, a pleasant walking distance away.
Tourist-Information Lutherstadt Wittenberg. | Schlosspl. 2 | Wittenberg | 03491/498-610, 03491/498-611 | www.wittenberg.de.
Wittenberg District Rural Information Office. | Neustr. 13 | Wittenberg | 03491/402-610, 03491/405-857.
Luthers Hochzeit (Luther’s Wedding).
The best time to visit Wittenberg is during this citywide festival that commemorates (and reenacts) Martin Luther’s marriage to Katharina von Bora. On the second weekend in June the city center goes back in time to 1525, with period costumes and entertainment. | www.lutherhochzeit.de.
Luther Melanchthon Gymnasium (Luther Melanchthon High School).
In 1975 the city erected a typical East German prefab building to house the Luther Melanchthon Gymnasium, but in the early 1990s, art students contacted Friedensreich Hundertwasser, the famous Austrian architect and avant-garde artist who designed the Hundertwasserhaus in Vienna. Hundertwasser, who argued that there are no universal straight lines or completely flat surfaces in nature, agreed to transform the school, and renovations were completed in 1998. The school is one of only three Hundertwasser buildings in eastern Germany and an interesting contrast to the medieval architecture in the rest of the city. Although the building is a school, the students operate a small office that distributes information about the school and Hundertwasser’s art. | Str. der Völkerfreundschaft 130 | Wittenberg | 03491/881-131 | www.hundertwasserschule.de | €2 | Tues.-Fri. 2:30-4, weekends 10-4.
Fodor’s Choice | Lutherhaus (Luther’s House).
Within Lutherhhaus is the Augustinian monastery where Martin Luther lived both as a teacher-monk and later, after the monastery was dissolved, as a married man. Today it’s a museum dedicated to Luther and the Reformation. Visitors enter through a garden and an elegant door with a carved stone frame; it was a gift to Luther from his wife, Katharina von Bora. Be sure to visit the monks’ refectory, where works by the painter Lucas Cranach the Elder, Luther’s contemporary, are displayed. The room that remains closest to the original is the dark, wood-panel Lutherstube. The Luthers and their six children used it as a living room, study, and meeting place for friends and students. Prints, engravings, paintings, manuscripts, coins, and medals relating to the Reformation and Luther’s translation of the Bible into the German vernacular are displayed throughout the house. | Collegienstr. 54 | Wittenberg | 03491/42030 | www.martinluther.de | €6 | Apr.-Oct., daily 9-6; Nov.-Mar., Tues.-Sun. 10-5.
Fodor’s Choice | Schlosskirche (Castle Church).
In 1517 an indignant Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses, which attacked the Roman Catholic Church’s policy of selling indulgences, to this church’s doors. Written in Latin, the theses might have gone unnoticed had not someone—without Luther’s knowledge—translated them into German and distributed them. In 1521 the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V summoned Luther to Worms when Luther refused to retract his position. On the way home from his confrontation with the emperor, Luther was “captured” by his protector, Elector Frederick the Wise, and hidden from papal authorities in Eisenach for the better part of a year. Today the theses hang in bronze on the door, while inside, simple bronze plaques mark the burial places of Luther and his contemporary, Philipp Melanchthon. | Schlosspl. 1 | Wittenberg | 03491/402-585 | Free, tower €2 | Church interior closed until summer 2017. May-Oct., Mon.-Sat. 10-5, Sun. 11:30-5; Nov.-Apr., Mon.-Sat. 10-4, Sun. 11:30-4.
Stadtkirche St. Marien (Parish Church of St. Mary).
From 1514 until his death in 1546, Martin Luther preached two sermons a week in the twin-tower Stadtkirche St. Marien. He and Katharina von Bora were married here (Luther broke with monasticism in 1525 and married the former nun). The altar triptych by Lucas Cranach the Elder includes a self-portrait, as well as portraits of Luther wearing the knight’s disguise he adopted when hidden at the Wartburg; Luther preaching; Luther’s wife and one of his sons; Melanchthon; and Lucas Cranach the Younger. Also notable is the 1457 bronze baptismal font by Herman Vischer the Elder. On the church’s southeast corner is a discomforting juxtaposition of the two monuments dedicated to Wittenberg’s Jews; a 1304 mocking caricature called the Jewish Pig, erected at the time of the expulsion of the town’s Jews, and, on the cobblestone pavement, a contemporary memorial to the the city’s Jews murdered by the Nazis. | Kirchpl. | Wittenberg | 03491/404-415 | €1.50, including tour | May-Oct., daily 10-5; Nov.-Apr., daily 10-4.
Cranachhaus (First Cranach House).
Lucas Cranach the Elder—court painter, printer, mayor, pharmacist, friend of Luther’s, and probably the wealthiest man in Wittenberg—lived in two houses during his years in town. This Cranachhaus is believed to have been the first one. His son, the painter Lucas Cranach the Younger, was born here. Some of the interior has been restored to its 17th-century condition. It’s now a gallery with exhibits about Cranach’s life and work. Check out the goldsmith and potter that are occasionally on hand demonstrating their crafts in the courtyard. | Markt 4 | Wittenberg | 03491/420-190 | €6 | Mon.-Sat. 10-5, Sun. 1-5.
Cranachhaus (Second Cranach House).
In the second Wittenberg home of Cranach the Elder, the Renaissance man not only lived and painted but also operated a print shop, which has been restored, and an apothecary. The courtyard, where it’s thought he did much of his painting, remains much as it was in his day. Children attend the Malschule (painting school) here. | Schlossstr. 1 | Wittenberg | 03491/410-912 | Free | Mon.-Thurs. 8-4, Fri. 8-3.
Haus der Geschichte (House of History).
This museum makes a valiant attempt to evaluate the history of the GDR. It provides fascinating insight into the day-to-day culture of East Germans through the re-creation of a typical East German apartment, and a display of more than 20,000 objects, including detergent packaging and kitchen appliances. A special section deals with Germans and Russians in the Wittenberg region. | Schlossstr. 6 | Wittenberg | 03491/409-004 | www.pflug-ev.de | €6 | Weekdays 10-5, weekends 11-6.
Luthereiche (Luther Oak).
In a small park, the Luthereiche marks the spot where, in 1520, Luther burned the papal bull excommunicating him for his criticism of the Church. The present oak was planted in the 19th century. | Weserstr. and Collegienstr. | Wittenberg.
Marktplatz (Market Square).
Two statues are the centerpiece here: an 1821 statue of Luther by Johann Gottfried Schadow, designer of the quadriga and Victory atop Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, and an 1866 statue of Melanchthon by Frederick Drake. Gabled Renaissance houses containing shops line part of the square. | Wittenberg.
The handsome, white High Renaissance town hall forms the backdrop for the Marktplatz’s two statues. | Markt 26 | Wittenberg | 03491/421-720 | Daily 10-5.
Melanchthonhaus (Melanchthon House).
In this elegantly gabled Renaissance home, the humanist teacher and scholar Philipp Melanchthon corrected Luther’s translation of the New Testament from Greek into German. Luther was hiding in the Wartburg in Eisenach at the time, and as each section of his manuscript was completed it was sent to Melanchthon for approval. (Melanchthon is a Greek translation of the man’s real name, Schwarzerdt, which means “black earth”; humanists routinely adopted such classical pseudonyms.) The second-floor furnishings have been painstakingly re-created after period etchings. | Collegienstr. 60 | Wittenberg | 03491/403-279 | www.martinluther.de | €4 | Apr.-Oct., daily 10-6; Nov.-Mar., Tues.-Sun. 10-5.
Wittenberg English Ministry.
English-speaking visitors can worship in the churches where Martin Luther conducted his ministry thanks to this ministry. During the summer months it brings English-speaking pastors from the United States to provide Lutheran worship services in the Schlosskirche and Stadtkirche St. Marien. Services follow German Protestant tradition (albeit in English) and conclude with singing Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” accompanied on the organ. Tours of Wittenberg and other Luther sites are also offered. Despite the reconstruction of the Castle Church, services are being held as scheduled. | Schlosspl. 2 | Wittenberg | 03491/498-610 | www.wittenberg-english-ministry.com | May-Oct., Sat. at 5, other times by request.
