Don’t Miss Wartburg Castle And Other INCREDIBLE Things To Do In Eisenach!

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Welcome to our journey through Eisenach, an enchanting town where every stone has a story to tell, and every path leads to a piece of history. This article is your personal guide to the very best experiences this picturesque location has to offer, from timeless landmarks to hidden gems.

Most famous for the UNESCO-listed castle, Wartburg, there is more to enjoy in Eisenach than this. With past residents including giants like Martin Luther and Johann Sebastian Bach, there is lots to discover beyond exploring majestic strongholds perched atop craggy peaks.

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Yet, it’s not all about the past; Eisenach’s present-day charm captivates just as easily, with its vibrant market squares and nature trails that promise serenity amid the bustle of modern life.

In my quest to unveil the essence of Eisenach, I created this guide to help you do the same.

Don’t be like most foreign tourists and ignore this gem of a town. Join me as we discover why Eisenach isn’t just a place to visit, but a treasure trove of experiences waiting to unfold.

Love Germany? Click here to download your free guide to ALL of Germany’s Amazing UNESCO sites. See all 52 of them!

A Brief History of Eisenach

Eisenach, nestled in the heart of Germany’s Thuringian Forest, is a city steeped in a rich tapestry of historical significance that predates even the Middle Ages. Its roots can be traced back to the 6th century when the region was inhabited by the Thuringii tribe, which gave Thuringia its name.

The first official mention of Eisenach occurred in 1150, though by that time, it already boasted a fully developed town structure, thanks in part to its strategically important location at the crossroads of historical trade routes. The town quickly became an economic center in the region, specializing in the production of fine woolen cloths which were traded far and wide.

Eisenach’s ascent to prominence is closely linked to the Wettin dynasty, which controlled the area from the 12th century onward. The Wartburg Castle, commissioned by the famous Ludwig der Springer, stands as a monument to the area’s medieval might and political significance.

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Eisenach

It was at Wartburg Castle in 1227 that the legendary Meistersinger contest was purported to have taken place, an event later idealized in Richard Wagner’s opera, “Tannhäuser.”

The city is also intimately connected with Martin Luther, the seminal figure of the Protestant Reformation. Luther lived in Eisenach during his school years and later returned to the nearby Wartburg Castle for protection when he was declared an outlaw by the Holy Roman Emperor.

During his time in hiding, Luther translated the New Testament into German, making the Bible accessible to the common people for the first time and laying a significant cornerstone for the modern German language.

In the realm of culture, Eisenach shines as the birthplace of Johann Sebastian Bach in 1685. The great composer’s influence is celebrated throughout the city, especially at the Bach House museum, which commemorates his legacy.

The 19th and 20th centuries saw Eisenach developing into an industrial hub, with the establishment of the automotive industry, most notably with the foundation of the BMW brand in 1916, an era captured by the Automobile World Eisenach museum. Despite the devastation wrought by World War II, and later decades under GDR socialism, Eisenach’s industrial prowess persevered.

Today, Eisenach is lauded not just for its historical and cultural marvels but also for its resilience and adaptability through times of turbulence and change. The city’s past has been meticulously preserved and serves as a profound educational platform for visitors from around the world.

The intertwining narratives of sacred music, Protestantism, and automotive ingenuity define Eisenach as a vibrant testament to German heritage, resolutely anchored on the global map of history.

Top 9 Incredible Things To Do In Eisenach

While there aren’t a million places to visit in Eisenach, the Eisenach attractions that do exist are full of history, industry and amazing to visit. So try to visit what you can.

Unlike many destinations we write about, the attractions in Eisenach aren’t all in the Old Town and are a little more spread out. It is easier to explore around here with a car, but buses help you get to some attractions (take a look at Google Maps for options). It is also a nice place to walk around. I explored here successfully without a car.

1. Visit Wartburg Castle

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Wartburg Castle

Wartburg Castle is not simply a scenic historical edifice; it stands as a monumental piece of world heritage, both culturally and architecturally. UNESCO recognised its importance in German history, and it is World Heritage listed. It’s also huge, made up of 40,000 tonnes of sandstone and is nearly 1000 years old.

Founded in the Middle Ages, around 1067 by the Count of Schauenburg, Ludwig der Springer, the castle occupies a mighty vantage point above the town of Eisenach. Infused with history, it is where Martin Luther sought sanctuary in 1521 and produced the first translation of the New Testament into German, a cornerstone in the Reformation and a pivotal moment in literary history.

