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Erfurt Sightseeing

From: Erfurt, Germany


ABOVE: The Mariendom (left) and the St. Severus Church are 70 steps up a hillside overlooking the Domplatz or cathedral square.

Things to see in Erfurt

Erfurt is a treasure trove for sightseers. The tourist office's free English-language booklet, Erfurt Sightseeing: Historical Sightseeing Tour of the City, lists 30 places of interest in the historic center and 17 local excursions.

A good place to start your sightseeing is the Domplatz, or cathedral square, which is also the site of Erfurt's main Christmas Market. Above the Domplatz are the Cathedral of St. Mary (Mariendom) and the St. Severus Church, which are reached by climbing a flight of steps from the 14th Century. Not far from the cathedral hill is the Petersberg citadel, which is said to be "the only extensively preserved Baroque city fortress in Central Europe." (Ask the tourist office about a Torchlight Tour of the citadel's casemates and underground passages.)

Other churches of interest include the Kaufmannskirche (inset photo, with Lutherdenkmal), which is probably the city's oldest church.  The Michaeliskirche was built in 1183 and later served as the official church of Erfurt University (most of which was destroyed by Allied bombing in 1945).

The ruined Barfüsskirche has been converted into a medieval art museum, and the ägidienkirche at the entrance of the Krämerbrücke by Wenigeplatz claims to be the "oldest Methodist church in the world." (It was built in the early 1300s, nearly four centuries before John Wesley's birth.) For a modest fee, you can climb a wooden staircase to the church's tower and enjoy an aerial view of the city.

Side view of KraemerbrueckeThe Krämerbrücke, or Merchant's Bridge, is an Erfurt landmark. The sandstone bridge is 120 meters or nearly 400 feet long, with 32 houses (many containing shops on the ground floor) on both sides of its cobblestoned pedestrian street. The bridge, which was built in 1325 and widened in the late 1400s, is said to be the only inhabited European bridge north of the Alps.

You'll find medieval and Renaissance houses throughout the city center, including some that have been put to other uses. The Stadtmuseum or local history museum occupies Zum Stockfisch, a magnificently decorated house from 1607 that was once occupied by a rich woad merchant. The Fischmarkt, site of the neo-Gothic town hall, is lined with beautiful Renaissance houses from the 1600s. If you walk in the riverside park below the Krämerbrücke, you'll get a nice rear view of half-timbered medieval houses that line the bridge.

If you're a Protestant pilgrim, look for Haus zum Schwarzen Horn (Black Horn House) in the Michaelisstraβe. Luther's first hymnal was published here, as were many of his religious pamphlets.

The Anger Square is also worth a visit, both for its historic buildings and its role as the shopping center of downtown Erfurt. (The Angermuseum, the city's art museum, occupies a yellow Baroque building on the square.) If you notice a shoe store, go inside and look for the stairs that lead to the basement, where you'll find shoes on display in a restored ancient cellar.

The Erfurt tourist office has guided walking tours throughout the year, mostly in German but with a few in English.

You can also arrange for a private English-speaking guide through the tourist office. I spent a day and a half exploring the city with Hans-Peter Ahr, a retired teacher who was fluent in English and seemed to know everyone in town (including the Oberbürgermeister or Lord Mayor, to whom I was introduced as a visiting American when he stopped his car to say hello outside the Rathaus.) Herr Ahr's wife is also an English-language guide and a former schoolteacher. To make arrangements for a group or private tour, visit the Tourist Information office on Benediktsplatz or use the e-mail link on its Web site.

Next page: Erfurt hotels, accommodations

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Photos: Thüringen Tourismus GmbH / Toma Babovic.

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