WHERE TO EAT
$ | GERMAN | This historic brewery-cum-restaurant is the perfect stop for a cold beer after a long day of sightseeing. Set in the Old Town’s magnificent Beyerhof courtyard, the Brauhaus still produces local beer such as Wittenberger Kuckucksbier. In the medieval restaurant with its huge beer kettles, you can sample local and south German cuisine; a specialty is the smoked fish—such as eel, trout, and halibut—from the Brauhaus smokery. In summer, try to get a table in the courtyard. | Average main: €12 | Markt 6 | Wittenberg | 03491/433-130 | www.brauhaus-wittenberg.de.
$ | GERMAN | At the back of the Schlosskirche, this restaurant’s four dining rooms are tucked away in a basement with 16th-century stone walls and barrel-vaulted ceilings. The kitchen specializes in German dishes, such as Kümmelfleisch mit Senfgurken (caraway beef with mustard-seed pickles). | Average main: €12 | Schlosspl. 1 | Wittenberg | 03491/480-805.
35 km (22 miles) southwest of Wittenberg.
The name “Dessau” is known to students of modern architecture as the epicenter of architect Walter Gropius’s highly influential Bauhaus school of design. During the 1920s, Gropius hoped to replace the dark and inhumane tenement architecture of the 1800s with standardized yet spacious and bright apartments. His ideas and methods were used in building 316 villas in the city’s Törten neighborhood in the 1920s.
Getting Here and Around
Dessau makes an excellent day trip from Berlin and the Bauhaus is really the only reason to make the journey. The direct Regional Express train leaves Berlin every hour, and the trip takes 90 minutes.
Tourist-Information Dessau. | Zerbster Str. 2c | 0340/204-1442, 0340/220-3003 | www.dessau-rosslau-tourismus.de.
The architecture school is still operating in this building, where artists conceived styles that influenced the appearance of such cities as New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. Other structures designed by Gropius and the Bauhaus architects, among them the Meisterhäuser, are also open for inspection off Ebertallee and Elballee. | Gropiusallee 38 | 0340/650-8251 | www.bauhaus-dessau.de | €22, includes all Bauhaus sites | Daily 10-6; Meisterhäuser: mid-Feb.-Oct., Tues.-Sun. 10-6; Nov.-mid-Feb., Tues.-Sun. 10-5.
Georgkirche (St. George’s Church).
Like other older buildings in downtown Dessau, this Dutch-baroque church, built in 1712, is quite a contrast to the no-nonsense Bauhaus architecture. | Georgenstr. 15.
Technikmuseum Hugo Junkers (Hugo Junkers Technical Museum).
The Bauhaus isn’t the only show in town. Professor Hugo Junkers, one of the most famous engineers-cum-inventors of the 20th century, was at the forefront of innovation in aircraft and industrial design until his inventions were expropriated by the Nazis in 1933. The star of the museum is a completely restored JU-52/3—the ubiquitous German passenger airplane transformed into military transport. The museum also houses a fascinating collection of industrial equipment, machinery, engines, and the original Junkers wind tunnel. | Kühnauerstr. 161a | 0340/661-1982 | www.technikmuseum-dessau.de | €5 | Apr.-Oct., daily 10-5; Nov.-Mar., Tues.-Sun. 10-5.
52 km (32 miles) south of Dessau.
This city deserves a second look. The first impression produced by an ever-under-construction train station and dismal tram ride into town is pleasantly swept away by the pretty 1,000-year-old city built on the salt trade. The name Halle comes from the Celtic word for salt, while the Saale, the name of the river the city straddles, is derived from the German word for salt. Halle has suffered from the shortfalls of Communist urban planning, yet the Old Town has an unusual beauty, particularly in its spacious central marketplace, the Markt, with its five distinctive sharp-steeple towers.
Getting Here and Around
Frequent S-bahn trains connect Halle with Leipzig (30 minutes) and with Naumburg (20 minutes).
This annual festival takes place in the first half of June, and two youth-choir festivals occur in May and October. | Halle | 0345/5009-0222.
Stadtmarketing Halle. | Marktpl. 1360 | 0345/122-9984 | www.halle.de.
Halle’s only early-Gothic church, the Dom stands about 200 yards southeast of the Moritzburg. Its nave and side aisles are of equal height, a common characteristic of Gothic church design in this part of Germany. | Dompl. 3 | 0345/202-1379 | Free | June-Oct., Mon.-Sat. 2-4.
OFF THE BEATEN PATH: Halloren Schokoladenfabrik.
Germany’s oldest chocolate factory was founded in 1804 and has changed hands several times (including a brief period when it was used to manufacture airplane wings during the war). Its Schokoladenmuseum explores 200 years of chocolate production and contains a 27-square-meter (290-square-foot) room made entirely from chocolate. Entrance to the museum also allows entrance to the glass-enclosed production line, where you can watch almost all aspects of chocolate making. The factory is on the other side of the train station from the main town. To get here, take Tram 7 to Fiete-Schultze-Strasse and walk back about 200 yards. | Delitzscherstr. 70 | 0345/564-2192 | www.halloren.de | €4, includes samples | Mon.-Sat. 9-4.
OFF THE BEATEN PATH: Halle-Neustadt.
A side trip to Halle-Neustadt (nicknamed Hanoi by the locals), is worthwhile for anyone interested in socialist city planning. The huge planned residential community comprises block after block of prefabricated housing units that are commonly associated with Eastern Europe.
The project resulted from the construction of a large chemical factory complex near Schkopau and Leuna (to the south) and the need to quickly house thousands of workers and their families in the 1960s. Compared to other Plattenbau, as such houses are called in German, Halle-Neustadt is generously proportioned, with wide thoroughfares, large-scale art and beautification projects, and theaters and cinemas. In its heyday, more than 92,000 people lived here. To get here from the Marktplatz, take Tram 2 to Soltauer Strasse or Tram 10 to Göttinger Bogen. | Halle.
Händelhaus (Handel House).
Handel’s birthplace is now a museum devoted to the composer. The entrance hall displays glass harmonicas and curious musical instruments perfected by Benjamin Franklin in the 1760s. Be sure to look for the small courtyard where Handel played as a child. | Grosse Nikolaistr. 5 | 0345/500-900 | Free | Tues., Wed., and Fri.-Sun. 9:30-5:30, Thurs. 9:30-7.
Marienkirche (St. Mary’s Church).
Of the four towers belonging to the late-Gothic Marienkirche, two are connected by a vertiginous catwalk bridge. Martin Luther preached in the church, and George Frideric Handel (Händel in German), born in Halle in 1685, was baptized at its font. He went on to learn to play the organ beneath its high, vaulted ceiling. | An der Marienkirche 2.
Marktschlösschen (Market Palace).
This late-Renaissance building just off the market square houses an interesting collection of historical musical instruments, some of which could have been played by Handel and his contemporaries. | Marktpl. 13 | 0345/202-9141 | Free | Tues.-Fri. 10-7, weekends 10-6.
Moritzburg (Moritz Castle).
The Archbishop of Magdeburg built the Moritzburg in the late 15th century, after he claimed the city for his archdiocese. The typical late-Gothic fortress, with a dry moat and a sturdy round tower at each of its four corners, is a testament to Halle’s early might, which vanished with the Thirty Years’ War (1618-48). Prior to World War II the castle contained a leading gallery of German expressionist paintings, which were ripped from the walls by the Nazis and condemned as “degenerate.” Some of the works are back in place at the Staatliche Galerie Moritzburg, together with some outstanding late-19th- and early-20th-century art. You’ll find Rodin’s famous sculpture The Kiss here. | Friedemann-Bach-Pl. 5 | 0345/212-590 | stiftung-moritzburg.de | €6, special exhibits €11 | Tues. 11-8:30, Wed.-Sun. 10-6.
Roter Turm (Red Tower).
The Markt’s fifth tower is Halle’s celebrated Roter Turm, built between 1418 and 1506 as an expression of the city’s power and wealth. The carillon inside is played on special occasions. | Markt.
Technisches Halloren- und Salinemuseum (Technical Saline Extraction Museum).
The salt trade on which Halle built its prosperity is documented in this museum. A replica brine mill shows the salt-extraction process, and the exquisite silver-goblet collection of the Salt Workers’ Guild (the Halloren) is on display. The old method of evaporating brine from local springs is sometimes demonstrated. The museum is on the south side of the Saale River (across the Schiefer Bridge). | Mansfelderstr. 52 | 0345/202-5034 | www.salinemuseum.de | €3.80 | Tues.-Sun. 10-5.
WHERE TO EAT AND STAY
Halle’s café scene spreads out along the Kleine Ullrichstrasse. It’s a good area for searching out an affordable meal and lively conversation.
