A stroll around Erfurt - Urlaub - Reisen - Thüringen entdecken
A stroll around Erfurt
Views from the Merchants’ Bridge
As you step through the archway of St Giles Church on Wenigemarkt square, the noise levels instantly drop and the hubbub of daily life fades away. The thick walls of the building, which also forms the eastern entrance to the Merchants’ Bridge, block out the babble of voices in Erfurt’s city centre. You ascend the church tower in silence, and only your breath gets louder as the steps become steeper. Narrow windows provide some light as you huff and puff your way past the big Friedensglocke bell. The wooden staircase creaks. Anyone who doesn’t have a head for heights is advised to look straight ahead to the next step. The rest of the 128 steps are soon behind you, and then the hatch to the top of the tower opens, 33 metres above the ground.
Below lies Erfurt in all its glory. Narrow streets and alleys meander through a sea of houses in Thuringia’s capital, which is home to 210,000 people. One minute the city presents itself as a confident metropolis, the next it has the compact feel of a village. Directly at your feet is the Merchant’s Bridge, or Krämerbrücke, the oldest secular building in Erfurt. It spans the river Gera between Benediktsplatz and Wenigemarkt squares, with houses all along both sides, much like the Ponte Vecchio in Florence. A total of 32 half-timbered buildings line the bridge, most of which now contain charming shops full of antiques and artisan goods, all carefully looked after by a charitable foundation.
©Lisa Kramer, Thüringer Tourismus GmbH
Small cafés invite you to take a break and sit outside on the ancient cobblestones as you watch tourists from around the world make their way along Erfurt’s most famous mile. There are countless other lanes and alleyways all around for holidaymakers to explore, of course, and at every turn there are stories and history to discover. This is one of Europe's most beautiful old quarters, home to historical merchant's houses, the neo-Gothic town hall on Fischmarkt square that dates from the 1870s and the Church of St Severus with its tall spires. The cascading, seemingly endless steps of the mighty cathedral, which was first mentioned in records in 1117, are a popular place to chill out in the evening sun.
©Gregor Lengler, Thüringer Tourismus GmbH
The city is compact and easy to explore on foot, and there are trams everywhere, with some lines running until late at night. Away from the cathedral, the Merchant’s Bridge and other famous sights, there are numerous quiet spots, often only known to locals, where you can sit back and enjoy the atmosphere.
For example, the city’s many green spaces, which come in all shapes and sizes – Erfurt is full of trees and flowers. To the south of the main train station lies leafy Stadtpark, from where you can walk for many kilometres through lush greenery along Flutgraben canal, the park by Löberwallgraben, the Espach promenade and Luisenpark. The grassy area behind the Merchants’ Bridge is a popular spot to take a break from strolling around the city centre, while the locals adore small oases such as Predigerhof, right by Prediger Church, a secret little hideaway with a few benches just a stone’s throw from the town hall.
©Christian Fischer, Thüringer Tourismus GmbH
What immediately strikes you is that everyone seems to know everyone else, even though the city isn’t that small. If you spend some time in one of Erfurt’s cosy cafés, you will soon notice how often and how warmly people greet each other here. And by your second or third day, you’re almost treated like a local yourself. The friendly look is accompanied by a hello, and soon even a longer chat. The same is true in the city’s many pubs and bars that cater to a hip, young clientele, such as Oma Lilo in Gorkistrasse, Café Hilgenfeld right next to Domplatz square, and Wein-Destille near Petersberg Citadel, or in casual restaurants like Mathilda, where modern mediterranean cuisine is served with a warm welcome.
You might chat about Erfurt’s amazing arts and gallery scene, or the new programme at the small but excellent Theater im Palais, and have you heard about the cool events at the Franz Mehlhose club and café? What you can also see from the tower of St Giles Church is that the city is surrounded by green countryside. It doesn’t take long to get to Steigerwald forest to the south, where the Waldhaus and its large beer garden provide the perfect excuse for a break. Not far from that is Bachstelzencafé on the river Gera near Bischleben, and further to the north-west of the city is the Grundmühle pub in the Weissbach valley.
Then you carefully descend the tower (the narrowest part of the spiral staircase is best done backwards), stroll over to the cathedral square and enjoy the evening in this great little city. Even in the centre it can be very quiet, especially late at night, almost like a village where everyone knows virtually everyone else.
DOREÉN REIFENBERGER, LOOPKERAMIK
HARTMUT PRIEMER, BACKSTUBE AN DER KRÄMERBRÜCKE
EMÖKE EBNER, BUCHHANDLUNG KLEINGEDRUCKTES
KARINA BOTH-PECKHAM, PECKHAM’S COFFEE HOUSE
MARIA SOK, MR. & MRS. PRESIDENT