Long-term home to Goethe and Schiller, Weimar is one city in Germany that’s not to be overlooked! Here are the best things to do in Weimar, plus my top tips for visiting.
Of all the cities in Germany, Weimar is high on the list for having contributed the most to the nation’s cultural heritage.
Bibliophiles from all around the world flock to Weimar to pay homage to German literary giants Friedrich Schiller and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, both of whom lived in this beautiful city for many years.
Architecture and design buffs come to see the works of the Bauhaus school, founded in Weimar by legendary German architect Walter Gropius in 1919.
And, naturally, history lovers will have a field day immersing themselves in the history of the Weimar Republic at the city’s various exhibitions and museums.
Weimar is a small, walkable city that’s so quintessentially German. It’s wonderful as either a day trip from Berlin (if you live in the capital city, like I do!) or as a weekend getaway.
For a city so rich in history, it’s surprising how often it’s overlooked for the likes of Munich, Cologne, and Berlin. In this post, I’m sharing the best things to do in Weimar, Germany, in hopes of convincing you to visit!
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What Is Weimar, Germany Known For?
Weimar is known for many things! I first became aware of Weimar while researching one of Germany’s most beloved authors, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Goethe lived in Weimar for most of his adult life, and it was here that he became friends with another literary great, Friedrich Schiller.
Goethe and Schiller were both associated with a literary and cultural movement known as “Weimar Classicism” (Weimarer Klassik). This movement combined ideas taken from Romanticism, Classicism, and the Enlightenment and influenced the literature, aesthetics, art, and culture of the age.
Weimar was also the birthplace of the Bauhaus school. Founded by architect Walter Gropius in 1919, the goal of the Bauhaus was to combine architecture, sculpture, and painting to create simpler, more affordable home designs for the blossoming post-war society.
With all that being said, international visitors might best recognize the name of this small city as being the meeting place of the constitutional assembly that founded the Weimar Republic in 1919.
Top Things to Do in Weimar
For such a small city, there’s lots to see and do in Weimar! All of the Weimar attractions mentioned in this post are included in the price of the WeimarCard (€32.50). The WeimarCard is good for 48 hours, and I suggest buying it online or at the tourist information office if you plan on visiting all of the sites suggested below.
Otherwise, crunch the numbers yourself and see if it’s worth buying the WeimarCard or not for what you want to visit.
Duchess Anna Amalia Library
The Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek in Weimar is one of the most stunning libraries in all of Europe! The original library was founded in 1691 by Duke Wilhem Ernst, and Duchess Anna Amalia oversaw the building of the ornate Rococo Hall in 1766.
The Rococo Hall is the crowning jewel of the library. It’s a three-story hall that holds roughly 40,000 volumes (some of which are huge, while others fit in the palm of your hand!).
When you first enter the Rococo Hall, the grandeur of the collection is overwhelming. The space is painted in a soothing cream, with gold detailing throughout the space.
Busts of famous German poets, scientists and philosophers decorate the space, in addition to paintings and an incredible ceiling fresco.
And yes, the library is still in operation! As you peruse the shelves, you might notice gaps between the spines — that means a volume has been removed for viewing.
Sadly, a fire broke out in the library in 2004, destroying 50,000 books and damaging a further 62,000. However, you’d never guess that the Rococo Hall has been recently restored — it looks just like it did in the 1700s!
If you’re in Weimar for a short period of time and are trying to pick and choose between the attractions, the Duchess Anna Amalia Library should be at the top of your list!
Tip: Buy your tickets for the Rococo Hall well in advance, as you may only enter with a time slot and tickets sell out quickly.
Goethe’s Sites in Weimar
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is undoubtedly Weimar’s most famous resident. He was invited to Weimar by the young Duke Karl August (son of Anna Amalia, who built the famous Rococo Hall within the library — also shared on this list!).
Goethe arrived in Weimar in 1775 and quickly became one of the Duke’s close friends and confidants. He was appointed to the privy council, and over time he took on even more official roles within the Weimar court, including being responsible for the War Commission, director of the Hoftheater (court theater, now the German National Theater Weimar) and more!
