What to do in Gera Germany

water color framed photo of Gera's town hall in Germany

While not the most visited city in its state, Gera in Thuringia, Germany has a few impressive offerings for curious tourists. From fabulous art collections to historic houses and scenic hikes, the list of Gera things to do is not too shabby. Here’s my take on what to do in Gera, a city I lived in for a while. Plus some practical Gera travel tips.

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What to do in Gera Germany

Quick Travel Q&A

Where in Germany is Gera?

The town of Gera lies in Central Germany. It’s the third biggest city in the state of Thuringia and the central hub for Eastern Thuringia.

What’s the historical significance of Gera?

It used to be a huge industrial hub. Thanks to its formerly booming fabric and cloth industry, Gera was one of the richest towns in Germany. You can still see many stately homes and mansions, which, today, sadly have mostly fallen into disrepair.

Furthermore, Germany’s Gera used to be the capital city of the princedoms of the Reussian line in the 18th and 19th century.

Why is Gera called Otto-Dix City?

One of the most prominent residents of Gera is the painted Otto Dix. He was a 20th century painter and is exhibited all around the world. More on that further down in the article.

How to get to Gera?

Gera is well connected by the train and bus network. Flixbus stops at Gera (if you need, I also got tips for bus travel around Germany). Also, you can take the train to Gera Hauptbahnhof.

Coming from Jena city, for instance, you can save money buy buying the local VMT Hopper Ticket instead of a regular ticket. One way costs 5.6 EUR and return is 9.9 EUR. This is only available at trains station machines and tickets need to be validated at the green station machines.

Read also: Hands on tips for taking German trains.

How to get around Gera?

Gera city is very walkable. It’s really not big and you can get from the train/bus station to the marketplace in 15-20 minutes.

There’s also an extensive bus network as well as trams operating around Gera and surrounds. A one way ticket costs 2.20 EUR (2.43 USD). A day ticket with unlimited rides is 5.50 EUR (6.07 USD).

You can download a map of the routes (in German) here.

What is the nearest airport to Gera?

Gera isn’t a big city and therefore doesn’t have their own airport. The closest one would be Erfurt airport, which only has select flights. For more choice head to Leipzig-Halle. Alternatively, you can catch many international flights from the airports in Berlin and Munich, which are 3-4 hours away.

Should you stay for more than one day in Gera?

Quite honestly, there’s no need. There isn’t that much to see here. You can visit the museums and stroll the city center in one day and do some hiking the next.

But with so many more amazing cities in Germany and castles around Thuringia, you might want to continue your Germany trip elsewhere after your Gera sightseeing tour.

If you want to base yourself here because it’s quiet and there are good train connections around Thuringia and to Saxony, it makes sense to stay here. There is limited selection of hotels and B&Bs and I’ve been told they book out during peak holiday times.

view over Gera at sunset from Luther linden tree
view from Luther linden tree

What to See in Gera

Otto Dix Haus

Wilhelm Heinrich Otto Dix was one of the greatest painters and printmakers to come out of Germany to this day. Dix is best known for his harsh and intense realistic depictions of the brutality of war and German life during the Weimar Republic.

His art is hanging around the world at incredible museums such as The Museum of Modern Art in New York and Musee National d’Art Moderne in Paris. Still the best place to go to truly get to know the life and work of the renowned painter is at the Otto Dix Haus in Gera, Germany.

It’s the house where Dix grew up, and it now houses 400 works from throughout his life. The museum is only open Wednesday-Sunday (and on holidays) from 12PM to 5PM, so plan your visit accordingly.

Haus Schulenburg

Paul Schulenburg was an internationally recognized textile manufacturer and art collector. In 1913, he hired the immensely talented art nouveau artist Henry van de Velde to build him this villa.

Haus Schulenburg is considered to be one of the greatest masterpieces of van de Velde’s life and work. While on your Gera tour, come check out this magnificent house, which still has all the original furnishings and materials.

One of many highlights of the Haus Schulenburg are the many gouaches and oil paintings Schulenburg commissioned, that still hang on the walls today.

But don’t forget to enter the garden in the back too with its many statues and beautiful flower arrangements.

