Gotha is a city of 45,000 people (2019) in Thuringia. The main sights of Gotha are the early-modern Friedenstein Castle, one of the largest Renaissance Baroque castles in Germany, the medieval city centre and the Gründerzeit buildings of 19th-century commercial boom.
During the late Middle Ages, Gotha was an important market town, located on the Via Regia international trade route. From 1640, Gotha was the capital of an independent petty Duchy. Due to complicated succession laws of the Ernestine line of the House of Wettin, Thuringia was separated into more and more states that got smaller and smaller, consisting of many dismembered territories. In 1826, Saxe-Gotha was merged with the neighbouring Saxe-Coburg.
While their home territories were pretty insignificant, the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha were immensely successful in European marriage politics, and at the end of 19th century several European countries were ruled by this dynasty: the United Kingdom (Queen Victoria was married to Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha; the House of Windsor is just another name of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, chosen during the anti-German sentiments of the First World War), Belgium (Leopold I was chosen as King of the Belgians in 1831), Bulgaria and Portugal (the latter two are now republics).
There was a rivalry between the two main duchies and residences of Thuringia: Gotha and Weimar. While Weimar stood out for its cultural impact, with Goethe, Schiller, Wieland and Herder all present at Duchess Anna Amalia's "Court of the Muses", Gotha became an early centre of natural sciences. The Dukes of Gotha began to collect naturalia in the 17th century and the town's museum of natural history was one of the first of its kind. The Gotha astronomical observatory was established in 1786 and had a Europe-wide leading position at that epoch. Moreover, Gotha was a stronghold of the German publishing sector, with Perthes being Germany's prime publisher of maps and atlases.
The Gothaer Versicherung was Germany's first mutual insurance company, based on English models. In 1875 the Socialist Workers' Party was founded in Gotha, predecessor of the Social Democratic Party of Germany.
Gotha is a station on the high-speed rail link between Frankfurt and Leipzig. ICEs call every two hours, taking one hour from Leipzig, two hours from Frankfurt and 2 hr 15 min from Dresden. Additionally, there are a few intercity trains from Cologne and the Ruhr district per day.
Regional trains from Erfurt call twice an hour, taking about 20 minutes. Moreover, there are regional trains from Weimar (hourly; 30–40 minutes), Jena (every two hours, taking one hour), Göttingen (1 hr 15 min) and Gera (1 hr 35 min).
The TWSB operates a tramway network with four urban lines plus the Thüringerwaldbahn, an intraurban tramway that links Gotha with the Boxberg hill, the nearby towns Waltershausen, Friedrichroda and Tabarz, and the Marienglashöhle show cave on the northern slope of the Thuringian Forest mountain range (21.7 km in total).
- 1 Friedenstein Castle (Schloss Friedenstein), ☏ +49 3621 8234-0. Tu-F: Nov-Mar 10:00-16:00, early Apr Sep Oct 10:00-17:00, Easter–Aug 10:00-18:00. Early-Baroque palace of the Dukes of Saxe-Gotha, built in 1643–1654 as one of Germany's biggest 17th-century stately homes. The complex includes the Schlossmuseum (museum), museum of regional history, huge numismatic collection, the Ekhof-Theater (ducal court theatre), a research centre as well as the palace chapel and ducal tombs. The casemates of the palace's fortress are accessible, too. admission to all parts of the castle €10 (reduced €4), single modules €5 each (reduced €2.50).
- 2 Ducal Museum (Herzogliches Museum). Tu-F: Nov-Mar 10:00-16:00, Apr–Oct 10:00-17:00. The Dukes' arts collection, including Egyptian and Graeco-Roman antiques, Renaissance paintings, East Asian arts and sculptures of different eras. €5 (reduced €2.50) or combination ticket with the castle.
- 3 Castle grounds (Schlosspark). The 91-acre park is one of the biggest in Germany and a very beautiful, too. It was one of the first English-style landscape gardens in Germany and all of continental Europe. There is a number of very old trees, including some 500-year-old oaks.
