Classical Weimar, Germany
Great minds think alike, they say. That may be true, but I prefer to look at it a different way. I believe that great minds think together.
When intellectuals and artists find themselves living in the same place, they seem to feed off each other’s brilliance. There’s an element of inspiration, sure, but it’s also about collective thought and compounding creativity. Each helps the other to go a little higher and they all move up by association.
There are countless examples of where this has happened around in the world. In the late 18th and 19th centuries, it was happening in the small town of Weimar in central Germany.
Some of the country’s most famous writers and scholars moved here to work together in an atmosphere of artistic inspiration. When word got out of what was happening, even more came. Over the years, the best-known residents were the writers Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller.
Weimar is not a large town, though, and on first glances it seems an unlikely place for the birth of a new cultural movement (that became known as ‘Weimar Classicism’). But it was able to develop because of the support of the local nobility – in particular, Duchess Anna Amalia. She acted as a patron for many of the artists and writers and encouraged them to move to Weimar. She not only helped fund some of their projects but brought them together for cultural exchanges. The community she fostered brought out the best in them all – and encouraged more intellectuals to move to the town.
In a slightly unusual move, UNESCO has created a World Heritage Site out of some of the buildings in Weimar. I say ‘unusual’ because it is really the story behind the buildings that is more significant than the structures themselves. From inside the walls of the chosen sites, some of the most progressive and influential thinking in German history emerged.
The World Heritage Site in Weimar consists of twelve separate collections of buildings that represent the people and the cultural movement of the time. The most famous of these sites is the home of Goethe. His old residence has been restored with the interior designs and artworks of his time. A modern museum has now also been built on an extension of the site.
The house of Schiller has also been restored with an added museum and also nearby is the Wittumspalais, which was the centre of cultural exchange. It was the home of the duchess and she would invite writers, artists and intellectuals to meet here for regular discussions.
Other highlights of Classical Weimar include the Historical Library, the City Palace and the Belvedere Palace and all are within walking distance of each other. Most of the buildings are designed in the Baroque style and now host exhibitions that give an excellent insight into the intellectual environment of the times.
All the things you need to know
Frauenplan 1, 99423, Weimar, Germany.
You can see it on a map here.
October 26 – March: 0930 – 1600
April – October 25: 0930 – 1800
It is closed on Mondays
A concession is €8.50 and a student is €3.50.
Children under 16 get free entry.
For a simple but affordable place to stay, your best option is probably Comfort Hotel.
There are some lovely design hotels in Weimar and I would recommend either Pension Mariposa or Art Hotel Weimar.
And for some special luxury, have a look at Hotel Elephant on the town square.