Magdeburg is one of the oldest cities in the eastern federal state of Germany, with a history of 1,200 years and a former member of the Hanseatic League of commercial cities. In the 10th century, Magdeburg was the residence of Holy Roman Emperor Otto I, whose mausoleum is in the stunning cathedral. The monument is the first example of German Gothic architecture, and if you like medieval art, a half-day is guaranteed.
Magdeburg is also the second greenest city in the country, and although it has been visited by war many times, it has been carefully rebuilt each time. Today, Magdeburg boasts modern wonders such as the 60-meter wooden tower built for the millennium, the final project of the architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser and the largest canal bridge in Europe.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Magdeburg:
1. Magdeburg Cathedral
The current appearance of Magdeburg Cathedral dates back to the 13th century, when the secular Archbishop Albert I (Käfernburg) adopted the new French Gothic style.
The cathedral took 300 years to complete, and the architects learned by trial and error because they didn’t have a frame of reference for Gothic architecture to begin with.
The scale is huge, 120 meters long and 100 meters high. After hundreds of years of war and plunder, it still contains a wealth of works of art.
Most notable are the Five Wise Virgins and the Five Stupid Virgins carved in the 13th century biblical story at the entrance to the northern transept.
Other works by the Maestro include the “Royal Couple” sculpture in the 13th-century 16-sided chapel, the 10th-century tomb of Holy Roman Emperor Otto I, the re-use of ancient Roman columns in the apse, and the baptistery carved from Egyptian porphyry pool. Thousands of years of history.
2. Kloster Unser Lieben Frauen
An 11th-century Romanesque monastery is the inspiring backdrop for the Museum of Contemporary Art.
The exhibition opened in 1975 in the atmospheric barrel vault of the North Wing and focused on sculpture, photography and video art.
Most of the works are from after 1945, but there is also a wide variety of ancient, medieval and Baroque sculptures, as well as works by Maillol, Rodin and Wilhelm Lehmbruck.
One of the most famous monuments in Saxony-Anhalt, the complex was built between the 11th and 13th centuries and consists of a cathedral, cloisters, abbey and school.
Shaped like an irregular cone, this edifice in Elbauenpark was built for the new millennium and at 60 meters high, it is one of the tallest wooden buildings in the world.
Inside, the five-story Jahrtausendturm has an exhibition documenting the development of science over 6,000 years of human history.
With each new level, you’ll jump forward in time, starting with ancient Egyptian math on the first floor, and then working your way through medieval medicine, Renaissance mechanics and alchemy, and inventions like the telescope and the printing press.
The fourth floor showcases all the early modern discoveries like electricity, stellar parallax, radio, while the fifth floor is about 21st century science.
At the top, after 243 steps or 450 meters on the exterior ramp, there is a viewing platform.
4. Rothorn Park
The city’s largest park, which occupies most of the island of Werder on the Elbe, is known as one of the loveliest English-style landscape parks in Germany.
From the city centre, there are two tram lines serving Rotehorn Park.
When the city first planned the park in the 1870s, the island was undeveloped for hundreds of years and expanded to its current 200 hectares in 1898.
If you’re interested in 20th century architecture, check out the Stadthalle, built in the Bauhaus style for the 1927 German Theater exhibition. Also designed for the event is the Albinmüller-Turm, a 60-meter high watchtower.
From Tuesday to Sunday in summer you can rent a rowing boat on the peaceful lake Adolf-Mittag-See in the heart of the park.
5. St. John’s Church
Funded by the city’s merchants around the 10th century, the Johannes Church was no longer a sacred church, but was used as a concert hall, museum and conference center.
From January to June 2014, it was also the meeting place of the Saxony-Anhalt state parliament.
Johannes Church was destroyed and rebuilt no fewer than four times: twice after fires in the Middle Ages, then looted in the Thirty Years’ War in the 17th century, and finally after World War II.
You can go any day of the week except Monday to see how the nave has been transformed into an impressive open space.
There are 277 steps to the top of the South Tower, and there is a viewing platform at 52 meters.
6. Grüne Zitadelle von Magdeburg
The northwest corner of the Domplatz (Cathedral Square) is a fantastic mashup of irregularly striped towers, creating the impression of a medieval castle viewed underwater.
Green Citadel is the work of the rebellious Friedensreich Hundertwasser, his last project before his death in 2000. The complex uses colourful tiles extensively and is a collection of shops, cafes, restaurants and theatres, hotels, children’s playgrounds and residential spaces.
The name “green” comes from the rich vegetation in the castle, which is in line with the environmental ethics of Baishui.
Trees are planted in the yard, and the roof is a grass roof.
You can hear anecdotes about the castle and gain insight into the upper floors on a guided tour.
7. Kanalbrücke Magdeburg (Water Bridge)
When the navigable aqueduct was completed in 2003, Berlin’s inland waterway was finally accessible westward from Germany’s inland ports on the Rhine and Ruhr rivers.
The Magdeburg Water Bridge has been under construction for over a century, but plans were scrapped due to the war and the division of Germany.
The aqueduct leads the Mittelland Canal to the Elbe and is nearly a kilometer long.
