The former imperial stronghold and residence of the House of Wettin looks back on a lively history of more than a thousand years. The past lives on, and the imposing Residence Castle and the lovingly restored historic center continue to enchant visitors. The valuable art collections held by the renowned Lindenau Museum is unique. Visitors exploring the residence city stroll through lush green landscape parks, picturesque market squares and romantic alleys, passing by the magnificent bourgeois houses that fringe the historic center.
Perched on a porphyry stone ridge, the Residence Castle, which houses the Castle and Playing Cards Museum, still towers over the city. Once an imperial stronghold of the Staufer Emperor Barbarossa, the castle later developed into the residence of the Wettin princes. Nowadays, interesting collections and temporary exhibitions invite visitors to explore the magnificent interior. The castle church and the splendid festival halls are especially worth the visit. Today, the Playing Card Museum belongs to the oldest and largest of its kind in Europe and fascinates visitors with the colorful origins of the German card game, “Skat”.
The international importance of the Lindenau Museum is based on 180 precious panels with early Italian paintings. They are augmented by other collections, such as paintings of the 16th-19th centuries, antique plaster casts, and the graphic art collection. In 2001, the museum was added to the Blaubuch of the federal government, meaning that it now belongs to the most significant cultural institutions in Eastern Germany.
Natural History Museum Mauritianum is situated in the Castle Park like a languorous painting. It holds a historical bird collection, fossils found in lignite mining sites, and an interactive area about local flora and fauna. The series “Natural History for Kids” invites young visitors to join an exploratory expedition through nature.
In 1871, one of Semper’s students had the Court Theater, now the Landestheater, built according to the plans of the old Semper Opera in Dresden. Here, the only theater in Thuringia with five categories loans its splendid setting to performances of plays, music theater, puppet theater, ballet and symphony concerts in almost 300 events per year.
The Romanesque towers of the former Augustinian Monastery, Rote Spitzen, or Red Tips, are the last remnants of the once spacious monastery complex. Consecrated in 1172 in the presence of Emperor Friedrich I Barbarossa, it is one of the first large brick structures to be built north of the Alps. An exhibition explores the monastery’s history, beginning with Barbarossa and ending in the period of the Reformation.
On the site of the former Franciscan Monastery, the Brüderkirche (Brothers’ Church) was constructed in Neo-Gothic style. The statue of Martin Luther is reminiscent of the reformer’s repeated sojourns in the city, where he often visited his friend and companion Georg Spalatin. Every hour on the hour, the glockenspiel of the Brüderkirche can be heard. Since 2014, the Brüderkirche is a center for pilgrims and information about the Luther hiking path and the ancient imperial road „Via Imperii“.
The St. Bartholomäikirche (St. Bartholomew’s Church) with its crypt dating from the high Renaissance, is Altenburg’s oldest house of worship. The tower has an accessible watchman’s chamber, and offers a wonderful view over the city. Georg Spalatin was the city pastor here beginning in 1525, and later he became the church superintendent, which enabled him to effectively implement the Reformation here. The St. Barthomaikirche was named European Heritage in 2011.
This historical beauty salon is truly a jewel. In 1996, the beautician Grosse closed this salon that dates back to the 1920s. Re-discovered in 2002, it has now become a museum that still smells like hair tonic. Everything has been preserved: hairdressing tables and wall coverings in red and black marble, hairdresser’s chairs, hair clippers, electric permanent-wave machines, and much more.
The Renaissance townhall at the Altenburg market square is one of the most beautiful of its kind in all of Germany. It has an octagonal stairway tower, a dome and roof lantern, a lunar clock, a bay window with relief ornamentation, and gables. The main market square is surrounded by bourgeois houses, romantic alleys and picturesque little markets.
The history of the Castle Park begins as early as the 16th century. The changing periods since then have left their mark. Today, the Castle Park connects the city’s large museums, such as the Residence Castle, the Lindenau Museum and the Mauritanium. The winding paths, the old trees and the numerous historical buildings throughout the park such as the orangery and the tea house, the Agnes Church and the royal stables, make it especially charming.
With about 2,500 different plant species from almost all regions of the Earth, the Botanic Garden Experience is a living museum that celebrates plant diversity. It was founded over 80 years ago and continues to serve the cause of species-conservation along with offering relaxation and recreation.
Beer-brewing enjoys a long tradition in Altenburg. The architecture of the Altenburger Brauerei is especially remarkable with its buildings in so-called Gründerzeit style from 1871, and the beautiful and impressive Art Nouveau brewhouse dating from 1913/1914. At its in-house museum, you can learn about the history of the brewery and the craft of brewing beer.
The Altenburg Distillery & Liquor Factory offers 180 products in more than 10 product categories. The Altenburger Schwarzgebrannte, an elixir distilled from 47 herbs belongs to the traditional liquors of the company. There is a Schnapsmuseum on the property of the Altenburger Destillerie- und Liqueurfabrik that illustrates the history of manufacturing spirits.
At the Weltmeister-Senfladen (World-Champion Mustard Store) at the Altenburger Senfmanufaktur (Altenburg Mustard Factory) near Hauptmarkt, or main market square, customers can choose from over 350 kinds of mustard, dips, sauces, and herbs. A sizzling original Thuringian sausage right off the grill is the obvious companion for these products. In 2010, the business opened its own cooking school “Senfonie” and regularly organizes cooking events.
The large pond with its Island Zoo is a small oasis in the middle of Altenburg’s downtown area. It is the only zoo in western Europe located on an island in a pond, and is enjoyed by young and old. The little zoo is primarily a home for native animals such as goats, owls, and guinea pigs. During the summer months, paddle boats and rowboats offer recreational aquatic activities.