I was out and about in Erfurt for almost three days. I explored wonderful and fascinating places in the state capital of Thuringia. I highly recommend a city tour. Here are some places in Erfurt that I would like to highlight.
Krämerbrücke (Merchant’s Bridge)
The first thing that comes to mind for most people when they hear “Erfurt” is the Krämerbrücke, the oldest construction in Erfurt.
This bridge was built right next to a ford in the river Gera and is part of the trade route Via Regia. The bridge was originally made from wood and burnt down multiple times before it was rebuilt with stone.
The first bridge with uninhabited half-timbered stalls was completed in 1325. Churches with entry gates stood at both ends of the bridge.
The Krämerbridge is a vaulted bridge of 79 meters length made from limestone and sandstone. It consists of 6 barrel vaults that all differ in size. A fire destroyed big parts of Erfurt in 1472. The reconstruction works that followed transformed the Krämerbridge into the bridge we see today. 62 three-storey half-timbered houses stood on the bridge until the 18th century. After that, the number came down due to new developments and the merging of buildings.
Today, there are 32 houses left on the Krämerbridge. All of them except four are property of the city. A charity supports the preservation of the landmark. An info centre around the work of the charity can be found in number 31 on Krämerbridge. We went in and watched the goings-on on the bridge for a little while.
Most of the houses on the bridge house shops for art and antiques on the ground floor. I browsed some of those shops and it seems like one can find many wonderful things in them.
Tower of the Church of St. Aegidius
The Church of St. Aegidius is located at one end of the Krämerbrücke (Merchant’s Bridge). Visitors have access to the tower which is 33 meters tall. From the top one has a wonderful view of the Krämerbrücke and the surrounding Old Town.
The way up to the top is quite something, though. The stairs are narrow and steep. Thankfully, there are some landings that break up the stairs and allow for oncoming traffic to pass. I even pass the church bells. A quick glimpse at my watch to ensure that I am not standing right next to them when they begin to ring.
At the top, a narrow walkway between the wall of the tower and the railing leads around the tower like a one-way street. If there is another visitor taking in the view one has to wait, there is hardly enough space to pass each other.
Tuesday to Sunday: 11.00 – 18.00
The city of Erfurt surrendered to the Archbishop in 1665. He ordered to have the old monastery on a hill transformed into a citadel. Farmers and masons in labour service built four bastions which were all facing the city. The Peterstor (Peter’s Gate) and Command Centre House were erected next.
After almost 40 years of construction, a fully closed fortress had risen on the Petersberg (Peter’s Hill). Citizens were able to live self-sustained in the fortress for quite some time. It had its own well, breweries and even small areas of farmland. The walls were 6 to 8 meters wide and it was impossible for enemies to take the fortress.
Today, the inner core of the baroque fortress is the last historic part standing. Visitors mainly come up to the top of the hill for the fantastic view of the city.
Barely lit tour through the high corridors of the citadel
We find ourselves in a small exhibition space inside the Command Centre House with information about the Petersberg Citadel on display. We are handed a small torch. But not the kind of torch that works on batteries and gives off decent light. No, this one is a tiny lamp that only produces a little light when one turns the small crank on its side. Armed with our dim light devices we enter the high corridors below the Petersberg Citadel in Erfurt.
What is a high corridor? This question comes up very early in the tour. The so called high corridors were built below the walls of the fortress as countermines. Soldiers patrolled these corridors and were able to hear enemy attacks very early due to the acoustic properties of the countermines. They used this advantage to find out where the attack was coming from to stop it before any damage could be done to the walls. Roughly 2 kilometres of these high corridors still exist today and 400 meters of them can be walked as a visitor.
Wonky stairs lead down into the dark tunnel. The people with their torches in front of me look like a long, glowing snake slithering down the stairs. I am somewhat pleased that this snake in front of me indicates if we are going up or down next. The tunnel is narrow and I am relieved as we finally emerge into the daylight of the overground premises of the citadel.
Tours can be booked via Erfurt Tourismus.
Dürerhaus – Dürer House
The Dürer House is an opportunity to learn about blueprinting. This traditional technique is presented to visitors who have booked a space in one of the blueprinting demonstration.
We were given the opportunity to learn about the craft of blueprinting and I have to say it is really rather fascinating.
What is blueprinting?
Blueprinting is a technique to dye fabric. The process will result in blue fabric with a white pattern.
How does blueprinting work?
This technique to dye fabric appeared in Germany around 1689/90. Today, the technique is somewhat refined but its basic process is pretty much still the same.
Cotton fabric is sealed with a substance that is called “Papp” (mush). This substance will keep the blue dye away from the printed areas during the dyeing process. A stencil on a stick is used to bring the pattern onto the fabric. After a long drying period, the fabric is dyed blue with indigo or woad.
The fabric is soaked in the dye in a large container. It is important that the fabric is completely smooth during this process and that it is not touching other pieces of fabric. Both would result in an uneven colour in the final product. Every dyeing cycle takes 10 minutes. When the fabric shows the desired shade of blue, the process is finished. The sealing substance Papp is dissolved in an acid bath and the white pattern underneath is revealed. Next, the fabric has to be washed until no more blue pigments fall out.
The fabric is then dried, cut and used in sewing projects. The wonderful products made with this fabric can be purchased in the Dürer House.
Monday to Friday: 10.00 – 19.00
Saturday: 10.00 – 18.00
With reservation only:
3€ per person
High Cathedral St. Mary of Erfurt
The Cathedral of Erfurt thrones high above the city with the Severi Church right next to it. Stairs climb up Cathedral Hill, starting at the Cathedral Square (Domplatz) and ending right in front the main portal of the imposing building. Don’t miss out on the interior of this church. Especially the baroque altar and the wonderful windows left me quite impressed. Sadly, my visit to the Cathedral was rather short. Next time, I would love to extend my time in the Cathedral, maybe even take part in a guided tour of the church and the bell tower.