Hallesches Brauhaus Kühler Brunnen.
$ | GERMAN | Halle’s first and best brewpub serves traditional brewery fare in huge portions at reasonable prices. The Brauhaus is most famous for its large selection of Flammkuchen, a kind of thin-crust flatbread originating from the Alsace region of France. The best beer is the brewery’s own Hallsch, an amber top-fermented ale served in funky glasses. | Average main: €12 | Grosse Nikolaistr. 2 | 0345/212-570 | www.halleschesbrauhaus.de | No credit cards.
$ | GERMAN | Hearty German fare in heartier portions is served in high-ceiling, dark-wood surroundings. Lamb from Saxony-Anhalt’s Wettin region and venison are specialties in season, but there are always fish and crisp roast pork on the menu. The wine list is extensive, with international vintages. The restaurant is popular with locals, and the staff are particularly accommodating with children. If you’re not picky, the fair selection of vegetarian dishes make the Mönchhof the best vegetarian option in the city | Average main: €13 | Talamtstr. 6 | 0345/202-1726.
$$ | HOTEL | In an old warehouse, this reflection on Halle’s salt-strewn past contains individually decorated rooms, most with wooden ceiling beams, bare stone walls, and heavy furniture made from exquisite wood. The hotel’s Saalkahn restaurant ($-$$) serves both regional and international dishes based on fresh fish and game. The Geschmorte Hirschkeule “Dubener Heide” (braised venison shank) is particularly tasty. Pros: casual elegance worked into a traditional setting. Cons: building creaks and groans when it is windy; can be cold in winter. | Rooms from: €110 | Ankerstr. 2a | 0345/232-3200 | www.ankerhof.de | 49 rooms, 1 suite | Breakfast.
The city of Handel’s birth is, not surprisingly, an important music center. Halle is famous for its opera productions, its orchestral concerts, and particularly its choirs.
Opernhaus (Opera House).
Both Halle’s opera and its venue are renowned. | Universitätsring 24 | 0345/5110-0355.
Philharmonisches Staatsorchester Halle (State Philharmonic Orchestra).
The city’s main orchestra performs at the Konzerthalle. | Grosse Gosenstr. 12 | 0345/523-3141 for concert information and tickets | www.staatskapelle.halle.de.
Halle is home to Kathi, the GDR’s own Betty Crocker. In 1951 Rainer Thiele opened a factory here to produce uncomplicated products that made baking doable for everyone. By 1955 the popular cake and bread mixes were common on supermarket shelves in Scandinavia and Western Europe. The company was taken over by the state in 1980, then reprivatized in 1990, and is riding a wave of success due to the cult status of its products in the East. Pick up a mix for Händel-torte, and top it with Halloren-Kügel.
EN ROUTE: Eisleben.
To reach Quedlinburg in the Harz, you can take E-49 directly, or take a somewhat longer route via E-80, stopping in Eisleben first. Martin Luther came into and out of the world here: both the square Franconian house with the high-pitched roof that was his birthplace (Luthers Geburtshaus) and the Gothic patrician house where he died (Luthers Sterbehaus) are open to the public, as are, on request, the St. Petri-Pauli Kirche (Church of Sts. Peter and Paul), where he was baptized, and the St. Andreaskirche (St. Andrew’s Church), where his funeral was held. From Eisleben take B-180 north to join E-49 to Quedlinburg. | Eisleben.
60 km (65 miles) south of Halle.
Once a powerful trading and ecclesiastical city, 1,000-year-old Naumburg is the cultural center of the Salle-Unstrut. Although the city is most famous for its Romanesque/Gothic cathedral, it hides a well-preserved collection of patrician houses, winding back alleys, and a marketplace so distinctive that it warrants the appellation “Naumburger Renaissance.”
Getting Here and Around
From the train station the fun way to get into the city is to take the Naumburger Historical Tram, which runs every 30 minutes. A single ride on Europe’s smallest tramway, in antique streetcars, costs €1.50.
Tourist und Tagungsservice Naumburg. | Markt 12 | 03445/273-125, 03445/273-128 | www.naumburg-tourismus.de.
Dom St. Peter und Paul (St. Peter and Paul Cathedral).
Perched high above the city and dominating the skyline, this cathedral is the symbol of Naumburg. For the most part constructed during the latter half of the 13th century, it’s considered one of the masterpieces of the late Romanesque period. What makes the cathedral unique, however, is the addition of a second choir in the Gothic style less than 100 years later. The Gothic choir is decorated with statues of the cathedral’s benefactors from the workshop of the Naumburger Meister. Be sure to find Neo Rauch’s red triptych windows in the St. Elisabeth Chapel. The most famous statues are of Uta and Ekkehard, the city’s most powerful patrons. Uta’s tranquil face is everywhere, from postcards to city maps. | Dompl. 16 | 03445/23010 | €6.50 | Mon.-Sat. 10-4, Sun. noon-4; guided tours by appointment.
Naumburg was once ringed by a defensive city wall with five gates. The only remaining one, the Marientor, is a rare surviving example of a dual-portal gate, called a barbican, from the 14th century. The museum inside the gate provides a brief history of the city’s defenses. A pleasant walk along the remaining city walls from Marienplatz to the Weingarten is the easiest way to explore the last intact section of Naumburg’s wall, moat, and defensive battlements. | Marienpl. | €0.50, automated turnstile at the entrance | Daily 10-4:30.
Naumburg’s historic market square lies strategically at the intersection of two medieval trade routes. Although the market burned in 1517, it was painstakingly rebuilt in Renaissance and baroque styles. | Naumburg.
Kaysersches Haus (Imperial House).
Supported by seven Gothic gables, the Kaysersches Haus has a carved oak doorway from the Renaissance. | Markt 10.
Naumburg’s town hall, rebuilt in 1523, incorporates the remnants of the original building destroyed by fire. | Markt 1.
Schlösschen (Little Castle).
The Schlösschen houses the offices of Naumburg’s first and only Protestant bishop, Nikolaus von Amsdorf, who was consecrated by Martin Luther in 1542. | Markt 2.
Naumburger Wein und Sekt Manufaktur (Naumburg Wine and Sparkling Wine).
Producing fine still and sparkling wines on the bank of the Salle River, this winery in a 200-year-old monastery is a pleasant 2-km (1-mile) walk or bike ride from Naumburg’s city center. Tours of the production rooms and the vaulted cellar, with wine tastings, take place whenever a group forms and last about an hour. The wine garden is a pleasant place to relax on the bank of the river and the restaurant serves small snacks. Larger appetites find relief across the street at the Gasthaus Henne. | Blütengrund 35 | 03445/202-042 | www.naumburger.com | Tours with tasting €6 | Daily 11-6; tours Apr.-Oct., Mon., Wed., Fri., and Sat. at 2.
Nietzsche Haus Museum.
The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s family lived in Naumburg from 1858 to 1897, in a small classical house in the Weingarten. The Nietzsche Haus Museum documents the life and times of one of Naumburg’s most controversial residents. The exhibition does not delve too deeply into Nietzsche’s philosophy, but focuses a great deal on his bizarre relationship with his sister and her manipulation of his manuscripts. | Weingarten 18 | 03445/703-503 | www.mv-naumburg.de | €3 | Tues.-Fri. 2-5, weekends 10-4.
The parish church of St. Wenceslas dominates the southern end of the Markt. A church has stood on this spot since 1218, but the current incarnation dates from 1426, with interior renovations in 1726. The church is most famous for its huge Hildebrandt Organ, which was tested and tuned by J. S. Bach in 1746. Fans of Lucas Cranach the Elder get their due with two of his paintings, Suffer the Little Children Come Unto Me and the Adoration of the Three Magi. The 240-foot-tall tower belongs to the city, not the church, and was used as a watchtower for the city guards, who lived there until 1994. | Topfmarkt | 03445/208-401 | Free, tower €2 | Mon.-Sat. 10-noon and 2-5, tower daily 10-5.
WHERE TO EAT AND STAY
$ | GERMAN | Enjoy simple but tasty regional specialties directly in front of the Marientor. The beer garden is a good place to relax away from the action of the city center. The three-room pension is often booked far in advance. | Average main: €12 | Marienpl. 13 | 03445/234-425 | No credit cards.
Hotel Stadt Aachen.
