Castle Stein is one of the many castles in the surroundings of Zwickau that are worth a visit. Its setting alone, on a rock above the Mulde river in a lovely valley, surrounded by vast forests, makes it worthwile to see. A train stop (22 minutes from Zwickau, stop "Hartenstein", hourly trains) is a minute away, so getting there is easy.
The castle was first mentioned in 1233. Since 1406 it was mostly owned by the Counts Schönburg, until it was confiscated by the communists in 1945. In 1996 Prince Alfred und Princess Marie Therese von Schönburg-Hartenstein bought the property back - including the vast forests around it. Foresting is the economic basis again since then. The upper part of the castle, built in the 13th century and not much modified since then, is a museum which you can see with a guided tour. The architecture is pretty interesting, late-Romanesque to late-Gothic, but not very ornate. One of the highlights is the wooden spiral staircase from the end of the 14th century. Quite interesting small exhibits with arms, art pieces.
Tue - Thu, Sat/Sun 10/11/13/14/15/16 h, in Nov, Feb, March last guided tour at 15 h, closed in Dec/Jan. Entrance fee is 3 Euro, photo permit 2.50 Euro
The lower part of the castle was built in the Renaissance but reconstructed after a fire 1762. It was restored beautifully and is not accessible except for concerts and other events as the family lives there a couple of months every year.
- Museum Visits
- Family Travel
Schloss Planitz with churches, park, cemetery
The Baroque Schloss Planitz was built under Johann Georg von Arnim about 1719 after the previous building had been destroyed by the Swedish troops in 1640 (30years war). The Arnim family owned it until 1923 when the town administration of Zwickau bought it.
The four-wing structure has a beautiful, quite ornate facade with sculptured coats-of-arms above the portals, pilasters etc. Inside fine stucco works are preserved as well as a festive main hall - nowadays the Schloss is used as High School, thus not accessible inside for visitors.
However, the reason to visit is the whole ensemble with the church that is connected to the Schloss, the beautifully landscaped cemetery, the park that belongs to the Schloss and last but not least the 19th century church.
The small church right by the Schloss was built 1585-88 using the older structures. It was beautifully restored recently. Quite unusual in its shape is the patronage box (see picture, right side) which is enclosed by a sandstone balustrade and a wood/glass structure from the 18th century on top of a chapel-like room that opens to the nave with two semicircular arches. The ceiling of the nave has 13 pictures depicting scenes of both the Old and New Testament. Remarkable is also the altar that includes an epitaph, created 1592 by Samuel Lorentz from Freiberg in Renaissance style. Pulpit and font are from same time, both beautiful works, too. The patronage box is connected to the upper floor of the Schloss by a covered walk. Below a very nice wrought-iron gate.
The neighbouring Lukas church was built by Gotthilf Ludwig Möckel 1873-76 as parish church for the small town Planitz. The tall spire is a landmark in the region. The architecture is Neo-Gothic, the interior originally preserved from the construction era. The organ is a work of E. F. Walcker (Ludwigsburg). The church was undergoing restoration works when I visited.
The park was designed by Eduard Petzold (ca. 1870), a co-worker of Fürst von Pückler-Muskau, who enlarged the so far Baroque style garden and created viewpoints of the surrounding landscape - nowadays unfortunately mostly overbuilt by single family homes in the neighbourhood. Centre of the park is the teahouse, a small chinoise rococo building from 1789 which is in desparate need of restoration. Beautiful trees and rhododendrons!
Finally there is the cemetery of the town, more like another park. It is beautifully designed, provides shade on hot summer days where it is quite enjoyable to walk and have look at the more or less ornate graves, the blooming rhododendron and flowers.
Bus No. 16 to stop "Strandbad", from there a short walk up the hill. Or ride a bike, like I did.
This wooden bridge crossing the Mulde river was built 1790, replacing an older one that was destroyed by a flood. It's for walkers and bikers only.
The special thing is that since a 1535 wooden pipeline that was integrated in the bridge provided water for the city, originating in nearby Reinsberg. A document in the city archive tells us that as early as 1350 four of those pipelines and wooden bridges guaranteed that the citizens of Zwickau always had enough drinking water. This one is the only one left, though. The pipelines ended at squares in the city, such as the main square, the Kornmarkt square and near the Dom St. Mary.
- Historical Travel
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.
- Family Travel
An outstanding example of Art Nouveau is also the concert hall and ballroom "Neue Welt" that was built 1902/03 by architect Emil Rascher. The exterior is rather little exciting, but the interior makes up for it. Once you made it through the modern entrance/lobby (annex building) you enter the large hall with two balconies (terraces) on three sides, the stage on the fourth side. The ornaments are almost overwhelming: caryatids carry the ceiling which is decorated with elegant stucco. The huge, beautiful chandelier dominates the hall. Stucco works all over have mostly floral motifs, often roses. Mirrors, more lamps, ornamental friezes, balustrades complete the decoration.