- 6 Friedrichsthal Castle (Schloss Friedrichsthal). Baroque three-wing summer residence from the 1700s, modelled on Versailles.
- 7 Winter Palace (Winterpalais), Friedrichstraße 2. Neoclassical city palace from 1822. Having decayed during the 1990s and 2000s, it had to be teared down and was completely rebuilt in 2014. Now it hosts the city library.
- 8 Princely House (Prinzenpalais), Mozartstraße 1. Early Neoclassical villa built for Prince August, one of the Duke's brothers, who was a friend of Goethe and sympathised with the ideas of Enlightenment and sponsored a circle of artists, including Herder and Wieland. Since the 1990s, it stands empty.
- 9 German Insurance museum (Museum der deutschen Versicherungswirtschaft), Bahnhofstraße 3a, ☏ +49 3621 36703. Museum about the history of insurance business
- 10 Maria-Magdalena-Hospital, Brühl 4. Former hospital, established in 1223 by Saint Elizabeth of Thuringia. The current Baroque-style building was constructed in 1716–1719.
- 11 St Maragaret's Church (Margarethenkirche), Neumarkt. Late-Gothic hall church; one of the town's oldest extant buildings.
- 12 Augustinian Church (Augustinerkirche). Former monastic church of the Augustinian Hermits. Martin Luther (who was an Augustinian Friar himself) preached here in 1521. Rather modest Gothic hall church from the outside, but contains a rich Baroque interior, including a stately box for the Dukes and an early-Baroque organ case.
- Perthes-Forum, Justus-Perthes-Straße 5. Former buildings of the Perthes publishing house of maps and atlases. Now houses the Thuringian state archives and a research library.
- 13 Tivoli. Place where the Socialist Workers' Party was established in 1875
- 14 Zoological garden (Tierpark), Töpfleber Weg 2. Summer: 09:00-18:00, winter: 08:00-16:30. Home to more than 600 animals of 140 different species. €6 (children €3).
- 15 Boxberg turf (Pferderennbahn Boxberg).
- 16 Citizens' tower (Bürgerturm), on the Galberg hill. 35-m-high tower on a hill with panoramic view over the further surroundings.
- Thüringen Philharmonie Gotha, symphony orchestra, gives concerts several times per month, usually at Kulturhaus Gotha or Stadthalle Gotha
- Kinderchor Gotha children's choir
- Gothardus festival, first weekend in May, celebrated since the Middle Ages, with markets, concerts, pageant, fireworks
- Ekhof festival, June to August, concerts and theatrical performance in the historical Ekhof theatre
- Baroque festival, last weekend in August, cizizens wear Baroque costumes, play scenes set on the court of Duke Frederick III
- Pension "Regina", Schwabhäuser Str. 4, 99867 Gotha, ☏ +49 3621 408020. Simple but clean guesthouse in the old town; each room with private bathroom; friendly hosts. Double room €59 (incl. breakfast).
- Augustinerkloster, Jüdenstraße 27, ☏ +49 3621 302901. 17 hostel rooms in a monastery, right in the old town. Each with private bathroom (shower, WC) but no TV. Double room €76 (incl. breakfast).
- Best Western Hotel Der Lindenhof, Schöne Aussicht 5, 99867 Gotha, ☏ +49 3621 7720. Four-star-hotel (90 rooms), surrounded by gardens, 2 km from castle and old town. Double room € 20–130 (incl. breakfast), early booking price from €100.
- Hotel am Schlosspark, Lindenauallee 20, ☏ +49 3621 4420, email@example.com. Four-star hotel (94 rooms), spa with sauna and salt cave, just outside the castle grounds, 400 m from the castle. Double room €115–130 (incl. breakfast).
|Routes through Gotha|
|Frankfurt ← Eisenach ←||Frankfurt Dresden||→ Erfurt → Leipzig|