$ | HOTEL | Many of the simply decorated rooms overlook the central market at this pleasant hotel in a medieval house. The staff gladly arranges wine tasting in the Ottonenkeller (wine cellar). The restaurant Carolus Magnus serves decent regional cuisine with a good selection of local wine. Pros: comfortable hotel in the middle of the action; helpful staff. Cons: location by the market is sometimes noisy. | Rooms from: €85 | Markt 11 | 03445/2470 | www.hotel-stadt-aachen.de | 38 rooms | No meals.
10 km (6 miles) north of Naumburg.
Stepping off the train in the sleepy town of Freyburg, it is not difficult to see why locals call the area “the Tuscany of the North.” With clean, wandering streets, whitewashed buildings, and a huge castle perched on a vine-terraced hill, Freyburg is a little out of place. The town owes its existence to Schloss Neuenburg, which was built by the same Thuringian count who built the Wartburg. Although most visitors head straight for the wine, the historic Old Town and castle certainly warrant a visit.
Freyburg is surrounded by a ¾-mile-long, almost completely intact city wall. The Ekstädter Tor was the most important gate into the city and dates from the 14th century. The gate is dominated by one of the few remaining barbicans in central Germany.
Getting Here and Around
Hourly trains connect Naumburg and Freyburg in nine minutes. Bike paths along the Unstrut River are a pleasure to cycle. The most serene way to reach Freyburg is to take a small steamboat.
Freyburger Fremdenverkehrsverein. | Markt 2 | 034464/27260, 034464/273-760 | www.freyburg-info.de.
Saale-Unstrut Schiffahrtsgesellschaft mbH.
Three times per day, in the summer, the Fröhliche Dörte (Happy Dorothy) steams from Naumburg to Freyburg and back. The trip takes about an hour and is the most pleasant way to reach Freyburg from Naumburg. | Steinweg 33 | Naumburg | www.froehliche-doerte.de/ | €10 one way, €16 round-trip.
Rotkäppchen Sektkellerei (Little Red Riding Hood Sparkling Wine).
Freyburg is the home of one of Europe’s largest producers of sparkling wine, a rare eastern German product with a significant market share in the West. Hour-long tours of the production facility include the world’s largest wooden wine barrel. | Sektkellereistr. 5 | 034464/340 | www.rotkaeppchen.de | €5 | Daily 10-6; tours weekdays at 11 and 2, weekends at 11, 12:30, 2, and 3:30.
St. Marien Kirche (St. Mary’s Church).
In 1225 the Thuringian count Ludwig IV erected the St. Marien Kirche as a triple-naved basilica and the only church within the city walls. The coquina limestone building, which resembles the cathedral in Naumburg, was renovated in the 15th century into its current form as a single-hall structure. The great carved altarpiece also dates from the 15th century and the baptistery from 1592. | Markt 2.
Schloss Neuenburg (Neuenburg Castle).
Since its foundation was laid in 1090 by the Thuringian Ludwig I, this castle has loomed protectively over Freyburg. The spacious residential area and huge towers date from the 13th century, when Neuenburg was a part of Thuringia’s eastern defenses. The spartan Gothic double-vaulted chapel from 1190 is one of the few rooms that evoke an early medieval past, since most of the castle was renovated in the 15th century. | Schloss 1 | 34464/35530 | www.schloss-neuenburg.de | €7 | Tues.-Sun. 10-5.
Winzervereinigung-Freyburg (Freyburg Vintner’s Association).
The best way to try Salle-Unstrut wine is with this trade group. Its 500 members produce some of Germany’s finest wines, both white and red, mostly pure varietals, with some limited blends. (A wonderful light red from a hybrid of the Blauer Zweigelt and St. James grape, called Andre, may change how you think about German red wine.) Tastings and tours must be arranged in advance—with options ranging from a simple tour of one of Germany’s largest barrel cellars to the grand tasting (€16)—or you can simply show up on Fridays at 1 (€12). The association goes out of its way to cater to the tastes of its guests, and bread, cheese, and water are always in plentiful supply. | Querfurter Str. 10 | 034464/30623 | www.winzervereinigung-freyburg.de | Mon.-Sat. 10-6, Sun. 10-4.
WHERE TO EAT
$ | GERMAN | Where better than a castle serenely overlooking the village of Freyburg for a medieval restaurant? Everything is prepared according to historical recipes with ingredients from the region. Try the roast chicken with honey or any of the grilled meats. Most menu items are available in the spacious beer garden. | Average main: €10 | Schloss 1 | 034464/66200 | www.burgwirtschaft.de.
79 km (49 miles) northwest of Halle.
This medieval Harz town has more half-timber houses than any other town in Germany: more than 1,600 of them line the narrow cobblestone streets and squares. The town escaped destruction during World War II and was treasured in GDR days, though not very well preserved. Today the nicely restored town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
For nearly 200 years Quedlinburg was a favorite imperial residence and site of imperial diets, beginning with the election in 919 of Henry the Fowler (Henry I) as the first Saxon king of Germany. It became a major trading city and a member of the Hanseatic League, equal in stature to Köln.
Quedlinburg lies on a spur rail line between Magdeburg and Thale. Despite being difficult to reach by train, it is still well worth the trouble. The train station is 1 km (½ mile) from the city center. Quedlinburg is an easy drive, 80 km (50 miles), from both Dessau (along the B-71) or from Halle (following the B-80).
Getting Here and Around
Quedlinburg lies on a spur rail line between Magdeburg and Thale. Despite being difficult to reach by train, it is still well worth the trouble. The train station is 1 km (½ mile) from the city center. Quedlinburg is an easy drive, 80 km (50 miles), from both Dessau (along the B-71) or from Halle (following the B-80).
Quedlinburg Tourismus-Marketing GmbH. | Markt 2 | 03946/905-624, 03946/905-629 | www.quedlinburg.de.
Lyonel Feininger Gallery.
This sophisticated, modern gallery is placed behind half-timber houses so as not to affect the town’s medieval feel. When the art of American-born painter Lyonel Feininger, a Bauhaus teacher in both Weimar and Dessau, was declared “decadent” by the Hitler regime in 1938, the artist returned to America. Left behind with a friend were engravings, lithographs, etchings, and paintings. The most comprehensive Feininger print collection in the world is displayed here. | Finkenherd 5a | 03946/2238 | www.feininger-galerie.de | €6 | Apr.-Oct., Wed.-Mon. 10-6; Nov.-Mar., Wed.-Mon. 10-5.
The Altstadt (Old Town) is full of richly decorated half-timber houses, particularly along Mühlgraben, Schuhof, the Hölle, Breitestrasse, and Schmalstrasse. Notable on the Marktplatz are the Renaissance Rathaus, with a 14th-century statue of Roland signifying the town’s independence, and the baroque 1701 Haus Grünhagen. Street and hiking maps and guidebooks (almost all in German) are available in the information office at the Rathaus. | Markt 2 | 03946/90550 | Free | Mon.-Sat. 9-3.
Schlossmuseum (Castle Museum).
Quedlinburg’s largely Renaissance castle buildings perch on top of the Schlossberg (Castle Hill), with a terrace overlooking woods and valley. The grounds include the Schlossmuseum, which has exhibits on the history of the town and castle, artifacts of the Bronze Age, and the wooden cage in which a captured 14th-century robber baron was put on public view. Restored 17th- and 18th-century rooms give an impression of castle life at that time. | Schlossberg 1 | 03946/2730 | €4.50 | Apr.-Oct., Tues.-Sun. 10-6; Nov.-Mar., Tues.-Sun. 10-5.
Ständerbau Fachwerkmuseum (Half-Timber House).
The oldest half-timber house in Quedlinburg, built about 1310, is now a museum. | Wordg. 3 | 03946/3828 | €3 | Apr.-Oct., Fri.-Wed. 10-5; Nov.-Mar., Fri.-Wed. 10-4.
Stiftskirche St. Servatius (Collegiate Church of St. Servatius).
This simple, graceful church is one of the most important and best-preserved 12th-century Romanesque structures in Germany. Henry I and his wife Mathilde are buried in its crypt. The renowned Quedlinburg Treasure of 10th-, 11th-, and 12th-century gold and silver and bejeweled manuscripts is also kept here (what’s left of it). Nazi SS leader Heinrich Himmler made the church into a shrine dedicated to the SS, insisting that it was only appropriate, since Henry I was the founder of the first German Reich. | Schlossberg 1 | 03946/709-900 | €4.50 | Nov.-Mar., Tues.-Sun. 10-4; Apr.-Oct., Tues.-Sun. 10-6.
