134 Best Sights in Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia, Germany


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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 German unification that Dresden seriously began to 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 stone. 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. There is usually a short organ service at noon every day. Check the English-language schedule next to Entrance D.

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Goethe Nationalmuseum

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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.

Green Citadel of Magdeburg

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Green Citadel of Magdeburg
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Like an exuberant painting come to life, the Green Citadel is the last, and many say greatest, building by the late Austrian artist and architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser, who designed the citadel as an "oasis for humanity and nature within a sea of rational houses." Renowned throughout Germany and beyond, this ensemble of baroque façades and colorful modern buildings displays the architect's characteristic irregular windows, skewed towers, colorful mosaics, and joyous flourishes. The vast complex also incorporates bustling restaurants and enticing boutiques.

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Hartenfels Castle

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A masterpiece of Renaissance architecture, Castle Hartenfels was constructed as a residential palace in the late 15th and early 16th centuries by the Ernestine line of nobles who ruled the Electorate of Saxony. The castle and its occupants played a central role in the support and dissemination of Martin Luther 's ideas, and therefore a pivotal role in the Protestant Reformation. Up the castle's impressive stone stairway, unsupported by any central structure, you'll find the oldest statue of Martin Luther, who designed the castle's church himself to convey his idea of bringing the word of God to the common people via a central alter meant to evoke Christ's last supper among his disciples. Nine sketches decorating the pulpit were created by Lucas Cranach the Elder (a tenth is missing). The church is also the birthplace of Protestant church music by the composer Johann Kenntmann, the originator of the genre. Concerts of his music are performed here weekly. A permanent exhibition in the castle's Albrecht wing traces Torgau's history.


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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 city is determined to keep the bridge as a site for traditional handicrafts, so look for the marionette maker and the pigment merchant. The bridge comes alive on the third weekend of June for the Krämerbrückenfest.


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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-paneled 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.

Museum der Bildenden Künste

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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.

Neues Grünes Gewölbe

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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.


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In 1517 an indignant Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five 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.


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The stained-glass windows attest to the fact that Johan Sebastian 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: 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.

Wartburg Castle

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Wartburg Castle
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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.

Zwinger mit Semperbau

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Zwinger mit Semperbau
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Dresden's magnificent Baroque showpiece is entered by way of the mighty Kronentor (Crown Gate), underneath the crown of Poland, off Ostra-Allee. It contains three different museums.

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 elaborate 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. Normal people were allowed onto the balcony and could watch all of the raucous festivities

The Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, 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.

Stretching from the curved gallery that adjoins the Glockenspielpavillon to the long gallery on the east side, this collection of the Porzellansammlung 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.

Holding medieval and Renaissance suits of armor and weapons, the Rüstkammer also has a branch in the Residenzschloss.

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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.

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Tzschirnerpl. 2, Dresden, Saxony, D-01067, Germany
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Rate Includes: €12, Closed Tues.


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.

Alte Wasserkunst

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.

Altes Brauhaus

Near the Frauenkirche, the Altes Brauhaus dates to 1460 and is graced by a Renaissance gable. It now houses city offices.


Although dominated by the nearby brutal 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.

An der Elbe River Promenade

Stretching for a mile and a half along the Elbe River, this pretty foot and cycling path takes you by the town center and the picturesque village of Postelwitz, with views of the area's famous sandstone cliffs.


A medieval slum developed behind the church of St Andreas and extended toward the river. There are none of the patrician homes of Erfurt’s wealthy burghers. Instead, this working-class neighborhood once housed handworkers and other laborers in small narrow houses built on small alleys. All through the Old City look for decorative house names like Haus zum kleinen Apfel (House at the Small Apple). Before street names and house numbers, buildings were given names that served as a postal address; there are signs like these on many of Erfurt’s buildings.

Andreasstr. 14, Erfurt, Thuringia, 99084, Germany

Bach-Museum im Bach-Archiv 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.


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.

Bad Schandau Historic Elevator

A quick way to reach beautiful hiking trails or to just enjoy some spectacular views, this 165-foot-high steel lift, built in 1904 in the art nouveau style, offers stunning panoramas of the town, the Schrammstein cliffs, and the Elbe River.
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Rate Includes: €1.80 one way, €2.80 roundtrip, Nov.-Mar., daily 9-5

Bauhaus Museum

When Walter Gropius founded the Staatliches Bauhaus (Bauhaus design school) in Weimar, it quickly became 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. Weimar's Bauhaus Museum is a modest, yet superb collection of the works of Gropius, Johannes Itten, and Henry van de Velde.  The emphasis is on the early phase of the Bauhaus and displays the world's oldest collection of Bauhaus work. The Bauhaus is still alive today, and the museum tells the story of how our contemporary visions of our living environment have evolved and how they continue to develop.

Bauhaus University

Although the current name, Bauhaus University, only dates from 1996, Walter Gropius renamed the former Great Ducal Saxon Art School as the Bauhaus in 1919. His goal was to challenge the status quo and create a more humanized modernity that fused art and design into architecture and city planning. Henry van de Velde, who suggested Gropius for his position in Weimar, completed what is now the main administrative building of the university in 1911. Although it was conceived as an art nouveau structure, Van de Velde’s studio is one of the best-preserved Bauhaus buildings in Germany—be sure to look for the free-standing staircase in the foyer of the building. Van de Velde also designed the horseshoe-shape gable of the Art Faculty in 1906.


Outside of the city center, in the district of Lindenau, Leipzig merchants built a huge cotton factory that spun from 1884 until 1993, when it closed. The 25-acre site lay abandoned until a group of artists purchased the property in 2001. Today the old factories are run by an eclectic collection of craftspeople and artists. In addition to galleries run by Neo Rauch and Matthias Weischer, the factory became the center of the New Leipzig School of contemporary art. Today the Cotton Mill is an enclave of potters, a goldsmith, fashion designers, restaurants, and theaters. Self-billed as the “Hottest Place on Earth,” it is worth the trek.

Biblical House

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.

Botanical Gardens

Covering more than an acre in the town center, the botanical gardens of Bad Schandau has assembled a rich collection of exotic plants and flowers from the world's cooler climes since its opening in 1902. The garden also specializes in species native only to Saxon Switzerland, as well as the region's protected plants, rare poisonous plants, and medicinal botanicals used in medieval times.
Ostrauer Berg
- 35022–90030
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Rate Includes: €2.50, Mar.–Oct., daily 9–7

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 once housed the Nazi eugenics program, and the special exhibit on this period is not recommended for children under 12.

Lingnerpl. 1, Dresden, Saxony, D–01069, Germany
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Rate Includes: €10, Closed Mon.

Dom St. Peter und Paul

Dom St. Peter und Paul
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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. The Master, now thought to be French, also created a relief depicting the passion with each scene cut from one stone and more than 30 cm deep--a masterpiece, as reliefs at the time were usually 10 cm deep. 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, Naumburg, Saxony-Anhalt, D–06618, Germany
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Dom St. Petri

Behind the Rathaus is one of Bautzen's most interesting sights: Dom St. Petri is eastern Germany's only Simultankirche, or "simultaneous church." An early effort 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.