Orangerie

If you’re in Gera, you’ve likely come for the incredible art that lives here, which means you definitely cannot miss a visit to the Orangerie. Another beautiful thing to see in Gera.

The baroque building has a long and varied history – it’s been used as a military hospital, stables, a gym, a cafe and more over the years. Find your new favorite artist in the halls of Orangerie, or soak in the classics from world famous painters like Rembrandt and Tintoretto.

Furthermore, the orangery building has been home to the Gera Art Collection since 1972. Besides the incredible art you will exhibited find here, the Orangerie is also surrounded by pretty, peaceful gardens.

These are freely accessible and open the public. Totally bring a book and take a seat on one of the benches around the flower beds and really soak up this tranquil atmosphere. No wonder it’s one of the most popular meeting spots among the city’s residents.

Beer Cellars

In 1487, everything changed for the citizens of Gera, Germany. Finally, all property owners were allowed to brew their own beer. (And you know, Germans love their beer. Except for me. I don’t drink. But that’s another story.)

Once this happened, Gera saw a massive boom in beer production, and this meant a big excavation under the town’s streets in order to make cellars with the exact right conditions for brewing and storing their beer.

In more recent years, the cellars of Gera have been restored and 250 meters of tunnels have been set up as a museum. You can’t enter them by yourself but need to join a guided tour of the cellars known as Höhler. These runon Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays after previous appointment.

  • Address: Stadtmuseum Gera, Museumsplatz 1, 07545 Gera
  • Phone: +49 365 55249954 (caves), +49 365 8381470 (museum)
  • Mail: stadtmuseum@gera.de
  • Website

Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum in Gera can be found in the Schreibersche Haus, a baroque mansion from the 1680s. The outside of the building doesn’t look too impressive, but the inside of this museum in Gera features fascinating exhibitions.

It’s dedicated to teaching visitors about the natural world of Gera and all the plant and animal species that live in the various landscapes of East Thuringia as well as its unique geology.

Also, be sure to check out the 340 minerals from all over the world in the old beer cellars of the house, as well as the beautiful 19th century botanical gardens outside that are home to over 300 plant species.

Guided tours are only offered in German. 

Churches

There are a few pretty churches you can see during your tour around Gera. The closest to the train station is St Johanniskirche.

It’s hard to miss with its 70 meter (230 feet) tall tower. Sad history fact: The Evangelical-Lutheran church was lit on fire multiple times. First, by the Hussites in 1450. Then, by Swedish raiders in 1639, which caused major destruction in the city. It burned again in 1780 and wasn’t rebuilt until 2017.

Next, check out the church St Salvator. It’s behind the historic marketplace and you can walk up a few steps from the fountain to the church and get a nice view over the old town center.

The hill, known as Nicolaiberg, on which it stands used to be home to a chapel and house for begging monks, but both burned down as well in 1639 and their remains were torn down.

The third church in the inner city is Trinitatiskirche (“Trinity Church”). It’s an Evangelical church that has been remodelled and its parts and cemetery moved throughout its history. One thing that remains is the old grave plate for Dutch Nicolaus de Smit (renewed after 300 years in 1841). It’s now resting on the western outer wall of the church.

orangery in Gera on a summer sunny day, framed by roses
orangery

Townhall and market square

The town hall of Gera (Rathaus) can be found right in the town center of Gera, right by the main market place. Here, you’ll be able to see the historic building with its rather curious tower. Check out the odd placement of the windows especially.

You can even climb the tower for a small fee and after previous appointment, which can be made with the local tourist information. (It’s possible to arrange it via mail or phone as well.)

At the top of the tower, you’ll find a small exhibit about the tower’s watchman, as well as an amazing view overlooking the entire town.

Besides the town hall, the marketplace itself offers many beautiful sights in Gera. Keep an eye out for the portal, which was carved in 1576.

The surrounding houses are beautifully preserved with stunning ornaments and colourful facades. There are a few cafes and shops around, so you can really take your time and plan a rest.

My tip: Order a typical dish of roulade with German dumplings (Rinderroulade mit Thüringer Klößen) They’re a must eat in Thuringia!

