11 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Wittenberg
The lovely old university town of Wittenberg — officially known as Lutherstadt Wittenberg — is well-known as the birthplace of Martin Luther's Reformation. Located on the north bank of the River Elbe in the southern foothills of the Fläming range, it was here that Luther, a local resident and preacher, famously nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church (Schlosskirche), an event that ultimately marked the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.
Little surprise, then, that Luther's legacy is evident everywhere in Wittenberg and is much celebrated by its townspeople and visitors. The town boasts a number of excellent cultural sites and events, including a first-rate professional theater, as well as an open-air theater, and musical performances and events such as the popular Wittenberg Renaissance Music Festival. Find the best places to visit in this charming town with our list of the top attractions in Lutherstadt Wittenberg.
1. Lutherhaus Museum
Lutherhaus, where Reformer Martin Luther lived from 1508 to 1546, was built in 1504 and originally used as a house by Augustinian Hermits. An addition, the Augusteum, was added in 1598 and served for a time as a boarding school. Lutherhaus was later converted into a museum dedicated to the Reformation in 1883, with the focal point being Luther's living room, the "Lutherstube," which remained unaltered and preserved in its original condition. This room remains the same to this day, although the museum gradually grew its collection to include displays of Luther's writings and prints, his medals, university lectern, pulpit from St. Mary's Church, and a number of valuable paintings. Guided tours are available (advance booking recommended).
Address: Collegienstraße 54, 06886 Lutherstadt Wittenberg
2. The Marktplatz
Wittenberg's old market square, the Marktplatz (Marketplace) has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996 and is home to numerous important historic buildings and tourist attractions. One of the most interesting is the handsome Old Town Hall (Rathaus), built in 1540 and notable for its four Renaissance gables; Late Gothic windows; the 16th-century balcony over its entrance; as well as its rich decoration, including allegorical figures and columns and a statue of the goddess Justitia with scales and sword. Immediately adjoining the Town Hall are the Market Fountain from 1617 and early 19th-century bronze statues of Martin Luther and fellow Reformer, Philip Melanchthon.
3. Parish Church of St. Mary
The oldest building in Wittenberg — and quite possibly the most important — is the aisled Gothic Parish Church of St. Mary (Stadtkirche St. Marien). Built between the 13th and 15th centuries, the church is famous the world over as the place where Luther frequently preached. Notable features include the building's twin octagonal spires, constructed in 1558 in Renaissance style, and its winged altar from 1547 designed by Lucas Cranach the Elder. Also of interest is the richly decorated font from 1457; an organ noted for its fine tone; a number of paintings by Cranach; and its many Renaissance epitaphs and tombs, including that of the Reformer Johann Bugenhagen, who died here in 1558.
Guided tours of this extensively renovated and extremely well-preserved church are available. Also of interest is the adjoining Chapel of the Holy Body (Kapelle zum Heiligen Leichnam), constructed in 1377 in brick-built Gothic style and notable for its strikingly slender tower.
Address: Kirchplatz, 06886 Lutherstadt Wittenberg
4. The Castle Church (Schlosskirche)
The lovely Late Gothic Castle Church (Schlosskirche), built in 1500 as All Saints Church, is now better known as the Reformation Memorial Church due to its ties with Martin Luther. It was to the church's original wooden doors that Luther nailed his famous 95 Theses in 1517. Although the original doors were destroyed during the Seven Years War, the present bronze replacements, installed in 1858, bear their Latin text. Inside are life-size alabaster statues of Electors Frederick the Wise and John the Constant of Saxony-Wittenberg, the tombs of Luther and fellow Reformer Melanchthon, and the Early Renaissance monument of Elector Frederick III from 1527. On the columns of the nave are life-size figures of Luther, Melanchthon, and other Reformers.
Be sure to visit the church's unusual rounded tower with its extensive views over the town (admission is via guided tours only, available from the Info Center). English language services are held regularly (check their website for schedules).
Address: Wilhelm-Weber-Straße 1a, 06886 Lutherstadt Wittenberg
5. Luther 1517—Wittenberg 360°
Created as part of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation Martin Luther so famously sparked, Luther 1517 provides a fascinating and extremely realistic portrait of the times. What you'll experience is in fact a single huge painting — a cyclorama, a once common form of entertainment in the 19th century — that stretches completely around a rotunda's curved interior wall, presenting an incredible panoramic view of Wittenberg just as it would have appeared the day Luther nailed his famous thesis to a church door.
In addition to incredibly detailed depictions of the town's most recognizable buildings, you'll also see the key characters involved in the drama, including Luther and fellow Reformers Philipp Melanchthon and Justus Jonas. It's an extraordinary artwork, and one you'll want to linger in front of just to catch the many remarkable details that so vividly portray this important historical event.
