Unique architecture, fascinating history, interesting museums and a certain savoir vivre – the Cultural Heart of Germany’s enchanting towns and cities make for inspirational short trips off the beaten track. Pick and choose from our A to Z of delightful destinations in Saxony and Thuringia!
Chemnitz – a city of surprises
Industry and culture, tradition and a modern spirit: In the course of its 850-year-long history, Chemnitz has developed its very own character. It also surprises with some unexpected attractions such as a Europe’s biggest district completely built in Art Nouveau and Belle Epoque style. Another outstanding architectural feat is the iconic Villa Esche by eminent modernist Henry van de Velde. More hidden treasures? Try Gunzenhauser Museum, housing the world’s most comprehensive collection of works by Otto Dix.
Dresden – baroque beauty on the Elbe river
Take a beautiful river location, combine it with gorgeous baroque architecture and some of the world’s most stunning cultural sights and you have the perfect city break in Saxony’s capital Dresden. Buildings such as Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) or the Zwinger Palace as one of the world’s most beautiful baroque structures as well as The Old Masters Picture Gallery or the treasures in the Historic Green Vault delight visitors. Crossing the river, the urban Neustadt neighbourhood is full of bars, restaurants and trendy shops. As we said, a perfect city trip!
Eisenach – small, but mighty
Eisenach at the western edge of the Thuringian Forest is not only the birthplace of composer Johann Sebastian Bach but also home to the legendary Wartburg Castle, towering above town. The UNESCO World Heritage site provides fascinating insights into German history. Catch one of the spectacular concerts or Wagner opera performances regularly held there! Back in town, don’t miss the Bach House museum or the Automobile World telling Eisenach’s long history of car making.
Erfurt – for your ultimate fairytale experience
Ready to immerse yourself in one of Germany’s largest historical city centres? Thuringia’s capital Erfurt is a hidden gem full of cobblestone lanes to get lost in and amazing sights to be surprised by. It is known for its countless churches including impressive St Mary’s Cathedral or stunning Krämerbrücke (Merchants’ Bridge), lined with small shops and houses and Europe’s only medieval bridge that still has inhabitants living on it. Not to be missed: Central Europe’s oldest surviving synagogue to marvel at the Erfurt Treasure.
Freiberg – town of silver and precious stones
Freiberg, a former silver mining town at the foot of the Ore Mountains, enchants visitors with splendid patrician town houses that tell tales of its grand history. The town’s Cathedral of St. Mary hides treasures such as the medieval “Tulpenkanzel” (tulip pulpit) or world-famous Silbermann organs. For a touch of adventure, try “Reiche Zeche” show mine and explore the underworld on different tours. Then, marvel at minerals and precious stones at “terra mineralia”, the only collection of its kind displayed at Freudenstein Castle in town.
Görlitz – a truly European city
Germany’s easternmost city Görlitz is like a unique architectural work of art: Featuring 4,000 lovingly restored historic buildings, the historic centre invites visitors to explore anything from medieval houses to renaissance beauties or Art Nouveau treasures. Or join a special walking tour tracing the shooting locations of Hollywood filmmakers who have discovered Görlitz in recent years! Not to miss: The wonderful Sun Organ in St. Peter and Paul Cathedral. Then, nip across the Neisse river to Görlitz’s Polish “twin town” Zgorzelec.
Jena – pleasant and green
Thuringia’s second biggest city on the Saale river delights with a beautiful park – appropriately named “paradise” – right in its centre. Jena is popular with students, with a large university and many research institutions, which gives it a lively and dynamic vibe. The city is also home to some world-leading companies, such as optics giant Zeiss. The Zeiss Planetarium featuring spectacular video-audio shows and state-of-the art Zeiss technology are popular visitor attractions. Venture outside town for the enchanting Dornburg Palaces or explore the world of porcelain making in a special exhibition at Leuchtenburg Castle.
Leipzig – the perfect urban cocktail
Leipzig has a unique way of balancing history with innovation and green spaces with urban grit. The city has a long history of trade, manifested in delightful passageways and courtyards in its centre. It is also a musical and visitors can follow the traces of eminent composers such as Wagner and Bach, attend some of the world’s best music festivals and listen to the great Gewandhaus Orchestra. Don’t miss the galleries and artist workshops in the former cotton mill Baumwollspinnerei, now a hub of creativity and symbol for the city’s avantgarde spirit. Then, hire a canoe and indulge in some urban boating at its best!
Meissen – where European porcelain was born
Who doesn’t know the famous blue crossed swords on Meissen porcelain, one of the world’s oldest trademarks? Porcelain was first produced in the town’s stunning Albrechtsburg castle and a visit to the “House of Meissen” exhibition and workshop in town is a visitor favourite. You can see how the “white gold” is expertly manufactured and marvel at a huge collection of Meissen porcelain. Perfectly located in the charming Elbe valley wine-growing region, early autumn is the perfect time to explore Meissen’s charming small streets and sample some local wines.
Radebeul – heart of the Saxon Wine Road
Vineyards and the typical winegrowers’ houses characterise this delightful town just outside Dresden, offering numerous special experiences for visitors: Learn all about the local history of wine-growing in the wine museum of the Hoflößnitz vineyard which itself has a 600-year-old history of wine-making. Or look behind the scenes at Schloss Wackerbarth where exquisite wines and sparkling wines are produced. Then stroll through Radebeul’s lovingly restored town centre with quirky pubs, shops, galleries and art studios.
Weimar – a unique celebration of culture
Not just one, no, with “Classical Weimar” and “Bauhaus Weimar”, this small town can offer two UNESCO World Heritage complexes with altogether 16 listed places, including the home of the great writer Goethe, a grand palace and beautiful park and the modern structures of early Bauhaus designs. The eminent design school was founded in Weimar in 1919 and the new Bauhaus museum weimar, opening in 2019 in the year of the movement’s centenary, promises to be a new visitor attraction.
Zwickau – of cars and music
Zwickau was a “playground” for two giants in their respective fields – automobile pioneer August Horch and composer Robert Schumann. The latter’s birth house is now a museum and music lovers flock to the Saxon town for the Robert Schumann Fest and international Robert Schumann competition for voice and piano. The August Horch Museum on the site of the former car factory is a must for automobile lovers, with a wide range of classic cars. Not to forget: There’s some stunning architecture in Zwickau, including Central Germany’s oldest residential houses and a beautiful Art Nouveau bathhouse.