  • Opening times: Mon-Fri 9AM to 5:30PM, Sat 10AM to 2:30PM and during special festivities
  • Entrance fee: 1.50 EUR ()
  • Phone: +49 365 8381111
  • Mail: tourismus@gera.de
  • Website

Weekly Market

While you’re already at the market, visit in the mornings during the week so you can stroll around the small weekly market in Gera.

It’s nothing special but you can purchase local produce, such as fruits and vegetables as well as good cheeses and meats. During the week, there are also smaller clothing items and lace for sale. (Though they are more targeting the older generation.)

The stalls are lined up around the Simson fountain in the center of the historic marketplace, another must see sight in Gera.

  • Times: Tues, Thu, Fri, 7AM to 5PM, Sa 7Am to 1PM

Hofwiesenpark

The Hofwiesenpark is a beautiful and peaceful 30-acre park that divides the west side of Gera from the east side. This park is full of comfortable shady spots, fresh smelling flowers, and funky public art, but it’s so much more than your usual public park.

Hofwiesenpark also has a mini golf course, a delicious cafe, an indoor pool, a roller skating rink, an outdoor stage for exciting and original performances, and so much more.

There’s always something happening in Hofwiesenpark, so don’t miss the chance to explore it on your trip to Gera, Germany. You can check for events in Gera here.

Untermhaus

From the Hofwiesenpark, take a stroll across the bridge to the neighborhood of Untermhaus. It’s below the local castle and there are a string of pretty pastel houses lined up along the river. You can walk around the green paths next to the water if it’s great weather.

Schloss Osterstein   

Schloss Osterstein is the oldest building you can visit in Gera. This Slavic castle dates all the way back to the 1100s.

Sadly, the property was nearly totally destroyed during World War II, but luckily some pieces of the area remain mostly unscathed. Still, it’s not a great castle to look at, there isn’t much left and what is left seems derelict.

The newer parts of the castle were added last century and look super old fashioned and, if you ask me, don’t fit well.

Either way, you can start a hike from here overlooking the city. Moreover, be sure to check out what events are happening while you’re in town, as they frequently hold various exhibitions in the keep.

Note: If you see a mention of Castle Liebenstein in Gera valley, know that that’s in an entirely different region of the state. It’s not in the city of Gera.

City Walls

There isn’t much left in terms of medieval Gera sights. But from the marketplace, take the path past the town hall and through the underpass of the former Soviet living flats. You’ll now find yourself standing by the old city walls and tower.

Parts of it are still in tact and paired with some odd choices of statues. (Again, a very Soviet thing.) In spring, the cherry tree makes for a mesmerizing contrast to the sandy colour of the walls.

botanical garden of Gera on a sunny summer day
botanical garden

Zoo

Gera has a small zoological garden called Tierpark Gera. The 20 hectare animal park opened in the 1960s and was originally home to just local animals.

Now, there are 500 animals and 80 species from places around the Northern hemisphere, including deer, reindeer, yaks, high land cows, wisent, mouflons and tiny sheep.

There even is a small train going around the park, which is a great favorite among the little ones. Each year, it carries 35000 passengers along its 0.8 km (0.5 miles) stretch of rails. Also onsite are smaller kiosks and food stands too in case you want to eat here as well.

  • Address: Str. des Friedens 85, 07548 Gera, Germany
  • Opening times: daily, Mar-Oct 9AM to 6PM, Nov to Feb 9AM to 5PM, Dec to Jan 9AM to 4PM
  • Entrance fee: 5 EUR (5.5.2 USD), reduced price 3.5 EUR (3.86 USD), children 2.5 EUR (2.76 USD)
  • Website

Hikes

Gera is located in a valley and there are a lot of green spaces. This means that you can do some easy hiking around town. I think it’s a great thing to do in Gera. After all, you’re in Thuringia, the unofficial hiking state of Germany.

Like I said before, try the hike from Gera Castle and Otto Dix House to the local zoo or Van de Velde House. You’ll be walking along the Hainberg mountain and get to  enjoy beautiful views over the town and river bends from up high in the forest. There’s a smaller memorial Bismarckstein to commemorate Otto von Bismarck, the first Chancellor of Germany.

