In the GDR, Bautzen Germany was synonymous with prison and lack of freedom, not with the many Bautzen sights. For Bautzen was home to what was probably the GDR’s best-known prison: the Gelbe Elend (Yellow Misery). In the meantime, however, the town has largely shaken off this reputation. The reason for this is certainly one of the most beautiful old towns in eastern Germany. Bautzen has many sights and offers travellers a whole host of surprising places. Bautzen is also one of the cities where Germany’s only Slavic minority still actively participates in and influences cultural life.
Main Market Square with Town Hall
The main market of Bautzen turns out rather modest with a size of 50 x 65 meters. This makes it quite difficult to photograph everything given the 54-meter height of the town hall. We recommend going to the southeast corner of the market square for the best view. From here there is the best view of the market including the town hall. By the way, the former town hall was the seat of the Six Towns League from 1346, which included Kamenz, Lauban, Löbau, Zittau and Görlitz in addition to Bautzen. Particularly worth seeing, in addition to today’s town hall from 1732, are the Gewandhaus and the Ritter-Dutschmann fountain.
St. Petri Cathedral
Bautzen Cathedral is a real speciality. Because normally churches are either Protestant or Catholic. Bautzen Cathedral, however, is both. Here, both Protestants and Catholics have a part of the church to themselves and thus celebrate services separately, but under one roof. And this has been the case, with short interruptions, since 1524! By the way, the cathedral even has a Protestant and a Catholic organ. At a height of 47 metres, a tower keeper still lives in Bautzen – here even with his family. The Kuschel family watches over the tower and a few times a year the cathedral tower may also be visited.
Towers in Bautzen Germany – The best view
Bautzen is also called the “city of towers” and indeed the city has several of them to offer. However, not all of them are accessible. You can visit the Lauenturm with the Lauentürmer. You need to find out about the opening hours beforehand. The guided tour “Bautzen – City of Towers” takes you to the Matthiasturm, which is not usually open to the public. The best way to find out which other towers are open is to contact the tourist information office in Bautzen. However, one tower is almost always open and it alone is definitely enough for a great view.
Reichenturm – The Leaning Tower of Bautzen Germany
The Reichenturm is also often called the “Leaning Tower of Bautzen” because it leans 1.44 metres at a total height of 56 metres. I have to say that I didn’t notice that. But I was also too busy enjoying the view of the whole old town from the viewing platform at that height. The tower itself has an interesting history, which the staff at the ticket office one floor below the platform are happy to tell you. For it had not only once been really lucky in misfortune and was rebuilt at least three times after destruction.
Friedensbrücke (Bridge of Peace)
The Peace Bridge itself is not one of the Bautzen sights. It is 20 metres high and one of the longest crossings of the Spree. However, the view of the old town from here is particularly beautiful. From the Friedensbrücke you can photograph the most important sights of the city at once, including the town hall and the Alte Wasserkunst.
The Margraves of Meissen had Ortenburg Castle built in 1002 to protect their borders. It was in Ortenburg Castle that the Peace of Bautzen was concluded between the Holy Roman Empire and Poland. Meanwhile, Bautzen remained in the hands of the Slavic tribe of the Milzener. The Ortenburg includes the Matthias Tower, which formed the entrance in the Middle Ages. It was named after the Hungarian king Matthias Corvinus, who also ruled over Upper Lusatia in the 15th century.
In the doorway of the tower you will also find the coat of arms of Sigismund Jagiełło, King of Poland, who was once bailiff in Upper Lusatia. The castle water tower, on the other hand, was not only a defensive tower, but also served as a water supply with a well in its belly. The salt house, on the other hand, was a storage facility for salt and was converted into a home for the Sorbian Museum in 1971.
The Sorbian Museum gives you an insight into the more than thousand-year-old history of the Sorbs. The Slavic minority is the traditional heart of Upper Lusatia. In the building in Ortenburg Castle you will find a permanent exhibition that provides very detailed information about the history of the Sorbs from the first settlement of the region by Slavic tribes until today. Traditional costumes are shown, the language is explained and visitors learn a lot about the Sorbs’ struggle to preserve their culture and traditions.
