Feengrotten & Feenweltchen

Thuringian Forest & the Saale Valley

These former alum slate mines (operational from 1530 to 1850) were opened for tours in 1914 and rank among the world’s most colourful caverns, imbued with shades of brown, ochre, sienna, green and blue. Small stalactites and stalagmites add to the surreal appearance, the highlight of which is the Fairytale Cathedral and its Holy Grail Castle. The Feenweltchen ('Fairy World', open May to October) is an outdoor trail, weaving its way through a fun obstacle course of elves, fairies and spirits.

Year-round, the Grottoneum museum has interactive exhibits on mining, the caves and how they came about, and there's a picnic area and 2.5km walking trail for fine weather. Buses make the 3km trip from Saalfeld Bahnhof and Markt to the grottoes every half-hour, or you can arrange a taxi.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Thuringian Forest & the Saale Valley attractions

1. Stadtmuseum

1.03 MILES

Saalfeld's former 13th-century Franciscan monastery, dissolved in the Reformation, now houses the Stadtmuseum. Its major allure is the celestial building…

2. Schloss Belvedere

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Set amid Belvedere Park's lovely 43 hectares, this early-18th-century palace was once the hunting lodge of Duke Ernst August of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach…

3. Schott Glas Museum

22.37 MILES

An interactive multimedia exhibition on the history, production and technology of glass, in the house where scientist and entrepreneur Otto Schott (1851…

4. Haus Hohe Pappeln

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This unusual house was designed by its first occupant, Belgian art-nouveau architect-designer Henry van de Velde. In 1902 van de Velde founded the arts…

5. Schillers Gartenhaus

22.71 MILES

Goethe is credited with recruiting Schiller to Jena University in 1789. The poet, playwright and philosopher enjoyed Jena so much that he stayed for 10…

6. Optisches Museum

22.75 MILES

Carl Zeiss began building rudimentary microscopes in 1846 and, with Ernst Abbe’s help, developed the first scientific microscope in 1857. Together with…

7. Universität Jena – Collegium Jenense

22.87 MILES

Jena’s university faculties are spread throughout town, but this was where the university was founded as Collegium Jenense in 1548, in a former Dominican…

8. Rathaus

22.93 MILES

One of the oldest maintained town halls in Germany, Jena’s Rathaus (1377) is graced with an astronomical clock in its baroque tower. Every hour, on the…