Welcome to Erfurt – the Medieval city in East Germany and the capital of Thuringia! Before you find out what the 16 most famous sights in Erfurt are, let’s get started with some general knowledge.
General Knowledge about Erfurt
Erfurt is located in the middle of Germany and also referred to as the “Green Heart of Germany“. It is full of culture, history, and delicious food, but you will find out in just a bit.
Being the capital of Thuringia, Erfurt has around 200.000 inhabitants and has one of the best-preserved medieval city centers which we are going to explore together.
Erfurt used to belong to the Soviet Union after World War ll, and due to its central location, it became a logistics hub for Germany and Europe.
Famous Sights in Erfurt
Willy Brandt Platz
When visiting Erfurt, you can start your sightseeing tour at the Willy Brandt Platz, just next to the Hauptbahnhof (central station). This square was built in connection with the construction of the railway and became a popular urban place around 1900 when the central station has been completed.
1970 this square gained importance through the visit of Willy Brandt (4th chancellor) for the first German-German summit and is also the reason why this square was renamed after him.
From the Willy Brandt Platz, if you just follow the tram rails to your left, you will walk underneath arcades where you find bakeries, small little shops, supermarkets, and so on. Just keep on walking around 5 minutes until you reach the famous Anger.
It is the central square of Erfurt. So in case you are lost, just get back there and you are safe. Every single tram crosses there. Just walk a bit towards it until you spot a church and statue to your left.
Kaufmannskirche (Merchant Church)
Amongst the 16 most famous sights in Erfurt is the Merchant Church. It is a gothic-style church that was first mentioned in 1248 and built as a church of merchants. The church dates back to the founding of Frisian merchants in the 11th century, where probably the first church was built. Inside you will find an oriel, altar, paintings, and much more.
Martin Luther Statue
In front of the Kaufmannskirche (merchant church), you will see a statue in honor of Martin Luther. He lived in Erfurt between 1501 and 1511, studied at the University of Erfurt, and was a monk in the Augustinian monastery.
The statue shows the reformer with the bible in his left hand. The facial expression is rather discovering and wondering. The pedestal shows three stations from the life of him: Luther as a student, Luther’s entrance to the monastery, and the festive reception at the university on 6 April 1521.
Another famous sight in Erfurt and of historical importance is the Augustinerkloster. Why? Because Martin Luther became a monk here and it was his home for several years.
If you want, you can take a guided tour. This way, you will have the opportunity to see his room and find out more about his relationship with Erfurt.
The Krämerbrücke is Erfurt’s most famous sight and merchant bridge. It is one of the few in the world with houses on it where people still live in.
It is inhabited for more than 500 years which is longer than any other European bridge. You will find loads of little shops with handmade/home-made stuff like chocolate, ice cream, artwork, woodwork, glasswork, jewelry, and much more.
Make sure to visit the famous ice cream shop Goldhelm and try one of their unique flavors.
Another famous sight in Erfurt is the Fischmarkt – another central place in Erfurt. It is located in the old town between Domplatz and Anger and home to some notable Renaissance buildings such as the House of the Red Ox, the House of the Great Stove, the House of the Gilded Crown, and the House of the Golden Lion as well as the city hall. Those buildings expressed Erfurt’s wealth in the early modern period.
On the opposite of the city hall, you will see a pillar with an armed warrior which symbolizes that Erfurt’s citizens are ready to defend their empire’s freedoms by force of arms if needed.
Erfurt’s TV Channel Kika
Erfurt is home to a famous children’s TV channel called Kika. Some animated characters have been built and distributed throughout the city. You will see characters like Sandmann (Sandman), Tigerente (tiger duck), captain Blaubeer (Blue bear), and so on. On the Fischmarkt you can find a bread loaf character, just next to the city hall.
Look out for as many TV channel characters as possible throughout your sightseeing tour in Erfurt and take a selfie.