WHERE TO EAT AND STAY
$ | GERMAN | Brewing Braunbier (a hoppy, top-fermented beer) has been a Quedlinburg tradition for several centuries. The Lüdde brewery traces its history to 1807, when Braunbier breweries dotted the Harz Mountains, and it was the last surviving brewery when it closed its doors in 1966. After German reunification, Georg Lüdde’s niece reopened the business, and it remains the only Braunbier brewery in Quedlinburg. Sampling the reemergence of an almost lost German tradition as well as some incredible beer-based game dishes, makes the restaurant well worth a visit—the top-fermented Braunbier is called Pubarschknall. | Average main: €12 | Carl-Ritter-Str. 1 | 03946/901-481 | www.hotel-brauhaus-luedde.de.
Hotel Zum Brauhaus.
$ | HOTEL | In a beautifully restored half-timber house, many of the rooms incorporate the bare load-bearing timbers and have pleasant views of the castle. An excellent breakfast is served in a huge dining room. Pros: friendly staff; location next to Lüdde brewery. Cons: a little rough around the edges; upper rooms get hot in summer. | Rooms from: €89 | Carl-Ritter-Str. 1 | 03946/901-481 | www.hotel-brauhaus-luedde.de | 50 rooms, 1 suite | Breakfast.
Hotel Zur Goldenen Sonne.
$ | HOTEL | Rooms in this baroque half-timber inn are furnished in a pleasing, rustic fashion. The cozy restaurant ($-$$) offers such Harz fare as venison stew with plum sauce and potato dumplings, and smoked ham in apricot sauce. Pros: beautiful half-timber house with modern conveniences; reasonable rates. Cons: the clock on the square strikes every 15 minutes; rooms in the modern section not quite as nice as the ones in the half-timber house. | Rooms from: €79 | Steinweg 11 | 03946/96250 | www.hotelzurgoldenensonne.de | 27 rooms | Breakfast.
Romantik Hotel Theophano.
$ | HOTEL | This 1668 baroque half-timber merchant’s house was the seat of the tanners’ guild in the 18th century, a restaurant-coffeehouse in the early 20th century, and a domestic linen store until the Communists “deprivatized” the business. Now restored with care, its elegant rooms have country antiques. The vaulted-ceiling restaurant ($$) serves such dishes as Harz trout and local wild boar. Pros: directly on the market square; historical old building with charm and charachter. Cons: no elevator. | Rooms from: €85 | Markt 13-14 | 03946/96300 | www.hoteltheophano.de | 22 rooms | Breakfast.
48 km (30 miles) northwest of Quedlinburg.
The lovely, unofficial capital of the Harz region, Goslar is one of Germany’s oldest cities and is known for the medieval glamour expressed in the fine Romanesque architecture of the Kaiserpfalz, an imperial palace of the German Empire. Thanks to the deposits of silver ore close to the town, Goslar was one of the country’s wealthiest hubs of trade during the Middle Ages. In this town of 46,000, time seems to have stood still among the hundreds of well-preserved (mostly typical northern German half-timber) houses built over the course of seven centuries. Despite Goslar’s rapid decline after the breakup of the Holy Roman Empire, the city—thanks to its ore deposits—maintained all the luxury and worldliness born of economic success.
Getting Here and Around
Hourly trains whisk travelers from Hanover to Goslar in about an hour.
Tourist-Information Goslar. | Markt 7 | 05321/78060, 05321/780-644 | www.goslar.de.
Erzbergwerk Rammelsberg (Rammelsberg Mine).
The source of the town’s riches is outside the city at the world’s only silver mine in continuous operation for more than 1,000 years. It stopped operating in 1988, but you can explore the many tunnels and shafts of the old mine. | Bergtal 19 | 05321/7500 | www.rammelsberg.de | €20, including 3 tours | Daily 9-6; tours given as needed 9:30-4:30.
Kaiserpfalz (Imperial Palace).
The impressive Kaiserpfalz, set high above the historic downtown area, dates to the early Middle Ages. It once was the center of German imperial glory, when emperors held their regular parliamentary diets here. Among the rulers who frequented Goslar were Heinrich III (1039-56) and his successor, Heinrich IV (1056-1106), who was also born in Goslar. You can visit an exhibit about the German medieval kaisers who stayed here, inspect the small chapel where the heart of Heinrich III is buried (the body is in Speyer), and view the beautiful ceiling murals in the Reichssaal (Imperial Hall). | Kaiserbleek 6 | 05321/311-9693 | €7.50 | Apr.-Oct., daily 10-5; Nov.-Mar., daily 10-4.
With its magnificent Huldigungssaal (Hall of Honor), this town hall dates to 1450 and testifies to the wealth of Goslar’s merchants. | Markt 7 | 05321/78060 | €3.50 | Daily 11-3.
WHERE TO STAY
Kaiserworth-Hotel und Restaurant.
$ | HOTEL | Hidden behind the reddish-brown walls of a 500-year-old house, the seat of medieval tailors and merchants, this hotel offers small but bright, pleasantly furnished rooms. Front rooms have windows on the medieval city market. The restaurant offers reliable German food. Pros: great central location in a unique historical building. Cons: old building with some quirks and unlevel floors. | Rooms from: €92 | Markt 3 | 05321/7090 | www.kaiserworth.de | 66 rooms | Breakfast.
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Eisenach | Erfurt | Weimar
Unlike other eastern states, unassuming Thuringia was not taken from the Slavs by wandering Germanic tribes but has been German since before the Middle Ages. The hilly countryside is mostly rural and forested, and it preserves a rich cultural past in countless small villages, medieval cities, and country palaces. In the 14th century traders used the 168-km (104-mile) Rennsteig (“fast trail”) through the dark depths of the Thuringian Forest, and cities such as Erfurt and Eisenach evolved as major commercial hubs. Today the forests and the Erzgebirge Mountains are a remote paradise for hiking and fishing. The city of Weimar is one of Europe’s old cultural centers, where Germany attempted its first go at a true democracy in 1918. Thuringia is the land of Goethe and Schiller, but it is also marked by the ominous presence of one of the Third Reich’s most notorious concentration camps: Buchenwald.
140 km (90 miles) southwest of Quedlinburg, 95 km (59 miles) northeast of Fulda.
When you stand in Eisenach’s ancient market square it’s difficult to imagine this half-timber town as an important center of the East German automobile industry. Yet this is where Wartburgs (very tiny, noisy, and cheaply produced cars, which are now collector’s items) were made. The cars were named after the Wartburg, the famous castle that broods over Eisenach from atop one of the foothills of the Thuringian Forest. Today West German automaker Opel continues the tradition by building one of Europe’s most modern car-assembly lines on the outskirts of town. Eisenach will be one of the focal points of the 500th anniversary celebrations of the Reformation in 2017.
Getting Here and Around
Hourly trains connect Eisenach with Leipzig (two hours) and Dresden (three hours). There are frequent connections to Weimar and Erfurt. Eisenach is about 160 km (100 miles) south of Goslar
Eisenach-Information. | Markt 24 | 03691/79230, 03691/792-320 | www.eisenach.de.
Johann Sebastian Bach was born in Eisenach in 1685. The Bachhaus has exhibits devoted to the entire lineage of the musical Bach family and includes a collection of historical musical instruments. It is the largest collection of Bach memorabilia in the world, and displays a bust of the composer built using forensic science from a cast of his skull. The price of admission includes a 20-minute recital using historical instruments, held once per hour. | Frauenplan 21 | 03691/79340 | www.bachhaus.de | €8.50 | Daily 10-6.
This downtown house has many fascinating exhibits illustrating the life of Martin Luther, who lived here as a student. | Lutherpl. 8 | 03691/29830 | www.lutherhaus-eisenach.de | €8 | Tues.-Sun. 10-5.
Built in 1890, this is said to be the narrowest house in eastern Germany. Its width is just over 6 feet, 8 inches; its height, 24½ feet; and its depth, 34 feet. | Johannespl. 9.
Composer Richard Wagner gets his due at this museum, which has the most comprehensive exhibition on Wagner’s life and work outside Bayreuth. Monthly concerts take place in the old Teezimmer (tearoom), a hall with wonderfully restored French wallpaper. The Erard piano, dating from the late 19th century, is occasionally rolled out. | Reuterweg 2 | 03691/743-293 | €4 | Tues., Wed., and Fri.-Sun. 11-5, Thurs. 3-8.
Fodor’s Choice | Wartburg Castle.
