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How long in Erfurt?

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Bath, United Kingdom
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How long in Erfurt?

Having spent many years discovering the major cities of Germany, I now turn my attention to the hidden city gems of the country. My research has led me to the city of Erfurt in Thuringia.

I am particularly interested in beautiful architecture and GDR history.

With this in mind, how long is Erfurt likely to keep me occupied during the the summer months?

Are there any worthwhile day trips from Erfurt?

Thank you in advance.

Bautzen, Germany
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1. Re: How long in Erfurt?

I think 2 days are more than enough for Erfurt. On the first day you could explore the old town and churches, and on the second day see one or two museums. Maybe the Old Synagogue, which is quite unique, and the town museum, which is in a wonderful Renaissance building, or the Angermuseum in a equally beautiful Baroque building.

You should do at least to 2 day trips. The first one to Weimar, which is just 30min to the east of Erfurt. Weimar is not only a World Heritage Site because of the significance to the German culture (Goethe, Schiller, Herder, Nietzsche or Cranach lived, the Bauhaus was founded, and the first German consitution was signed here), but also a very pleasant town with a cozy old town and parks, castles and palaces... and sadly also a KZ. On the second day trip you should visit Wartburg castle, which is Germanys historically most important castle (and a World Heritage Site).

Erfurt is the capital of Thuringia, and historically Thuringia was split into many tiny duchies (among them Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, where the Windsors come from), with equally tiny capitals. Many of these little towns, often with castles which are way too big for these small towns, survived WW2 without damages. Rudolstadt (very big castle), Arnstadt, Gotha (very big castle), Bad Langensalza or Saalfeld for example. Schmalkalden offers a rather small castle, but a beautiful old town full of cute half-timbered houses. Schmalkalden, like many other towns in this area, also played an important role in the Protestant Reformation. Mühlhausen for instance, where Thomas Müntzer established a Communist theocracy. Today it's a mostly preserved town with a town wall and several nice Gothic churches.

For GDR history you could visit Jena, which lies beautifully in the Saale valley. Jena was one of the few Thuringian towns destroyed in WW2, and today you can see many examples of GDR architecture in the city. Even more interesting is the Peasants' War Panorama in Bad Frankenhausen, one of the biggest panoramas in the world. Despite the wishes of the Politbüro it doesn't show Socialist realism but it's more like a huge Renaissance painting. Very impressive, but sadly it's difficult to get there by public transport.

If you want to hike you could take the train to Oberhof in the Thuringian Forest, or visit the Saalfeld Fairy Grottoes, according to the Guinness Book of Records the most colourful grottoes in the world. BTW: the Christmas baubles were invented in Lauscha in the Thuringian Forest, and to this day you can buy them there.

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2. Re: How long in Erfurt?

Martin gave very good advice. Two days are fine for Erfurt. I think you should mix churches and museums plus other things on each day - only churches on one day might be a bit boring :-)

I found the Thuringian Folk art museum very interesting, too. Definitely tour the Augustine monastery where Martin Luther lived for a while. Ega park is well worth seeing, too. Ditto Schloss Meisdorf, easily accessible by bus. It's not the most exciting place for GDR history, though, except for some ugly apartment blocks surrounding the old town.

As for day trips - as Martin pointed out you'll have too many options. I personally was not overly impressed with Weimar, way too much Goethe and Schiller for my taste, but that's just me.

I'd like to add Gotha to the list, Schloss Friedenstein was recently restored and is back to old glory. Eisenach with Wartburg castle and J. S. Bach sites is another must.

Bath, United Kingdom
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3. Re: How long in Erfurt?

Thank you both for your suggestions.

I will probably look to stay a week in the area; your input will certainly be a great help in building an itinerary.

I was at first concerned about a lengthy and costly rail journey from Frankfurt or Berlin to reach Erfurt, but was surprised to learn that Erfurt airport is served by a direct Germania service from London Gatwick. That will be a huge help!

Berlin, Germany
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4. Re: How long in Erfurt?

In addition to the good day trip options above - for the GDR-history part:

In December 2013 a memorial/musuem was openedn in the former STASI prison in Andreasstraße.


It is located directly at the Domplatz beneath the citadel.

