Welcome to Gotha, the city in Thuringia’s green heartland, beautifully situated between the Thuringian Forest and the Hainich National Park, where Ernest I, called “the Pious” once reigned over his duchy of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg. The residence city of Gotha, still influenced by its splendid history, has its own unique charisma. Along with the impressive Friedenstein Castle and the Herzogliche Museum, other attractions such as the vast parks, the ducal Orangery, the Kasematten and the stately bourgeois houses and monuments in the historic center are exciting places to see.
Friedenstein Castle is the largest early baroque castle ensemble in Germany and is one of the few castles and museums that can truly make past centuries come alive. The impressive castle ensemble – with its ducal chambers, the baroque Eckhof-Theater with its original furnishings, the castle chapel, the research library, and the unique collections about art, nature and history – has been almost completely preserved in its original appearance.
Just south of the castle lies the Ducal Museum with its multi-faceted collections. The most important art museum in Thuringia presents art treasures from all over the world, extending through all epochs. Next to the oldest Egyptian collection in Europe, there are artworks from antiquity up to the modern era, a sumptuous painting collection, rare graphic art, sculptures by Houdon and de Vries among others, along with precious Japanese lacquerware and Meissen porcelain, all waiting to be discovered.
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The castle is surrounded by an English garden landscape with two ponds, gently winding paths and old, stately trees. This garden ensemble is considered the oldest landscape park in English style on the European continent. The baroque orangery is like a blossoming theater and is an inviting place to linger in the summertime.
The almost 30km-long Leina Channel has been the lifeline of the city since 1369. The building plans for the Wasserkunst can be traced to an engineer by the name of Mairich, who wanted to set a monument for the builders of the canal. The building situated at Hauptmarkt was named after the famous painter of the Reformation, Lucas Cranach, on the occasion of the artist’s 400th birthday in 1872. The pump station for the Wasserkunst is located in the cellar.
The Gotha Augustinian Monastery and its church are over 700 years old, and thus belongs to the oldest monasteries in Thuringia. The Gothic cloister courtyard dating from 1366 is reminiscent of the great era of the mendicant orders. The interior of the church was remodeled in baroque style by Friedrich I from 1675 until 1680. Along with a memorial plaque commemorating Luther’s visits to the monastery, the tombstone of Friedrich Myconius is worth seeing.
The Hauptmarkt with its historic architecture marks the center of the Old Town. Its most dominant building is the Rathaus, or Town Hall, which was originally built as a store after the “Grumbach Feud” in 1567. Duke Ernest the Pious resided here while Friedenstein Castle was being built, and today, the picturesque Renaissance building is the seat of the Lord Mayor.
The late baroque hall church was largely destroyed during World War II and was later rebuilt in simple beauty. Gotha’s protestant City Church, which also serves as the burial place of the family of Duke Ernst I of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg, is a wonderful venue for concerts thanks to its excellent acoustics.
The Kasematten of Friedenstein Castle are considered one of the strongest baroque fortifications in Central Germany. The Kasematten, which are located underneath the park, can be visited on a ca. 300-meter-long underground tour. There are embrasure chambers, gun galleries, rear weirs and much more to discover. Because they are so well-preserved, the fortifications, which have remained unchanged for over 350 years, further enhance the architectural and historical significance of the imposing castle complex.
Situated directly on the cycle path Thüringer Städtekette, in the midst of the nature reserve "Kleiner Seeberg", the Gotha Zoo offers a fascinating variety of species with over 850 animals on a distance of almost two kilometers. Special show feedings, colorful events, a zoo café, a petting zoo and various children's attractions invite you to visit this animal adventure world again and again.
From Gotha to the fairytale-like Thuringian Forest you will travel on one of the oldest trams in Germany, the Thüringerwaldbahn. It is the last of its kind in Thuringia and connects several dreamy towns with stops at popular tourist destinations such as the Reinhardsbrunn Ponds or the Marienglas Cave. The final stop is the idyllic resort of Bad Tabarz at the foot of the 916 m high Inselsberg mountain.
Like a contemporary artistic gem, the KunstForum is nestled into the middle of the Old Town flair in a modern, renovated building. On a total of 400 m², temporary exhibitions give regional artists a special platform. Here, the encounter between art connoisseurs and artists can take place first-hand, and an imaginative accompanying program rounds off the exhibition experience.