Meissen is often left out of tourist itineraries, being overshadowed by its more glamorous neighbors Dresden and Leipzig. However, if you put in the effort to get to know it, this 1,000-year-old city by the River Elbe will reward you with a treasure trove of beauty. Here’s why Meissen – the city of history, wine, porcelain and music – deserves your attention.
Meissen stands sentinel to 1,089 years of history, and is often referred to as the Cradle of Saxony. During its lifetime, the city has witnessed several tumultuous wars and destruction, as well as reconstruction and expansion. Still today, history lives and breathes in Meissen’s beautifully preserved historic architecture, fantastic museums, ancient old town and in its thriving traditional porcelain factory from the 18th century.
The hilltop Albrechtsburg Castle looms over the city of Meissen. The first existence of the castle fortifications can be traced back to the 9th century, making it Germany’s oldest castle. This massive Gothic structure is not just a delight for the eyes, but acknowledged by experts to display an architectural and artistic genius rarely found in architecture belonging to that period. Meissen Cathedral, next to the castle, was built between 1260 and 1410, and can still be admired in its almost-original condition. The historic Rathaus (town hall), with its steep roof and ornate dormers, is another jewel of Meissen’s cityscape.
Saxony is the easternmost and smallest of the 13 wine regions in Germany, and has been treating wine connoisseurs to a large variety of delicious wines for over 850 years. The rolling vineyards lining the Elbe Valley of Meissen are an immensely popular stop along the Saxon Wine Route. A large number of wineries, taverns and tour companies host vineyard hikes, wine tastings and wine festivals in Meissen. Schloss Proschwitz, the oldest private winery in Saxony, deserves a special mention. It is the place to head to if you want to taste and purchase the very best of Meissen wines while enjoying splendid views.
Meissen happens to be the first manufacturer of porcelain in Europe back in 1710. Down the centuries, this skilled art has been extensively practiced and expanded, earning the city a worldwide reputation in porcelain production. At Porcelain Factory, visitors can witness the fascinating process by which gifted artists produce, shape and hand-paint delicate porcelain items. The adjoining Neoclassical Museum houses an unbeatable collection of porcelain designs from various eras. At the City Museum (Stadtmuseum), you get to learn all about Meissen’s porcelain heritage, among a host of other things. Porcelain home decor items, jewelry or crockery are perfect souvenirs to fondly remember your time in Meissen for years. When you visit the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) in Meissen, don’t forget to check out the series of porcelain bells in the church spire.
Here you get to treat your tastebuds to delightful Saxony cuisine – happiness on a plate. Saxon cuisine is distinguished by its hearty, often extravagant, flavors. It is best washed down with local Meissen wines or famous Saxony beer. Saxony, including Meissen, is known for its vibrant, laid-back café culture. Hit a coffee shop to indulge in fine, aromatic coffee and special Saxony cakes, tarts and pastries. Meißner Fummel, a light, fragile puff pastry with a hollow center, is the signature dessert of Meissen.
While Meissen is an engaging city to explore on foot, its beauty is even more apparent when viewed from the deck of a boat. Cruise boats operated by several companies take travelers on a leisurely trip down the River Elbe. En route, you pass lush vineyards, sweeping flood plains and picturesque wine towns perched shyly on the river banks. Many ferries offer local wines on board to further enhance your enjoyment.
Saxony is paradise for music lovers, and Meissen is no exception. Music events, concerts and music festivals are held regularly throughout the year in various locations across the city. The most loved festival in Meissen is easily Walpurgis Night (April 30). On this night, Albrechtsburg Castle basks in groovy music, dance, shows and the irresistible aroma of local cuisines. Some of the most popular autumn wine festivals in Saxony are held in Meissen, when hundreds of taverns and wineries offer special programs and wine-tastings to travelers.