Things to do in Saxony-Anhalt

I have always been keen on history. In fact, when I was still in high school, it crossed my mind to sign in history as my major at university. I decide for tourism at the end, but nevertheless, passion about history never really left me.

When an invite for collaboration with Transromanica organization came, Simon and I did not think long. After spending one week in New York City as a family of three, we flown to German region of Saxony-Anhalt by ourselves, left Ren with my grandparents and spent a week exploring Romanesque sights in the region.

People mostly known Saxony-Anhalt because of reformation. The town of Wittenberg is a place where Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the doors of town’s cathedral. With this act the protestant reformation period had begun. But Saxony-Anhalt is interesting for exploration due to many other places and sights – 88 of them can be found on the list of Cultural Routes of Transromanica. Having only 5 days for the region, we were not able to visit them all, but still managed to admire 9 of them. 

9 Romanesque sights on Transromanica list worth your attention

  • Jerichow Monastery

The Jerichow Monastery is actually a church, as monks never lived in there, but the way the Jerichow church was build, looking like a monastery, the building was described as monastery.

The Jerichow Monastery was built in 12th century and with the red bricks, it was one of the oldest brick buildings in this northern part of Germany. Most of the building shows us its early Gothic style, but if we look close enough, the Romanesque influence can still be seen – especially when it comes to the two towers and basilica.

Out of all the Romanesque sights we saw in these 5 days, Jerichow Monastery made the biggest impression on me. I could watch the magnificent brick walls and arches for hours.

The Jerichow Monastery offers other interesting things too – there is a local restaurant at the parking lot and inside of the complex you can visit the brick museum and learn more about the craft. If you are traveling around Germany with kids, they will put a shine on the playing area, while you’ll be able to relax in a cafe, admiring the two romanesque towers.  Don’t even forget to walk around the beautiful veggie garden just steps away from the cafe.

The Jerichow Monastery is opened from Tuesday to Sunday. 

  • Magdeburg Cathedral

The Cathedral in Magdeburg is the oldest gothic cathedral in Germany. Due to its two bell towers, it can be already spotted from afar. In fact, the two towers were almost the only thing that were not completely ruined during the WW2. Luckily the cathedral and the whole city was renovated after the war ended.

The Magdeburg Cathedral is a symbol of the city, which is actually the capital city of the Saxony-Anhalt region. You can also find the vault of the Otto I. / Otto the Great, who once was the German king and Holy Roman Emperor,  inside of the cathedral.

In fact, it was actually the Otto the Great, who first built a monastery and later on a church at the spot, where now the cathedral stands tall.

The Magdeburg Cathedral needed 300 years to be finished and that is why you can see few different building styles – the Gothic being the strongest. Looking at the choir you can still see the evidence, the cathedral was once a Romanesque church.

If you have the time and the chance, do climb on top of the bell tower, which has amazing views over the whole city of Magdeburg and the river Elbe. Unfortunately the climb up the tower is possible just as a guided tour, which is available in German language only. The guided tour takes place on Fridays (5pm), Saturdays (3pm) and Sundays (at noon). 

  • Halberstadt Cathedral

The cathedral in Halberstadt is first mentioned in 804, during the Charlemagne or Charles the Great – King of the Franks, Lombard’s and also the Holy Roman Emperor. Later on the Romanesque church was built at the spot and can still be seen today. But in general, the cathedral is a Gothic one. It was also damaged during the WW2 and rebuilt after the war ended.

It is not only worth to make a stop at the cathedral because of it (by the way, a scene from George Clooney movie was shot here – The Monuments men), but also because of its treasury, which includes more than 650 artifacts from 5th to 18th century, what makes it one of the largest medieval treasuries in the world.

  • Merseburg cathedral

The Merseburg cathedral was also once built in Romanesque style, which can still be seen today when looking at the bell towers and choir. But in general the majority of the cathedral is influenced by the Gothic period. Nowadays the Merseburg Cathedral is being known as one of the prime example of historical and artistic buildings in the Saxony-Anhalt region. In the musicians circles the Merseburg Cathedral is also popular because of the organs and its concerts. Don’t forget to visit its treasury while there.

  • Querfurt Castle

The Querfurt Castle is also named as the movie castle, as it was used in several movies, but the castle is actually mostly known as being the largest castle in the central Germany. The Querfurt Castle is one of the best preserved medieval examples on the German Romanesque road.

  • Memblen Monastery

This Benedictine monastery was established in 10th century and was almost completely destroyed due to the lightning in 18th century. Nevertheless the area is now open to the general public. If you are wondering why the Memblen Monastery can be found on the Transromanica list, it is because of its crypt – built in the late Romanesque style.

The monastery is now used as a museum, showing the local and monastery life as once was. At the time of our visit, there was also a temporarily exhibition available.

If you’ll be traveling as a group, you can make arrangements up front for the monastery meal and a quick medieval writing test.

  • Neuenburg Castle

The Neuenburg Castle was built in the beginning of 11th century and even though it is impressive from inside and out, one of the unique things is its two floors Chapple – so that the lower and higher class would not mix during the service.

But nevertheless, a wander around the castle, its chambers, wine museum and specially designed kids area with medieval crops, is definitely worth the stop. The best way to visit the castle is to do a short hike among vineyards from Freyburg town, offering beautiful views. But the Neuenburg castle can also be reached by car.

  • Rudelsburg Castle

Nowadays the Rudelsburg Castle is seen as a ruin from afar, but if you visit it up-close, you will find much more behind the broken walls. The Rudelsburg Castle is a restaurant now, including the knights room and a wedding chapel. You can also climb up to its tower, what gives you great views over Saale River and the countryside.

The Rudelsburg Castle is a nice stop among locals and tourists, as it lies directly on the Romanesque route (Strasse der Romanik), which is part of Transromanica too.

  • Naumburg Cathedral

The Naumburg Cathedral was built in 13th Century, but it is still one of the finest examples of the late Romanesque era. In fact, the Naumburg Cathedral was declared as one of the UNESCO heritage site in July 2018.

All the above Romanesque sights on Transromanica list are all well worth the visit, but if you are not keen on history, don’t give up to fast, as you can join all of them together with some other activities in the Saxony-Anhalt region too. Stay tuned for our recommondations for other things to do in Saxony-Anhalt region.

What is Transromanica?

All the mentioned Romanesque sights can be found on the Transromanica list – an organization, which is joining the Romanesque heritage across Europe. The Transromanica includes more than 300 different sites across nine European countries.

Europe once had numerous Romanesque sights, but because the Gothic era was extremely powerful, many of the Romanesque buildings were transformed into gothic ones and only small elements of the buildings still shows the Romanesque era.

Transromanica organization was established in 2003, with a goal of joining Romanesque sights in one place. With its sustainability strategy Transromanica wants to make the Romanesque sights accessible to general public and tourist for which the areas would also benefit from tourism development. In 2007 the Transromanica organization was awarded with the “Cultural Route” title by the European council. You can read more information about Transromanica here.

Romanesque period

Romanesque period is actually European artistic style, which started in 11th century and lasted until the beginning of 13th century. Romanesque style is more or less monastic art – especially basilica. We can recognize the Romanesque buildings after its thick walls, narrow and small windows, large portals and columns.