After your hike, you will reach one of the prettiest areas you can experience in Gera. Grand mansions and town houses with their own gardens (as well as a cute public garden, Daliengarten) evoke the air of grand times gone by.  My favorite is Villa Sheßiger.

An alternative hike is one from the marketplace up to the Luther lindentree (Lutherlinde) and over to the “Dyer tower” (Ferberturm). There are a few stairs up the hill but it’s not a difficult hike. The tower sits at the highest point in town, which isn’t that high at all.

From here, you walk through the village and head straight, following the hiking signs, into the Zaufensgraben. This is a pretty valley with bubbling stream underneath lavish greenery. In spring especially, this hike is great thanks to the blooming branches and spring flowers.

For easy strolls, take the trails around the train tracks near the Southern train station. There are some playgrounds as well as a nice park landscapes including former tracks. I really liked doing evening walks here when I was living in town. There are many wild flowers blooming here in summer.

Botanical Gardens

Granted the gardens are super small but I loved sitting here under the shady trees and among the fragrant flowers next to the pond. It’s free to visit and offers perfect respite on a sunny day and away from the bustle of the main shopping street.

It’s part of the Natural Museum in Gera and is displayed in an English garden style. The garden was founded at the end of the 19th century and contains roughly 300 plant species.

  • Address: Nicolaistraße 24, 07545 Gera, Germany
  • Opening times: Wed-Sun 12PM to 5PM (May to September only)
  • Phone: +49 365 52003
  • Website

Theater

The building that locals of Gera are most proud of – a Gera must see so to say – is the grand theater. It’s officially called Theater Altenburg-Gera and features a variety of stage productions throughout the year, including plays, operas, concerts and ballet.

The theater is particularly known for featuring Russian ballet performances. Each year, about 150000 people attend shows here, making it Thuringia’s most frequented theater. Check out their upcoming events here.

You can spot the shiny roof with the gold plated statues from the train station already and it’s on the way from the station to the orangery.  

  • Address: Theaterstraße 1, 07548 Gera, Germany
  • Phone: +49 365 8279105

Shopping

Gera isn’t a go-to place for shopping in Thuringia. In total, Gera has three shopping malls and the biggest one is Gera Arcaden.

The two storey mall is only a 10-15 minute walk away from the train station and the tram stop right in front of them too.

There are fashion, shoe and jewelry stores, drug stores as well as a small food court, bakeries and florists. It’s a central shopping haven for the town with big (and somewhat confusing) parking. There are regular events taking place here as well.

  • Address: Heinrichstraße 30, 07545 Gera, Germany
  • Opening times: Mon-Sat 9:30AM to 8PM
  • Phone: +49 365 773130
  • Website

Restaurants

Gera doesn’t really have outstanding restaurants; it’s not a foodie city like Erfurt. Many you will find along the main shopping street and side alleys of Schloßstraße. I personally can recommend the kebab place in the Arcaden mall.

Surprisingly the town also has not just one but two American diners, which were recommended to me multiple times by locals. One is Louis-Diner and the other is Frank’s Burger-Licious BBQ. You can get good burgers here.

Urban exploring

With so many houses left abandoned, urban explorers will find it easy to find sublime images for their photos. Know that such houses aren’t publicly accessible due to their perilous condition and you can’t enter the premises either.

But you will find many crumbling houses when leaving the core of the city center. The most popular site of ruin is the former Russian hospital in Milbitz, near the autobahn. (You can spot the tower poking out of the forest.)

There’s a trail leading up from the Untermhaus cemetery to the former hospital site. You can peek through the wire mesh fence and see the creepy old buildings covered in graffiti.

It was built in the late 19th century by a local doctor and a manufacturer couple who founded a charity hospital. The couple’s kid died of tuberculosis and they wanted to make sure treatment would be available to kids in the future.

The doctor was very meticulous in its design and program, which was super modern at the time. After arguments, he sadly quit died a few years later.

During and after WW II, the hospital was used as a military hospital and then left abandoned. There were a few fires that further destabilized and destroyed much of the main buildings.

Only one was restored and people are now living in it. It’s not advisable to trespass and explore. But if you’re curious, here are impressions by someone who apparently did it.

Which of these Gera attractions would be on your list? Let me know in the comment section.

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What to do in Gera Germany
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