The Bautzen memorial site commemorates the suffering of the political prisoners who were incarcerated in the state security prisons in Bautzen. The extensive exhibition explains everything from surveillance and the reasons for Stasi detention to arrests, torture methods and the inhumane treatment of political prisoners.
In the oppressively cramped prison rooms you get a feeling for what it must have been like to serve years of innocent time here. Fortunately, there are also reports about honourable behaviour and escape attempts from the prison. The memorial is open until 8 pm on Fridays, which is very visitor-friendly. This is especially worthwhile for weekend visitors. If you have hardly known anything about the Stasi so far or are simply interested in this topic, we recommend that you take part in one of the guided tours of the memorial.
The Alte Wasserkunst (“Old Water Art”) in Bautzen was not only part of the city’s fortifications. As a technical system, it also served to supply the city with water. This was especially useful when the city was under siege by foreign troops. During a visit to the Old Waterworks (admission 3 euros), you can not only learn about this unique technical monument. You will also learn a lot about the water supply in the Middle Ages. From the roof of the tower you can also enjoy another beautiful view of the best Bautzen sights.
Bautzen Insider Tip – Ruins of St. Nicholas Church with Cemetery
A real insider tip that cannot be discovered at first glance is the Nikolai Church. It actually no longer stands, because it was destroyed during a siege of the city during the Thirty Years’ War. The attempt to rebuild it failed. Only some of its foundation walls remain. Between them today stretches the Nikolai cemetery, where people are still buried. The ruins together with the cemetery give this place a special, mystical flair that no visitor to the city of Bautzen should miss. A visit is especially worthwhile at sunset.
I don’t know what I would do without it: Bautz’ner Senf (Bautzen Mustard). I am a self-confessed fan of Bautz’ner Senf and even take it with me to Ukraine so that I am supplied with it until my next visit to Germany. Because for me, there is no better. I’m not alone in this, because Bautz’ner is the market leader in eastern Germany, with 70 per cent of the market. So you can also find out more about mustard in Bautzen itself. There is a mustard shop with a museum at Fleischmarkt 5.
There you can try several varieties and stock up if you live abroad like me. The Senfstube restaurant (Schlossstrasse. 3) serves all kinds of dishes made with mustard – eggs in mustard sauce, for example. By the way, we don’t get any money for this tip, even though we seem like a couple of Apple fanboys when it comes to mustard.
City tour in Bautzen
There is an interesting guided tour in Bautzen Germany that you can join and see many Bautzen sights.
- It starts every day, lasts 90 minutes and costs only 10 Euros.
- You can find out more about the tour here.
- “Naš Budyšin” – guided tour of the history and culture of the Sorbs in Bautzen (90 min., from 8 euros)
Restaurants in Bautzen
Bautzen has a wide range of good restaurants. The influence of Sorbian cuisine in particular is strongly noticeable in the region’s dishes. There are many good restaurants that are virtually among the culinary Bautzen sights.
- Wjelbik (Kornstr. 7) – The only real Sorbian restaurant, with regional ingredients, Sorbian recipes and friendly staff – an absolute must in Bautzen.
- Culinarium (Große Brüdergasse 10) – Sorbian, German and international cuisine in a cosy ambience with changing specials!
- Goliath (Grosse Brüdergasse 6) – Offers a rich selection of coffees and cakes as a café and espresso bar – very tasty!
Accommodation in Bautzen
In Bautzen there are cosy, but also curious accommodations that guarantee a good night’s sleep in any case.
- Mühlbastei* – View over the Spree river from one of Bautzen’s towers and modern medieval flair with stylish rooms in a great location – book early!
- MOMENTS*– Modern rooms and flats, two of which even have their own sauna, located directly in the old town and with excellent service.
- Best Western Plus* – Well-equipped hotel in a perfect location that is also well suited for larger groups.