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Living in Germany
German Art and Architecture
German art has a rich tradition, both in the fine arts and in the large number of international art collections hosted by German museums. Art enthusiasts will indeed find many ways to spend their time while in Germany. Read our guide on German art and architecture and learn more.
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German Art: Architecture
Lovers of art history and architecture will enjoy their time in Germany tremendously. The architectural heritage of Germany is of immense value to archeologists, historians, and art lovers alike.
Sites, monuments and artworks protected by Germany’s heritage societies go back to Roman Antiquity. The city of Trier, for instance, includes impressive baths and the artful throne room of Emperor Constantine (ca. 280-337 AD). Germany has it all: the mostly sacral German art and architecture of the Middle Ages (e.g. the cathedrals of Worms and Freiburg), the flourishing Renaissance arts and Baroque splendor (e.g. the residences of Landshut and Würzburg), and the elegant classicist and playful art nouveau buildings. It is no surprise that domestic tourism in Germany is still going strong.
Contemporary German architecture could be considered a form of art itself. The functional buildings of German modernism (e.g. the Bauhaus design school) can be found all over German cities. Buildings that host German art or historical exhibits are usually constructed in the post-modern style. Great examples are, for instance, the neo-expressionist Jewish Museum in Berlin or the Museum of Modern Art in Frankfurt (Main).
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German Art: Cathedrals and Churches
Some architectural sites, such as churches, historic castles, and even universities in Germany, often have museums as well. These museums contain collections of German art such as paintings, wood carvings, tapestries, interior design, etc. If you would like to visit some of Germany’s architectural sites famous among German art historians, we have some tips for you:
- The most famous example of classicist German art in Berlin is, of course, the Brandenburg Gate. In the palaces of Schloss Charlottenburg and Schloss Sanssouci, you will find Baroque and Rococo architecture at its finest.
- Kassel is famous for its classicist Schloss Wilhelmshöhe. Darmstadt, on the other hand, is worth a visit too: admire the cosy art nouveau houses in the city’s German art colony Mathildenhöhe.
- The city of Hamburg features a splendid town hall in late 19th-century historicist style, the former pride and joy of its wealthy citizens. It is also famous for its five big Gothic churches with the red-brick architecture typical of Northern Germany. St Michael is still the best-known landmark of the city-state.
- As for the Rhineland, the magnificent cathedral in Cologne is actually the third-highest church building in the world and the most popular tourist attraction in Germany. Moreover, the cathedral of Aachen, where you’ll find both the imperial chapel of Charlemagne and his possible burial site, is only a short train journey away.
- Munich is the perfect starting point to explore either medieval castles throughout Bavaria or the Baroque architecture of monasteries such as Weltenburg (which is famous for its beer as well).
German Art: Museums
Almost every city and every town in Germany has a museum of some sort, be it the big art museum showing of works by Van Gogh or Monet, or the local history museum. Germany is proud of its exhibitions and displays of German art and culture. The museums have long begun to cater to tourists and visitors as well and are offering audio guides, tours, and information material in various languages.
German art museums come in all sizes and cater to every conceivable (and inconceivable) interest. Some focus on artworks, others on natural history and technology, on general history and biography, or on local traditions and special interests. And if you are fascinated by the weird, the odd, and the bizarre, there are also museums dedicated to children’s toys, to Currywurst (sausage with curry-spiced ketchup sauce – a typical German fast-food snack), to torture methods, to chamberpots, and pig-shaped lucky charms. Have fun!
German Art: Painting and Sculpture
Germany’s heritage in the visual arts is almost as rich and varied as its architectural monuments. German artists of international renown include the Renaissance painter Albrecht Dürer, the Romanticist Casper David Friedrich, the members of the Expressionist art groups Die Brücke and Der Blaue Reiter as well as the 20th century conceptual artist Joseph Beuys. Their artwork is hosted in some of Germany’s biggest and most popular museums:
- The Alte Pinakothek Munich and the Nationalmuseum Nürnberg specialize in old masters
- the Nationalgalerie Berlin and the Hamburg Kunsthalle exhibit some of Friedrich’s most celebrated paintings, such as the iconic “Der Wanderer über dem Nebelmeer”,
- Berlin’s Brücke-Museum and the Lenbach-Haus in Munich have a strong focus on expressionist art.
The contemporary avant-garde in German art has been stuck with various labels such as “Young German Artists”, “New Leipzig School”, “Dresden Pop” or “neurotic realism”. They are active in the countless small galleries or exhibition rooms in major cities like Cologne or Berlin. If you are interested in engaging with the works of modern artists, the annual documenta art fair in Kassel is the place for you.