Goethe was invaluable to the Duke and his involvement in the court eventually led to his ennoblement, transforming Johann Wolfgang Goethe into Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
In total, Goethe lived in Weimar for 57 years until his death in 1832. He became world-famous early in his career and remains one of Germany’s top literary talents to this day.
If you want to walk in Goethe’s footsteps while in Weimar, the two key sites you should visit are his house on the Frauenplan square in the city center as well as his garden house in the Park an der Ilm.
Goethe in Weimar: Goethe Nationalmuseum
The Goethe Nationalmuseum is housed in Goethe’s house, located at the preeminent address Frauenplan 1. The yellow facade is a cheerful contrast to the grand baroque architecture of the building.
Goethe’s house is a veritable maze of rooms, all of which are small by today’s standards but are packed with relics from the author’s noteworthy life. He lived in this house from 1782 until his death in 1832, and the space retains his strong character.
Be sure to grab an audio guide at the front desk to make the most of your visit. It’s included with your ticket and gives a wonderful background on Goethe, his life in Weimar, and his most famous works.
There are 20 rooms to explore, displaying just some of the 18,000 fossils, minerals, and stones from his collection. (His personal library alone boasts more than 5,000 volumes!) I especially loved the multitude of plaster casts of famous sculptures that he collected during his travels through Italy.
In Goethe’s house, you’ll also see the room where he wrote some of his most famous works, like Faust II. It was also interesting to see the private family rooms where he, his children, and long-time mistress (eventually wife), Christiane Vulpius, lived.
Goethe’s house is one of my personal favorite attractions in Weimar! It’s larger than Schiller’s house, contained more original artifacts, and generally felt better preserved.
Goethe in Weimar: Goethe’s Garden House
If you opted to purchase the WeimarCard, entrance to Goethe’s Garden House within the Park an der Ilm is included in the fee.
The garden house is a very small and sparsely furnished building, with a gorgeous tiered garden in the back. Goethe lived here full time from 1776 to 1782, and after he and his family moved to the big house on Frauenplan he often came here to relax and get away from the bustle of the city center.
The garden house is very small and sparsely furnished so it’s not an absolute must-see attraction in Weimar if you didn’t pre-purchase the WeimarCard, but it’s still worth viewing from the outside! However, you may go up to the windows and around back to the gardens for free.
Most Germans know that Goethe lived and worked for many years in Weimar, but not as many realize that Friedrich Schiller did as well. In fact, the two authors lived down the street from each other and became good friends near the end of Schiller’s life!
The Schiller-Museum is located along the eponymous Schillerstraße (Schiller Street) and takes visitors through the house that Schiller occupied from 1802 until his early death in 1805.
Schiller’s House is much smaller than Goethe’s (although a beloved German author, he didn’t meet with the same level of success as Goethe did during his lifetime — not to mention he died very young). As such, you only need about an hour to explore the house, listen to the audio guide, and go through the brief exhibition on Schiller’s life.
The rooms within Schiller’s house have been preserved and furnished to show how the author and his family likely would have lived. His office still contains the original desk where he wrote such works as “William Tell!”
Tip: Grab an audio guide from the front desk before going through the house. It’s included in the ticket price and does a wonderful job explaining who Schiller was, his life in Weimar, and his friendship with Goethe.
Park an der Ilm
Weimar’s Park an der Ilm is so-called because the lovely Ilm River flows through the English-style park. Here you’ll find plenty of open green space to bike, play, and stretch out.
Goethe loved riding through the park with Duke Carl August. In fact, they actually planned and built the park together! (Is there anything Goethe couldn’t do?!)
The park is just a few minutes’ walk from the city center and has a few hidden gems of its own, including the Roman House and the ruins of the Tempelherrenhaus.
Park an der Ilm: Roman House
The Roman House within the Park an der Ilm served as the summer residence of Duke Carl August (friend of Goethe).
The house was built between 1792 to 1797 under Goethe’s supervision (naturally) in the Classical style. It was modeled after a Roman villa, hence the name.
