Germany has a splendid prehistoric heritage, including archaeology’s first Neanderthals, examples of Europe’s earliest Palaeolithic portable art and some of the finest Iron Age (Celtic) art. The Romans left their mark too, with a fortified frontier stretching from the Rhine in the west to the Danube in the east.
At the heart of the city of Cologne is one of the largest archaeological zones in Europe. The zone covers an area of about 10,000 m² in and under the Town Hall Square, where excavations since the 1950s have exposed an extraordinary urban history that goes back two thousand years. A story that starts with the remains of the Roman Governor’s Palace, which is then followed by the ruins of a Medieval Jewish quarter and its Carolingian Synagogue that dates to about 800 AD. [Website]
Ellwangen Abbey was the first Benedictine Monastery in the historic Duchy of Swabia. The monastery was established in 764 by two brothers, Herulph and Ariolf. In 814 it became an Imperial Abbey, under the protection of the Holy Roman Empire. Although the abbey was dissolved during the secularisation of 1802, most of the buildings are still in tact but not used for ecclesiastic purposes. Consecrated in 1233, the Late Romanesque St. Vitus Basilica is today the Paris church of Ellwangen. Photograph © Moros
From about 1460 AD the castle of Zllwangen served as the residence of the Prince-provosts. Although the castle was remodelled in a Baroque style around 1726, visitors to the castle can still see evidence of its earlier architectural grandeur. Today the castle is administrated by the State of Baden-Württemberg, and it hosts a museum with permanent exhibitions that comprise spectacular objects from over 1,200 years of the building’s history and influence in the region. Photograph © Bernd Haynold [Website]
The German-French border between Gersheim (Saarland) and Bliesbruck (Moselle) has a wonderful concentration of Iron Age and Roman archaeological sites. Consequently the European Archaeological Park of Bliesbruck-Reinheim is a cross-border venture between the two countries. The park is well set up for visitors. On view are excavations and reconstructions of Iron Age and Roman villages, an Iron Age tomb and a Roman villa. Photograph © Anna16 [Website]
The town of Potsdam, with the vast royal park and magnificent palaces at Sansouci, has been a prominent town in the history of Europe. Until 1918 it was here that the Prussian kings and the Kaiser had their residences. After World War Two, the post-war conference been the allies took place here – the so-called Potsdam Conference. The park has a wonderful collection of sites from all over the World, including Roman Baths, the Chinese House and an Egyptian Obelisk. Potsdam is a great day trip from Berlin … read more.
In 1852 a farmer came across tesserae while he was digging a pit. This led to the discovery of the Roman villa, and one of the most outstanding mosaic floors north of the Alps. At 15.65 x 10.30 metres, this mosaic is certainly one of the biggest. The mosaic depicts the various activities that take place in the amphitheatres, including a somewhat graphic scene of gladiators fighting each other, men hunting wild animals, as well as animals hunting other animals. Also, on the edge of town there is an Iron Age tumulus. [Website]
The Roman fort at Aalen is the biggest fort north of the Alps. This fort was part of the German Limes, the defensive wall along the northern edge of the Roman Empire on the European continent, and inscribed on the UNESCO list of World Heritage sites. Next to the foundations of the fort is one of the biggest Roman museums in Germany, that exhibits objects from various excavations showing what military and civilian life was like in the area about two thousand years ago. [Website] Photograph © Haselburg-müller
Sometimes referred to as the second Rome, Trier is one of the oldest cities in Germany and has a number of impressive Roman monuments. These monuments, including a bridge, remains of a fortified wall, baths and amphitheatre, together with the Trier Cathedral and the Liebfrauenkirche (Church of Our Lady, one of the finest Gothic churches in Germany) have been added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage sites. The Cathedral, which has Roman origins, houses the Holy Tunic relic – said to be the robe of Jesus. [Website]
Vulkanpark is a rural geo-attraction focussed on a volcanic region in the eastern Vulkan Eifel area of Germany. A series of self-guided routes enable visitors to explore volcanology, archaeology and industrial history – and understand how the exploitation of volcanic rock has shaped the landscape since Roman times. The routes also take in a section of Roman walls near the town of Mayen and two Roman mound graves just outside the towns of Nickenich and Ochtendung. [Website] Photograph © Holger Weinandt
Opened in 2010, ‘Topography of Terror’ is the name given to the site in Berlin on which some of the most historically significant institutions of the Nazi regime were located. It was here that a number of the State police organisations, including the Secret State Police (Gestapo) and the Reich SS Leadership, had their headquarters. Consequently it was on this site that much of their reign of terror and persecution was planned and carried out – some of the basements in which these acts took place have been excavated … go to Topography of Terror.
