Saxony and Thuringia are a haven for lovers of classical music. Walk in the footsteps of some of the world’s greatest composers and discover why music in all its forms is part of this region’s DNA.
Eisenach – Weimar – Markneukirchen – Zwickau – Leipzig – Dresden
Start with the great Johann Sebastian Bach in his birthplace Eisenach and visit the Bach House and St. George’s Church where he was christened. Then it’s up to Wartburg Castle above town where Richard Wagner set his Tannhäuser opera and Franz Liszt performed. Maybe you can fit in a concert or even get there for a Tannhäuser performance in the castle’s grand hall!
Your next stop, Arnstadt (approx. 1 hr drive), is optional. Members of the musical Bach family lived here for several generations. In Weimar (approx. 75 min driving from Eisenach or 20 min driving from Arnstadt), take a guided tour focusing on the town’s musical history and follow in the footsteps of Bach and Franz Liszt. Visit the Liszt House where the composer spent his summers. Time permitting, stay the night and enjoy a concert or opera performance at Deutsches National Theater with its Staatskapelle Weimar orchestra.
From 1703 – 1707, the young Johann Sebastian Bach was the organist in a church in Arnstadt, which is today called Bach Church. At the age of 22, he married his cousin Maria Barbara in the St. Bartholomew Church in nearby Dornheim.
Weimar is closely linked with the lives of Johann Sebastian Bach and Franz Liszt, so plenty to explore on the musical side. There’s always lots of music around, with concerts and festivals, including some great summer open-air happenings on a stage in the local Weimarhallenpark.
Your next stop offers fascinating insights into musical instrument making: In Saxony’s Vogtland region, or “Musicon Valley®”, you can visit one of over 100 workshops and see how woodwind, brass and string instruments are hand made by experts or pop in the museum of musical instruments in Markneukirchen. Driving time from Weimar: just under 2 hrs.
“Musicon Valley®” in Markneukirchen
Musical instrument making in the Vogtland goes back over more than 350 years. Before World War II, around 75 per cent of the world’s musical instruments came from the Vogtland region. Today, the region’s expert craftspeople still supply instruments to top orchestras and musicians.
Zwickau, about an hour north of Markneukirchen, is the birthplace of the great romantic composer Robert Schumann and here, you can marvel at the world’s largest Schumann collection with more than 4,000 original handwritings by Schumann and his wife Clara in the Robert Schumann House. Take some time to explore the historic town centre!
Robert Schumann House in Zwickau
The house where the composer was born in 1810 was opened as a museum in 1956 on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of his death. A treasure chest for Schumann fans, full of personal belongings!
Moving further north (1,5 hrs), your next destination Leipzig would justify a whole music break on its own: Start with the “Notenspur” discovery tour that takes you on a musical route through town, including Gewandhaus, the Opera, Bach Museum, St. Thomas Church, Schumann House or Mendelssohn House. Visit the Grassi Museum of Musical Instruments with one of the largest collections of instruments in the world and then relax in the Barthels Hof restaurant where you can order a special Bach menu.
Leipzig certainly is the right place for rich musical pickings. Whatever you do, try to experience some live music, e.g., the famous St. Thomas Boys Choir or the wonderful Gewandhaus orchestra.
Moving on to Dresden, where you can listen to the famous Kreuzkirche church boys choir, join a concert in the city’s landmark Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) or enjoy an evening in the splendid Semper Opera. There are also guided city tours focusing on music.
Another highlight for music lovers, Dresden is home to some particularly spectacular music venues, which are sights in their own right: Church of Our Lady, re-built from the rubble of World War II, and the beautiful 19th century Semper opera building which has seen premieres of major works by Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss .