8 Top Tourist Attractions in Erfurt & Easy Day Trips
Erfurt is an old university city with a rich history dating back more than 1,200 years. Once the meeting place of church Synods and Imperial Diets, it was here that the Congress of Erfurt took place in 1808 when Napoleon met with the Tsar of Russia and the German princes in an attempt to reaffirm old alliances. As well as being a center for agriculture and gardening, Erfurt is known as the "many-towered city" for its numerous churches, and is famous as the place where Martin Luther reputedly had his vision that was to spark the Reformation.
1 Erfurt Cathedral
Erfurt Cathedral, also known as St. Mary's Cathedral, was founded in 742 AD. The original church, replaced by a Romanesque basilica in 1154, had a number of other later additions, including its High Gothic choir from 1370, and was rebuilt as a hall-church in 1465. The cathedral has three 19th-century towers, the central one housing the largest bell in the world, the Maria Gloriosa, famed for the beauty of its tone. The 15 tall windows in the choir are masterpieces of medieval stained glass and are unique in Germany for their size and unity of theme. Among the cathedral's other treasures are its sumptuous Baroque high altar, the finely-carved 14th-century choir-stalls, a stucco figure of the Virgin from 1160, and the mid-13th-century tomb of Count von Gleichen and his two wives.
Address: Domstufen 1, 99084 Erfurt
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Erfurt
2 Editor's Pick The Erfurt Synagogue and Treasures
Built around 1100, the Erfurt Synagogue is the oldest such building in Europe. Today, this well preserved medieval structure houses the excellent Erfurt Treasure, an extremely rare hoard of coins and jewelry believed to have been hidden during the Black Death of 1349 and the subsequent persecution of the city's Jewish population. Discovered in 1998 in the city's old Jewish district, the collection includes more than 3,000 silver coins, more than 700 gold pieces, and 14 ingots from the 13th and 14th centuries. Other sites related to the city's Jewish community are the Small Synagogue, a 19th-century house of worship that now houses displays of Jewish life in Erfurt, and the Mikveh, a 13th-century bath used for religious ceremonies, now a museum.
Address: Waagegasse 8, 99084 Erfurt
3 St. Severus Church and Domplatz
St. Severus Church, or the Severikirche, was first mentioned in 1121. Perched high atop Erfurt's Domberg, this lovely Early Gothic hall-church boasts double lateral aisles and a richly furnished interior, which includes the tomb of St. Severus from 1365, and a spectacular 15-meter-high font. Joined to Erfurt Cathedral via a 70-step staircase, these two structures dominate the Domplatz, the historic cathedral square with its handsome old buildings, including the 18th-century Grüne Apotheke (Green Pharmacy) and Zur Hohen Lilie, one of the finest Renaissance buildings in Erfurt.
Address: Domstufen 1, 99084 Erfurt
4 The Fischmarkt and Krämerbrucke
Erfurt's Marktstrasse leads into the Fischmarkt, where the city's old trade routes intersected. Highlights of the old square are a figure of Roland from 1591, and Zum Roten Ochsen and Zum Breiten Herd, two richly decorated Renaissance buildings. To the northeast of the Fischmarkt is the city's famous Krämerbrücke, or Merchants' Bridge. First recorded in 1117, this magnificent 120-meter-long bridge spans the River Gera and is unique for the many old houses lining its sides (it's the longest such bridge in Europe). It's a wonderful place to explore - especially during the Merchants' Bridge Festival in June - and is full of quaint galleries, boutique shops, cafés, and restaurants. Also of note is the Church of St. Aegidius, at the bridge's east end, offering excellent views of the old city from its tower.
5 Martin Luther and the Augustinian Monastery
Augustinerstrasse is well known for its 13th-century Augustinian Monastery. Founded in 1277, it was here that the young Martin Luther became a monk in 1505. The property can be visited by guided tours (available on the hour), which include a look at Luther's tiny room, the Lutherzelle. Other highlights include the beautiful Comthureihof from 1593, the St. Elisabeth Chapel with its murals, and an exhibit called Bible Monastery Luther, which details the famous Reformer's time here. Also of interest are the Georgenburse, the former student quarters where Luther resided as a 17-year-old in 1501; the Luther Stone, a monument marking the place where the Reformer pledged to become a monk after being saved from death during a storm; and the Luther Trail, which connects Erfurt with 30 other sites across Thuringia.
