Today, about 95,000 Gera residents (“Geraer”) still live in Gera in Thuringia. But since “Geraer” can hardly be pronounced without accidents, they call themselves “Gerscher”. Gera is also called Otto Dix City after the city’s most famous son (even a shopping mall bears his name). And the Gerscher have always been very fond of drinking: in the past, the daily consumption of beer was 4 liters – per Gerscher! Which makes the origin of the caves understandable.
These are the most beautiful Gera sights
But Gera has much more sights to offer. Here we would like to introduce you to the most beautiful Gera sights in more detail.
The best place to start our little tour of the old town is at the market square. If you come from the Kleine Kirchgasse, you will pass the Stadtapotheke (City Pharmacy) Gera, which has been in operation since 1603 until today and has a very beautiful bay window.
On the market square you will find many impressive town houses. The square is dominated by the town hall, which was built in the Renaissance. The town hall tower is 57 meters high, and at a height of 34 meters there is a platform that can be reached via 163 steps (Mon-Fri 9-17.30, Sat 9-12.30). Those who take on the scramble will be rewarded with a magnificent panoramic view that includes many of Gera’s sights!
Schuhgasse and Salvatorkirche
From the market square, go past the tourist information office into Schuhgasse and then turn left into Rittergasse. On many houses there are house signs where you can find historical information about Gera. The most famous is the house sign on house No. 6 in Schuhgasse: it commemorates the first Zeppelin flight over Gera.
You will eventually come to the most beautiful church in Gera, the Salvator Church, which stands elevated on a hill. It is built in baroque style on the outside, but when you enter the interior, you will be surprised: The interior of the church was completely renewed in 1903 – in the then ultra-modern purest Art Nouveau style.
The word Höhler is a combination of the words “cave” and “cellar” (“Höhle” and “Keller”). About 300 years ago, there were numerous Gerscher who owned a brewing right. The daily consumption at that time was 4 liters per Gerscher, as mentioned above. To keep the beer cool, people dug into the earth (miners were plentiful at the time) and turned the cellars into beer stores, where the temperature was a constant 9° to 12° Celsius.
260 caves are known, which served as deposits until the end of the 19th century. However, it can be assumed that there are even more caves that are buried and still to be discovered. For the most part, they are located under private buildings and most of them are therefore not freely accessible – except during the cave festival Höhlerfest that takes place in late autumn (there is also an art event called the Höhler-Biennale every two years).
Accessible, however, is the cave, which today houses the Cave Museum, where regular guided tours are held (Tues-Sun 11 am, 1 pm and 3 pm). These tours are an absolute must for every Gera visitor. You will learn in an exciting and funny way that the caves, if they were all connected, could be walked on a distance of 9 km.
And that a woman’s corpse lies behind a locked door. And that for 300 years a cave has been transformed into a stalactite cave with the vain ambition of surpassing the Saalfeld Fairy Grottoes. And that the caves saved many people’s lives as air-raid shelters during the bombings in World War 2.
So the caves are definitely one of the most exciting Gera sights! If you are thirsty after all these stories about beer, you can stock up on Geraer Höhlerbier in the museum.
Natural History Museum
Directly above the cave museum you can visit the Museum of Natural History Gera (Tue-Sun 11-17). It is located in the “Schreiber’s House”, which was built in the 17th century. You will find there, for example, a very interesting presentation of the development of the natural history collections from the pharmacy collections to the natural history cabinets to the present forms of presentation.
And there is much more information with exhibits on the history of the earth in Eastern Thuringia, on the habitats in the Slate Mountains, the Orlasenke, the Plöthener Ponds and the shell limestone slopes near Jena, on animal life in and around the house and in the city, on flora and fauna on the White Elster, on the history of pearl fishing in the Vogtland and, and, and … The whole thing is presented very vividly in dioramas, so the museum is also very popular with children.
The city museum (“Stadtmuseum”) is located in a representative building, which was built in 1780 after a big fire. It is extraordinarily descriptive and gives you a comprehensive picture of the history of Gera. In the first part, you will find information about Gera as one of the largest Neolithic settlement centers in Thuringia, its foundation as a city (first mentioned in a document in 1237), its development into a commercial and industrial city in the 16th century, a residential city in the dominion of Gera and finally an industrial metropolis in Eastern Thuringia.