Within its walls, you can explore opulent rooms, such as the Hall of Minstrels, which harks back to the legendary Singer’s War, an event immortalized in Wagner’s opera “Tannhäuser.” The castle’s sumptuous art collections and intricate architecture are matched by majestic views of the Thuringian Forest. You can also view the room where Martin Luther translated the New Testament into German.

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The cell where Martin Luther translated the New Testament

Strolling through the courtyard, guests are immersed in the ambiance of the medieval era, conjuring images of knights and poets who once filled these halls.

You can explore Wartburg Castle on your own but a tour helps bring the history of the place alive. At the time of publishing, English language tours were at 1:30pm with German tours throughout the day. I found the tour great and it is very much worthwhile waiting for the English tour in my opinion. There was only one other person on mine!

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Wartburg’s party room we visited on the tour. If only walls could talk!

It can be a little complicated as an English speaker to work out how visits here work. I struggled to plan my day because of lack of information online. So here is information to help you!

To get here, you need to drive and park in the paid parking lot, walk from Eisenach or take a bus. You can read more about walking below, but note it is steep on the way up! I caught a bus up and walked down. I thought this was perfect as the walk is lovely – at least when it’s downhill.

Bus #3 departs from Eisenach train station and stops a few places (you can see it on Google Maps) before arriving at the castle. It’s only hourly but somewhat matches the trains from Erfurt. You can pay the driver if you don’t have a ticket like the Deutschland Ticket already.

However you arrive, you still have a steep walk up to the top. This took me about 7 minutes although my tour ticket said 15 minutes. You can also take a van up which costs 3 Euros. I arrived at the castle about 25 minutes after the bus departed the train station.

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Trail next to the castle walls with information boards about how the castle was constructed

You can wander the grounds of Wartburg Castle for free. This is both inside the walls and there is a path that stretches around some of the outside of the castle. Parts of this path have some interesting information boards about how the castle would have been built in medieval times. You can take in views to Eisenach and over the surrounging areas. It’s beautiful.

I read people saying you need an hour for this before your tour. I took about 20 minutes and read everything I could find. So I don’t recommend being an hour early.

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The grounds inside the castle walls at Wartburg

You can only go inside the castle on a guided tour unless it is after 3:20pm. The tour takes about 45 minutes and, like I said above, is very worthwhile. At the end of the tour, you end up at a short museum and then you can walk and see Luther’s cell where he translated the bible.

As a history lover, I found this amazing! There is also a library with old books about Luther and interesting paintings of big moments in his life. This route ends in a gift shop.

I read I would spend an hour after the tour looking at the museum, cell, etc. I felt like I took my time and read everything and was still less than 30 minutes. So all up, I only needed 30 minutes outside + 50 minute tour (mine went over 45 minutes) + 30 minutes museum + cell.

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The museum in Wartburg

If you don’t want to do a tour, it’s possible to do this by a self guided tour at 3:20pm with an audio guide in many different languages. However, since it costs the same, I highly recommend attending a tour earlier if you are a German or English speaker (and can be there at 1:30pm).

I very much enjoyed visiting Wartburg Castle. My tour really brought alive what an amazing place it is even ignoring the Martin Luther connection (although that is very amazing too). If you visit one place to visit in Eisenach, make it this one!

2. Explore Bach House (Bachhaus)

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Bachhaus

The Bach House in Eisenach is an indispensable stop for anyone with even a passing interest in classical music, granting an enlightening glimpse into the formative years of Johann Sebastian Bach. This meticulously preserved museum, believed to be the composer’s birthplace, illustrates the life, work, and impact of Bach with an array of over 250 original exhibits.

In addition to historical instruments and manuscripts, the museum offers engaging multimedia presentations and the unique opportunity to hear period instruments played live in the Music Room. You can appreciate a comprehensive journey through the Baroque era’s musical culture while experiencing the spaces Bach would have known as a child.

The historical significance of this location is compounded by its dedication to preserving the legacy of a man whose compositions were to become some of the most profound masterpieces in Western music.

The site consists of two houses which were joined together in the early 17th century, but they date back to the 15th century as well as a modern annexe as you can see above.

