Why Erfurt might be Germany’s most underrated tourist destination

Why Erfurt might be Germany’s most underrated tourist destinationWhy Erfurt might be Germany’s most underrated tourist destination

I had never heard of Erfurt.

It was when planning our 2 week trip through the former East Germany that my mother mentioned Erfurt. I’ve mentioned previously that one of the reasons we were doing this trip is that my mom was thinking of maybe moving back to Germany (where she lived the first 19 years of her life). She had heard good things about Erfurt and thought we could go have a look. 

Erfurt is the capital city of the Germany state of Thuringia. It was a wealthy town during the Middle Ages being in the center of East-West as well as North-South European trade routes. To this day it has one of the best preserved medieval centers in Germany primarily because it suffered very little damage in World War II. It’s a very attractive city. We loved the canals running through the center – you’ll see lots of little bridges including the famous Merchant’s bridge (Krämerbrücke) which is covered by those half-timbered houses so typical of Germany. You’ll see pretty squares, lots of greenery, a colossal Cathedral, and a large fortress on a hill overlooking the city.

 

 

Accommodation

Where to stay in Erfurt. Hotels:  Markthof am Dom has a great location, modern comfortable rooms and has great value for the money. Hotel Domizil is located very close by, a boutique hotel that’s just a little more upmarket. Apartment: Schottennester Schlafen an der Krämerbrücke is a really nice self-catering apartment right next to Merchant’s Bridge.

 

 

Erfurt’s Highlights

 

Krämerbrücke

Merchants’ Bridge (Krämerbrücke) in Erfurt Germany. Why Erfurt might be Germany’s most underrated tourist destination

The Krämerbrücke (ie. Merchant’s bridge). Built in 1325 over the Gera river, It’s one of the few remaining bridges in the world that have inhabited buildings. It’s been continuously inhabited for over 500 years, longer than any other bridge in Europe. Today the bridge has specialty shops, art galleries and cafés but it also has homes on the upper levels of the buildings.

Merchants’ Bridge (Krämerbrücke) in Erfurt Germany.

 

Ägidienkirche

At the end of the Krämerbrücke is St Ägidien’s Church (Ägidienkirche). Its bell tower can be climbed and has the best views in the city.

St Ägidien's Church (Ägidienkirche) in Erfurt Germany

views from St Ägidien's Church (Ägidienkirche) in Erfurt Germany

 

Canals

Walking around this part of the city you’ll see canals from different offshoots of the Gera river. It all contributes to making Erfurt a very green city.

Canal in Erfurt Germany. Why Erfurt might be Germany’s most underrated tourist destination

 

Fischmarkt square

Just a short walk away from the Krämerbrücke is Fischmarkt square which is the city’s main square. You’ll see the statue of Saint Martin, patron saint of Erfurt. Also on the square is the Rathous (town hall).

Fischmarkt square in Erfurt Germany. Why Erfurt might be Germany’s most underrated tourist destination

 

Domplatz (Cathedral Square)

Walking from Fischmarkt square you get to Domplatz (Cathedral Square). It’s a huge square overlooked by the colossal Erfurt Cathedral (dating from the 14th century). You have to walk up a large set of stairs to get to the Cathedral. The whole structure is supported by a massive fortress-like substructure known as the Kavaten (built in the late 13th century). Right next to the Cathedral is St. Severus church (12th century). The whole Cathedral/church structure is very impressive.

