After Erfurt Jena is the second largest city in the state of Thuringia. The university city located on the banks of the river Saale can look back upon a rich cultural heritage of which numerous monuments and sights authenticate. In addition memorable figures of history like Friedrich Schiller, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Georg Friedrich Hegel or Johann Gottlieb Fichte have left their marks in Jena.
Additionally, the “Urburschenschaft” (= original German student league) has been established here, whose members shaped the path to German Unification in the 19th century substantially.
At Jena´s Friedrich Schiller University a great number of important personalities have received their education. Additionally to an intellectual hub of poetry and philosophy, the city protrudes due to its lovely surrounding Saaletal landscape and moreover because of it being also a hub for Optical and IT Industry – names such as Carl Zeiss, Ernst Abbe and Ernst Haeckel and companies like Jenapharm, Schott or Intershop are inseparable from Jena. The following shall serve you as an overview of what to discover in Jena.
Despite its proximity to Erfurt, Eisenach or Weimar Jena mustn´t shy away when it comes to noteworthy attractions. In this guide you will find a number of highlights within the city limits and the surrounding area, as well as an overview of what to expect from the self-proclaimed “City of Lights” of Germany´s East.
Some sights you may reach by car, a hike, by bike or by using our Hotel’s chauffeur service.
But most sights located within the city limits are accessible on foot.
You are staying at the Schwarzer Bär? Perfect, because all sights located within in the city limits are within close proximity. In the following we provide you with a recommended route to take through Jena´s downtown area to give you the chance to discover Jena on your own.
Est. 300 m southwest from the Schwarzer Bär the market square is located and at its center the monument of Johann Friedrich “Hanfried” the Kurfürst (= elector) who laid the foundation stone of the city´s University in 1558. Here you can also find the Tourist Information, the historic city hall and the city museum.
Directly north to the market square you can visit Saint Michael´s Church. Especially worth visiting due to its containing bronze grave plate of Martin Luther. Noteworthy: The grave plate at Wittenberg is a copy. The original is located at Saint Michael´s Church in Jena.
The monument of „Hanfried“ at the market square
Worm’s eye view on the JenTower
200 m further West you have the chance to see Jena from the observation deck of the JenTower – humorously called “Keksrolle” (= Cookie Roll) by Jena´s inhabitants.
With a total height of 160 m the JenTower is East Germany´s tallest building since the 1970s.
Directly next to the JenTower you may spot the “Johannistor”, the last remnants of the medieval city wall. The “Haus auf der Mauer” (literally: “House on the Wall) mounted onto the wall itself often hosts cultural events. The “Anatomieturm” (= Anatomy Tower) within viewing distance was a historic research facility of Goethe who also discovered the human intermaxillary bone here.
South of the JenTower you will find the main campus of the Friedrich Schiller University (FSU). The campus is circled by numerous high-rise buildings which might not be as tall as the JenTower, but are some of the oldest tower buildings in Germany.
Further South you will encounter the Goethe-Gallerie a Shopping Mall. From the main entrance of the Mall you can already glimpse the red façade of Jena´s Theatre Building where you can go out to see great shows and performances. On the theatre area the annual Kulturarena takes place.
Directly across the Hotel & Restaurant Schwarzer Bär – a historic attraction by itself – lies the historic University´s main building. On the right hand side of the Hotel´s main entrance along the Fürstengraben avenue – which is lined by several monuments of famous graduates and lecturers – heading west you will reach the Botanic Garden after approximately 300 m. There you can admire the 12.000 different plants on an area of 4.5 ha in green houses and the open. Immediately next to it you will have the Carl-Zeiss Planetarium -THE oldest Planetarium on earth – opened in 1926.
Its highly informative projector shows with musical accompaniment are something not to miss when staying in Jena.
This Hotel being – one of the oldest still existing Guesthouses – is indispensable regarding Jena´s historical heritage. Firstly mentioned in historic texts in 1498, it has seen a great number of famous guests sleeping underneath its roof and dine at its tables. One of the first being the reformator Martin Luther, the great poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, literature nobel prize winner Gerhart Hauptmann, the first German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck or the composer Wilhelm Furtwängler.
But also with students, locals, national and international guests “the Bear” is an institution all along.
The “Schwarzer Bär” – a Jena contemporary document
Jena can proudly look upon a wide range of museums. Regarding this we want to provide you with an excerpt of museums worth visiting. Except from the “Museum 1806” all mentioned museums are reachable within a proximity of less than 1 km from the hotel.
The “Napoleonstein” in Jena-Cospeda
This great museum emphasizes on the history of Optics from the beginning to present day. Equally fitting for children and grownups alike. The science behind optics and lighting are being displayed in a playful manner.
Beyond the city center on the elevation of the district Cospeda lies a museum for all history enthusiasts adjacent to the battlefield where Napoleon´s French Troops fought against Prussians and Saxons. There you will find all information including original exhibits of this significant battle during the Napoleonic Era. Battlefield and museum lie on the plateau overviewing the city which our sporty guests can also access by bike or hike.
This highly interesting museum of prehistory, founded by Ernst Haeckel, comprises a collection of natural history as well as an fascinating exhibition of the development of life. The museum stands out due to its anatomical and zoological collection of various lifeforms.
Within the walls of the former residential house of the philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte, the permanent exhibition illustrates the cultural and intellectual history of the city. Special attention is given to the “Althenaeum”, published by the Schlegel brothers, an 18th Century magazine that established Jena as Germany´s intellectual center. Additionally switching exhibitions and small presentations take place there.
The city museum, located directly at the market square, will give you an insight into the rich art collection of Jena next to historic exhibits of the city. But you can come across switching exhibitions subjecting modern art as well. The building itself originated from the 13th century and has seen itself in many roles such as wine restaurant, mill and residential house.
There is no other place where the great poet and academic Friedrich Schiller has spent more of his lifetime than Jena. More than 10 years he worked and taught here – no wonder the University of Jena holds the name of its most famous lecturer. In the garden house next to the city theatre he spent numerous summers. The property has – despite its location – a calm garden area as well as a contemporary interior design. Here the great poet let himself inspire more than once when creating his world literature.