3. Stroll through the Old Town

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Eisenach Old Town

A walk through Eisenach’s Old Town is tantamount to a leisurely stroll back in time. The cobblestone lanes weave through a tapestry of half-timbered houses, renaissance buildings, more modern buildings and charming squares that tell the town’s story from the Middle Ages to today. Think about Martin Luther as a child wandering these streets or Johann Sebastian Bach

Alongside the architectural splendors, you can indulge in local Thuringian specialties at traditional inns, hunt for souvenirs in artisan shops, and simply enjoy the ambiance of a quintessentially German small town.

4. Visit Marktplatz

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Marktplatz

The beating heart of Eisenach lies in its Marktplatz, or Market Square, which has been the focal point of urban life since the city’s foundation. Edged by colorfully decorated townhouses, the past intersects with the present as markets and town events take place against the backdrop of stately buildings like Stadtschloss (City Palace).

Architectural highlights around the square ensure that you are enveloped in a scene steeped in tradition, while its cafes and restaurants provide idyllic spots for gastronomic indulgence or a tranquil cup of coffee.

5. Explore Stadtschloss (City Palace)

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Stadtschloss in Marktplatz

Eisenach’s Stadtschloss, or city palace, perfectly encapsulates the grandeur of the Duchy of Saxe-Eisenach. Constructed mainly in the 18th century, the palace serves as a repository of local history and noble grandiosity.

This baroque beauty was once the residence of dukes and now traverses its royal past and present as a museum, open to the public. You can take a look at the restored state rooms, with local porcelain, clothing, wrought iron, art and other artefacts on display.

Unfortunately, signage is only in Germany. It is located on Marktplatz.

6. Discover Georgenkirche (St George’s Church)

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Georgenkirche (St George’s Church)

Also located on Marktplatz, the monumental St. George’s Church, known as Georgenkirche in German, is one of the spiritual and architectural anchors of Eisenach. This church’s spire pierces the skyline, beckoning you to uncover its historical and cultural value.

Built in the 12th century and adorned with Gothic transformations, it is the site where Martin Luther sang during his school days and later preached during the Reformation, infusing the church with religious significance. Johann Sebastian Bach was baptized here, creating a palpable connection to the composer’s legacy.

Inside Georgenkirche (St George's Church) EisenachPin
Inside Georgenkirche

Tourists are often captivated by the church’s impressive organ, which frequently resonates with the sound of Bach’s compositions during recitals, reiterating the church’s affinity with music. These take place most days during the warmer months.

7. Visit the Lutherhaus

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Lutherhaus

Stepping into the Lutherhaus is a great way to understand more about Martin Luther and what he achieved and the Reformation itself. It’s a great partner to Wartburg above. This historic building, one of the oldest surviving half-timbered houses in Thuringia, is believed to be Martin Luther’s home during his school years in Eisenach.

Today, it is a museum that covers Luther’s life in Eisenach but, more importantly, the story of how Luther translated the bible into German and the huge impact this had not just on religion and the world but the German language. It describes how it helped codify what became the “main” version of German.

It’s packed with authentic artifacts, including first editions of Luther’s writings and personal belongings, and it does a great job of explaining why and how Luther translated the bible. It has interactive exhibits and it’s all well presented.

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While I was here, I bought an indulgence. For 50 cents, I saved myself 909 years in purgatory! Bargain!

I was a little disappointed as I didn’t realise this museum concentrated on the bible translation rather than telling all of Luther’s story. I reserved lots of time to spend here but only spent half an hour in the end and felt I read everything.

On the upside, it did give me great insight into how hard translating something like the bible would be and how open it is to interpretation. There are some great interactive exhibits on this topic that really illustrated this and gave me a lot to think about. So I think with the right expectation, you can love this museum.

There are also temporary exhibits. When I was here, it concentrated on the activities of the “Dejudaization Institute” during the Nazi era where they tried to wipe out any mention of Jewish roots of Christianity and how they used Martin Luther to help justify their anti-Semitism.

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By Marktplatz

8. Experience the Automobile World Eisenach

The Automobile World Eisenach museum is a captivating homage to the rich automotive tradition of the city—an illustrious history that is lesser-known but equally fascinating. At this site, you can delve into Eisenach’s role in automotive engineering, racing, and manufacturing for brands like BMW. This is where that car giant first started manufacturing cars.