The Roman House is free to enter, but it’s only open in the summer. I wasn’t able to go inside, but I’m glad I took the time to track it down because the house is spectacular! It has a great view of the park from the back and I enjoyed walking around the perimeter of the home.
Park an der Ilm: Tempelherrenhaus
The Tempelherrenhaus was formerly part of the orangery, which is located near the “artistic ruins” that Goethe had built for the park (it’s so extra, I love it!).
The orangery was used by the Weimar court for concerts, balls, and other gatherings. Alas, the Tempelherrenhaus was bombed in WWII and is now in ruins. With a bit of imagination, it’s easy to imagine how full of life the old building used to be!
Church of St. Peter and Paul (Herderkirche)
The Church of St. Peter and Paul is a simple, yet impressive, white-washed building located on the Herderplatz square. Locals refer to the church as the Herderkirche (Herder’s Church) after the popular German theologian, philosopher, and poet Johann Gottfried Herder.
Herder was a contemporary of Goethe and Schiller and also played a pivotal role during the period of Weimar Classicism. His name might have been largely forgotten in the shadows of the two literary giants, but in Weimar Herder is still very much beloved.
Herder was the court chaplain of Weimar from 1776 to 1803 and preached from this church. You can see a statue of him in the center of the square outside the church.
The interior of the church is fairly plain, but it’s worth visiting to see the stunning winged altarpiece, painted by Lucas Cranach the Elder in 1555.
Guided Walking Tour
If you purchase the WeimarCard as I suggested, you’ll be able to join one of the twice-daily guided walking tours of the city center put on by the tourism board.
Unfortunately, the walking tours are only provided in German at this time (note that I do speak German and did go on the tour, otherwise I wouldn’t be recommending it!).
However, if you speak some level of German, it’s worth going on the tour because it helps to orient yourself, learn about the history of Weimar, and get the gossip on the city’s most famous former residents.
Weimar’s Neues Museum is a small but fascinating art museum dedicated solely to early modernist art, with an emphasis on the influence of the Weimar Painting School. You can look forward to viewing works by artists like Henry van de Velde and Count Harry Kessler.
The Neues Museum is housed in a gorgeous Neo-Renaissance building. It was originally built to serve as the Grand Ducal Museum, and after experiencing many changes over the decades the building was finally reopened in 2019 as the Neues Museum.
Interior design buffs need to make the pilgrimage to Weimar’s Bauhaus Museum. It displays around 500 original works from the Bauhaus School.
What was the Bauhaus School? It was founded in Weimar in 1919 by Walter Gropius. Gropius was an architect who envisioned the future of interior design as being simpler and more affordable — exactly what the changing post-war society needed.
The Bauhaus School was a guild of sorts. The curriculum centered around the arts and crafts and effectively combined architecture, sculpture, and painting. The ultimate goal was to create suitable designs for mass production. Why should good design be limited to the upper class, after all?
Tip: If the Bauhaus school interests you, make sure to visit the Haus am Horn as well! It’s a reconstructed home built and furnished in the Bauhaus style.
Markt (Market Square)
Weimar’s central Markt is a lively square that hosts a weekly market on Monday through Saturday. It’s a smaller market with around 20 stalls, but the produce is fresh and the choices are good!
This would also be a great place to sample the famous Thuringian bratwurst, which is the local variety of sausage.
While at the market square, look for the Neo-Gothic town hall with its Glockenspiel made out of Meissen porcelain. Trust me, you don’t often see porcelain bells in Germany!
Another building of note at the square is the Renaissance Cranach House. It now operates as a theater, but this is the home where Lucas Cranach the Elder lived until his death in 1553.
And, as chance would have it, both Napoleon Bonaparte and the composer Richard Wagner stayed at the Hotel Elephant on the square.
A 15-minute bus ride outside of the city center is the former Buchenwald concentration camp, now a memorial site. The concentration camp was established in 1937 and during the eight years it operated, it’s estimated that some 50,000 people were murdered here.