Erfurt’s medieval city center offers more than 30 churches, cathedrals, monasteries, and synagogues. Just a few hundred meters away from the city hall, you will find the Old Synagogue.
It was constructed in the 1000s and belongs to the best-preserved Medieval synagogues in Europe. Nowadays, it is a museum and preserves Erfurt’s treasures, such as silver coins, gold pieces, and Gothic jewelry.
Haus zum Sonneborn – Wedding House
The Haus zum Sonneborn can be found in a tiny street on your way from Fischmarkt to Domplatz.
Since the end of 1988, the Haus zum Sonneborn serves as a marriage registry office and offers a picturesque background for wedding photos. The 16th-century graffiti depicts justice and vanity.
Domplatz and Erfurter Dom
One of the famous sights in Erfurt is the Domplatz, a big market place where festivals, local events, and different kinds of markets take place. It used to be the main market and court square.
If you happen to visit Erfurt during winter make sure to stop by the Christmas market as it is one of the best ones.
The Domplatz is also home to the Erfurter Dom (Cathedral) which is the oldest and largest church in Erfurt. It is built in a gothic style and located on a hillside overlooking the main town square (Domplatz). You will note architectural features, such as stained-glass windows and interior furnishings.
Inside the Dom is a big bell, called Gloriosa. With a weight of more than 11 tons and a size of more than 2 m, it is the largest free-swinging medieval bell in the world.
The Severi church stands just next to the Erfurt Dom. Together, they form the landmark of the city. Due to its unique design, the Severi church is one of the most important Gothic buildings in Germany. Inside you will see numerous sculptures, altars, and the Gothic font.
Just across the street of the Severi Chruch, you will see another famous sight of Erfurt, a little hill called Petersberg. Walk up there and enjoy the view over Erfurt. It is especially beautiful during the evening.
The Petersberg is one of the most famous sights in Erfurt. It is a former fortress and more than 200m high. You can enjoy a great view of the Dom and main square from up there. The path is a bit steep but totally worth it.
You can also get a guided tour through the underground passages of the catacombs of the fortress called “Funzelführung“. The tours used to be with torches, and nowadays they are with flashlights.
Local Food in Erfurt
All this sightseeing probably made you very hungry. What would be a visit to Thuringia’s capital without enjoying local food?
Erfurt is known for its delicious kitchen, and home to the one and only real Thüringer Bratwurst and Thüringer Klöße (kind of big dumplings with meat and red cabbage). Make sure to try both!
The best Thüringer Bratwurst in Erfurt can be found at Faustfood – Erfurt’s first indoor grill. It is located in the historic old town and very easy to reach on foot.
You will enter the medieval barn through a high gate and get to experience its special ambiance and then be provided with delicious dishes and Thuringian specialties from the charcoal grill.
Beer brewing has a long tradition in Erfurt. Already in the 16th century, there were more than 600 beer yards here.
The Bier-Rufer is the perfect place to enjoy some local beers and find out more about the old beer brewing traditions. They make sure that you get the same qualitative advice as if you are buying an expensive bottle of wine.
Local beers are Braugold, Köstritzer, and Öttinger. But there is also a local beer made with banana juice called Bananenhefe. Don’t skip that one even if it sounds weird.
Fun fact about Erfurt
Erfurt has been known for centuries as a city of horticulture. The nutrient-rich soil, as well as the mild climate in Erfurt and the surrounding area, were optimal conditions for the cultivation of the “Puffbohne” (puff beans).
After the harvest, the beans were boiled and could then be further processed. During cooking, the beans puffed up, which made them bigger, and finally gave them the name Puffbohne.
Real Erfurt people always had a handful of broad beans in their pockets when they were out and about. As soon as they passed a field of beans, they took off their hats and greeted the beans to express their appreciation. This gesture quickly earned them the nickname “Erfurter Puffbohne”.
Every trip must come to an end. I hope you enjoyed the most famous sights in Erfurt and your walk through the medieval city center. Enjoy the rest of your stay in Germany!