Erfurt - Rendezvous in the heart of Germany
Erfurt's history goes back more than 1,270 years. Today it is Thuringia's state capital and also its commercial, spiritual, cultural and political centre. Situated at the crossing point of ancient trade routes Erfurt grew into an influential commercial centre and university town during the Middle Ages. Its medieval heart is one of the best preserved anywhere in Germany. Even now, its many lovingly restored Renaissance buildings, half-timbered houses, churches, abbeys, Cathedral Hill (Domberg) and Merchants' Bridge (Krämerbrücke) reflect its wealthy past. Erfurt has attracted numerous illustrious individuals, including Luther, Goethe, Bach and Napoleon.
Highlights/Places of interest
St. Mary’s Cathedral and the Church of St. Severus
The impressive ensemble of St. Mary's Cathedral and the Church of St. Severus on Cathedral Hill is one of the city's most famous landmarks, drawing religious visitors, tourists and locals alike. The windows in St. Mary's Cathedral are among the most significant cycles of stained glass in Germany in terms of their scale, thematic richness and artistic quality. Particularly noteworthy are the original choir stalls, the 17-metre high altar from the baroque period and a panel painting, 'The betrothal of St. Catherine', by Lucas Cranach. One of the oldest artworks inside the cathedral is the Romanesque altarpiece with Madonna from around 1150. The Wolfram candelabra also dates back to this period. The central tower houses the 'Gloriosa', the world’s largest medieval free-swinging bell, which is over 500 years old.
The Merchants' Bridge (Krämerbrücke) in the medieval city centre has a span of 120 metres and is the longest bridge in Europe with houses along its entire length. It is lined with galleries and boutiques offering traditional Thuringian blue printed fabrics, hand-painted ceramics, Lauscha glass, jewellery, wood carvings and culinary specialities such as Unstrut wines and handmade chocolates – perfect for browsing and learning all about local customs. The bridge takes centre stage every June during the Merchants' Bridge Festival – the largest Old Town festival in Thuringia – which is opened by Till Eulenspiegel, a figure from German folklore. Celebrations take place throughout the medieval city centre with travelling entertainers, stall holders and acrobats. It is certainly a great opportunity to visit this historical city on the River Gera.
Petersberg Citadel, the only extensively preserved baroque town fortress in central Europe, was built on the site of a former Benedictine monastery. It dates from the time when Erfurt was ruled by the Electors of Mainz and represents a prime example of European fortress architecture. The fascinating passageways beneath the fortress can only be visited as part of a guided tour from Erfurt Tourist Information.
Erfurt Protestant Augustinian Monastery
Erfurt is Martin Luther's spiritual home. He studied here from 1501–1505. On 17 July 1505, he entered an Augustinian monastery in Erfurt. The monastery was an important centre of the Reformation, today it serves as an ecumenical event and conference venue, a Luther memorial and a hostel for the ecumenical pilgrimage route.
The new opera house is a contemporary building in a historical setting. Opened in 2003, it is one of Europe's most modern venues. It stages operas, operettas, concerts, dance or theatre 350 nights a year. Every summer, Erfurt Theatre hosts the Cathedral Steps festival, set against the magnificent backdrop of St. Mary's Cathedral and the Church of St. Severus.
The neo-Gothic town hall on Fischmarkt was built between 1870 and 1874. Inside is a series of murals depicting legends, scenes from Luther’s life and images from Erfurt’s history. The town hall can be viewed independently or as part of a guided tour.
Imperial Hall (Kaisersaal)
Napoleon I and Tsar Alexander I of Russia met here at the Royal Congress in 1808. These days, the hall serves as a historical conference and events centre. A number of famous artists, including Niccolo Paganini and Franz Liszt, have performed concerts here.
Prediger Church and Monastery
The Prediger Church, an early Gothic hall church, was built by Dominican monks in the 13th and 14th centuries and still retains many traces of the great theologian and mystic Master Eckhart. The medieval leaded light windows in the northern aisle of the church and the choir stalls from 1280 are exquisite; as are the poignant mosaic windows. The monastery buildings with the chapter hall and refectory are also well worth seeing. In the summer, there are regular organ recitals in the church.
Former Governor's Residence (Statthalterei)
Designed by architect Maximilian von Welsch and built between 1711 and 1720, today it houses Thuringia’s State Chancellery and is the residence of the Minister President of Thuringia. Napoleon and Goethe met here.
Woad Storehouse (Waidspeicher)
No other plant shaped Thuringia's economic livelihood in the 13th to 16th centuries like dyer's woad. The blue textile dye, which was extracted from the dried leaves of the woad plant in Erfurt's woad storehouses, brought the city great prosperity. A woad storehouse can be found at the 'Zum Güldenen Krönbacken' arts centre.
Haus zum Sonneborn
This renaissance edifice is one of the many lovingly restored half-timbered buildings in Erfurt. Today it is used as a registry office and for weddings.
One of Germany's most significant horticultural monuments from the 1960s, egapark Erfurt is among the most important legacies of garden architecture from that era. It boasts a number of attractions, including the largest ornamental flowerbed in Europe, a rose garden, a Japanese rock and water garden, tropical glasshouses with a butterfly house, the largest playground in Thuringia with a children's farm and 'water world', a sculpture garden featuring works by well-known artists and historical Cyriaksburg Castle with the German Horticultural Museum.
Old Synagogue, Erfurt
The Old Synagogue in Waagegasse is the oldest intact synagogue building in central Europe, dating from around 1100, a legacy of one of the most important Jewish communities of the Middle Ages. The Erfurt treasure (14th century), discovered during excavation work in 1998, is on display in the vaulted cellars. It consists of coins, silver ingots, Gothic jewellery and an exquisitely crafted Jewish wedding ring.