In 9 AD an alliance of Germanic tribes ambushed and defeated three legions of Roman soldiers in the Teutoburg Forest. For a long time this clash was considered crucial in stopping Roman expansion into northern Europe. Nowadays historians believe it was the Rhine River that proved to be more of a barrier. Today the archaeological site of the Varus Battle near the village of Kalkriese is a 24 hectare park, with an award wining museum. The museum and park is open throughout the year, hosting activities for visitors of all ages. [Website]
The town of Ellwangen an der Jagst was established in the 7th century as an Alemanic settlement. The Alamanni were the first Christians in southern Germany, and with numerous archaeological artefacts from the area the Alamannenmuseum concentrates on the last five hundred or so years of their history. Of particular interest is the rich collection of gold and silverwork. The museum also has an active programme of events that focus on various aspects of Alamanni life. Photograph © Alamannenmuseum [Website]
Founded in 1885, the State Archaeology Collection of Bavaria is one of the largest and most important archaeological collections in Germany; it is divided into five areas, namely prehistory, Roman, Medieval, the Mediterranean and numismatics. The museum, with extensive permanent exhibits is located in central Munich in walking distance of the Marianplatz, and is open to the public everyday except Mondays. Just opened to the public are the recently refurbished Roman galleries, covering 300 square metres of display space … [Website]
Housed in the former fencing hall of the University of Bonn is an extraordinary collection of Egyptian antiquities. The origins of the collection date back to the early 19th century. What was an initial collection of 1,820 artefacts has since grown to over 3,000. Sadly, during October 1944 Allied bombs on Bonn destroyed a number of objects, including relief fragments from the Pyramids and several coffins. Objects in the display cases change regularly. [Website]
The Bavarian town of Manching is situated on what was a large, late Iron Age city-like settlement – the Oppidum of Manching. Excavations have recovered spectacular Celtic artefacts, including a hoard of 483 Celtic gold coins. The Iron Age settlement was founded in the 3rd century BC and abandoned in the mid 1st century BC. The strategic position made the site attractive to the Romans. Today, the Celtic Roman Museum in Manching showcases the best artefacts from the Iron Age and Roman periods of the area … [Website].
Museum Island is group of museums on an island between the Spree and Kupfergraben Rivers in the historical centre of Berlin. There are five museums on the island, which as a group were added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1999. The Altes Museum, the Neues Museum, Alte Nationgalerie, Bode Museum and the Pergamon Museum. There was considerable damage to the buildings during the second World War, and now an ongoing programme of restoration is in place for the various museums.
Built between 1823 and 1830 by Karl Friedrich Schinkel, the Altes Museum (Old Museum) is said to be one of the most important works of neoclassical architecture in the World. With the striking façade and the rotunda, it is clear the design of the building was inspired by the Pantheon in Rome. Two vast floors of exhibition space within the museum focus entirely on Classical antiquity: the Greeks, Etruscans and Romans. The museum’s numismatic collection adds an overview of ancient coins … go to Altes Museum.
Originally constructed between 1843 and 1855, the Neues Museum (New Museum) suffered severe damage during World War Two. The necessary reconstruction and renovations only began in 2003. The museum has three different collections: the Egyptian Museum, Papyrus collection and the Museum of Prehistory and Early History. Together the exhibitions cover the archaeology from prehistory to early history of the Old World, from the Near East to the Atlantic, North Africa to Scandinavia … go to the Neues Museum.
The Pergamon Museum was built to replace a previous building on the same site that could no longer structurally support the larger pieces, such as the Pergamon Altar. The museum exhibits artefacts from the Collection of Classical Antiquities, the Museum of the Ancient Near East and the Museum of Islamic Art. But the museum is well know for the spectacular large-scale reconstructions of the Pergamon Altar, Market Gate of Miletus, the Ishtar Gate and the Mshatta Façade … go to the Pergamon Museum.
Founded in 1877, this state museum exhibits artefacts from prehistory to the Baroque period, some 200,000 years of history from stone tools to elaborate Medieval art. Not surprisingly, a major focus of the museum is the Roman period, for which there are numerous displays that draw on the many archaeological finds excavated in Trier that tell the story of the Roman city of Augusta Treverorum. One particular highlight is the Trier Gold Hoard, found in 1993 it is the largest known hoard of Roman gold coins. [Website]
The Romano-Germanic Museum in Cologne is one of Germany’s most important Roman museums. During construction builders came across the remains of a Roman town house. During rescue efforts, the spectacular Dionysus mosaic floor could not be lifted so it was decided a museum would be built around the mosaic. Besides extensive exhibits of art, culture and everyday life in Roman and early medieval Cologne, the museum has largest and finest collections of Roman glass artefacts in the World. [Website]
Located near the Saarbrücken castle, the Museum für Vor- und Frühgeschichte displays archaeology of the Saarlandes region, from early Stone Age hand axes to more recent Medieval brooches made of gold and using semi-precious stones. Not to be missed is Celtic gold jewellery from the grave of a prince, the colourful wall paintings recovered from the Roman villa in nearby Mechern, and the collection of Roman statuary. Besides these permanent exhibitions, temporary displays show recently excavated artefacts from the region. [Website]
The Castle Church was substantially renovated and modernised, and then reopened in 2004. Now a state-of-the-art museum, with innovative digital and interactive displays, the museum exhibits Medieval sacred art, with a variety of objects dating from the 13th to 19th century. Highlights of the collection include Baroque stained-glass windows, and the beautifully decorated tombs of nobles. The museum also hosts temporary exhibitions of sacred art, and it frequently stages concerts performed by the local music school. [Website]
On the banks of a navigable inlet, the Schlei, and near the Medieval city of Hedeby (Haithabu or Haddeby) this museum focusses on the Viking history of the region. Following a major refurbishment in 2010, the museum now presents over One hundred years of archaeological research on the Vikings. From the museum reconstructions of thatched roof Viking Age houses can be seen, and visited. During the summer months, the museum hosts demonstrations of crafts and skills, from bread making to iron working and wool dying. [Website]