The museum’s exhibits are interesting, such as a magnificent winged altar from 1498. Not everyone knows that the city center of Gera was practically completely destroyed in a great fire in 1780. Or that a certain “Her “mann “Tie “tz founded a textile retail store together with his nephew in Gera in 1882, which later developed into the “Hertie” department store chain.
In the second part of the exhibition you will learn everything important about Gera on its way to becoming a big city, its time under the swastika, about the post-war period (Gera as a district town in the former GDR) and its way to the present, again illustrated by numerous original documents.
Museum of Applied Arts
The Museum of Applied Arts (Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Tue-Sun 11am-5pm) is the place to go if you’re interested in contemporary art. There is a permanent exhibition on design and furniture as well as works of art, fashion and jewelry from the periods of Art Deco to the turn of the millennium, e.g. works by Gerhard Marcks or Aenne Biermann. In addition, changing special exhibitions are presented. And when you visit the museum, you should definitely pay attention to the different ceilings in the exhibition rooms, which have impressive decorations made of wood and stucco.
Otto Dix House
The Otto Dix House (Tue-Sun 11 a.m.-5 p.m., it’s worth buying a combination ticket with the Orangery, there’s also a free audio guide) stands near the White Elster River right next to St. Mary’s Church. It is dedicated to the great painter, draftsman and graphic artist, who was one of the most important German and European artists of the 20th century.
Otto Dix was born in this house and spent his youthful years there. The furnishings of the living areas of the house still breathe the atmosphere of a simple working-class household. The house contains important paintings from the artist’s early creative period. You will learn a lot about the career of Dix, who was oriented to many styles: Expressionism, Dadaism, New Objectivity).
Newspaper clippings and other documents reveal how he repeatedly met with rejection until he was finally outlawed by the Nazis as “degenerate”. Also interesting are his paintings from the years 1934 to 1945, in which he used medieval painting techniques and created realistic portraits and landscape depictions in the manner of the Old Netherlandish painters, in order to avoid these pictures also being put on the index.
Just a few steps away from the Otto Dix House stands the Orangerie (Tues-Sun 11 a.m.-5 p.m., there is also a free audio guide here). There, in addition to special exhibitions, you can see a permanent exhibition of Otto Dix’s work from 1945 until his death. It is amazing how Dix, immediately after the end of the war (he had been drafted into the last Volkssturm and was subsequently taken prisoner of war), radically changed his painting style back to an expressive style.
Particularly impressive are the painting “Hiob”, in which he processed his wartime experiences, and the painting “Self-Portrait with Marcella”, his granddaughter, his last self-portrait. Tragically, his painting style no longer corresponded to the contemporary post-war styles in the GDR and FRG. Finally, however, he was honored with the Federal Cross of Merit and honorary citizenship of Gera.
After just a few steps, you will be standing in front of the impressive theater, which was opened in 1902 as a new building in the Art Nouveau style and was one of the most spectacular new buildings of its time as Gera’s “Festliches Hoftheater” with an integrated concert hall. It still enjoys an excellent reputation today as Thuringia’s only five-section theater.
Another must-see and one of Gera’s main attractions is Haus Schulenburg (Nov-March Mon-Fri 10am-4pm, Sat/Sun 2pm-4:30pm, April-Oct Mon-Fri 10am-5pm, Sat/Sun 2pm-5pm). The builder of the house was the wealthy industrialist and patron Paul Schulenburg, who commissioned the famous Belgian architect and designer Henry van der Velde with the planning and construction of the house in 1913. Van der Velde also designed the interior as well as the furniture and was responsible for the garden design.
The house gives an overview of the work of van der Velde and other renowned artists of his time. You will find original furniture from the time of the villa’s construction, including a pointillist carpet by van der Velde, along with other original evidence of the work of van der Velde and many contemporary artists. Pay attention to the floors in the individual rooms, they are very artistically executed, mostly in parquet.
Schulenburg was not the only one who had sufficient means to build magnificent estates in Gera’s “Golden Age”, as the following Gera landmarks show.
There are numerous villas scattered all over Gera, which were built by well-heeled industrialists and merchants. I would recommend you to take a short walk from the corner of Straße des Friedens/Vollersdorfer Straße to Vollersdorfer Straße, where you will find many stately villas: from Villa Koeppe at Straße des Friedens 65 to Villa Wetzel and Villa Brehme, which you can reach across from House 43 on a small path ascending into the forest.
