Saalfeld - a vibrant town steeped in history
Saalfeld lies on the banks of the river Saale, surrounded by the mountains of the Thuringian Forest. The town has many beautiful old buildings from its 1,100-year history, which give it a medieval feel and have earned it the soubriquet 'the stone chronicle of Thuringia'. Today, Saalfeld is famous as the 'town of fairy grottoes' throughout Germany and beyond.
Highlights/Places of interest
Saalfeld Fairy Grottoes
Back in the Middle Ages, alum was mined in the caves that are now the fairy grottoes. The mine had been almost forgotten but was rediscovered in 1910. During those 300 years, a magical world of stalactites had formed in the disused caverns. They are so rich in colour that the grottoes are listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the most colourful show caves in the world.
Fairy worlds - the magical fairy world
The Feenweltchen is the magical realm of fairies and nature spirits above the fairy grottoes. Three worlds waiting to be discovered: the fairy-plant-garden, grove of the light elves and Empire of the forest spirits. Exciting stories, special instruments and mysterious eavesdropping Islands invite you to linger.
Hoher Schwarm castle ruins
The castle belonged to the Counts of Schwarzburg and was built around 1300 as a residential tower and bailiff's lodge. It has been a ruin since the mid-16th century and is one of Saalfeld's most famous landmarks.
Renaissance Town Hall
Built between 1529 and 1537, this is an early example of Thuringian-Saxon renaissance architecture. On the staircase, you can see the 'Saalfeld ell' and the town's coat of arms which features fish from the river Saale.
St. John's Church
One of the largest hall churches in Thuringia, it was built between 1380 and 1514 and influenced by the Parler cathedral builders in Prague. Today it is a parish church. The interior features a Holy Sepulchre, botanical frescos in the choir vault and a life-size sculpture of John the Baptist.
Municipal museum in the former Franciscan abbey
Founded around 1250, this is the best preserved abbey complex in Thuringia. The twin-aisled church dates back to around 1300, the cloister and chapels were built around 1500. Since 1904 it has been a museum with a comprehensive art and cultural history collection.
The oldest gate tower of the medieval fortifications from the 14th century, complete with battlements and conical roof. From the top there are wonderful panoramic views of the town on the river. There are three other well-preserved gates which also merit a visit.
Romanesque tower house built around 1180. It was originally the seat of the town governor and has been a pharmacy since 1681.
Built between 1677 and 1720 as a residence for the Dukes of Saxe-Saalfeld on the site of a former 10th century Ottonian palace and a later Benedictine abbey. The building has three wings and features a beautifully furnished baroque chapel in the north wing. Today the Saalfeld-Rudolstadt council offices (Landratsamt) are based here.
Bergfried Villa and Park
Chocolatier Ernst Hüther had the villa built between 1922 and 1924 by the renowned Dresden architects Lossow & Kühne. It is situated on a hill above the chocolate factory. Today visitors can stroll in the large public park to their hearts’ content.
St. Martin's Chapel
The chapel of the former hospital, thought to have been built around 1264 and first documented in 1338. Although modest in design, this early Gothic building is of great cultural and historical importance.
St. Gertrude's Church
The oldest parish church in the town was mentioned in records as early as 1228, but is probably much older. Late-Gothic chancel from around 1510–1520, baroque nave added in 1776–1778. Large winged altar dating from around 1520.
Grottoneum - the experience museum of the fairy grottoes
For anyone who ever wanted to know how the fairy grottoes were created, a unique experience museum was build. You can not find any dusty showcases. The Grottoneum is for touching, reading, hearing and tasting. A mineral-zoom, treasures of the mountain, giant scorpions and many other attractions await visitors. At many exciting stations, young and old can become explorers.