Whether you're a fan of swimming and sauna or not - the Johannisbad is a *must* to visit in Zwickau. It is one of the most elaborately decorated baths I've ever seen, and it rivals those in Budapest and Vienna.
Initiated as a private bath with rehab treatments by director of the local hospital, Dr. Schlobig, the building was erected 1859-69 in Neo-Gothic/Romanesque style. An annex was built from 1890 on in similar architecture for the exterior with better options for treatments inside. The interior, however, was decorated in Art Nouveau style with oriental/moorish elements. It is mostly originally preserved but had to be restored carefully in the late 1990s as it was in bad condition. Since 2001 it is open to the public again.
I was allowed to take photos in the entrance and swimming area but not in the sauna area - understandably - which is the most beautiful (and has the most moorish-like decoration). Thus, go and see yourself!
Prices are in the range of a few Euros for just an hour to 9 Euro for three hours.
Another church worth to see, but in totally different style, is Lutherkirche in the district toward the main train station northwest of the old town. Architects were Schilling and Gräbner from Dresden, who ran one of the leading building firms in Saxony at the turn of the century. They are famous for their design of the Christuskirche in Dresden.
Lutherkirche in Zwickau is lesser known but equally stunning - the architecture overcomes the Historistic styles and is clearly "new", a work of Art Nouveau, planned from 1902 on and finished in 1906. First off, the building is asymmetrical with the steeple at the northwestern corner. The decoration of the exterior is done with high quality sandstone ornaments, often depicting animals or vegetables, also inscriptions again and again. Right above the main portal e.g. you see an excerpt of Martin Luther's sermon given from the balcony of Zwickau's town hall.
The interior is originally preserved. Altar, pulpit and font are works of art made of sandstone by the Dresden based sculptors Gustav Walther and Hans Hartmann-Maclean. The beautiful altar painting is a fine work of Fritz von Uhde.
The church is usually closed. However, there's a day care in the church side rooms, accessible from the southern entrance. I asked the guys there and they were friendly enough to let me in for a short visit.
This other nice Gothic church in the old town is also worth a visit. The problem you'll run into is that it is only open 10-12 h on Saturdays in summer - or you ask in the nearby vicarage if you can get the key. We were lucky as a lady prepared the church for a service in Advent time when we visited, so we could see the interior and had a nice chat with her.
St. Katharinen was built in the second half of the 15th century. The interior was redesigned a couple of times over the centuries, the latest one in the 19th century removed the Baroque interior, thus it appears in (Neo-)Gothic style nowadays - very bright and light. The most valuable piece in the church is the main altar, a work of the Cranach workshop from 1518 and a donation by the duke of Saxony. The different ceilings in the respective naves are remarkable also. The pulpit is a work of Paul Speck in early Renaissance style (1518).
The surroundings of the church are unfortunately not very inspiring nowadays. Large apartment blocks from the communist era dominate the scene. This was very different in past centuries when St. Katharinen was used as castle church for the neighbouring castle Osterstein. Still, it's worth the detour.
Anyone who knows a bit about classical music should know the name Robert Schumann. The composer was born in Zwickau June 8th 1810 in the house Hauptmarkt 5. He grew up in the city, attended school here until he graduated from the Lyzeum in 1828 and went to Leipzig and Heidelberg to study the law. Apparently not his choice but that of his mother and his legal guardian (his father died earlier). In 1831 he makes the decision to finally study music, a major influence was Friedrich Wieck who convinced Robert Schumann's mother to give in. Robert later married Wieck's daughter Clara.
The house where he was born dates back to 1450. However, in 1954/55 it had to be torn down because of its ruinous state. It was right away reconstructed using some of the original material and according to the old plans. Inside some changes were made for museum/exhibit/chamber music purposes. The new museum opened in 1956.
The collections are substantial. More than 4,000 original pieces are there in the house, most of them of course in the storage - but the exhibit is very nicely done. You can see a lot of original autographs, letters, scores, also Clara's piano, other furniture, portraits and so on. Highly recommended! From time to time events take place, such as chamber music concerts, a recital at noon etc.