Erfurt Cathedral and St. Severus church. Why Erfurt might be Germany’s most underrated tourist destination

interior of Erfurt Cathedral

exterior of Erfurt Cathedral

Below: buildings around the large Domplatz

buildings around the Domplatz. Why Erfurt might be Germany’s most underrated tourist destination

Domplatz buildings in Erfurt, Germany

buildings around the Domplatz in Erfurt, Germany

 

Petersberg Citadel

Behind the Cathedral and St. Severus church rises a hill. Up top is Petersberg Citadel. While we were there the whole thing was under restoration. But ordinarily the Citadel is one of Erfurt’s highlights. You can take a tour through a maze of underground tunnels and see St. Peter’s Church. There are also some scenic viewpoints around the walls. But as I say, while we were there the whole place was a construction site.

views from Petersberg Citadel in Erfurt Germany

Petersberg Citadel. Why Erfurt might be Germany’s most underrated tourist destination

Petersberg Citadel. Why Erfurt might be Germany’s most underrated tourist destination

Why Erfurt might be Germany’s most underrated tourist destination

 

Some other highlights

The Augustinian Monastery (Augustinerkloster) was founded in 1277 and is where Martin Luther became a monk in 1505.
Erfurt’s Old Synagogue (Alte Synagogue) is known as the best preserved medieval synagogue in Europe. Most of the building was built between 1250 – 1320 but its oldest parts date from the 11th century. The Jewish community thrived in Erfurt until the pogrom of 1349.
More on Erfurt’s Jewish history.
The Angermuseum is a an art museum highlighting a large collection of paintings from German Expressionists.
Erfurt also has a large zoo which include African elephants, lions, giraffes, white rhinos, and some rare breeds of monkeys.

 

Related: Visiting the really pretty town of Coburg, Germany

 

Below: tourist map of Erfurt (click for a larger version)

Tourist Map of Erfurt Germany

 

The tourism office in Erfurt offers some interesting tours. The first is a 45 minute bus ride through the center. A great way to see the downtown core. Its historic tram is another option: it covers many of the main downtown highlights and also takes you to sites outside the center (like the university and the sports stadium). Note however that the tours are only done in German (mom speaks German, it’s one of the reasons we did the tours). For English speakers, they offer the “iguide”, an English-option audio guide of the center. To take any of these tours just go to the Tourist Information Center near the Krämerbrücke.

tourist center bus tour in Erfurt Germany

Erfurt bus tour

 

 

On Erfurt being tops on the “liveability” scale

Besides being a pretty, green city, we really liked how “liveable” Erfurt is. You can get cross the city center in about 15 minutes on foot. It has the conveniences and attractions of a large city but the charm of a smaller town. When my mom considered places that could be a possible home, Erfurt topped her list. Coburg and Weimar were towns (not cities) and while both are charming, they’re a bit small. Dresden is a great city to visit as a tourist but not a place to “live”. Leipzig is too busy. But Erfurt was just right.

Erfurt is also easy to reach from anywhere. If coming from Leipzig it’ll take you 40 minutes on the Intercity Express (ICE) train. The same train will take you to Nuremberg in just over an hour.

 

 

Places to visit around Erfurt

I mentioned the town of Weimar. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site known primarily for its cultural heritage (it’s known as Germany’s cultural capital). It was the home for some of Germany’s best writers, composers, and was the birthplace of the Bauhaus movement. It’s a 15 minute train ride from Erfurt and makes for an easy daytrip.

Eisenach. Besides being a pretty place with a well preserved Old Town, Eisenach is known for Wartburg Castle which sits on a hilltop outside of town (a 30 minute hike up the hill). It was the first German castle to be designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Eisenach is about 90 minutes by train from Erfurt.

Leipzig is a 40 minute train ride from Erfurt by ICE train and is the largest international airport in the proximity to Erfurt.

 

Related: Another very underrated German city (Regensburg)

 

Have you been to Erfurt? 

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Why Erfurt might be Germany’s most underrated tourist destination
Why Erfurt might be Germany’s most underrated tourist destination

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20 Comments

  1. I adore such small German cities. Probably, I would not mind to live in one of them until the end of my days, but all of them have one drawback: they have no sea.

    Nevertheless, I have read your post with enormous interest. I think I will ask Irina, my wife, to think about a couple of weeks in Erfurt. What month you recommend?

    1. Hi Victor – like many places in Central Europe it can be grey and gloomy in the Autumn and winter. My mother and I were in Germany for 2 weeks and honestly had 3 decent days (including 1 in Erfurt as you can see from the photos). Other than that it was rainy and quite cool. I think September is always a great month to travel in Europe, still warm and sunny but by then parents and their kids are back home at work/school.