Address: Lutherstraße 42, 06886 Lutherstadt Wittenberg
Official site: www.wittenberg360.de/en/
6. Melanchthon House
Not far from Lutherhaus is Melanchthon House, the former home of Luther's friend and fellow Reformer, Philip Melanchthon. Built in 1536, this three-story building with its Late Gothic windows and Renaissance gables was Melanchthon's home and workplace until he died in 1560. Now an important memorial museum, a highlight of a visit is the chance to view its lovely 16th-century garden with its pump, stone table, herb garden, and old yew trees, all surrounded by a stretch of the old town walls. Other highlights include documents and artifacts once owned by Melanchthon, as well as a large portrait of him by Lucas Cranach the Younger.
Address: Collegienstrasse 60, 06886 Lutherstadt Wittenberg
7. Cranach House
Cranach House (Cranach-Haus) was the home of the famous German artist Lucas Cranach the Elder, who lived in Wittenberg from 1505 to 1547. Court painter to the Elector of Saxony, he also became burgomaster of Wittenberg and owner of a pharmacy in the town. Widely considered one of the most accomplished 16th-century artists, he was responsible for painting portraits of many figures connected to the Reformation, as well as local aristocrats. Now a museum, this finely preserved medieval house and its studio boast numerous artifacts relating to Cranach's career. The courtyards around the home are also worth exploring and include quaint shops and a café. Budding artists are also encouraged to enquire about the museum's regular painting classes (including fun workshops for kids).
Address: Marktplatz 4, 06886 Lutherstadt, Wittenberg
Official site: http://cranach-stiftung.de/en/
8. Piesteritz Workers' Estate
Wittenberg is home to a variety of interesting more modern architectural styles, in particular numerous fine examples from the 20th century. One of the highlights of a walking tour of the town's architecture is Piesteritz (Werksiedlung Piesteritz), a residential area constructed in 1916 to house workers from its industrial areas. Seven styles and sizes of homes were built, with those higher up the pecking order getting the larger abodes (though great pains were taken to ensure the quality was equal for all residents).
A small garden plot was also provided, and pleasant tree-lined pathways built to ensure a communal atmosphere. The estate has recently been completely refurbished and makes for an enjoyable stroll around one of Europe's most successful housing projects.
Another notable piece of architecture is the brightly colored Dr. Seuss-like Hundertwasserschule, redesigned and renovated by the famous artist from Austria Friedensreich Hundertwasser in 1999. The school has an interesting visitor center with details of the building's history, along with information relating to the artist.
Address: Schillerstraße 22a, 06886 Lutherstadt Wittenberg
9. Museum of Town History
To the south of the Schlosskirche stands the Schloss, the old Electoral residence dating from 1525 and now home to the Museum of Town History (Museum für Stadtgeschichte). Highlights include exhibits detailing the development of the town, as well as historical archives and an impressive collection of natural history and ethnographic artifacts from prehistoric times to the middle ages.
Address: Schlossplatz 1d 06886 Lutherstadt Wittenberg
10. Fläming Nature Park
Wittenberg is also an important destination for nature lovers thanks to the Fläming Nature Park (Naturpark Fläming). Established in 2005, this large area of outstanding natural beauty (one of six in the state) consists of important elements of the Fläming low mountain range, of which Wittenberg is a part, and protects a diverse mix of old forests, scenic meadows, and farmland.
A good place to start your adventure is the visitor center in Jeber-Bergfrieden, a pleasant half-hour drive northwest of Wittenberg. From here, you can gather information regarding the park's many well-marked nature and hiking trails (some suitable for all levels of fitness), as well as details of biking trails, tours, and rentals, along with popular driving routes.
It's easy to spend the best part of the day exploring the park, which encompasses a number of old fortifications including Zerbst Castle, along with historic villages and towns (Coswig is a must-visit) set against some of the most attractive countryside to be found in this part of Germany. For those with the time (and the energy), just a little farther north is the equally attractive High Fläming Nature Park (Naturpark Hoher Fläming), also boasting a good visitor center and plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities.
Address: Schloßstraße 13, 06868 Coswig (Anhalt)
11. Wittenberg Zoo and Fun Stuff for Kids
Although one of the smallest zoos in Germany, Wittenberg Zoo (Tierpark Wittenberg) is a great place to let the kids blow off some steam. Situated in a pleasant park-like setting, the zoo offers plenty of exotic species to enjoy. Highlights include an impressive collection of birds, from regional owls to parrots and parakeets from the tropics. In addition to its large collections of monkeys and meerkats, there's also a fun petting zoo where kids are encouraged to interact with a variety of cute domesticated animals (a deer-feeding station is also available).
A recently added aquarium exhibit with a number of large tanks with local and exotic species of fish and reptiles is also worth a visit. The zoo has also made a name for itself as a center to treat injured wildlife before releasing it back into the wild, and kids will enjoy learning how staff nurse their furry friends back to health.
Other fun things for children to do in Wittenberg include visiting the Science Center futurea, which has a number of interesting displays related in particular to the study of chemistry, and the Alaris Butterfly Park, where guests of all ages can enjoy a walk through a magnificent tropical greenhouse that houses some 140 species of these fascinating creatures (an on-site café is also available).
Address: Pfaffengasse 8, 06886 Lutherstadt Wittenberg
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