From the Bauhaus movement to the iconic buildings of Berlin – Germany is home to creative excellence revered around the world. So if you want to feast your eyes on magnificent design, plan a trip to check out some of these incredible UNESCO World Heritage sites across the country.
As one of the most important monuments of pre-Romanesque architecture in Germany, Lorsch Abbey is a must-see for its red-and-white checkered tiling and sloping archways. Although small, it is one of the few remaining architectural relics of the Carolingian era, and even in its ruined state, its sculptures and paintings are still in a good condition for exploring.
Situated next to the river Regnitz, the old town of Bamberg is a unique Bavarian treat for architecture and design lovers. Many of its buildings are well-preserved urban works of art – a mixture of high Medieval and Baroque architecture. The town comprises three historical centres – the episcopal town, the island town and the market gardeners town, so spend a weekend touring all three to get a real feel for the history of the place.
Once a prosperous trading town in the Middle Ages, the Old Town of Quedlinburg is full of timber-framed buildings that will transport you straight back to Medieval Europe. It encompasses over 1,300 well-preserved houses from six centuries, and The Collegiate Church of St Servatius is an essential destination to see a key piece of Romanesque architecture.
Designed in the late 1740s by brothers JB and Dominikus Zimmermann, the Pilgrimage Church of Wies is an oval Rococo church set in an Alpine Valley. It would be difficult to find a more ornate interior, with grand painted ceilings, white pillars and gold sculptures. It is not only a stunning piece of architecture, but was once known to be the setting of a miracle. It has been said that in 1738, tears were seen on a wooden figure of Christ, and so the church became a key stop for pilgrims to visit from all parts of Germany, Austria, Bohemia and Italy. They received so many pilgrims that it was later decided to construct it as a sanctuary.
For enthusiasts of modernist architecture, Berlin’s six housing estates are an expression of political, social, cultural and technical progress in the Berlin of the Weimar Republic. The properties are a showcase of the innovative housing policies implemented from 1910 to 1933 that improved housing conditions for low-income earners through new and fresh approaches to design and urban planning. Bauhaus architects Bruno Taut, Martin Wagner and Walter Gropius had a huge influence on the development of modern housing across the world, with each building showcasing how architects can utilise outdoor space while still retaining a sense of community.
Arguably one of the most important eras of design, the Bauhaus period is best seen at Bauhaus and its sites in Weimar, Dessau and Bernau – a series of six separate sites associated with the innovative art school. Initially established in 1996, it represents the blossoming of Modernity. Take a tour around the stark and sharp-edged white and grey buildings that became the backdrop for colourful and experimental creativity.
One of the first truly early modern buildings in Germany, the Fagus Factory building in Alfeld is a working example of Bauhaus architecture, with its large structure encased with glass panels. The factory makes shoe lasts (the wooden moulds upon which shoes are constructed) and was designed by the architect Walter Gropius in 1911 before he founded the Bauhaus. The name of the factory is taken from the Latin term fagus sylvatica which means “beech wood” – a nod to the traditional material used to make the lasts.
Situated in the centre of Berlin in the Spree river, Museumsinsel (Museum Island) is a unique ensemble of historical buildings of particular artistic and humanistic significance. Comprising five museums and three other collection spaces, it’s a perfect place to explore various forms of art, history and architecture. From the Neoclassical architecture of the Berlin Cathedral to the structured columns of the Pergamon Museum (the most visited museum in Germany), its square central garden is also a favourite spot for Berliners soaking up the sunshine in the summer.
A collection of 12 separate buildings, Classical Weimar is a unique testimony to the cultural epoch of Weimar Classicism. At its time, it was the cultural centre of Europe and many artists and scholars such as Goethe and Schiller were drawn to the area. The small town in Thuringia was a space of cultural evolution, and this is reflected in the magnificence of its many flat-fronted signature yellow buildings and blue-green domes, both in the town and surrounding areas.
One of the most complete monasteries of the Middle Ages north of the Alps, and one of the best preserved, the Maulbronn Monastery Complex is a former Cistercian abbey and one of the best preserved in Europe. The 850-year-old complex is one of Germany’s oldest examples of Gothic architecture and you can get lost in its never-ending long arched corridors and expansive gardens. The monastery also doubles as a concert venue, giving tourists and visitors a special opportunity to appreciate its exceptional acoustics.
Comprised of four towers and two domes, Speyer Cathedral is now the largest Romanesque church in the world. Its exterior is just as impressive as its interior with uniform towers and pretty green roofs, and it was one of the first cathedrals to have a gallery encircling the whole building, using a system of arcades. Built during the 11th century, it was a milestone in the history of Romanesque architecture and the burial place of German emperors for 300 years.
Nestled south of Hannover, Hildesheim is one of Germany’s oldest cities. Built by St Bernward in the early 11th century, St Mary’s Cathedral and St Michael’s Church is a focal point in the city and an exceptional testimony to religious art in the Holy Roman Empire and early Romanesque architecture. The building is characterised by its symmetrical design, perfectly mirroring the layering of its different building heights.
The largest warehouse complex in the world, Speicherstadt is a grand yet imposing collection of buildings along the waterfront in this charming Hamburg neighbourhood of the same name. The complex set the tone for many similar industrial areas around the world. Built between 1883 and 1927, it was a free zone to transfer goods without paying customs and one of the first sites in Hamburg.
Ready to discover natural heritage landmarks and masterpieces of human creativity? Visit worldheritagegermany.com for routes that showcase Germany’s 46 UNESCO World Heritage sites.Starting and finishing near an international airport, the trails will introduce you to natural wonders, innovation, industrial heritage and more.