Address: Augustinerstraße 10, 99084 Erfurt
One of Erfurt's oldest streets, Anger has traditionally been the city's main shopping and trade area. Where once textiles, wool, and wheat were traded, numerous shops can now be found, from small craft and antique shops to fancy boutiques and department stores. Other tourist attractions include the Angermuseum, housed in the richly decorated Baroque Packhof, with displays of arts and crafts from the Middle Ages to modern times, and the Municipal Museum, housed in the richly decorated Zum Stockfisch, a Late Renaissance building dating from 1607 and outlining the history of the city through informative displays and artifacts. Anger is also where you'll find St. Bartholomew's Tower (Bartholomäusturm), a 12th-century structure with a carillon of 60 bells.
7 Zitadelle Petersberg
Another old district of Erfurt that must be visited is Petersberg, or St. Peter's Hill. Here you'll find St. Peter's Church (Peterskirche), a splendid Romanesque aisled basilica built on the site of an 11th-century monastery and one of the earliest buildings of the Hirsau school in Thuringia. Also of interest is Zitadelle Petersberg, Central Europe's largest and best-preserved Baroque fortress built in the 17th-century. Highlights include an extensive maze of underground tunnels, accessible as part of the two-hour guided tours of the fortress (English language tours are available for groups only).
Address: Petersberg, 99084 Erfurt
8 Erfurt Zoopark
To the north of Erfurt, on the Roter Berg, is the family-friendly Erfurt Zoo, home to some 1,060 animals representing 193 species. The zoo is particularly well known for its rare species of monkeys, including black-and-white colobuses, John's langurs, Entellus langurs, and Douc langurs. Other highlights of this 153-acre site overlooking the old city are its African elephants, lions, giraffes, and white rhinos.
Address: Am Zoopark 1 99087 Erfurt
Day Trips From Erfurt
About 100 kilometers northwest of Erfurt is the Late Romanesque and Early Gothic Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul in Naumburg. Widely regarded as one of Europe's finest cathedrals, this aisled cruciform basilica with its vaulted roof, twin choirs, four towers, and Romanesque crypt dates from 1170. It's perhaps best known for the 12 figures of its founders in the West Choir, life-size masterpieces carved from limestone by an unknown local artist in 1250. Also of outstanding quality are the reliefs of the Passion on the west choir screen, the medieval stained glass in some of the windows, several altars and sculptures, and a number of fine monuments. On the south side of the cathedral, incorporated in the cloister, is the parish Church of St. Mary (Marienkirche).
Just ten kilometers southwest of Erfurt stands Schloss Molsdorf, one of the finest Rococo palaces in Thuringia. Built by Count von Gotter between 1736 and 1745 and thoroughly restored, it's now a museum that's open to the public. Highlights include a hidden spiral staircase, sumptuous period interior décor, and numerous pieces of artwork, including statues and vases. A café is on-site and overlooks the beautiful park laid out in 1826.
Address: Schloßplatz 6, 99094 Erfurt
About 90 kilometers south of Erfurt, the former ducal capital of Coburg lies on the southern slopes of the Thuringian Forest, on the river Itz, a tributary of the Main. Looming over the city, Coburg Fortress (Veste Coburg) is one of the largest castles in Germany, dating mainly from the 16th century and restored in the 19th and 20th centuries. The art collections in the Luther rooms here feature displays of old glass, porcelain, and decorated earthenware. Extending up the hill to the Coburg Castle lies the beautiful Hofgarten (Court Garden) with many important monuments and the mausoleum of the Dukes. Other Coburg palaces worth visiting include the magnificent Ehrenburg, formerly the ducal palace; Schloss Rosenau; and Callenberg Palace, a medieval castle with centuries of royal history to reveal. In the town center, the attractive Markt is a lovely place for a stroll with its Town Hall (Rathaus) dating from 1579 and the former government offices in a richly decorated Late Renaissance building of 1599.
Schloss Elisabethenburg, about an hour's drive southwest of Erfurt, was built from 1682-1692 by the bishops of Würzburg. Named for Duke Bernhard I's second wife, Duchess Elisabeth Eleonore, the palace houses a wealth of treasures and a range of architectural styles beyond its relatively simple Baroque facade. Highlights include the finely-crafted wall and ceiling stucco work; the sumptuous Neoclassical Marble Hall dating from 1907; Holy Trinity Castle Church; and the "Hessensaal" in the roof area of the staircase tower, now home to the elegant museum café. Honoring the famous musicians who were former palace guests are the Max Reger music school and archives with autographed scores and a collection of historical instruments and the Johannes Brahms concert hall. The palace is also home to the Meiningen Museums and the Thuringian State Archives.
Address: Meiningen Museum, Schlossplatz 1, 98617 Meiningen