When people think about Germany, visions of fairy tale castles, Oktoberfest, Lederhosen, traces of the Berlin Wall and the ever-iconic Brandenburg Gate are usually what come to mind.
But Germany is also famous for what was arguably the most influential modernist art and design movement of the 20th century: the Bauhaus (translates literally as “build house”). Famous for a sleek, functional design that has the soul of a work of art, the Bauhaus movement also had a major impact on design in the United State after the Nazis closed the school in 1933.
This year, the Bauhaus celebrates its 100th anniversary. What better time to plan a trip to some of the hotspots of the movement, many of which are well off the usual tourist path.
To help you on your journey, we’ve gathered some tips on the places to go to experience Bauhaus at its best as well as tips on how to save. Here goes.
Located in the German state of Thuringia, which is in the former GDR, Weimar is the birthplace of the Bauhaus. The German architect Walter Gropius established the school there in 1919 and it remained in operation until 1925. You can see the original building, which is now home to Bauhaus University, a university specializing in architecture, civil engineering, media, and art and design. A Bauhaus Museum will also open in the city this year in celebration of the centennial.
At an earlier time, Weimar was also the cradle of German Enlightenment and Weimar Classicism, a literary movement boasting big wig German writers such as Johann von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller. Traces of these legacies can also be seen in the city.
How to get there
Weimar can be easily reached from other German cities, such as Berlin and Leipzig. Although you can get decent rates with Deutsche Bahn if you book far enough ahead, the best deal by far is with Flixbus. This discount bus service offers rates as low as around €12 one way from Berlin to Weimar, for example. If you’d like to chat with some locals, check out the ride-sharing service BlaBlaCar. You can often find people headed to Weimar from other locations for cheap rates.
Tips and ways to save
Since Weimar is a student town, you’ll find plenty of cheap eats around, including the Bauhaus Atelier café-shop located directly at the university. This is also the meeting point for the Bauhaus walking tour (long tour €9, short tour €6 adults, children under 14 free). A light meal at a bakery is also a better way to go if you’re traveling on a budget. Whatever you do, make sure you avoid any restaurants with Goethe and Schiller in the name, since these are likely overpriced tourist traps.
Weimar does have a city discount card that will get you free entry to over twenty museums and palaces as well as free rides on the city bus system and discounts on other cultural events for 48 hours. However, none of the offers are Bauhaus-related at the card is on the pricey side (€29) so think twice about buying one unless you plan to hit the museums big time.
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Fleeing drastic cuts in funding from the conservative government in Weimar, the Bauhaus school moved to the small city of Dessau in 1925 where it remained until 1932. In Dessau, your first stop should definitely be the Bauhaus Building. Designed by Walter Gropius in 1925, the Bauhaus Building is an amazing architectural treasure that was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 1996. It’s now home to the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation.
Another absolute must-see for all Bauhaus junkies are the seven Meisterhäuser (Master’s Houses). Designed by Walter Gropius, these houses, which are a stone’s throw from the Bauhaus Building, were once the abodes of many a big name in modernism, including Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Mies van der Rohe and Josef Albers to name but a few. Now you can traipse through the empty homes, still decked out in the original colors. Some of the houses also have small exhibitions and mini gift shops where you can pick up some Bauhaus style doodads and trinkets. Like in Weimar, brand-new Bauhaus Museum is also opening in September of this year in honor of the centennial.
How to get there
Dessau is about an hour’s ride from Leipzig and around 1.5 hours from Berlin. Deutsche Bahn tickets are cheapest from Leipzig, with an average price of around €15 one way. On the weekend, you can also often find at least one trip between Berlin and Dessau for as low as €4.99 one way. Blablablacar is a great place to look as well. Rides between Berlin and Dessau average around €8 one way.
Tips and ways to save
Before reaching Dessau, decide what exactly you want to see. If you would like to see the Bauhaus Building and the Meisterhäuser including all exhibitions, the combination ticket is the best deal (€13/€8 reduced). Swing by Bauhaus Club, the café-bistro at the Bauhaus building for a cup of joe and a snack, or enjoy a warm meal in the Canteen. Both have a student vibe and aren’t too pricey. The Bauhaus-designed Kornhaus Restaurant on the Elbe River is worth a trip for some exterior shots for your Instagram feed, but skip dining because the prices are above a bargain traveler’s budget.
If you’re here in the summer, why not go for the cheapest option and pack a picnic lunch? You can either enjoy your meal outdoors amongst the iconic buildings or hope on a bus over to Wörlitz, home to the fabulous Dessau-Wörlitzer Gartenreich (Dessau-Wörlitz Garden Realm), an 18th-century English-style park. This UNESCO World Heritage site has still been mostly undiscovered by international tourists, so get there now before the crowds start when word gets out about this gem, which is, among other things, home to Europe’s only fully functional artificial volcano above Lady Hamilton’s House.
Accommodations: Search for hotels in Dessau
In 1931, the Nazi party became strong in Dessau. When the party took over the city council, the Bauhaus school knew it was time to get the hell out of Dodge. At the end of 1932, the then-director of the Bauhaus, Mies van der Rohe, moved the school to a run-down factory in Berlin. The students and faculty moved in, painted the interior white, and were left alone by the Gestapo for ten months. But when the Nazis came to power in 1933, they closed down the school for good. Many of the students and staff left the country, including Mies van der Rohe, who left for Chicago.
In Berlin, you’ll find the Bauhaus Archive / Museum of Design, which is currently housed in Charlottenburg (Knesebeckstraße 1-2) while the building is being renovated. The archive is also organizing an exhibition at the Berlinische Galerie which will run from September 6, 2019, to January 27, 2020.
Tips and ways to save
Bauhaus fans should definitely check out a few of the architectural gems from the movement’s leaders, which are located at several off-the-beaten-track places across Berlin. These include the Mies van der Rohe house, which is far out in Hohenschönhausen, a neighborhood in former East Berlin, Gropiusstadt, a social housing project designed by Walter Gropius in the 1960s, and the ADGB Trade Union School in Bernau, a small town just outside of Berlin.
And don’t forget the Hansaviertel, home to an array of exquisite modernist buildings designed for an architectural competition in the 1950s. Except for the Mies van der Rohe house, which costs €5 admission, all of these sites are absolutely free, so they’ll only cost you the price of a BVG public transportation ticket. However, Gropiusstadt is a bit of a rougher neighborhood, so it might not be the best choice after dark.
Related: Our favorite budget hotels in Berlin
More Bauhaus attractions
Is this still not enough to scratch your Bauhaus itch? Then check out the Grand Tour of Modernism! Put together for the centennial by the Bauhaus Archive, this tour lists 100 Bauhaus and modernist sites throughout Germany. The tours are also split up into seven different regional tours which will take between five to two days to complete.
You can also check out bauhaus100.com for more information and ideas.
Viel Spaß (have fun) on your Bauhaus adventures!