Tue-Fri 10-17 h
Sat-Sun 13-17 h
Admission fee: 4 Euro
(Combined ticket with the other City Museums 8 Euro for two consecutive days)
Photo permission is outrageously expensive, sorry, thus no pictures of the interior.
The so called "Priesterhäuser" (Priests' houses) are the only four remaining (except the one Domhof 12) of originally twelve townhouses that once surrounded the Dom St. Mary. They are some of the oldest originally preserved townhouses in Germany - one of the logs of a ceiling in house No. 7 was dated 1264.
The houses themselves with their interior are the most exciting sight IMO. Fascinating, well preserved medieval ambience. Partially timber-framed walls, but also walls of stone. The permanent exhibit is about Zwickau's history, especially on 15th/16th centuries. The modern annex in the back hosts special exhibits from time to time.
One of the houses is now used for a microbrewery/beer pub. More on that one under "Nightlife."
Tue-Sun 13-18 h
Admission fee: 4 Euro (combination ticket for all City Museums and Robert Schumann museum: 8 Euro, valid two consecutive days)
The Gewandhaus, also at Hauptmarkt square and right next to the town hall, is the former guild hall of the clothiers. It is a very beautiful late Gothic/early Renaissance building, the gable dominating the square and being a landmark of Zwickau.
It was built 1522-25 by a local builder but designed by famous architect Jakob Heilmann. The former Gothic ridge turret was replaced by one in Baroque style in 1745.
From 1855 on the building serves as theatre. 1952/53 the interior was reconstructed in contemporary style - the lobby upstairs and auditorium are modern, no remainders of the old architecture inside. Only the entrance hall (where the ticket office is) is originally preserved. I saw a performance there (THREEPENNY OPERA) and enjoyed it very much. More in the Nightlife Tips.
Please note the pattern of the decoration of the gable in picture #2: Travelling journeymen who went on a tour after their job training and came to Zwickau had to know this sign. It depicts glasses or (parts of) clippers, guild signs of the clothiers guild. If a journeyman didn't know this, then he couldn't prove he's been to Zwickau.
Zwickau's town hall has been reconstructed a number of times over the centuries. The oldest parts go back to 1404. Wolf Caspar von Klengel (Dresden's court architect) redesigned it in 1679, another architect did the same in 1839 and the most recent works were just finished when I visited the last time - 2011.
The main facade to the Hauptmarkt square is Neo-Gothic style from 1866/67. Note the coat-of-arms of the city above the main entrance. The ground floor is now occupied by shops and a stylish cafe. Don't hesitate to walk upstairs. See the stained-glass windows in the stairwell, created by Heinz Lanzendorf from neighbouring Werdau in 1962. They depict scenes from Zwickau's history.
The most remarkable room in the town hall is the St. Jacob chapel built 1473 by Arnold von Westfalen (Meißen, Albrechtsburg!). It was used for holy mass by the city council until 1527, now it is meeting room. The beautiful Renaissance portal is by Paul Speck (pulpit in the Dom also) from 1538. The frescos are from 1614. Ask at the info desk for the key; the ladies will give you a tour.
The outstanding building in Zwickau and sight No. 1 is the so called Dom (cathedral) St. Mary which has never been the seat of a bishop, thus it is "only" the main parish church of Zwickau. A first church was built at this place around 1180, most of the current church was erected 1453-1565; especially the lower part of the tower is older. Quite interesting is the shape of the upper part of the tower: In 1671 a master builder from the neighbouring city Plauen who had designed the tower of St. Katharinen in Hamburg used that same design again to reconstruct the tower of St. Mary, thus Zwickau and Hamburg have church towers of the same shape.
St. Mary is one of the beautiful late Gothic hall churches that are spread all over Saxony and it is one of their finest examples. The interior is very beautiful also. Highlights are the woodcarved altar by Michael Wolgemut from Nürnberg (1479), the pieta by Peter Breuer (1502) and the Holy Sepulchre (1507) which is unfortunately not visible as it is located high up on a side balcony. Pulpit and baptismal font are also very beautiful and were crafted by local Paul Speck 1536 - 38.
The side chapels are burial places for the nobles of the city. Most impressive is Carl von Bose's burial chapel (1637) with a beautiful sarkophag, epitaph and sculptures.
