Often overlooked for the big cities like Berlin or Hamburg, Central Germany boasts a diverse landscape, rich history, and modern flair, making it a prime destination for travelers seeking an authentic German experience. The heart of Germany, in the rough area formerly known as Upper Saxony, offers a plethora of cool attractions and interesting destinations that will make you want to come back for more.
So, wander off the beaten path and explore the very best of Central Germany. Delve into its cultural richness, engage with the locals, and indulge in the region’s distinct culinary delights. Central Germany awaits you, with endless opportunities to create lasting memories!
What We Cover
Underrated Places to Visit in Central Germany
|Culture & Art
|Hainich National Park
As you wander through the city, you’ll notice its range of architectural styles, from medieval to Baroquem and the Victorian-era Sachsenbrücke Bridge. It’s not lacking jaw-dropping modern architecture, either.
Art lovers will be delighted by the numerous art galleries scattered throughout Leipzig. The city’s centuries-long art scene ensures a memorable visit to the Grassimuseum or the Kunstkraftwerk.
Bringing the kids? Check out Leipzig Zoo, home to around 850 species of animals from all over the world.
One of Leipzig’s most iconic landmarks is the beautiful Old Town Hall from 1556, located at the Markt. While at the Markt, you’ll be surrounded by other historic sites and architecture, including some charming cafés, making it a perfect place to take a pause.
See Related: Day Trips from Leipzig, Germany | Single Day Trips
Bayreuth is another scenic town in Eastern-Central Germany in the Federal State of Bavaria. It sits on the banks of the Red Main River. The town is often called Little Venice, thanks to its riverfront promenade that’s lined with green parks and opportunities for boat tours.
In addition to its stunning architectural splendor, Bayreuth is a cultural hotspot. Among many other museums and galleries, Bayreuth is notably home to the Wagner Museum, commemorating the life and work of Richard Wagner, the well-known German composer, theatre director, and problematic polemicist.
Let’s hang around East-Central Germany. Chemnitz, in Saxony, is a prominent, historic manufacturing city. It’s particularly known for its textile industry.
Like a lot of industrial centers in Germany, the city witnessed severe Allied and Soviet bombing during World War II. Around 40% of Chemnitz was destroyed during the war. There’s a lot to be learned here, and you can take a guided industrial tour of the city to learn more about this intriguing history.
Art fans can head to Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz Museum. This award-winning museum exhibits a host of European art from the 19th century. The city’s restaurant scene is also worth investigating.
Other prominent places to visit in Chemnitz include the Jakobikirche church and Rabenstein Castle, famous for being the smallest castle in Saxony. You can even spend the night there, as it’s now a charming castle hotel!
Weimar is the capital of the Weimar district and part of the region of Thuringia. It is considered by many the epicenter of classical literature in Germany.
Once home to the ill-fated Weimar government after World War I, the city has been home to great artists and men of letters. Some notable residents included Bach, Cranach, Goethe, and Luther.
Weimar is also the birthplace of the modern Bauhaus movement. UNESCO authorized “Classical Weimar” (bits of town deemed culturally significant) as a World Heritage Site in 1998.
There is a dizzying list of points of interest in Weimar. Consider booking a tour of this historic town to see the best of it if you’re pressed for time.
Top attractions include the Goethe House (aka the Goethe National Museum), the elegant Dower Palace (aka Wittumspalais), the Herderkirche church, the Schiller residence, the Bauhaus Museum, and Weimar City Palace (aka Schloss Weimar). My personal favorite, the Duchess Anna Amalia Library, is like something out of a Disney movie.
There are several excellent accommodations to stay in Weimar. Some 4-star properties near the city center include Hotel Hollerbusch, Leonardo Hotel Weimar, and Hotel Schillerhof Weimar. The city center lies just a few miles west of the Elbe River near the flatlands on its north bank.
