A small town in central Germany, Weimar is known far beyond the borders of Thuringia for being the birthplace of German classicism where Goethe, Schiller, Herder and Wieland spent significant parts of their lives. Their residences along with several castles have been made a UNESCO world heritage site. But that’s not all there is to the 1999 cultural capital of Europe! Then Federal President Roman Herzog called it “Germany in a nutshell”, for Weimar is also the site of Buchenwald concentration camp and an important location for the Bauhaus movement.
Things to see and do
The town is famous for a mesmerising array of castles, all part of the Classical Weimar UNESCO World Heritage site. There’s Weimar city castle with its gorgeous classical interiors, the ducal pleasure-house Ettersburg, Baroque Schloss Tiefurt and the Dowager’s Palace. The highlight is the Baroque Belvedere Castle with its connecting U-shaped orangery houses, 18th century art and porcelain collections.
One of the greatest minds of German literature, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe lived in Weimar for 50 years, until his death in 1832. His former home is in a prime location on Frauenplan Square and can be visited. 18 rooms show how the poet used to live, featuring not only his original furniture, but also numerous objects from Goethe’s private collection, such as drawings, paintings and sculptures. Goethe’s study with the adjoining library marks one of the highlights of the tour.
Just a short walk from the Goethe Residence was Friedrich Schiller’s house. Their proximity echoes a rather productive friendship between the two poets. Schiller’s house displays his properties combined with contemporary decorations, so you can catch a glimpse of the way Schiller used to live and work.
The Herder sites
The theologian and philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder is another of the city’s historic VIPs. In fact, the three-aisle town church St Peter und Paul, where he is buried, is named after him. Herder House, where he used to live, is a sixteenth-century home built on the foundation of a Renaissance structure, which can be visited. The Old High School, a Baroque high school where he worked as headmaster and director, is another sight associated with him.
Deutsches Nationaltheater and Staatskapelle Weimar
The German National Theatre and symphony orchestra are twin institutions which call the neoclassical building right on Theaterplatz home. The imposing structure has been the site of important political events, such as the foundation of the Weimar Republic. Some of the best German classical musicians have worked here, including Johann Sebastian Bach, Franz Liszt and Richard Strauss. Friends of the stage have a wide choice of opera, musicals, plays and concerts ranging from classical to contemporary works at this German theatre institution.
Historical Cemetery and Ducal Vault
The headstones on the Historical Cemetery read a bit like a Who-is-Who of Classical Weimar, but the site making it one of the most visited cemeteries in Germany is its Ducal Vault. This burial chapel of the Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach family contains the coffins of Friedrich Schiller and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and is part of the Classical Weimar World Heritage Site.
Located right next to Weimar, the former Buchenwald concentration camp has been turned into the Buchenwald Memorial site to commemorate the camp’s history during the Holocaust. Today, the various buildings and outdoor areas as well as the exhibitions are open to the public.
Bauhaus in Weimar
Weimar is also among the locations of the Bauhaus movement, which will be celebrating the centenary of its foundation in 2019. The Bauhaus-Universität Weimar is specialised in artistic and technical fields. Established in 1860, it was shaped decisively during the Bauhaus era by its then director Walter Gropius. The new Bauhaus Museum is set to open on 5 April 2019.