Magdeburg in northern Germany was founded by Charlemagne in 805AD, making it 1,200 years old. Its original name was Magadoburg, probably from German for big, ‘magado’, and ‘burga’ for fortress. Emperor Otto I, the first Holy Roman Emperor, lived in the town for most of his reign and was buried in the cathedral after his death. Over the centuries, it has been ravaged by war and destruction as a result of its position as an imperial seat, Prussian fortified town, and as a Hanseatic city. It was heavily bombed in the Second World War, and a RAF bombing raid on the night of 16 January 1944 destroyed most of the city.
Map of Magdeburg
1990 saw the city become the capital of the new state of Saxony-Anhalt in the reunification of Germany, with the city center rebuilt in a modern style. After reunification, most of the basis of the economy was shut down, and it faced decline in the population as a result of people seeking lucrative jobs in western Germany. The city however, is known for reinventing itself, and for preserving its cultural heritage. Today it is a beautiful city on the Elbe River with its economy geared towards services, and hosting nearly 20 000 students at its top rated two universities, as well as research centers. It has great sights, including its parks which make it the third greenest city in Germany, and new shopping malls and other attractions; and its proximity to Hamburg, Leipzig and Berlin counts in its favor too.
Table of Contents
The Best Time to Go
The best months are between May and September, where the temperature averages between 10 and 20°C (50 to 68°F); although in July and August it can get up to 24°C (75°C). The months from October to April are colder, averaging between 0 and 10°C (32 to 50°F) . The coldest time of year is in January, when it can get as low as -2.1°C (28°F).
Sunshine hours are from 1.3 hours a day in December and 7.7 hours a day in June. July is the wettest month, experiencing rain, sleet, hail or snow over an average of 14 days. Frost mostly occurs in January.
Getting Around in Magdeburg
With regard to public transportation, there are S-Bahn trains, buses, trams and ferries in Magdeburg. The benefit is that they are all unified in a linked transport system called Marego, so they all use the same tickets.
Riding the tram is probably the best system for tourists to use, as the stops are located at the main attractions, and in busy areas. Magdeburg boats 10 tram lines, plus one which is brought into service during heavy traffic times, or for special events. Waiting times vary greatly, and depend on the time, day, and location. In the city centre you rarely have to wait more than 5 minutes, even on a Sunday; while the further out you go, you can wait for between 10 and 20 minutes. Timetables are provided at every stop. If you’re lucky, you might catch a communist-era one, and experience the rattles of the past.
The buses run every 20 minutes, and cover all areas of the city. As with the trams, extra buses are laid on at heavy traffic times and special events. Timetables are at every stop too.
Two ferry services operate Elbe river crossings, the Fähre Buckau and the Fähre Westerhüsen. They run from March to October on Tuesdays to Sundays between 10am and 6pm.
The main train line runs through Magdeburg from the north to the south. The train stations are marked with a logo of a white S on a green circle. The trains run every 30 minutes, and are the fastest method for crossing the city.
Public transportation at night means you need to look at the schedules, as it is more limited. Taxis are of course an alternative.
Major Attractions and Sights
The Gothic Magdeburger Dom (Cathedral of St. Maurice and St Catherine) is the most well-known sight of the city. It was constructed on the site of a Roman cathedral between the years of 1209 and 1520. It is the highest church building in eastern Germany at 104 meters. It has stunning and unique sculptures, notably the ‘Twelve Virgins’ at the northern gate.
The 11th Century Romanesque abbey Kloster unser lieben Frauen (Cloister of Our beloved Lady) is an iconic building in Germany. Among other things, it has an art gallery.
Johanniskirche (St John’s Church) is worth going to see. After sustaining serious damage during WWll it has been recently rebuilt as a multipurpose centre.
The Town Hall dates from 1698. It stands in the place of the original which stood on the marketplace since the 13th Century until its destruction in the Thirty Years’ War. The ‘new’ building was built in the Renaissance style. It has since been renovated, and was reopened in 2005.
In the city centre near the Kloster Unser Lieben Frauen and the cathedral is the Grüne Zitadelle (Green Citadel), a pink house designed by the famous architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser. There are also ruins of the stronghold of the Prussian Empire.
The Kulturhistorisches Museum (Culture Historical Museum) on Otto-von-Guericke-Straße is home to the famous statue, the Magdeburger Reiter.
The city center overall, is a delight for architecture fans, and features some neo-classicist buildings dating from the Communist era, as well as modern marvels built since reunification.
Magdeburg is one of the greenest cities in Europe and the third greenest city in Germany, so riding a bike in Magdeburg is a pleasant experience. Since most of the streets have cycle tracks on the sides you will not have any problems with taking your bike into the city. You are permitted to take your bike with you on all the public transportation; however, you may have to purchase an extra ticket for the bike. A very nice way to explore the idyllic nature in and around Magdeburg is using the Elberadweg. This cycle path leads you all the way along the river Elbe and invites you to explore the unique biosphere reserve around Magdeburg. Signs guide you along the path and show you directions and distances to other towns, villages, and attractions. Many restaurants and beer gardens are right next to the river, as well as some nice hotels, playgrounds and parks.
There are several different river cruises offered by the Magdeburger Weiße Flotte GmbH.