The church is open during the daytime. Entrance fee is 1 Euro, taking photos is free. Access to the tower only with a guided tour (infrequent).
St Mary’s Church in Zwickau is commonly known as the Cathedral of Zwickau. The church is located right at the town centre, surrounded by interesting historic buildings like, for example, the so called “priests’ houses”. These are assumed to be among the oldest residential buildings of Eastern Germany.
St. Mary’s church is the most important sacred building of Zwickau and thus one of the city’s landmarks. It was built around 1180 in Romanesque type of building coverage. Between 1453 and 1563 foundational modifications were performed. The original church was converted into a Gothic style hall church. In contrast to a traditional basilica, which lets in light through a clerestory in the upper part of the nave, a hall church is lit through windowed side walls typically spanning the full height of the interior. In 1672 the impressive bell tower was reconstructed after the original belfry was destroyed by stroke of lightning. St. Mary’s church was once again restored in late 19th century and then again between 1951 – 1956 to repair war damages.
The cathedral houses many important art treasures like medieval statues of prophets and apostles. The most important work of art is a Pietà created by Peter Breuers in 1502.
Inside the church you can also see a laser plummet which controls the position of the church. The reason for this specific action is the fact that during the past 2 centuries the structure sank more than 3 meters!! This subsidence was caused by underground mining. Meanwhile the old mining galleries have been flooded and thus the effect has been reversed: the cathedral is currently rising back to the original level.
Unfortunately I have not been able to spend much time inside the cathedral as I arrived too late in the evening and there was an old lady just about to close the church. But when she heard that I came all the way from Koblenz she allowed me to have a quick glance. She said I could take a few photos inside if, in return, I would blow out all the candles inside the church for her. : )
The renaissance castle-palace on the banks of the Mulde has seen a changeful history. The medieval town-castle of the Margraves, later Electors of Saxony burnt down in the city fire of 1403. A new castle was built soon after, which was then redesigned in renaissance style in 1587-1590.
In the 18th century it was turned into a state prison. The prison stayed in use until after World War II. Among its prominent inmates were Karls May and August Bebel.
In 1962 the prison was closed. Parts of the building were used as storage for industrial purposes for a while but then decay set in.
The palace was more or less in ruins when, finally, restoration works started in 2006. In the meantime (December 2009) the main building has been perfectly restored, one side wing is still awaiting repair. The palace has been turned into a modern old people's home, or better residence. In November 2008 the first residents have moved in. Future plans include gastronomy and a museum.
Dünnebierhaus translates to "thin beer house" - LOL, there is (was) a restaurant in it but I have no idea of the kind of beer they serve.
The late medieval house is remarkable not only for its funny name, probably the surname of a former owner, but also for its gothic architecture with curtail windows and a stepped brick gable towards Katharinenstraße. It was built around 1480.
Only small bits of the city's old fortifications still exist. A piece of the town wall with one tower, Pulverturm, is preserved on the bank of Mulde river.
The impression is, however, somehow disturbed by the huge apartment house next to it. Compared to an 11-storey DDR Plattenbau the tower looks tiny tiny. A scary example of socialist city planning.
Apart from the Dom there is a second late gothic church in the old town, Katharinenkirche (Church of St Catherine). It was founded around 1200 but had to be rebuilt in the 14th century after the big fire of 1328. It is much smaller than the Dom but its architecture is as interesting.
Unfortunately this church has no regular opening hours. Due to a lucky coincidence we were able to get in and see it.
The church's treasure is the early 16th century altar, a product of the Cranach workshop in Wittenberg.
This big mural on a modern house in Katharinenstraße shows what the street view used to look like a century ago. Old Zwickau is a victim of Socialist city planning, as this street view shows. Dünnebierhaus and the church of St Catherine still exist, all the rest is gone and has been substituted by Plattenbauten in DDR times.
The river bank of the Mulde is currently a big construction site. The main street along the river has been transferred into a tunnel. The dam on top of the tunnel is being turned into a leisure park which is going to be named Mulde-Paradies - they don't say when it is supposed to be completed. If you visit in 2011 or 2012 you may be able to enjoy it.
The park is going to have foot and bike paths, meadows to relax, a public bath in the river, several playgrounds, flower gardens etc.