Begun in 1067 (and expanded through the centuries), this mighty castle has hosted a parade of German celebrities. Hermann I (1156-1217), count of Thuringia and count palatine of Saxony, was a patron of the wandering poets Walther von der Vogelweide (1170-1230) and Wolfram von Eschenbach (1170-1220). Legend has it that this is where Walther von der Vogelweide, the greatest lyric poet of medieval Germany, prevailed in the celebrated Minnesängerstreit (minnesinger contest), which is featured in Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser.
Within the castle’s stout walls, Frederick the Wise (1463-1525) shielded Martin Luther from papal proscription from May 1521 until March 1522, even though Frederick did not share the reformer’s beliefs. Luther completed the first translation of the New Testament from Greek into German while in hiding, an act that paved the way for the Protestant Reformation. You can peek into the simple study in which Luther worked. Be sure to check out the place where Luther supposedly saw the devil and threw an inkwell at him. Pilgrims have picked away at the spot for centuries, forcing the curators to “reapply” the ink.
Frederick was also a patron of the arts. Lucas Cranach the Elder’s portraits of Luther and his wife are on view in the castle, as is a very moving sculpture, the Leuchterengelpaar (Candlestick Angel Group), by the great 15th-century artist Tilman Riemenschneider. The 13th-century great hall is breathtaking; it’s here that the minstrels sang for courtly favors. Don’t leave without climbing the belvedere for a panoramic view of the Harz Mountains and the Thuringian Forest. You can wander the grounds of the Wartburg for free, but the only way into the interior of the castle is to take a guided tour. The English tour takes place every day at 1:30 | Auf der Wartburg 1 | 03691/2500 | www.wartburg-eisenach.de | €9, including guided tour; family ticket €21 | Mar.-Oct., daily 8:30-5; Nov.-Feb., daily 9-3:30.
WHERE TO STAY
Hotel auf der Wartburg.
$$$$ | HOTEL | In this castle hotel, where Martin Luther, Johann Sebastian Bach, and Richard Wagner were guests, you’ll get a splendid view over the town and the countryside. The standard of comfort is above average, and antiques and Oriental rugs mix with modern furnishings. The hotel runs a shuttle bus to the rail station and to the parking lot of the Wartburg. Pros: medieval music and fireplaces in the lobby. Cons: it’s a hike to and from the city center. | Rooms from: €300 | Wartburg | 03691/7970 | www.wartburghotel.de | 35 rooms | Breakfast.
$ | HOTEL | At the base of Wartburg Castle, this former church-run hostel has blossomed into a handsome hotel, cleverly incorporating the original half-timber city mansion into a modern extension. The excellent restaurant ($-$$) has been joined by a brasserie. The hotel offers many packages that include cultural attractions and city tours. Pros: out of the hustle and bustle of the downtown; plenty of parking; an incredible breakfast buffet. Cons: uphill walk from the station is strenuous; location is a bit far from the city center. | Rooms from: €99 | Grimmelg. 4 | 03691/2340 | www.glockenhof.de | 38 rooms, 2 suites | Breakfast.
55 km (34 miles) east of Eisenach.
The city of Erfurt emerged from World War II relatively unscathed, with most of its innumerable towers intact. Of all the cities in the region, Erfurt is the most evocative of its prewar self, and it’s easy to imagine that many of the towns in northern Germany would look like this had they not been destroyed. The city’s highly decorative and colorful facades are easy to admire on a walking tour. TIP Downtown Erfurt is a photographer’s delight, with narrow, busy, ancient streets dominated by a magnificent 14th-century Gothic cathedral, the Mariendom.
Getting Here and Around
Hourly trains connect Erfurt with Leipzig (two hours) and Dresden (three hours). There are frequent connections to Weimar (twice per hour, 15 minutes) and Eisenach (hourly, 50 minutes). Erfurt is easily walkable from the train station and the streetcar is easy to use.
Erfurt Tourist-Information. | Benediktspl. 1 | 0361/66400, 0361/664-0290 | www.erfurt-tourist-info.de.
Fodor’s Choice | Krämerbrücke (Merchant’s Bridge).
Behind the predominantly neo-Gothic Rathaus, Erfurt’s most outstanding attraction spans the Gera River. This Renaissance bridge, similar to the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, is the longest of its kind in Europe and the only one north of the Alps. Built in 1325 and restored in 1967-73, the bridge served for centuries as an important trading center. Today antiques shops fill the majority of the timber-frame houses built into the bridge, some dating from the 16th century. The bridge comes alive on the third weekend of June for the Krämerbrückenfest. | Erfurt.
Mariendom (St. Mary’s Cathedral).
This cathedral’s Romanesque origins (foundations can be seen in the crypt) are best preserved in the choir’s glorious stained-glass windows and beautifully carved stalls, and its biggest bell, the Gloriosa, is the largest free-swinging bell in the world. Cast in 1497, it took three years to install in the tallest of the three sharply pointed towers, painstakingly lifted inch by inch with wooden wedges. No chances are taken with this 2-ton treasure; its deep boom resonates only on special occasions, such as Christmas and New Year’s. The Mariendom is reached by way of a broad staircase from the expansive Cathedral Square. | Dompl. | 0361/646-1265 | Free; tour €5.50 | May-Oct., Mon.-Sat. 9-5, Sun. 1-4; Nov.-Apr., Mon.-Sat. 10-11:30 and 12:30-4, Sun. 1-4.
Erfurt’s main transportation hub and pedestrian zone, the Anger developed as a result of urban expansion due to the growth of the railroad in Thuringia in the early 19th century. With some exceptions, the houses are all architecturally historicized, making them look much older than they really are. The Hauptpostgebäude was erected in 1892 in a mock Gothic style. | Erfurt.
Domplatz (Cathedral Square).
This square is bordered by houses dating from the 16th century. | Erfurt.
Klein Venedig (Little Venice).
The area around the bridge, crisscrossed with old streets lined with picturesque and often crumbling homes, is known as Little Venice because of the recurrent flooding it endures. | Erfurt.
St. Augustin Kloster (St. Augustine Monastery).
The young Martin Luther studied the liberal arts as well as law and theology at Erfurt University from 1501 to 1505. After a personal revelation, Luther asked to become a monk in the St. Augustin Kloster on July 17, 1505. He became an ordained priest here in 1507, and remained at the Kloster until 1511. Today the Kloster is a seminary and retreat hotel. | Augustinerstr. 10 | 0361/576-600 | www.augustinerkloster.de | Mon.-Sat. 10-noon and 2-4, Sun. irregular hrs.
This Gothic church has an extraordinary font, a masterpiece of intricately carved sandstone that reaches practically to the ceiling. It’s linked to the cathedral by a 70-step open staircase. | Dompl.
Erfurt’s interesting local-history museum is in a late-Renaissance house. | Johannesstr. 169 | 0361/655-5644 | Museum €6 | Tues.-Sun. 10-6.
WHERE TO EAT
$$$$ | GERMAN | This restaurant in the historic, elegant Kaisersaal edifice is the jewel in Erfurt’s small gourmet crown. Thuringia native chef Maria Gross has worked in top restaurants around Germany and developed her own minimalist style. Here she is pursuing her vision of a gourmet restaurant: a cozy, service-oriented oasis in which to enjoy delicious international dishes with a Thuringian accent. Using local producers, Clara serves delicious four- to seven-course menus from a list of 10 dishes. Even though you can order à la carte, the menus are a tasty splurge for between €107 and €167 with paired wine. The wine list is one of the best in eastern Germany, offering more than 300 vintages from around the world. | Average main: €30 | Futterstr. 1, 15-16 | 0361/568-8207 | www.restaurant-clara.de | Closed Sun. and Mon. No lunch.
$$ | GERMAN | In the heart of historic Erfurt the stylish Faustus defines fine Thuringian dining. This restaurant is in an old mansion, with both an inviting summer terrace and a bright, airy dining room. An after-dinner drink at the superb bar is a must. | Average main: €15 | Wenigermarkt 5 | 0361/540-0954 | No credit cards.
$ | GERMAN | Head down the straw-covered stairs in front of Clara restaurant, and you’ll find yourself transported to the Middle Ages. The Luther Keller offers simple but tasty medieval cuisine in a candlelit vaulted cellar. Magicians, minnesingers, jugglers, and other players round out the enjoyable experience. Sure, it’s pure kitsch, but it is entertaining, and the roast wild boar is delicious. The staff will get angry if you don’t throw your peanut shells on the floor. | Average main: €14 | Futterstr. 15 | 0361/568-8205 | Closed Sun. and Mon. No lunch.