November to April
Monday to Saturday: 09.30 – 17.00
Sunday, Bank Holidays: 13.00 – 17.00
May to October
Monday to Saturday: 09.30 – 18.00
Sunday, Bank Holidays: 13.00 – 18.00
Memorial and educational site Andreasstraße – Ettersberg Foundation
Unfortunately, the memorial was closed on the day of our visit. It commemorates the oppression and resistance of the people of the GDR during the SED regime. The building housed the former Ministry of State Security of the GDR and a detention centre. 5000 people were held here.
The memorial foundation hands out audioguides that follow the traces of the Peaceful Revolution in Erfurt. We borrowed an audioguide and started our tour in front of the memorial. The audioguide takes its listeners on a 70-minute long tour through the city. At different stops the audioguide plays original sound clips and interviews with contemporary witnesses about the movement in Erfurt. A truly fascinating and special way of exploring a city.
Tuesday, Thursday: 12.00 – 20.00
Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Bank Holidays: 10.00 – 18.00
Audioguide: 3€ (+ deposit)
The Old Synagogue
We walk into the modern foyer of the Old Synagogue and after we have stowed away our belongings in the lockers we embark on our discovery tour through the building and the exhibition.
About the Old Synagogue Erfurt
Construction for this Jewish place of worship in Erfurt began in 1100. Over time the Synagogue was modified multiple times to accommodate the current use during each time period. Only very few elements from the time of the original construction are left today.
The representative building was finally completed in 1270. Wooden barrel vaults arched over the interior, it had multiple big windows and one rose window. One can still see the ledges that were used as surfaces to place the candles that lit the room.
After the Pogrom of 1349, the new owner of the Synagogue had it converted into a storage facility. This modification destroyed many of the original architectural elements. For 500 years the Synagogue was used for storage. In the late 19th century it was used for something different yet again. A tavern moved into the building. A dance hall was built and richly adorned with stucco and colourful paintings. All these modifications did great damage to the building that was no longer recognisable as a place of worship. However, this was what saved the building’s life during the Nazi regime. The origins of the building remained undiscovered and it made it through the 3rd Reich undamaged.
The city of Erfurt purchased the building in 1999 and started renovating it to protect what was left of the original construction. It was decided not to convert it back into a Synagogue but to keep the building as it was with all the vestiges of the past for the people to see. By 2009 the Museum Old Synagogue Erfurt had moved into the building and opened its doors for the public.
The building and its history alone are already worth a visit. But the exhibition that we got to experience inside the building completely mesmerised me.
The ground floor is themed around the history of the construction and different uses of the building. The top floor holds handwritten, mediaeval texts and more info around the history of the building. But the highlight of the permanent exhibition is down in the basement of the Synagogue. This is where the Treasure of Erfurt is on display. It is assumed that these are pieces that were buried during the Pogrom of 1349 to protect them. Almost 30 kilograms of precious metal can be seen down here. I particularly liked the filigree pieces of jewellery. What extraordinary craftsmanship.
Tuesday to Sunday: 10.00 – 18.00
Discounts are available. Audioguides are free.
A culinary tip for Erfurt
Goldhelm (Golden Helmet)
Delicious cakes and really good ice cream are waiting to be enjoyed at Goldhelm. There is an ice cream parlour directly on the Krämerbrücke (Merchant’s Bridge). They have housemade ice creams in very interesting flavours. The price per serving varies depending on the actual ingredients in the ice cream but this is a good place to splurge a little and get the ice cream served in one of their crunchy housemade waffle cones.
For those who would rather indulge in some housemade cakes and delicious chocolate milks will find their preferred treat in the Café at Kreuzgasse. This is where I had the best cake in a long time!
Guesthouse Feuerkugel (Fireball)
The Restaurant Feuerkugel (Fireball) is in the historic Old Town. I had Erfurt dark beer meat with Thuringia dumpling for dinner. The meat was very tender and was almost falling apart on the fork. But the dumplings with the sauce were simply the best. A great local dish.
Enjoying beer – Beer manufactory Heimat Hafen Erfurt
This is a hidden gem in Erfurt, the beer by a local beer manufactory called Heimat Hafen. Brewer Jan Schlennstedt has been brewing beer here since 2017 and he gives them fantastic names such as Gabi (a chilled light beer), Egon (Pilsner) or Jack (Pale Ale). As a beer lover, I can only say: smooth and full-bodied – really good!
The beers can be purchased in the factory shop and also in some other shops in Erfurt. They also offer brewing courses for those who always wanted to know how beer is made.
Zum Güterbahnhof 20
Brewery factory shop:
Wednesday: 16.00 – 19.00
Saturday: 09.00 – 12.00
Accommodation recommendation for Erfurt
I was invited to stay at the Radisson Blu in Erfurt for two nights. The hotel is about a 10-minute walk away from the central station and another 10-minute walk brings you to the Krämerbrücke and the historic Old Town of Erfurt.
The hotel has 282 rooms and suites in different price categories and offers free WiFi to all of its guests. We got a little hotel tour that included a glimpse into the presidential suite. This hotel “room” was bigger than our flat and had amenities the I can only dream of at home.
The spa area is on the 17th floor of the hotel. The view from the sauna is magnificent. And talking about the view: From my room on the 8th floor I, too, had quite a good view. A great start to the morning.
The breakfast buffet (19€ per person per day) was rich and varied. Take your time and enjoy the food for a relaxed start to the day.
After coming back from a full day of exploring, exhausted guests can sit down and relax in the sports bar or the bistro.
I travelled to Erfurt as part of a sponsored PR trip. The blog post reflects my own personal opinion.