The hall has a capacity of up to 2000 people (concerts). The regional symphony orchestra performs here as well as orchestras from all over Germany, but it is also home for gala events/balls. I was fortunate enough to attend a symphony concert in the Neue Welt (see Nightlife tip).
August Horch museum
Did you know Zwickau has a long tradition in automobile production? That Audi's birthplace was in Zwickau? Quite a surprise, right?
August Horch, a co-worker of Carl Benz, left the Benz company in 1899. He started manufacturing "Horch" cars (with little success) in 1900, finally moved the firm to Zwickau in 1904. The cars became famous for being reliable, proved in several rallyes (especially in the mountains), the firm grew. However, August Horch fought with the shareholders and finally left the firm in 1909 - only to establish another car manufacturing firm named "Audi" which is the Latin tanslation of "Horch".
Since then cars have been produced in Zwickau. After WWII, in the communist era, the Trabant was developed and some million cars of that type left the plant. With the fall of the wall Volkswagen bought the plant, also built another one a few km north of Zwickau (Mosel). They manufacture VW Golf, Passat, the auto body of Bentley and Phaeton and much more there.
The museum was opened in 2004 in the halls of the first Audi plant, thus it's the only one in Germany that actually is right where car manufacturing once happened. Since 2005 you can also visit the former offices of August Horch.
The exhibit is really large, calculate one or two hours minimum. If you're a big fan calculate much more. They have a permanent exhibit with many old and modern cars, covering mostly automobile history in Zwickau, but also in Germany in general. They also have temporary exhibits - when I visited it was about on the 125th anniversary of automobiles.
Opening hours: Tue - Sun 9.30 - 17.00 h
Entrance fee: 5 Euro
Photo permit: 2.50
- Family Travel
- Museum Visits
- Road Trip
Zwickau is a city with several parks. The oldest and largest of them is the so called Schwanenteichpark (Swan lake park). The first park at this place had five ponds and was created 1473. In the middle of the 19th century the park with the lake in the centre was designed by landscaping architect Carl Eduard Petzold. Swans found their home on the lake in 1850, giving the park their name. The design is in English style - large meadows alternate with trees, shrubs and rhododendren, offering beautiful views, especially with the lake.
The park has a small zoo with goats and birds, playgrounds for the kids, is frequented by fishermen, there's an open air stage/concert place. You can rent rowing boats and pedalo boats in the shape of a swan as well as a solar boat for little fee from May to end of August.
- Family Travel
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
Kornmarkt square and "Schiffchen"
One of the most picturesque scenes in Zwickau is to find at Kornmarkt square. While the western and southern sides of the square are (re)built in modern style the other townhouses are really old.
Most unusual style has the townhouse "Schiffchen", named after the emblem on the facade that shows an anchor. The ground plan of the house follows exactly the bordering alleys so that the front side is very narrow and tall. The house was built end of the 15th century and shows elements of late Gothic and Renaissance architecture. Particularly interesting are the windows at the right side (Münzgasse).
Very interesting is also the fountain on the square. A large water wheel and five corn bags - all of French granite - remind of a mill that had been there in the past. The fountain was created by Wolfgang Jacob from Gundelfingen in 1998.
Schloss Osterstein, together with the neighbouring corn storehouse, forms a remarkable ensemble from the Renaissance era. It was built as a castle for the dukes of Saxony 1587-90. Three wings form a courtyard but leave the eastern side to the river open. Picturesque Renaissance gables, two towers with stairwells in the courtyard plus a tower with the main gate on the southern side add to the charm of the building. From 1773 until 1963 it served as prison. Thus the neighbouring church for the prisoners was built 1819, torn down and rebuilt larger in 1889.
On an earlier visit I saw the castle in decay (pic 4). I was VERY happy to see it beautifully restored on my recent visits. It is now a seniors residence. Occasionally they have events in the courtyard (like a summer fest, Night of the castles in the region or a historic Christmas market) or concerts in a Renaissance hall, so you might be lucky to get in.
Pic 3 shows the corn warehouse from 1480/81 - one of the oldest preserved in Germany, thus of some importance - in poor condition. I am glad to be able to report the state has provided funds for reconstruction in the next years. The roof is planned to be finished next year.
- Castles and Palaces
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.
- Religious Travel
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.
- Religious Travel
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).
- Religious Travel
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 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.
- Historical Travel
- Theater Travel
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)
- Beer Tasting
- Museum Visits
- Book now for big savings!
- Hotels.com Outstanding choice of hotels all over the world at fantastic prices.
- Save money, Book now!
- Booking.com Excellent choice, Low rates