Work began in 1998 and the final construction cost of this technological masterpiece exceeded 500 million euros.
There’s a path next to the canal, and it’s a sight to behold for anyone inspired by modern engineering.
8. Old Market
Between Breiter Weg and Jakobstraße, the city’s market has existed since the time of Bishop Wichmann von Seeburg in the 12th century.
The square was hit hard, first in the Thirty Years’ War and then in the Second World War, and now most of the buildings on its edge are modern.
But at the east end is the newly renovated Town Hall, which has been present on the plot in some form since the 13th century.
In front is the statue of Roland, which is always present in the German town square and represents the independence of Magdeburg.
The main reason you’ll find yourself at Alter Markt is the market stalls, trading seasonal fruits and vegetables, meats, dairy products, baked goods, housewares, arts and crafts and freshly made snacks.
9. Magdeburg Reiter
Also on the east side of the old market, just in front of the town hall, there is a statue that has been around since at least 1240. It is believed that this equestrian sculpture represents Otto I, who was buried in Magdeburg Cathedral.
He is flanked by two allegorical maids, one holding a shield with an eagle of the Holy Roman Empire and the other a penon.
Made of sandstone south of Bourneburg, the entire building was gilded and placed under the current Baroque canopy until the 17th century.
Given the age of the orchestra, the current Magdeburger Reiter is a replica, the original is in the Museum of Cultural History, later.
10. Magdeburg Museum of Culture and History
The Magdeburger Reiter appears in Kaiser-Otto-Saal in its original ungilded form.
The realism is staggering considering the time period these statues were created, and the work is considered one of the most accomplished of the period.
In the same room there are objects from Ottonik’s tomb and a three-part fresco depicting scenes from the life of Otto I created by artist Arthur Kampf in 1905-06. However, we’ve only scratched the surface of what the museum has to offer, as there are thousands of exhibits including textiles, handicrafts, prints, furniture, military uniforms, coins, and fascinating medieval artefacts unearthed in the city .
In the archaeological galleries, not only in Magdeburg, but also in France, Italy, Hungary and the Czech Republic, there are hundreds of thousands of discoveries documenting 200,000 years of human history.
While Magdeburg’s pedestrian zone was under construction, one of Magdeburg’s most famous sights was on Leiterstraße.
Historically, Leiterstraße was the dividing line between the secular town and the Bishopric of Magdeburg.
Faunenbrunnem is a fountain designed by Magdeburg sculptor Heinrich Apel, who made the model in 1976, ten years before it was cast in Rauchhammer and Rostock.
The fountain consists of a large bronze cauldron with a circumference of 3.2 meters, with many figures (22 in total) beside it, including fauns and sirens, animals such as snakes, cats, dogs and turtles, two women, a man and a boy fighting .
The fountain was inaugurated in 1986 and appeared on East German postage stamps in 1989.
12. Helen Kruger Park
On the right bank of the Elbe is a park that has been attracting tourists since the 17th century, when a hotel called the Herrenkrug was built on the river.
In the 1820s, the great Prussian landscape architect was brought in by Peter Joseph Lenné to create a manor park, and this design greets you today.
There are some 19th-century monuments in the Herrenkrugpark, such as the cast-iron lion from 1845 and the solid spherical sundial from 1818. Botanists will be amazed by the amazing diversity of trees, which are too numerous to list, but include a Japanese larch, a Swedish white, an American sweetgum, an Iberian oak, a Norwegian Maple and more.
13. Otto Von Gerich Museum
In the park on the Elbe there is an octagonal defensive tower, more than 20 meters high, dating back to the 13th century.
During the 16th and 17th centuries, the building experienced heavy fighting.
Now, in the tower and modern annex is the museum of the 17th-century physicist Otto-von-Guericke, whose air pressure experiments helped establish the physics of vacuum.
The museum provides insight into Guericke’s life and his contributions to science.
Historic rooms are decorated with period furniture and historical documents, while his experiments are recreated using antiques and modern equipment.
14. Magdeburg Zoo
The city’s zoo opened in 1950 and has undergone many updates since reunification.
There are more than 200 species in the 16-hectare cultivated natural landscape, known for its walk-in habitat.
You can wander among cape guerezas (small monkeys), lemurs, owls and Australian parakeets.
There is also a 20,000 sqm savannah enclosure for grazing species such as zebras and giraffes, with panoramic platforms that allow you to greet the giraffes face to face.
Keep an eye out for daily feedings of penguins and African elephants in the park.
In one of the greenest cities in Europe, the best means of transport is the bicycle.
Like many German cities, the streets of Magdeburg have wide bike lanes so all family members can ride safely.
And in Magdeburg on the Elbe is also connected to the largest and most popular bicycle network in Germany.
The Elberadweg is nearly 1,000 kilometers long, starting in Prague and ending at the mouth of the Elbe River in Cuxhaven on the North Sea.
If you’re ready for a proper trip, you can cycle to Dessau-Roslau or Tangermünde, both of which can be done in around three hours.
You’ll travel through woodlands, meadows, past medieval towers and villages, and stop at restaurants and beer gardens along the way.
Where to Stay: The Best Hotels in Magdeburg, Germany
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