In case you don't get a flight to Erfurt :

Trains can be booked on-line 3 months in before to get good prices. If you travel with other people you could consider the local train budget tickets like Quer-durchs-Land-Ticket . Or you choose a bus/coach. Since 2013 there have been many new companies with low prices. The buses normally stop at the main station. Or you choose a shared car ride at www.mitfahrgelegenheit.de

Edited: 26 January 2014, 20:22
Saskatoon, Canada
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5. Re: How long in Erfurt?

As a Canadian family planning a trip in August this advice has been most helpful for me as well. Our family arrives in Amsterdam and we are meeting family in Copenhagen six days later. I was planning to book a place in Eisenach but perhaps Erfurt is a better location to travel from. We wish to see the camp (either in this area or Sachsenhausen by Berlin) and our children wish to see some castles. We know there are many castles to choose from but our children (will be 7, 10, and 12) have an image in their mind and we would like to match with at least one :)

Any other suggestions of must-sees with the kids would be super. I wlll definitely check out these other links.


Gelnhausen, Germany
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6. Re: How long in Erfurt?

Hi LondonParisBerlin,

you mentioned your interest in GDR history. Why not paying a visit to Point Alpha?



Point Alpha was an observation point of the 14th Armored Cavalry Regiment of the U.S. Army in Rasdorf, Hesse, located directly at the border to Thuringia (then GDR). There is a very interesting exhibition with loads of information about the former Inner German Border. You can visit the observation tower from which the U.S. army observed the border, the old canteen, the troups' headquarters, and see many photographs, videos and presentation boards rolling back the Cold War and Germany's division.

There is also a "memory walk" along the former border with border barriers, barbed wire, alarm wires and spring guns (the latter is only a dummy today, of course). This 500 m memory walk leads you to the "House on the Border" (Das Haus auf der Grenze) in Geisa, Thuringia. The (blue) House on the Border host an upsetting, moving and emotionally charging permanent exhibition related to the Inner German Division: the beginning of the construction of the Iron Curtain, the forced relocation of Thuringians who lived close to the "Zonengrenze" and were suspected of being illoyal to the system, stories of successful and failed "Republikflucht" ("attempt to escape the republic" - a serious crime according to the GDR penalty code), then - of course - summer and autumn 1989 with the millions of GDR people escaping via Hungary and Czechoslovakia, Genscher and his unfinished sentence on the balcony of the Prague embassy, the Monday demonstrations at Leipzig, the Fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989...

Rasdorf is located still just in Hesse whereas Geisa is already in Thuringia, and they are only 500 m distant from each other. There are parking lots nearby both Point Alpha and The House on the Border, thus is does not matter whether you choose the one or the other with your SatNav. As you know, touristic sites are available on most SatNav; just enter "Point Alpha". Depending on the SatNav at hand, you will be directed to either Rasdorf or Geisa, but both are equally good starting points for such a visit.

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7. Re: How long in Erfurt?

I have just got back from a trip to Thuringia and we went to Erfurt having read that it is one of the best preserved towns in Germany, having avoided the worst of the bombing of 1941-45. The town is a gem and very well worth visiting. I will be going back, having only had a day there. The streetscape is outstanding, with largely original buildings throughout. The churches, the bridge, the two Jewish synagogues, the Markt, the Kramerbrucke are all well worth visiting. Note the Sparkasse of 1934 too, with interesting sculptures of the period.

So how long? I would say two nights if you wish to do it properly!

Bath, United Kingdom
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8. Re: How long in Erfurt?

Thank you for your feedback, Finlay. Thank you also to all others who contributed to this feed.

I have now built an itinerary travelling from Nuremberg via Erfurt to Berlin and will be staying in Erfurt itself for four nights. That should give me enough time to see Erfurt, Weimar and perhaps another of the suggestion above.

Las Vegas, Nevada
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9. Re: How long in Erfurt?

I'm glad that Finlay finally mentioned the world's longest inhabited bridge in Erfurt which I saw in an article about world bridges last month. It's really amazing how few tourists there can be. A few years ago in August there were only about six other tourists that I noted in Gotha, just amazing seeing that it has one of Germany's largest palaces with some excellent things to see. Of course, places like Weimar have many, mainly German students (it's interesting to me how Wieland's name is omitted from most people's mention when he was the duchess's advisor who assembled those people there, and we were the only visitors at his estate in nearby Ossmannstedt), and the Wartburg which wasn't very crowded during our 2 night stay at the hotel there. But driving was hell there, what I would call "the land of the detour", and poorly marked ones at that.

10. Re: How long in Erfurt?

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