The capital of the Geraman state of Saxony-Anhalt, Magdeburg—a stop on the Elbe River, southwest of Berlin—is known as the cradle of the German nation. Thanks to the Holy Roman Emperor Otto the Great, it was ravaged—and subsequently rebuilt—during two periods of history, the Thirty Years War and World War II.
What We Love
Green Citadel: This whimsical creation by the Austrian-born architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser stands out from the more austere buildings of Magdeburg’s Cathedral Square, namely for its surprise pastel pink facade. The building, in fact, got its "green" name from the abundance of leafy trees planted on the roof. Though it’s largely a residential building, you can still wander through the courtyards, or book a tour of the interiors.
Best Known For
The Two Ottos: Two famous Ottos put Magdeburg on the map: the Holy Roman Emperor Otto the Great, one of the most powerful rulers of Western Europe; and Otto Van Guericke, a diplomat and scientist known for his political savvy and contributions to physics in the 17th century. Statues near the Town Hall commemorate these prominent figures (and Van Guericke lends his name to the city's university).
Cathedral of Magdeburg: The current structure is the oldest Gothic Cathedral in Germany, with treasures galore to uncover—including a rare choir screen, the tomb of Otto the Great, and the sole statue of the patron saint Morris portrayed as a black man.
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Who It's Best For
History Buffs: Centuries of history happened in Magdeburg, and over the years the town has played many roles. It was a hub for the Reformation (Martin Luther attended school and later returned to preach here), and during World War II, it served as an important engineering and armament center. The port is best explored with a knowledgeable guide to expound on each era in the city's long history.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Aesthetically Challenged: Though some medieval edifices and Baroque facades have survived the ages, much of Magdeburg was destroyed during the two wars and reconstructed with Soviet-style boulevards and concrete block buildings.
Lisa Cheng is a New York-based writer for ShermansCruise who also writes for Travel + Leisure.