Zum Goldenen Schwan.
$ | GERMAN | Beer lovers rejoice: in addition to the Braugold brewery, Erfurt has six brewpubs, among which the Golden Swan is by far the best. The house beer is a pleasant unfiltered Kellerbier, and other beers are brewed according to the season. The constantly changing seasonal menu is a step above normal brewpub fare, and the sauerbraten defines how the dish should be made. | Average main: €12 | Michaelisstr. 9 | 0361/262-3742.
WHERE TO STAY
Radisson Blu Hotel Erfurt.
$$ | HOTEL | Since the SAS group gave the ugly high-rise Kosmos a face-lift, the socialist-realist look of the GDR years no longer intrudes on Hotel Erfurt. The hotel underwent several renovations, and the rooms now have bright, modern colors and fabrics (including leather-upholstered furniture). The Classico restaurant ($-$$) serves mostly local dishes and is one of Erfurt’s best. Pros: a safe, clean option in the city center; good restaurant. Cons: rather characterless business hotel. | Rooms from: €105 | Juri-Gagarin-Ring 127 | 0361/55100 | www.radissonblu.com | 282 rooms, 3 suites | Breakfast.
OFF THE BEATEN PATH: Schmölln.
On the A-4 between Dresden and Erfurt lies the picture-perfect, lost-in-time Thuringian village of Schmölln. The town became famous at the end of the 19th century as the center of Europe’s button trade. Schmölln’s industrial ambitions ended with the confiscation of the button industry as war reparations by the Red Army.
Schmölln’s medieval Marktplatz, which the city rebuilt after a fire destroyed many of the buildings in 1772, is the largest in central Germany and a protected monument.
Schmölln is also famous for Schmöllner Mutzbraten, a fist-size piece of marinated pork-shoulder, spiced with marjoram and spit-roasted over birch.
Climb the 100-foot-high Ernst-Agnes-Turm, the Eiffel Tower of East Thuringia, for incredible views of the rolling hills surrounding the Sprotte Valley. | Schmölln.
OFF THE BEATEN PATH: Regional and Button Museum.
This museum explores Schmölln’s history and culture, while providing a charming insight into the history of the button. | Sprotter/Ronneburger Str. | Schmölln | 034491/7692 | www.schmoelln.de | €3 | Wed. and Fri. 10-5, weekends 12:30-6.
OFF THE BEATEN PATH: Hotel Reussischer Hof.
The best place to sample Schmölln’s local delicacy is the beer garden of this hotel, which is also a good place to spend the night. | Gössnitzer Str. 14 | Schmölln | 034491/23108 | www.hotel-reussischer-hof.de.
21 km (13 miles) east of Erfurt.
Sitting prettily in the geographical center of Thuringia, Weimar occupies a place in German political and cultural history completely disproportionate to its size (population 63,000). It’s not even particularly old by German standards, with a civic history that started as late as 1410. Yet by the early 19th century the city had become one of Europe’s most important cultural centers, where poets Goethe and Schiller wrote, Johann Sebastian Bach played the organ for his Saxon patrons, Carl Maria von Weber composed some of his best music, and Franz Liszt was director of music, presenting the first performance of Lohengrin here. In 1919 Walter Gropius founded his Staatliches Bauhaus here, and behind the classical pillars of the National Theater the German National Assembly drew up the constitution of the Weimar Republic, the first German democracy. As the Weimar Republic began to collapse in 1926, Hitler chose the little city as the site for the second national congress of his Nazi party, where he founded the Hitler Youth. On the outskirts of Weimar the Nazis built—or forced prisoners to build for them—the infamous Buchenwald concentration camp.
Getting Here and Around
Weimar is on the ICE line between Dresden/Leipzig and Frankfurt. IC trains link the city with Berlin. Weimar has an efficient bus system, but most sights are within walking distance in the compact city center. If you plan on visiting four or more of Weimar’s fine collection of museums and cultural sites, consider using the 48-hour WeimarCard (€28) which is valid for the city buses as well.
Tourist-Information Weimar. | Markt 10 | 03643/7450, 03643/745-420 | www.weimar.de.
Walter Gropius founded the Staatliches Bauhaus (Bauhaus design school) in Weimar in 1919. It was Germany’s most influential and avant-garde design school, and it ushered in the era of modern architecture and design just before the start of World War II. Although the school moved to Dessau in 1925, Weimar’s Bauhaus Museum is a modest, yet superb collection of the works of Gropius, Johannes Itten, and Henry van de Velde. | Theaterpl. | 03643/545-961 | www.klassik-stiftung.de | €4 | Apr.-Oct., Tues.-Sun. 10-6; Nov.-Mar., Tues.-Sun. 10-4.
Fodor’s Choice | Goethe Nationalmuseum (Goethe National Museum).
Goethe spent 57 years in Weimar, 47 of them in a house two blocks south of Theaterplatz that has since become a shrine attracting millions of visitors. The Goethe Nationalmuseum consists of several houses, including the Goethehaus, where Goethe lived. It shows an exhibit about life in Weimar around 1750 and contains writings that illustrate not only the great man’s literary might but also his interest in the sciences, particularly medicine, and his administrative skills (and frustrations) as minister of state and Weimar’s exchequer. You’ll see the desk at which Goethe stood to write (he liked to work standing up) and the modest bed in which he died. The rooms are dark and often cramped, but an almost palpable intellectual intensity seems to illuminate them. | Frauenplan 1 | 03643/545-320 | www.klassik-stiftung.de/en/institutions/goethe-national-museum/ | €12 | Apr.-Oct., Tues.-Sun. 9-6; Nov.-Mar., Tues.-Fri. and Sun. 9-4, Sat. 9-7.
Goethes Gartenhaus (Garden House).
Goethe’s beloved Gartenhaus is a modest country cottage where he spent many happy hours, wrote much poetry, and began his masterly classical drama Iphigenie. The house is set amid meadowlike parkland on the bank of the River Ilm. Goethe is said to have felt very close to nature here, and you can soak up the same rural atmosphere on footpaths along the peaceful little river. | Im Park an der Ilm, Hans-Wahl-Str. 4 | 03643/545-375 | www.klassik-stiftung.de/index.php?id=90 | Cottage €6 | Apr.-Oct., Wed.-Mon. 9-6; Nov.-Mar., Wed.-Mon. 10-4.
Neues Museum Weimar (New Museum Weimar).
The city is proud of eastern Germany’s first museum exclusively devoted to contemporary art. The building, dating from 1869, was carefully restored and converted to hold collections of American minimalist and conceptual art and works by German installation-artist Anselm Kiefer and American painter Keith Haring. In addition, it regularly presents international modern-art exhibitions. | Weimarpl. 5 | 03643/545-930 | €4 | Apr.-Oct., Tues.-Sun. 11-6; Nov.-Mar., Tues.-Sun. 11-4.
OFF THE BEATEN PATH: Schloss Belvedere (Belvedere Palace).
Just 8 km (5 miles) south of Weimar, the lovely 18th-century, yellow-stucco Belvedere Palace once served as a hunting lodge and pleasure palace. Today it has a baroque museum and an interesting collection of coaches and other historic vehicles inside. The formal gardens were in part laid out according to Goethe’s concepts. | Belvedere Allee | 03643/545-962 | www.klassik-stiftung.de | €6 | Apr.-mid-Oct., Tues.-Sun. 10-6.
This is a central meeting place for students at the university. It contains a café and shop offering books about the movement as well as Bauhaus-designed souvenirs, and also marks the starting point for university-run Bauhaus walks. | Geschwister-Scholl-Str. 6a | 03643/583-000.
Catch a glimpse of the Henry van de Velde-designed main building of the university, formerly the Grand Ducal School of Arts and Crafts. A faithful reconstruction of Gropius’s office can be found here as well. | Geschwister-Scholl-Str. 8 | www.uni-weimar.de.
Haus am Horn.
This modest, cubical structure designed by Georg Muche for the 1923 Bauhaus exhibition was meant to be a model of Bauhaus’s functional philosophy. It was fully restored in 1999 to mark the 80th anniversary of the founding of Bauhaus. | Am Horn 61 | 03643/904-056.
OFF THE BEATEN PATH: Gedenkstätte Buchenwald (Buchenwald Memorial).