The view from the hill on which the camp was built is spectacular – a disconcerting contrast to the remains of the camp itself
Following WWII, Soviet forces imprisoned political prisoners and former Nazis at Buchenwald. Those who were mistreated or lost their lives under the Soviet regime are also memorialized at Buchenwald.
Many of the buildings have been preserved, the largest of which is now a multi-media exhibition. You’ll need around 90 minutes to go through the full exhibition. It explains the history of the concentration camp, the types of torture and imprisonment the inmates suffered, and also displays original artifacts that were salvaged from the camp.
Give yourself at least three hours to visit Buchenwald. The site is free to enter, although you have to pay a small fee for an audio guide.
Hoffmann’s Buchhandlung (Bookstore)
Ever since I set the goal to read 50 books per year, I find myself drawn to local bookstores like a moth to a flame.
I stumbled upon Hoffman’s Bookstore (Schillerstraße 9) by accident, following my tour of Schiller’s house. As it turns out, Hoffman’s is one of Germany’s oldest bookstores!
The bookstore was founded 300 years ago and was originally located in the Cranach Haus (on the market square), but moved to its current location near Schiller’s House in 1898. Famous patrons of this quaint local bookstore have included the likes of Goethe, Schiller, Anna Amalia, and Herder.
Hoffman’s bookstore is very small, with a limited selection of titles that are primarily in Germany. However, the staff was incredibly friendly and helped me find a few books. Pop into the bookstore and see if there’s anything you want to get – let’s keep this local bookstore around for another 300 years!
Day Trip to Erfurt
Just 15 minutes away from Weimar is Erfurt, the capital of the German state Thuringia. Erfurt is larger than Weimar, although admittedly nowhere near as pretty.
You can easily fill an entire day in Erfurt. Top attractions to see in Erfurt include the Cathedral of St. Mary, where Martin Luther was ordained, as well as the beautiful Church of St. Severus right next to it.
My favorite site in Erfurt was the historic Merchants’ Bridge (the Krämerbrücke), which is the longest series of inhabited buildings on any bridge in Europe! The merchants here still sell handmade crafts, spices, and more — it feels surprisingly authentic and not super touristy.
Also be sure to visit the Old Synagogue, a beautifully preserved medieval synagogue in the heart of the city.
Even More Things to Do in Weimar!
I visited Weimar during the awkward period between winter and spring, so some of the city’s main attractions were closed for the season. However, the following Weimar tourist attractions come highly recommended and are also on my bucket list:
- Stadtschloss (City Palace) — Currently closed for renovations. Supposed to have a wonderful collection of European artwork from the Middle Ages through the 20th century (including an impressive number of Cranach paintings!).
- Wittumspalaise (Dowager’s Palace) — Open April through October. Built and lived in by Duchess Anna Amalia (who built the Rococo Hall!) after the passing of her husband.
- Haus der Weimarer Republik — Learn all about the Weimar Republic in this multimedia exhibition.
- Liszt-Haus — House where Hungarian composer Franz Liszt lived in the summers from 1869 to 1886.
Where is Weimar located?
Weimar is located roughly 15 minutes from Erfurt, in central Germany. It’s within the state of Thuringia.
How many days are needed in Weimar?
I think two full days are perfect to see the main sites in Weimar. However, you can still do and see a lot in the city in just one day as well.
Is Weimar worth visiting?
YES! Weimar has so much history, plus it’s incredibly beautiful, fairly inexpensive, easy to reach via train, and few tourists know what a hidden gem this city is!
How should you spend one day in Weimar?
If you only have one day in Weimar, I recommend seeing the following:
- Duchess Anna Amalia Library / Rococo Hall
- Goethe’s House
- Park an der Ilm
- Explore the city center on foot
What’s the best time to visit Weimar?
Weimar is best visited in the summer as some of the main attractions are closed or have reduced opening hours in the winter. With that being said, I visited in March and there was still plenty to do and see to fill my two days in the city!
Have Fun in Weimar!
Now that you know the top things to do in Weimar, it’s time you booked your train tickets and hop to it! If you’re looking for a lesser known city in Germany to visit, Weimar is (ironically) a great choice despite its rich history and central location.