It is the most bizarre villa and is popularly called “Little Neuschwanstein”. The builder was a baker (hence his penchant for the confectioner’s style) and wicked tongues claim that he was only able to finance the construction because he baked his rolls smaller than the competition.
You can discover other splendid and even more stylish villas behind the Heinrichsgrund sports field (Villa Jahr, also accessible after a short walk from the Otto-Dix-Haus), and diagonally across from the theater (Villa Voß).
Gardens and parks in Gera
Gera, the “green city on the Elster”, has a large number of beautiful parks and gardens, which are among the most beautiful Gera sights.
First and foremost, of course, is the Hofwiesenpark, which covers an area of 30 hectares. The park was created in 2007 for the Federal Horticultural Show (Bundesgartenschau) in Gera and Ronneburg, and accordingly you will find a flower parade, the Thuringia Pavilion with media café, a flower hall, a nursery garden, the art pavilion, the International Rotarian Jubilee Park, the Garden of Twin Cities, the Veolia Stage and much more. The nearby Stadium of Friendship hosts soccer matches and athletics competitions, and you can let off steam in the Hofwiesenbad pool.
A highlight for children is located in the northern part of the park: the play oval, a huge playground with great playground equipment, climbing and hiding places.
Another beautiful garden is located on the west side of the Orangery: the baroque Kitchen Garden. You can also visit the gardens of Villa Jahr (April-Oct.), the Botanical Garden (May-Sept. Tue-Sun 11-17.30) or in late summer the Dahlia Garden (April-Oct.) – or simply take a walk along the White Elster.
Sights in the surroundings of Gera
You have looked at the many beautiful Gera sights and want more? There is also a lot to discover in the surroundings of the city!
If you drive northwest from Gera, you will reach the small town of Bad Köstritz after a few kilometers. There you will find the main attraction of Bad Köstritz, the Heinrich Schütz House, birthplace of the important baroque composer (Tue-Fri 10-17, Sat/Sun 13-17).
The interesting museum shows testimonies from his life accompanied by the music of Heinrich Schütz and has a room where historical instruments are displayed. The museum is housed in a beautiful building from the late 18th century, and you can buy a craft sheet in the museum store and recreate the house. What other museum can boast its own craft sheet?
You can also tour the Köstritzer Brauereiand try their famous Schwarzbier!
A little further away is Eisenberg, a pretty little town with very well preserved historic buildings and a nice town museum (Mon-Fri 9am-12pm and 1pm-4pm). A bit off the main road you will find the castle with a beautiful park. If you stand in front of the castle and face the left part of the building, you will find a hint of a castle church, which is not recognizable as such from the outside. But when you step through the entrance gate, you will be overwhelmed by the baroque splendor of the church. With its paintings and stucco decorations, the castle church is certainly one of the most beautiful churches in Thuringia (Tues-Sun 10 am – 4 pm).
Ronneburg – Neue Landschaft
A former industrial wasteland as a place of interest? Uranium was mined in Ronneburg until the fall of the Wall, and if you google the Neue Landschaft (“New Landscape”), you’ll find pictures showing what this place used to look like.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, a thorough renovation and renaturation took place, and for the Bundesgartenschau 2007, a fantastic landscape park was completed where you can spend hours: You can marvel at 450 trees in over 140 different species in the arboretum, including all the “Trees of the Year” from 1989. In addition, you can learn about the climate areas in Thuringia, Germany and worldwide on the climate experience trail, the causes and consequences of the greenhouse effect are described and there is even a little quiz in which you have to guess who is the biggest greenhouse sinner.
Or you can climb the futuristic discovery tower, either via stairs or outside via one of eight climbing routes. Benches, loungers and even hammocks are available for relaxing. And if you want to find out more about uranium mining, you can do so from Thu to Sun from 1 to 5 p.m. at the “Wismut Objekt 90” exhibition. The way back is via the 225 m long wooden dragon’s tail bridge.
Only a few kilometers behind Ronneburg you will find a castle like in a picture book, situated on a rocky outcrop above the valley of the Sprotte. In the castle you can visit an interesting museum (Tue-Sun 10-17), where the history of the castle and the region is presented and you can learn a lot about the European salon history in the early 19th century. The interactive family exhibition “The Children’s Castle” is particularly commendable. Here, young visitors can playfully explore medieval and regional history.
How did you like the trip to the Gera sights? Feel free to let us know and write us a comment!