Of the sixteen German states, Thuringia is among the least touristy. Thuringia’s capital city Erfurt attracts a fair share of tourists with its rich culture and some of the most gorgeous architecture in the country. However, there are many hidden gems in Thuringia that are waiting to be discovered and explored. Take your pick from these wonderful cities and towns, each offering a unique flavor.
If stones and bridges could speak, the ones in Erfurt would tell a 1,270 year-old saga of heritage and prosperity, war and destruction. A walk across the easily navigable city will lead you past stunning architecture, like the richly ornate neo-Gothic Rathaus, the Evangelisches Augustinerkloster (Augustinian Monastery), limestone and sandstone Krämerbrücke (Merchant’s Bridge), Zitadelle Petersburg and, most importantly, the magnificent ensemble of St. Mary’s Cathedral and St. Severus Church.
Weimar is a charming historic town, famous for having been home to legends like Luther, Cranach, Bach, Goethe, Schiller and Nietzsche. Also, Weimar is agreed to be the cradle of the famous Bauhaus Movement. The most famous landmark in town is the 18th century Schloss and Park Belvedere, which houses a fantastic cultural museum, exhibiting diverse artifacts. Understandably, tributes to famous sons and daughters of the soil are scattered all over the city, in the form of museums and monuments.
To many, Eisenach is known for being the birthplace of the Baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach and the city where Martin Luther spent several of his early years. However, what attracts travelers most to Eisenach is the truly stunning hilltop Wartburg Castle, the first castle in Germany to make it to the coveted UNESCO World Heritage Site list. Other activities in Eisenach include exploring the surrounding verdant Hainich National Park and the many museums in town.
Jena is little known among tourists, but if you do find yourself here, you will be surprised at the treasure trove it hides. While it is a prospering industrial and university town, Jena also appeals to travelers with its pristine setting in the Saale Valley, protected by limestone cliffs. Notable landmarks in town include the Schott Glass Museum and the Optical Museum, City Museum at Alte Göhre, Kunsthof Jena Gallery, residence of writer Friedrich Schiller, ornamental astronomical clock on the town hall and the sculpture of a dragon with ten heads.
The former textile town of Gera in the Weiße Elster River Valley is perfect for a short, relaxing trip. When in town, make sure that you visit the resplendent Baroque orangery housing beautiful artwork, Kunstsammlung (which houses the works of famous German painter, Otto Dix), the historic Haus Schulenburg, 30-hectare Hofwiesenpark, town hall and city museum. If you are a beer lover, don’t miss a guided tour of the Historische Geraer Höhler (Historic Beer Cellars).
Meiningen enjoys a picturesque location in the Thuringian Forest in the Werra Valley. The most famous landmark to grace the skyline of Meiningen is the mighty Lutheran Stadtkirche (City Church), whose two towers are connected by a bridge. Meiningen and its surroundings has plenty of opportunities for outdoor sporty activities, some of which are perfect for families. People from surrounding cities travel to Meiningen to attend its fantastic concerts, theaters and other cultural programs.
The fairy grottoes are stunning enough to make a trip to the little town of Saalfeld worth your time and effort. Designated as “the most colorful cave grottoes in the world” by the Guinness World Records, these caves are known for their colorful mineral formations that add up to a surreal sight. Additionally, the Saale River flowing near Saalfeld provides wonderful opportunities to hike or just enjoy beautiful views.