Thuringia: Germany’s Best-Kept Secret

Godfrey Hall is an award-winning UK based travel journalist and member of the British Guild of Travel Writers. He has been in search of elves in Iceland, traveled to the depths of central Australia and been off the beaten track in Bulgaria.

Located in central Germany, Thuringia is known as the green heart of Germany. Full of surprises, the region can easily be reached by high-speed train from Berlin or Nuremburg, as well as via its own airport in Erfurt.

A tranquil area, Thuringia is ideal for families, hikers and nature lovers.

Road bridge near the town of Schmorda (Godfrey Hall)

Road bridge near the town of Schmorda (Godfrey Hall)

11 Things to See and Do


  • One of the state’s gems is Weimar, with its magnificent buildings – including the City Palace and various historic homes. The town has strong links with Bach and also the scholars Schiller and Goethe.
  • The medieval town of Muhlhausen has 56 towers and steeples and is known for its gates and churches. Bach was appointed organist here in 1707.
  • Erfurt, the capital of the region, also has its own medieval center and is well worth a visit.
  • Castle Leuchtenburg offers up not only its famous skywalk but also an amazing porcelain exhibition.


  • Check out the intriguing hunting tunnels deep in the forest, close to the village of Hummelshain.
  • Several steam railways and workshops operate in Thuringia between Gotha and Tabarz at Weimar.
  • If you have a sweet tooth then try the sweet and biscuit factory at Kahla or the chocolate works at Saalfeld.
City of Jena (Godfrey Hall)

City of Jena (Godfrey Hall)


  • The hills around Saalfeld are excellent for hiking.
  • For nature lovers, there is also the canopy walk above the forest at Hainich.
  • Boat trips can be taken on the reservoirs close to Kaulsdorf.
  • Or consider a visit to the wild cat sanctuary in the village of Hutscheroda, were you can see some of Germany’s shyest creatures and learn more about their habitat.


There is a wide range of accommodations available in the region, from luxury hotels such as Hotel Elephant in Weimar, to family-run establishments like the Gasthaus and Pension Linde near Kaulsdorf.

For families, the Familienhotel in Weimar has spacious apartments and child-friendly facilities. There are also a range of establishments in Erfurt and Jena.

If you rent a car you can visit some of the many village guesthouses around the area.

(l) Canopy walk and tower at Hainich National Park; (r) Typical Thuringian village church (Godfrey Hall)

(l) Canopy walk and tower at Hainich National Park; (r) Typical Thuringian village church (Godfrey Hall)

Food and Drink

I have always found German food wholesome and substantial. Pork is very popular, and there are many different varieties of bratwurst served in hotels and cafes, as well as the roadside snack bars that you will find everywhere.

Schnitzel is also popular, and boiled potatoes, sauerkraut and red cabbage are often served with meat dishes. Dumplings are common in Thuringia, and you may find both savory and sweet ones on the same menu.

There are plenty of different beers to choose from as most towns have their own breweries. German beer has a unique flavor, and both dark and light varieties should be available. The area is also starting to grow vines, so you may want to try some of the local wines.

If you are going hiking for the day, there is nothing better than a good German breakfast of boiled eggs, cheese, ham and rolls. The specialties in the area include wild boar. Cheese and ham on toast together with one or two fried eggs is a popular and reasonably priced dish known as a Strammer Max. You will find local variations everywhere.

Sheet cakes are a favorite afternoon snack in this region and include crumb, plum and apple. (Sheet cake is slab cake cut into segments.) It is usually eaten with a cup of coffee, beer or glass of sparkling water.

Herzog Ernst II von Sachsen's hunting lodge in Altenburg at the Jagdanlage Rieseneck aka The Giant’s Corner

Herzog Ernst II von Sachsen’s hunting lodge in Altenburg at the Jagdanlage Rieseneck aka The Giant’s Corner. The film “The Last Station,” starring Helen Mirren and Christopher Plummer, was filmed in this part of the forest (Godfrey Hall)


Due to the mainly rural nature of the region, nightlife is limited to hotel bars and a few clubs in the cities. There are, however, a number of theaters and concert halls where you may be able to hear music by several of the area’s famed historic composers, including Bach and Lizt.


There is an excellent train service in the region, with connections to the cities as well as major hubs outside the district. There is also a high-speed train service to Berlin and Nuremburg. In addition, many of the cities have their own trams, and local and long-distance buses operate throughout the region.

The roads are usually quiet, and there are some efficient newly constructed motorways. Access to the motorways is excellent, and rental cars can be arranged through Caro.

There are a number of airports, including Leipzig and the regional hub Erfurt. Germania operates from here and provides several flights a week to London. Expert Tips

How To Get There: Erfurt–Weimar Airport (ERF) is approximately 3 miles from downtown Erfurt and 15 miles from Weimar. However, this airport has primarily seasonal service. London Gatwick is the only major airport in Europe with direct service on Germania. More information about the airport and area transportation is available here. Your better option is to fly to Frankfurt Airport (FRA) and taking the DB Bahn train from the airport to Erfurt or Weimar, which takes about 2.5 hours, and costs anywhere from €29 to €58 each way.
Best Time To Visit: The best time to visit is between May and September when the average daytime high is in the high 60s, and low in the low 50s. Late fall to spring is also ideal, albeit colder when the temperatures range from the low 30s to the low 50s, with January being the coldest month.

Sample Fares: Calendars display lowest roundtrip fares over the next 90 days to Frankfurt from:
* All fares are roundtrip including all taxes and are accurate at time of publication. For updated pricing, conduct a new search on

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