Thuringia owes its extraordinary wealth of former royal seats to the principalities of the early modern era. The region’s lands were ruled by many different dynasties for more than four centuries. The cultural treasures that originate from that time remain for everyone to admire today. As well as the great residences, there are many grand buildings located away from the main streets. In Arnstadt, the ruins of Neideck Castle and the New Palace with its museum provide fascinating insights into courtly life. Heidecksburg Palace in Rudolstadt is beautifully preserved and highly sought after as a backdrop for TV and film productions, while Gotha is home to one of the region’s finest baroque ensembles, the ‘Baroque Universe’ with its four museums, theatre and palace park. The Almanach de Gotha, the most famous directory of the European nobility, was also published here for over 180 years and remains an important means of proving aristocratic ancestry.
Perched on a porphyry stone ridge, the Residence Castle, which houses the Castle and Playing Cards Museum, still towers over the city. Once an imperial stronghold of the Staufer Emperor Barbarossa, the castle later developed into the residence of the Wettin princes. Nowadays, interesting collections and temporary exhibitions invite visitors to explore the magnificent interior. The castle church and the splendid festival halls are especially worth the visit. Today, the Playing Card Museum belongs to the oldest and largest of its kind in Europe and fascinates visitors with the colorful origins of the German card game, “Skat”.
In the 12th century, the most dominating structure in the city’s „skyline” was the fortress, the later castle, which could be seen from miles away. Its current appearance was influenced by remodeling during the 16th and 17th centuries. Today, the building houses a music school, the county clerk’s office, as well as the Department of Culture and Festivals of the city of Apolda.
Das Apoldaer Schloss
Am Schloss 1
The entire ensemble, including the palace, a park with baroque gardens, the former zoo and the orangery, was built in the 18th century under Duke Ernst August. Even today you can still see porcelain, glasses and historical furniture from the late 17th to 19th century inside the palace.
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 City Castle was built in the mid-18th century by Duke Ernst August according to the plans of the architect Gottfried Heinrich Krohne. Today it is used by the Thuringian Museum to present temporary exhibitions and the porcelain collection. The recently re-opened historic Rococo hall in the north wing illustrates the history of the City Castle as a ducal residence in the 18th century.
The former residence of the Dukes of Saxe-Meiningen was built as a baroque three-winged complex between 1682 and 1692 and is today the domicile of the Meiningen Museums, among other institutions. You can visit the magnificent ducal apartments, permanent exhibitions and various temporary exhibitions. In the 19th century, the "Court of Muses between Weimar and Bayreuth" was a catalyst for numerous artistic impulses connected with the names of Brahms, Strauss, Reger, Wagner and Ibsen, but above all with that of the art-loving Duke Georg II of Saxe-Meiningen.
Built between 1677 and 1720 on the site of the former Ottonian royal palace of the 10th century and a later Benedictine monastery, it served as the palace of the dukes of Saxe-Saalfeld. There are three wings in total, with a richly decorated baroque chapel in the north wing. Today it is the seat of the Saalfeld-Rudolstadt District Office.
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.
The little baroque summer castle of Duchess Friederike of Saxe-Weißenfels accompanied by an idyllic park and interesting adjacent buildings, including a historic printing shop and an orangery, not only offer peace and relaxation, but are also impressive venues for concerts and weddings.
The former residence castle is one of the most magnificent baroque castles in Thuringia. It is home to the Thuringian Palaces and Gardens Foundation, the Thuringian State Museum and the Thuringian State Archives. The exhibition "Rococo en miniature", the porcelain gallery, the weapons collection, the natural history cabinet, and the painting gallery are very worth visiting. Hourly guided tours lead through the festival hall and princely apartments.
Up until the present day, the Neideck tower displays the magnificence and grandeur of days past. With a height of 65 meters, it is the highest castle tower in Thuringia and offers a wonderful, panoramic view of Arnstadt and the surrounding countryside. Nearby, the oldest gardener’s home in Thuringia still stands. It houses the model city “Arnstadt around 1740”.
Neideckruine und Gärtnerhaus
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The only largely preserved baroque city fortress in Central Europe. It was built by the sovereigns of the Electorate of Mainz on the site of an earlier Benedictine monastery and is today a monument of European fortress building skill. The mysterious underground tunnel system, the so-called “listening tunnel”, can only be visited on a tour by the Erfurt Tourismus und Marketing GmbH.
The former residence palace (13th-20th century) of the Schwarzburg-Sondershausen princes with its palace park, baroque octagonal house and stables (seat of the Sondershausen State Music Academy), is one of the most beautiful castles in Thuringia. Visiting it is like taking a journey through time, through the centuries of building epochs from Romanesque to Historicism.
The castle, which has belonged to UNESCO World Heritage since 1999, has served as a protective fortress and a splendid residence for almost 1,000 years. Wartburg Castle bears witness to key moments of German history and culture: Medieval court artists, the life of Saint Elisabeth, Martin Luther’s translation of the New Testament, the Wartburg festival of the German Burschenschaften (student fraternities), and Wagner’s romantic opera Tannhäuser.
Built between 1585 and 1590 as a secondary residence of the Hessian landgraves, the castle is considered a unique jewel among the Renaissance castles in Germany due to its almost completely preserved exterior, its original room layout inside, and its magnificent wall paintings and stucco work.