They include: a 1.5 hour cruise along the skyline of Magdeburg; a river cruise from the city centre to the town of Schönebeck; an evening cruise; and cruises along the waterway. Tickets can be bought at the tourist information centre, or onboard.
In recent years, the museums in Magdeburg have regularly featured excellent exhibitions on a whole host of subjects related to art, culture and learning. New collections and exhibitions have also been established and the top-flight Technology Museum has opened with no expense or effort spared. The three other major museums are the Cultural History Museum, the Museum of Natural History and the Art Museum in the Convent of our Lady.
Magdeburg also offers high-caliber entertainment at its opera house, Schauspielhaus theatre and puppet theatre, and there are many independent theatre groups and German-style cabaret performances to enjoy.
In the Elbauen Park the Millennium Tower is a popular draw card; it houses an exhibition on nature and the history of humanity.
The Magdeburg Water Bridge is a navigable aqueduct in Germany that connects the Elbe-Havel Canal to the Mittelland Canal, and allows ships to cross over the Elbe River. At 918 meters, it is the longest navigable aqueduct in the world. Construction of the water link was started as early as in the 1930s, but due to WWII and subsequent division of Germany the work remained suspended till 1997. The aqueduct was finally completed and opened to the public in 2003. It truly is a sight worth seeing.
Shopping in Magdeburg
With 2.5 square meters of retail space per inhabitant, Magdeburg’s city-centre shopping area is one of Germany’s top destinations for shoppers.
There are numerous shopping malls all over the city. In the CBD you have Karstadt, which was a mall during the cold war and is therefore the oldest of the city with its building still representing socialist architecture. After the reunification, the city center got several new shopping malls. The biggest of them is called Allee Centre and has 3 floors. Also located in the city center are the Ulrichshaus and the City Carré. You will also find numerous stores (as well as bars and cafés) along the road Breiter Weg, which used to be one of the largest shopping streets in Europe before WWII and has now regained most of its popularity with modern architecture.
Strolling along Magdeburg’s traditional shopping boulevards Breiter Weg and Ernst-Reuter-Allee, visiting the many shops in the districts of Neustadt and Sudenburg as well as weekly markets will yield some local goods. The city’s most centrally located market is at the Old Market (Alter Markt) in front of the Town Hall. Market days and times are Tuesday to Friday, 9am to 5pm and on Saturday, 9am to 1pm. The market is closed on Mondays. Special attractions are the so-called “Farmers’ Market” which takes place every Tuesday as well as the “Green Market” every Saturday. Produce on sale includes: homemade sausages and cold cuts, fresh fruit and vegetables, flowers, dairy products, cakes and pastries, poultry products, household supplies, lingerie, gifts, and textiles.
If you feel hungry or peckish, there are a number of snack stands offering light meals and snacks to accommodate your needs. Easy access is provided by public transport, and parking places are available in Julius-Bremer-Strasse as well as behind the Karstadt building.
Eating Out in Magdeburg
Hasselbachplatz square and the surrounding streets are lined with dozens of pubs, bars and restaurants plus one of the best-known currywurst bars in Germany, ‘Curry 54’. The Mediterranean restaurant Liebig is popular with all walks and ages. The trendy bar-café-restaurant has a large outdoor terrace, and serves substantial breakfasts, global fare and cool cocktails.
Bingöl Grill on Breiter Weg is a budget legend to lovers of Turkish food and Döner. Clean, with decent service, real silverware, porcelain plates and prices that rival big fast food chains. It’s open until late at night, making it ideal if you need to grab something solid after a night of partying.
Nightlife in Magdeburg
The Hasselbachplatz is the place to start a night out in Magdeburg. Here you will find a big variety of bars and small clubs, a lot of stylish bars and also alternative pubs with long opening hours on weekends.
A premium spot is the Jackelwood, located in the Sternstraße just south from the Hasselbachplatz, with billiards, kicker and a lot of other games. There are quite a few more bars on this area so check them out and you will find one that appeals to you. And you will always get something to eat at the Hasselbachplatz. For very late night drinking pop in at the COCO in the Otto-von-Guericke-Street (50m) from Hasselbachplatz
An amazing night at the theatre – with a difference! – can be had at the fabulous Theater an der Angel. The company is owned by Matthias Engle and Ines Lacroix who performed in the Neil Simon comedy Der letzte der feurigen Liebhaber.
Of local Interest
In the Elbauen Park at Easter, you can go along and watch a huge bonfire of firewood. A snowman made at Magdeburg’s theatre workshops is placed on top, and the lighting of the bonfire is said to be banishing winter from the park.
Hassel Night Line takes place on the Hasselbachplatz – a twice-a-year street festival with open-air stages and music on every narrow street.
September 2011 saw the inception of the Kaiser Otto Festival.
September also sees the popular annual summer theatre at the Puppet Theatre in the courtyard, which combines puppet shows and theatre plays.
In October is the Magdeburg Town Festival. On the ‘festival mile’ you’ll find show stands, market stalls, carousels and different stage programs by many entertainers, including from regional TV and radio stations. The ‘mile’ runs from the cathedral to University Square.
Also in October is the Magdeburg marathon.