Just north of Weimar, amid the natural beauty of the Ettersberg hills that once served as Goethe’s inspiration, sits the blight of Buchenwald, one of the most infamous Nazi concentration camps. Fifty-six thousand men, women, and children from 35 countries met their deaths here through forced labor, starvation, disease, and gruesome medical experiments. Each is commemorated by a small stone placed on the outlines of the barracks, which have long since disappeared from the site, and by a massive memorial tower. In an especially cruel twist of fate, many liberated inmates returned to the camp as political prisoners of the Soviet occupation; they are remembered in the exhibit Soviet Special Camp #2. Besides exhibits, tours are available. To reach Buchenwald by public transportation, take Bus 6 (in the direction of Buchenwald, not Ettersburg), which leaves every 10 minutes from Goetheplatz in downtown Weimar. The one-way fare is €1.90. | Weimar | 03643/4300 | www.buchenwald.de | Free | May-Sept., Tues.-Sun. 10-5:30; Oct.-Apr., Tues.-Sun. 9-4:30.
Herderkirche (Herder Church).
The Marktplatz’s late-Gothic church has a large winged altar started by Lucas Cranach the Elder and finished by his son in 1555. The elder Cranach lived in a nearby house (two blocks east of Theaterplatz) during his last years, 1552-53. Its wide, imposing facade is richly decorated and bears the coat of arms of the Cranach family. It now houses a modern art gallery. | Herderpl. 8.
Historischer Friedhof (Historic Cemetery).
Goethe and Schiller are buried in this leafy cemetery, where virtually every gravestone commemorates a famous citizen of Weimar. Their tombs are in the vault of the classical-style chapel. The cemetery is a short walk past Goethehaus and Wieland Platz. | Am Poseckschen Garten | 03643/545-400 | Goethe-Schiller vault €4 | Apr.-Oct., Wed.-Mon. 9-1 and 2-6; Nov.-Mar., Wed.-Mon. 10-1 and 2-4.
This green-shuttered residence, part of the Goethe National Museum, is on a tree-shaded square not far from Goethe’s house. Schiller and his family spent a happy, all-too-brief three years here (he died here in 1805). Schiller’s study is tucked underneath the mansard roof, a cozy room dominated by his desk, where he probably completed Wilhelm Tell. Much of the remaining furniture and the collection of books were added later, although they all date from around Schiller’s time. | Schillerstr. 17 | 03643/545-350 | www.klassik-stiftung.de | €7.50 | Apr.-Oct., Tues.-Sun. 9-6; Nov.-Mar., Tues.-Sun. 9-4.
Stadtschloss (City Castle).
Around the corner from the Herderkirche, this 16th-century castle has a finely restored classical staircase, a festival hall, and a falcon gallery. The tower on the southwest projection dates from the Middle Ages but received its baroque overlay circa 1730. The Kunstsammlung (art collection) here includes several works by Cranach the Elder and many early-20th-century pieces by such artists as Böcklin, Liebermann, and Beckmann. | Burgpl. 4 | 03643/545-930 | www.klassik-stiftung.de | €7.50 | Apr.-Oct., Tues.-Sun. 10-6; Nov.-Mar., Tues.-Sun. 10-4.
A statue on this square, in front of the National Theater, shows Goethe placing a paternal hand on the shoulder of the younger Schiller. | Weimar.
Wittumspalais (Wittum Mansion).
Much of Weimar’s greatness is owed to its patron, the widowed countess Anna Amalia, whose home, the Wittumspalais, is surprisingly modest. In the late 18th century the countess went talent hunting for cultural figures to decorate the glittering court her Saxon forebears had established. She discovered Goethe, and he served the countess as a counselor, advising her on financial matters and town design. Schiller followed, and he and Goethe became valued visitors to the countess’s home. Within this exquisite baroque house you can see the drawing room in which she held soirées, complete with the original cherrywood table at which the company sat. The east wing of the house contains a small museum that’s a fascinating memorial to those cultural gatherings. | Am Theaterpl. | 03643/545-377 | €6 | Apr.-Oct., Tues.-Sun. 9-6; Nov.-Mar., Tues.-Sun. 10-4.
WHERE TO EAT
$ | GERMAN | When Ludwig Deinhard purchased the Weimar Stadtbrauerei in 1875, Felsenkeller was already 100 years old. Beer has been brewed here in small batches ever since. Although the brewpub is outside the city center, it’s worth a trip to sample the brews and the inventive seasonal selections. The pub serves standard fare at reasonable prices. | Average main: €11 | Humboldtstr. 37 | 03643/414-741 | No credit cards | Closed Mon.
$ | GERMAN | This is one of the region’s most authentic town hall-cellar restaurants. Its whitewashed, barrel-vaulted ceiling has witnessed centuries of tradition. At the side is a cozy bar, where you can enjoy a preprandial drink beneath a spectacular art nouveau skylight. The delicious sauerbraten and the famous bratwurst (with sauerkraut and mashed potatoes) are the highlights of the Thuringian menu. If venison is in season, try it—likewise the wild duck or wild boar in red-wine sauce. | Average main: €12 | Am Markt 10 | 03643/850-573.
$ | GERMAN | If Klösse (dumplings) are a Thuringia religion, this restaurant is their cathedral. Thuringia’s traditional Klösse are at their best here, but be patient—they’re made to order and can take up to 20 minutes. The dumplings come with just about every dish, from roast pork to venison stew, and the wait is well worth it. The ideal accompaniment to anything on the menu is one of the three locally brewed beers on tap or the fine selection of Salle-Unstrut wines. Since the Klösse are the best in the province, the restaurant fills quickly; reservations are essential. | Average main: €11 | Eisfeld 2 | 03643/202-430 | No credit cards | Closed Mon. | Reservations essential.
Sommer’s Weinstuben und Restaurant.
$ | GERMAN | The city’s oldest pub and restaurant, a 130-year-old landmark in the center of Weimar, is still going strong. The authentic Thuringian specialties and huge Kartoffelpfannen (potato pans), with fried potatoes and various kinds of meat, are prepared by the fifth generation of the Sommer family, and are as tasty as ever. Added attractions are a romantic courtyard and a superb wine list with some rare vintages from local vineyards. | Average main: €11 | Humboldtstr. 2 | 03643/400-691 | No credit cards | Closed Sun. No lunch.
WHERE TO STAY
Amalienhof VCH Hotel.
$ | HOTEL | Book far ahead to secure a room at this friendly little hotel central to Weimar’s attractions. It opened in 1826 as a church hostel. Double rooms are furnished with first-rate antique reproductions; public rooms have the real thing. Pros: surprisingly good value; rooms are often upgraded to the highest available category at check-in. Cons: street noise can be bothersome. | Rooms from: €95 | Amalienstr. 2 | 03643/5490 | www.amalienhof-weimar.de | 23 rooms, 9 apartments | Breakfast.
Fodor’s Choice | Grand Hotel Russischer Hof.
$$ | HOTEL | This historic, classical hotel, once the haunt of European nobility and intellectual society, continues to be a luxurious gem in the heart of Weimar—it’s one of Germany’s finest hotels. Tolstoy, Liszt, Schumann, Turgenev, and others once stayed at this former Russian city palace, whose (partly historic) rooms are decorated today with antique French tapestries, linens, and furniture. The service is impeccable, and the atmosphere is casual yet serene and elegant. The restaurant Anastasia ($$) serves fine Austrian-Thuringian cuisine. Pros: a quiet hotel in the city center. Cons: rooms are on the small side, with thin walls; some overlook an unsightly back courtyard. | Rooms from: €135 | Goethepl. 2 | 03643/7740 | www.russischerhof.com | 119 rooms, 6 suites | No meals.
Fodor’s Choice | Hotel Elephant.
$$ | HOTEL | The historic Elephant, dating from 1696, has long been famous for its charm—even through the Communist years. Book here (well in advance), and you’ll follow the choice of Goethe, Schiller, Herder, Liszt (after whom the hotel bar is named)—and Hitler—all of whom were guests. Behind the sparkling white facade are comfortable modern rooms decorated in beige, white, and yellow in a timeless blend of art deco and Bauhaus styles. A sense of the past is ever-present. Pros: a beautiful historical building right in the city center. Cons: no air-conditioning; rooms in the front are sometimes bothered by the town clock if windows are open. | Rooms from: €150 | Markt 19 | 03643/8020 | www.hotelelephantweimar.com | 94 rooms, 5 suites | Breakfast.
Weimar’s lively after-dark scene is focused on bars and nightclubs around the Marktplatz, such as this Bauhaus-style bar and restaurant. | Windischenstr. 4-6 | 03643/901-285.