For those interested in World War II history and honoring the victims of the Holocaust, visit Gedenkstätte Buchenwald. The memorial site pays tribute to the victims of the former Buchenwald concentration camp and offers a poignant reminder of the city’s recent past.
5. Halle (Saale)
Halle (Saale), named so as not to be confused with Halle (Westfalen), is the largest city in the state of Saxony-Anhalt in East-Central Germany. It is the birthplace of Georg Friedrich Händel, the celebrated German-British Baroque composer born in 1685.
Handel is one of music’s most famous names. He was known for his operas, oratorios, and instrumental compositions. His birthplace has been preserved at Handel House Museum (aka Händel-Haus). Music fans can also stop by the Wilhelm Friedemann Bach house, once home to the composer and son of Johan Sebastian Bach, also now a museum!
To see a really interesting Gothic church in Central Germany, visit Marktkirche Church (aka the Market Church of Saint Mary). This church is pretty unique as it incorporates elements from two churches built there in the 11th and 12th centuries.
For even older attractions, pay a visit to Giebichenstein Castle, which commands amazing views of the town and the Saale. Standing since at least the 10th century, this ancient castle now houses a museum and the Burg Giebichenstein University of Art and Design.
If you are a shopaholic, Leipziger Strabe Street won’t disappoint you. This shopping street is situated in downtown Halle.
You will find several retail shops and fast food restaurants on the street. When visiting the sights in this beautiful city, do not forget to add Halloren Chocolate Factory to your wishlist.
If you’re pressed for time, you can make your trip to Halle more interesting by joining the self-guided outdoor tour. Halle has several guest houses, hostels, and hotels to choose from. If you want to stay near the city center, book a room and the quintessentially East German hotel Dorint Charlottenhof.
See Related: Places to Visit in Southern Germany
Erfurt, the capital of Thuringia, is fairytale city known for its well-preserved medieval old town, rich history, and culture. As you stroll through the picturesque Altstadt, don’t miss the Krämerbrücke, a wonderful merchant bridge lined with half-timbered houses and small shops.
The Krämerbrücke alone is worth visiting Erfurt for, especially during the Christmas market. You can also find some of the best chocolate in the country here!
While in Erfurt, you’ll also discover a connection to Martin Luther, the great reformer who studied and preached here. Dive into the city’s religious history by visiting St. Augustine’s benedictine monastery and the Michaelskirche, an important site for the Reformation.
Be sure to make time for the exceptional Erfurt Cathedral, also known as St. Mary’s Cathedral. Founded in 742 AD, this stunning Roman Catholic structure showcases an impressive High Gothic choir, tall stained glass windows, and towering spires that seem to scrape the clouds.
As you continue to explore the city, check out Zitadelle Petersberg, a historic citadel situated atop a hill, offering panoramic views of Erfurt and a glimpse into the city’s military past. Erfurt is also well situated for day trips to nearby hotspots.
With UNESCO World Heritage sites and landmarks such as the Wartburg Castle in Eisenach, the Gedenkstätte Buchenwald and Weimar less than an hour away, you’re spoiled for choice. You’re also right next door to Egapark, one of the largest leisure parks in Germany.
Egapark features Europe’s most extensive ornamental flowerbed and a variety of themed gardens. Speaking of great parks…
7. Hainich National Park
The last treasure on this list is Hainich National Park, also in Thuringia. By now, you’ll have noticed that Central Germany is home to some exquisite countryside, and this, perhaps the most central part of Central Germany, might just take the cake.
This vast World Heritage site, thick with forests, is the perfect place to visit if you seek a spot of green and a lungful of fresh air. Here, you can immerse yourself in a stunning, continuous beech forest, home to over 170 species of birds and other wildlife, including wildcats!
And while it is huge, it’s pretty easy to explore, not least thanks to the epic canopy walk and the park’s various hiking trails. So consider venturing along the trails that weave through the trees, or striding through the canopy to get some incredible photos from a unique perspective.