A fabulous study in contrasts with modern buildings interspersed with historic monuments and trendy cafés alongside museums, there’s never a dull moment in Jena.
This little town in Thuringia (Thüringen) goes way back in history as a center of learning and is now in recent times known for its engineering skills. Tourists and folks on business frequent this medieval spot for both leisure and work. Then they wind up staying back to fully enjoy this fabulous land in the Salle valley.
Being a University city you would probably want to kick off by exploring the Collegium Jenense with quite an interesting 300 year old history as a Dominican monastery. From here, it’s not that far to the Market Square (Marktplatz) where you can explore to your heart’s content.
The Jena Markt is a protected historic monument and is a repository of authentic medieval history.
The Gothic Town Hall with a still functional mechanical clock is of course, the center of attraction. There’s also the Alte Göhre which is now the Municipal Museum housing everything to do with local history and culture.
Another interesting feature here is the Zur Sonne, or Sign of the Sun, a 15th century Inn with an interesting gothic façade.
If by any chance it’s Jena’s prominence in optical engineering that brought you here, you should most certainly check out the Optisches Museum in Carl Zeiss Platz. About 12,000 exhibits ranging the world of optics are to be found here and would hold you captive even if you didn’t a thing about the technology involved.
The famous Zeiss Planetarium is a treat for all ages. The building itself is a sight worth seeing with its impressive dome and other marvelous features that has won its historic monument status.
For lovers of literature and especially the German Romantic period, a visit to the Romantiker Haus would be mandatory.
Not that Jena does not have enough to keep you busy, but if you can spare the time, a visit to Donburg about 12 km from Jena will reap you rich rewards. Three castles perched atop steep limestone cliffs dating back to the 10th century will give plenty to admire and explore.