The so called "Bergbausteig" (mining path) takes you on a walk along the sites of former mining. As I was there in winter and the snow was about 2 ft. high it was quite exhausting to follow this path - I only managed a few of the 20 stations, then gave up.
They have signboards at every station telling about the history of the site - in German only, unfortunately. Along the way you'll pass some preserved buildings related to the mining, the two "Pingen" (large holes that were formed when mines collapsed), entrances to some mine shafts but also the church, which is station No. 8 - and the easiest point to catch the path.
This beautiful small Baroque church with an octagon base (a specialty) and tent-like roof was built 1776-79, commissioned by the local miners' association and the Schönberg family (patrons). With its special shape it has become one of the most famous motifs of the wooden items manufactured in Seiffen and sold all over the world.
The interior is quite simple but beautiful. The room is dominated by the altar with pulpit on the eastern side and the organ at the opposite side. Two storeys of balconies seem to make the room even smaller, more intimate. To both sides of the altar are simple patronage boxes with glass windows for both patrons: the miners' association and the Schönberg family.
Don't let the late-gothic looking woodcarved crucifixus fool you: It was created in the late 17th century, still in the older style. More valuable are the small crucifixus made of tin from 1688 and the chandelier right in front of the altar from 1670, manufactured in the nearby Heidelbach glass factory that served as model for the three other chandeliers in the 19th/20th century.
Definitely try to join a guided tour, in Advent season usually every hour and often with the cantor playing the historic organ from 1873.
The little yellow church of Seiffen has become famous as a model for Erzgebirge woodcarvings. It comes in all sizes and varieties, in pyramids, on chandeliers and Schwibbögen, illuminated with a lightbulb inside, as miniature etc. But here is the original:
The octogonal church was completed in 1779, it shows the typical late baroque style of village churches in Saxony. Pulpit and altar are combined on the southern side. Galleries are placed along all other sides. The architect Christian Reuther learned his business from George Bähr, the architect of Dresden's Frauenkirche.
The glass candelabrum in the middle is also a local product. Glass making is another craft the Ore Mountains are known for.
The church is open in the daytime. Short guided tours (in German - not sure if also in English or other languages) are offered upon request resp. when a number of people has assembled, they are free but a donation for the church is welcome.
The best view of the church is from the opposite side of the valley in the morning, from the cemetery behind the church in the afternoon.
Do you want to see the finest examples of Ore Mountains woodarvings, and find out how these were made? Visit the museum in Seiffen. The museum presents the history and technique of woodcarved toys and traditional decorations and how the craft developed since the 19th century.
One of the biggest attractions is the 6 metres high indoor pyramid (not driven by candles but electricity). Other attractions are tiny tiny - Seiffen's miniature toys that fit into a matchbox. Big and small kids will enjoy the exhibition.
All further details about opening hours, temporary exhibitions, events etc. on the museum website
In Hauptstraße opposite the Toy Museum, a local company have opened their workshops to visitory. For a small entrance fee (1.80 €) you can watch wood turners, carvers and painters at work. The ground floor has the lathes and other machinery where the wood is formed. On the second floor carvers work and the pieces are assembled. The third floor hosts the painters. You can ask the workers about what they are doing and they will explain their work. This is, of course, a well tidied up workshop with some presentations but it is interesting to see how things are actually made.
There is a second Schauwerkstatt on the northern edge of the village in Bahnhofstraße. I did not get to see that one because they were just having lunch break - that lunch break is not announced anywhere, neither at the door nor in guidebooks or websites. The ladies at the cash desk told me in a rather rude way that the workshops are closed at lunchtime. So I decided not to return but see the other one.
Like most places in the Ore Mountains, as the name indicates, Seiffen's business used to be mining. When the mines were exploited in the 18th and 19th century, mining activities ceased and the former miners had to find new ways to make a living - many turned to woodcarving and toy-making. Mining has left some marks in the landscape, though. Close to the church you see an artificial hill which is a mining waste tip. A market trail leads around it. The local name for these stockpiles is Binge. There are two of them within the boundaries of the village.
Practical Hint: At the foot of the Binge, at the beginning of the trail, there is a building with the romantic name of Bingeblick (Binge view). This little house contains free public toilets.
To find it, follow the street past the church and further uphill past the cemetery and a few houses, then left - follow the signs saying "Öffentliche Toiletten" (public toilets).
There are some 150 woodcarving workshops in Seiffen alone, and many more in the surrounding towns and villages. Every second house in the main street, or so it seems, and also some in the back streets contain shops that sell Erzgebirge woodcarvings all year round. Christmas decorations are the main focus but several have found another niche in making Easter decorations with bunnies and flowers, too.
Some shops belong to local producers and sell only their own workshop's products. Others have things from several workshops, some big workshops are almost factories with 100 or 200 workers, and some shops even sell mainstream stuff that was not even made in the Ore Mountains. After seeing a few shops you will quickly notice the difference and be able to recognize authentic handicraft. However, be aware that handmade quality has its price.
Checking out several shops is recommended, as well as comparing prices and not limiting yourselves to the very centre of the village where most tourists are around.
The photos show a totally random selection of shops, these are not meant as special recommendations but simply as examples.
In this "Schauwerkstatt" you can see how all those Christmas tree figures are produced. A guide shows you the several steps of the production of e.g a nutcracker or a little wooden elephant. In the shelves you see hundreds of half-finished figures waiting to be painted or composed. The air smells of freshly cut wood - a smell I love!
In the same building there is also a shop which sells some 2000 different items ranging from a tiny Christmas tree figure to a 1,20m high wooden pyramid. These are, as far as I know, unique to Germany and originate in the Ore Mountains, the area where Seiffen is situated.
Some words about the history of handicraft production in the Ore Mountains: In order to earn money after the mining era ended (18th century), people started producing these figures. Soon, the area became quite famous for that and has not lost its fame until now. All over the world, people order Christmas figures or wooden toys from Seiffen or the little towns around (see website below)
I'm sure that with all the mountains around sledging is wonderful in Seiffen in winter. But what if it is summer while you're there? No problem: Take a ride downhill at the "Sommerrodelbahn Seiffen". Just like in Augustusburg, this ride is a hell lot of fun. The complete track is more than 730 meters long, has nine bends and is partly quite steep. At one place there is a little hump on the track which is said to enable you to jump up to 1,50m! Though I pressed the pedal to the metal, so to speak, I didn't manage to jump...
Prices are 2 Euro for adults and 1,50 Euro for children. Open daily from 11am to 6pm. On Fridays in summertime, night sledging is possible.