The museum pristinely preserves an extraordinary collection of vehicles, from elegant pre-war convertibles to rugged Cold War-era sedans, each with its own story and significance.

Interactive displays and meticulously restored machinery tell the tale of a city that was once at the cutting edge of car production, echoing with the legacies of craftsmanship, innovation, and the intrinsic connection between Eisenach and the evolution of German automobiles.

The home of the museum is an old 1936 Automobil Eisenach factory. Car lovers will absolutely love this place.

9. Hike in the Thuringian Forest on the Rennsteig or Luther Trail

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One of the information boards and the path on the Luther Trail Wartburg to Eisenach

The Thuringian Forest, with its undulating green canopy and time-honored trails, represents a profound escape into nature’s embrace. The Rennsteig, perhaps the most famous pathway extending across this forest, is rich in scenic beauty and tranquil spots perfect for repose or a picnic. You can read more about it here.

Hikers can experience a variety of terrains, from gentle slopes to challenging climbs, ensuring that the forest’s wonders are accessible to all levels of outdoor enthusiasts. The Thuringian Forest is also dotted with cultural landmarks, including historic sites.

You can also hike the Luther Trail which is a much shorter 60 kilometers! While this is probably still too far for you, I recommend the section from Eisenach to Wartburg Castle. This is only about 20-30 minutes depending on where you are heading in Eisenach.

It is uphill in this direction though and it was quite muddy in one part in May when I did it. It was much more pleasant walking down from the castle than up. There are information boards along the way with pictures from moments in Martin Luther’s life along with interesting quotes. I very much enjoyed this path.

While I am glad I didn’t walk it up to the castle and only down, it wasn’t as hard as I read beforehand. I saw it rated 5/5 for difficulty which I think is a little crazy as it’s not that steep and it’s not very long.

How To Get To Eisenach

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Eisenach Station

Getting to Eisenach is straightforward. This historic town is easily accessible and well-connected, no matter where your starting point may be.

Setting off by train? Eisenach is well-served by Deutsche Bahn, Germany’s national railway company. Direct connections are available from major cities like Frankfurt, Leipzig, and Berlin, ensuring you can glide through the countryside and arrive right in the heart of the town. The central station, Eisenach Bahnhof, is the gateway to your adventure, mere steps away from the historic center.

Click here to check out Deutsche Bahn schedules and prices.

Prefer the control of a car? Take to the Autobahn and follow the signs leading you toward Thuringia. Eisenach is conveniently situated near the A4 motorway, linking it directly to cities like Dresden in the east and Cologne in the west. Parking options around the city are plentiful, offering you freedom to explore far and wide at your pace.

Click here to check out car hire options and prices.

Bus #3 outside Eisenach Station which took me up to WartburgPin
Bus #3 outside Eisenach Station which took me up to Wartburg

And for those who enjoy the unencumbered ease of a bus ride, long-distance coaches also make regular stops in Eisenach. Rest back in your seat, catch up on some reading, or simply watch as the German panorama unfolds before you, delivering you to your destination relaxed and ready to explore.

Final Words

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Eisenach shopping area

Eisenach is a city that superbly blends the resonance of history with the tranquility of nature. Whether you’re exploring the iconic Wartburg Castle, absorbing the music of Bach, or delving into the depths of the Thuringian Forest, Eisenach offers a profound journey through German heritage and the beauty of its landscapes.

It is well worth visiting here just for Wartburg, with the other top Eisenach attractions, like Bachhaus, Automobile World and Lutherhaus, icing on the cake!

Read our our guide to nearby Kassel here, Erfurt here, Weimar here and Göttingen here. You can also find Eisenach in our one week Central Germany itinerary here. Find more guides to Central Germany here.

Sharon Gourlay in the Rhina Valley

By Sharon Gourlay

Sharon first fell in love with Germany back in 2000 on her first visit. She loves the long history, the picturesque Old Towns, the castles, the food, everything really! Since then, she has visited many times and loves writing about Germany here so you can enjoy it too. In fact, Sharon loves German culture so much that she sent her kids to a German primary school in Australia. She especially loves Berlin and towns with charming Old Towns like Celle and Quedlinburg. Sharon also has a Certificate III in International Travel Sales and understands the nitty gritty of travel planning. Through this site, she'll help you have the perfect trip to Germany whether it's your first or tenth time!

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