Erfurt, the capital of Thuringia in the East of Germany, was founded as a Catholic diocese in 742 and became an important trading town in the middle Ages. Filled with historic townhouses, cathedrals, monasteries, and the oldest inhabited bridge in Europe, Erfurt still has the feeling of a medieval university town. It’s best to explore Erfurt’s "Altstadt" (Old Town) with its charming winding streets on foot. One hour away from both Leipzig and Weimar, Erfurt is still an insider tip for many Germany travelers.
The most famous sight of Erfurt is the Kraemerbruecke (Merchant’s Bridge), one of the longest and oldest inhabited bridges in Europe. Originally built in wood, the bridge was reconstructed in 1325 in stone. The bridge is lined on both sides by narrow timber-framed houses, which were originally shops and homes for merchants, who sold their goods on the cobble-stone bridge. Today, the historic houses are home to arts and crafts shops and antique stores.
Every summer, the city celebrates its medieval Merchant’s Bridge Festival with a historic arts and crafts market, food and drinks, and music performances on the bridge and the surrounding Old Town of Erfurt.
Erfurt's Augustinerkloster (St. Augustine’s Monastery) is not only a unique example of medieval religious architecture, it is also well known because Martin Luther, who pioneered the Protestant Reformation, lived here as a monk from 1505 to 1511. In the former dormitories, you’ll find an exhibition dedicated to the history of the monastery and Martin Luther’s time in Erfurt; a replica of Luther’s cell is also on display. The monastery is home to a historical library with over 60,000 volumes, among them precious handwritten manuscripts and publications by Luther.
For a unique experience, spend the night in one of the simple and serene rooms of the monastery.
Erfurt’s Dom (St. Mary’s Cathedral), dating back to 742, is one of the most important churches in Erfurt; located on a hillside, the Cathedral is built in Gothic style with huge Romanesque towers. Highlights of the Dom include the Maria Gloriosa bell, the world's largest medieval free-swinging bell; the stained glass windows from the 14th and 15th century; “Wolfram”, a Romanesque bronze candelabra in the shape of a man; and the Gothic choir stalls from the 14th century.
Every summer, the dramatic stairs, which lead up to the main entrance of the cathedral, become the impressive backdrop for a classical music festival (Domstufenfestival).
5. Fish MarketThe historical heart of the city, the Fischmarkt, was the square where important medieval trading routes intersected. Today, the square is lined by beautiful Renaissance houses; check out the "Haus zum Roten Ochsen" (House of the Red Ox), which is home to the modern art gallery "Kunsthalle Erfurt"; the magnificent “Haus zur Gueldenen Krone (Haus of the Gold Crown), and the Neo-Gothic Town Hall of Erfurt.
Just a day trip away from Erfurt you'll find Weimar, which has been home to many of Germany’s most influential artists and thinkers; Goethe, Wagner, and Nietzsche, just to name a few, shaped the intellectual zeitgeist of this city. Weimar is also the cradle of the Bauhaus movement, which revolutionized the aesthetics of the 20th century.Best Things to do in Weimar
Another city close-by is Leipzig, where Goethe was a student and Bach worked as a cantor. Today, the New Leipzig school brings fresh wind into the art world and the city is well-known for its contemporary art scene. Besides being a center for German culture, the city also became famous in Germany’s recent history, when Leipzig demonstrators initiated the peaceful revolution that lead to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.Best Things to Do in Leipzig