      By the way, we’ll be in your favorite country Montenegro in January for about 10 days. Maybe a week in Kotor and a few days somewhere else (??) before taking the train from Bar to Belgrade. Any suggestions?

          1. Thanks Victor. Rats, full for our dates. I guess you’re not the only person who goes there in January. But looks nice.

  2. Yes, we’ve been to Erfurt! We went back in 2015 and unbeknownst to us, the Krämerbrückenfest was going on during our visit. The place was packed because of it. Did you happen to notice the statue of Bernd das Brot while you were there? He’s a grumpy loaf of bread on a children’s show based out of Erfurt. Apparently he is quite the cult figure. I have a photo of Mr. Tipples with him.

    1. AHH! So that is what that statue was. We were wondering. Yes, we saw a lot of people posing with him.
      Thanks for that Patricia.

  3. I’m bookmarking this for future travel, it looks lovely.

    Over the past couple of years we’ve been spending so much time exploring Portugal we’ve been a bit lapse in branching out. I’m half Portuguese, which may explain it, but I’m also half German. My father’s family immigrated from Germany. My maiden name is Schulz.

    We’ve spent time in Munich, Nuremberg, Berlin and Dresden. We enjoyed them all, each city offered something different. I’d like to spend more time in Germany and get to know the other half of my gene pool. Plus, the country just oozes with historical significance.

    p.s. Catching up on my reading. 😉

    1. I thought you HAD to have some German genes Patti. Do you speak any German?
      The only city that you mention where we haven’t been is Berlin. I guess I have just never been curious which is bad, I have a preconception of it as a grey city know mostly for museums. Convince me I’m wrong 🙂 But Lissette and I both love Germany and I’m sure we’ll be back sometime soon.

      1. No, sadly I don’t speak German nor do I speak Portuguese (which may have to be rectified in the next couple of years). Neither of my parents were raised with their respective languages so, of course, neither was I.

        I liked Berlin. I don’t think I’d go out of my way to visit again, but I’m glad we went. I think the most fascinating aspect of the city is the contrast of old and new and the depth of history. The Berlin Wall was very interesting to see. Some of the historical sites such as Checkpoint Charlie are complete tourist wastes, but there is much to see. It’s interesting to see one side of the city, i.e. cold sterile architecture which was behind the wall in contrast to life on the other side of the wall. If you’re a history buff, Berlin is well-worth visiting. There is a pretty river that runs through the city and there is lot of green space in the city, including a massive park. Public transportation is good and the city is also walkable. Some locals can be brusque, but you find them everywhere, right? English is widely spoken so we didn’t have an issues. Nearby Potsdam is fabulous and makes a lovely day trip. We spent 5 days and found it a good length of time to experience the highlights of the city. Have I convinced you?! 😉

        1. Ha! Yes. But even if you hadn’t I don’t think Lissette will give me the choice – she wants to go there someday.
          Thanks for all that Patti

  4. Agree about Erfurt. We were there in September and liked it. It has some of the best architecture of Germany’s small cities I believe, and was one of the least war damaged of German cities, bigger than other preserved cities like Bamberg and Heidelberg. Also, the Erfurt museum about the Stasi and East Germany located near the Domplatz is worth seeing. Also near Gotha, which has a nice palace and old town.

    1. You’re very right Robert. Love Bamberg and Heidelberg is nice (but I found very touristy). But you just don’t see foreign tourists in Erfurt which I think is pretty special. Good to know about the museum on the Stasi – I know the one in Leipzig is interesting but didn’t know Erfurt had one as well.
      Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  5. I have never heard of this city, it looks charming and has many interesting attractions. I can see why your mum would have considered it as a place to live. Frank, do you speak German at all?

    1. Hi Gilda. No I don’t. Both my parents are German-born but I was born in a small town in Quebec and my 1st language was French. Wish I did speak German…

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