The world is a big place, bigger than I think anyone can really truly ever appreciate. We can look at a map and sort of get an idea of its immensity, but it’s not until you start traveling more often when the fact is driven home. That lesson was once again proven to me while exploring the Martin Luther route in Germany. That a country we all know like Germany, famous for so many different reasons has large cities most of us still haven’t heard about amazes me. I feel like I should have heard of Erfurt before my visit, but it was new to me in every way conceivable. The experience was fun though in that since I had no preconceptions, everything was new and unexpected and by the end of my stay, I did indeed walk away with a fierce appreciation for Erfurt. I’m willing to bet that I’m not the only person who hasn’t heard of Erfurt before, so today I want to share some of its finer qualities that I think make it a fun place to visit and explore.
Erfurt is the capital and largest city of Thuringia, a region in Germany known for being a nature lover’s playground. But the region is also home to some of Germany’s greatest cities and towns, making Erfurt a fantastic place from which to explore the region. Since I was tracking the life and times of Martin Luther, I had the chance to visit many of these towns including beautiful Weimar and the fascinating town of Eisenach. But there’s more to Thuringia than the Reformation, even in those towns famous for their ties to Luther. Weimar impressed me in nearly every way and instantly I wish I had more time to explore this classical city. It seems everyone who has been anyone spent time in Weimar at some point in their lives, making the city a veritable open air museum featuring some of the greatest writers and artists of the last 200-years. Eisenach is home to the mighty Wartburg Castle and the Luther House, but it’s also where you can find Bach’s house and museum detailing not only the composer’s life, but the influence his work has had over the centuries. All in all, Thuringia is a fun place to visit, with Erfurt at the center of those explorations.
Erfurt has been lucky throughout its history, having first emerged as a key stop on the Via Regia, an ancient trade and pilgrimage route. Later its central location in Germany would serve the same purpose, making Erfurt a wealthy and successful city for a very long time. Thankfully, most of that ancient heritage can still be seen today. Erfurt is home to one of the most intact medieval Old Towns in Germany, thanks to the fact that it suffered very little damage during World War II. Today, visitors can enjoy that colorful downtown on an easy walk around town. Starting at the massive Citadel perched on a hill overlooking the city, the path is clear from the Cathedral and along the city streets to the heart of the experience, the Merchant’s Bridge.
In Medieval times many bridges also had thriving businesses on them, although only a few around Europe still exist. This is actually one of the more notable ones because it includes the longest series of inhabited buildings on any bridge in Europe. The city owns most of the shops on the bridge and only allows merchants selling traditional items or arts to take up residence, reflecting the heritage of the city and region. On top of the shops are apartments and, yes, people really still do live there.
Erfurt and all of Thuringia is lucky in the fact that thanks to the large farms and fertile lands in the area, there is plenty of fresh food to enjoy. In Erfurt, that has translated to some amazing restaurants and other purveyors of delicious foods, from fine dining to the more basic. The first thing any visitor to Erfurt has to try though is a famous Thuringian sausage. The grill is at the heart of traditional food in Thuringia, and over the years several snacks and comfort foods have attained cult status, but none are as famous as the sausages. They’re even a protected commodity and in order to be called a true Thuringian sausage, it has to include finely minced pork, beef, or sometimes veal as well as a unique mixture of spices including salt and pepper, caraway, marjoram, and garlic. The resulting product should always be grilled, sprinkled with beer throughout the process and just as it’s lightly charred, that’s when it’s served up in a bun with some locally produced mustard. That’s it. Nothing else should be added, nor will it ever be in cities like Erfurt. To experience the best version of this homey snack, stop by the trendy restaurant Faust Food located downtown, specializing in anything you can make on a grill.
Not everything in Erfurt is rooted in centuries old tradition though, there are some young and creative culinary pros creating some amazing products, but perhaps none better than at Goldhelm Chocolatiers. Like so many other creatives, Alex Kühn came to chocolate later in life but what he’s managed to create in just a few short years is nothing short of extraordinary. Using expertly sourced cacao along with ingredients found within driving distance of Erfurt, the result is a chocolate experience you’ll never forget. They also make their own ice creams, so be sure to stop by their shop for a scoop or two.
Luxury Accommodations and Fun Vibe
I honestly didn’t have high expectations in terms of accommodations in Erfurt, but as soon as I entered the bright and massive lobby of the Dorint Hotel am Dom Erfurt I knew I was in for a treat. Using walls of windows, the hotel is light, bright and modern; a theme that carries through to every aspect of the guest experience. Spacious rooms with every modern amenity and a beautiful restaurant and bar that serves both drinks and light bites as well as dinner menus that are sophisticated and refined. The best aspect of the Dorint though is its location; a 5-minute walk from the Cathedral and the expansive Old Town which most visitors are eager to explore.
It was the perfect home base for me during my time in Erfurt, an experience I came to love for all of the reasons in this post as well as reasons I can’t really identify. There’s just something special about Erfurt and I’m not sure if it’s the people, the food, the history or a mix of everything, but it’s a fun place to be. When I visited the sun was shining and it seemed as if the entire city was out to enjoy the weather. It was fun to be a part of that, if only briefly, and forever endeared the city to me.
There are many reasons to love Erfurt and I hope by sharing my favorite experiences in the Thuringian capital that I’ve convinced you that this is yet another amazing German city to add to your own personal travel bucket list.