• The spires of Magdeburg Cathedral
    The spires of Magdeburg Cathedral ©null
  • Leipzig: city panorama
    Leipzig: city panorama ©null
  • Eisenach, Wartburg Castle
    Eisenach, Wartburg Castle ©null
  • Dresden: view of the city
    Dresden: view of the city ©null
  • Bayreuth: Festival Theatre
    Bayreuth: Festival Theatre ©null

On the trail of Wagner

Whether subject to political persecution, fleeing from his creditors or embarking on a new love affair, Wagner was a restless spirit who never stayed long in one place. Following the trail of the great composer means taking a journey across Germany.

Thirteen towns and cities in Germany are closely associated with Wagner’s life and legacy. They shaped the person he was and the works he created – and he too left his mark on them. In these towns and cities, visitors have the chance to see how the great musician lived and what inspired his music.

Get better acquainted with the real Wagner, listen to his operas at the very places where they were first performed and stroll with the mastersingers through Nuremberg!

Wagner Cities

For Wagner it was a long-cherished dream come true: ‘The Ring of the Nibelung’ premiered in Bayreuth in 1876 at the festival hall which had been specially built for the occasion – the Wagner Festival was born.

Today, just as back then, people from all over the world pour into the hall as soon as the fanfares begin for the Richard Wagner Festival. The festival hall, built on ‘Green Hill’ to Wagner’s designs, is still famed for its excellent acoustics.

Germany’s largest exhibition on Wagner can be found at Wahnfried House in Bayreuth. The residence, also built to the composer’s designs, was where Wagner lived in the years up to his death.

More about Bayreuth


Dresden, a city of culture and the arts, had a profound influence on Richard Wagner. It was where he went to school and where he saw ‘The Marksman’, an opera directed by Carl Maria von Weber that sparked his lifelong passion for opera – and for Von Weber. Later, as a destitute and unknown composer, Wagner made his breakthrough in Dresden with the premiere of ‘Rienzi’ at the Royal Theatre.

The performance of his choral piece ‘The Feast of Pentecost’ at the Church of Our Lady also received considerable acclaim.

Today visitors can hear Wagner’s works at the Semper Opera House, retrace his steps at Marcolini Palais and find out more about Wagner’s favourite composer and the source of his inspiration at the Carl Maria von Weber Museum.

More about Dresden


Wartburg Castle, the Singers’ Contest and the Tannhäuser cave: a visit to Eisenach is like walking around the stage set of ‘Tannhäuser’. Indeed Wartburg Castle and the surrounding Hörsel hills were the inspiration for one of Wagner’s most famous operas.

Today the Reuter Wagner Museum at the foot of the hill beneath Wartburg Castle is home to one of the world’s most extensive collections on Wagner, second only to Bayreuth, featuring many original exhibits illustrating the composer’s life and legacy. Perhaps not original but nonetheless a wonder of nature is the Tannhäuser cave in the Hörsel hills. Its connection to Wagner has not been proven but its romantic location is uncontested!


Graupa (near Dresden)
Graupa (near Dresden)

It is not only in recent times that Saxon Switzerland has been a popular holiday destination: the dramatic landscape also offered Richard Wagner the peace and space he needed to work. He wrote most of his opera ‘Lohengrin’ in the village of Graupa.

Wagner spent ten weeks living at the Schäfersches Gut farmhouse with his wife Minna, going on long walks and taking his inspiration from nature.

The reconstructed rooms inside the house now contain a small museum on Wagner. Other Wagner-related places of interest in Graupa are the hunting lodge, which features a special exhibition, the Richard Wagner culture trail in the garden of the lodge – and the beautiful surrounding landscape which Wagner found so inspirational.



Karlsruhe, the residence of the Friedrich I, Grand Duke of Baden, was a city with a rich musical culture and held a great fascination for Wagner. He dedicated a piano composition to Duchess Luise, the young wife of the Grand Duke. Two Wagner concerts were received with great enthusiasm by the people of Karlsruhe. “If I can trust in anyone, it is still mostly in the people of Baden,” Wagner wrote to his wife Minna in 1861.


For Wagner fans, the story starts in Leipzig. Richard Wagner was born in the city on 22 May 1813 at the ‘House of the Red and White Lions’ and baptised at St. Thomas Church. Leipzig was where the young Richard Wagner staged his first works.

Today a stroll around the city will take you to sites associated with Wagner – indeed visitors encounter the great composer at every turn. In addition, the Stadtgeschichtliches Museum presents life in Leipzig as it was in Wagner’s day. From Mai 2013 there will be a new permanent exhibition showing the period of young Wagner in an authentic location: the "Alten Nikolaischule".

More about Leipzig


In 1834, at the age of 21, Richard Wagner quite literally found his muse: he was appointed Music Director in Magdeburg and fell passionately in love with Minna Planer, an actress a few years his senior.

Inspired by their stormy relationship, he wrote the opera ‘The Ban on Love’ in Magdeburg, a frivolous piece for its day about love in defiance of the prevailing social order. It was Wagner’s first opera and premiered at Magdeburg Theatre – but was cancelled on its second day owing to a lack of demand.

Today Wagner’s operas are performed at Magdeburg Opera House in front of sell-out crowds.

More about Magdeburg


At the end of the 19th century, the Meiningen Ensemble transformed the world of theatre with its modern ideas – and this led Wagner to visit the town in 1877. Together with ‘Theatre Duke’ Georg II, he discussed the principles of the dramatic arts and attended performances by this innovative court theatre company.

Today Meiningen has lost none of its innovative spirit. Visitors can enjoy state-of-the-art exhibits on music history in the former private rooms of Georg II and marvel at the Meiningen stage sets at the Theatre Museum. A cycle route and guided tours take in important sites associated with Wagner in and around Meiningen. The original Court Theatre visited by Wagner reopened in 2011.



To Richard Wagner, the Bavarian capital must have seemed like a fairytale: he fled to Munich heavily in debt and encountered a truly Royal patron in Ludwig II of Bavaria. In no time at all, the ‘fairytale king’ had provided Wagner with employment, a villa on Lake Starnberg and a residence in the city.

Wagner stayed in Munich for two years, and four of his operas premiered at the National Theatre. The theatre was destroyed in the Second World War before reopening to the public in 1963 with a performance of ‘The Mastersingers of Nuremberg’. Since then, Wagner’s operas have delighted audiences here time and time again – at the very place where they were first performed.

More about Munich


There is only one city in the world for which Richard Wagner composed an opera. With ‘The Mastersingers of Nuremberg’, the composer paid a musical tribute to the Bavarian city. The opera depicts the everyday life, customs and traditions of the Nuremberg master craftsmen in the late Middle Ages.

Today visitors can retrace the steps of the mastersingers in the narrow lanes of Nuremberg’s old quarter and even watch the ‘festival meadow scene’ from the opera performed on the market square where it was originally set. The opera house on Richard-Wagner-Platz stages Wagner’s operas, whereas the Meistersingerhalle (Mastersingers’ Hall) is a concert and conference venue.

More about Nuremberg


After he had sided with the rebels in the 1848/49 revolution in Dresden, Richard Wagner was forced to flee the city and a warrant was issued for his arrest. He found safe hideouts and influential supporters in Weimar. The composer Franz Liszt – later Wagner’s father-in-law – fervently backed him and even succeeded in having his works performed at the German National Theatre.

Wagner also had a great admirer and wealthy patroness in Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna.

Today visitors to Weimar can go to the German National Theatre or find out more about Wagner’s friend, and the man who would become his father-in-law, at the Liszt Museum.

More about Weimar


For a period of one year, Richard Wagner rented a prestigious villa on the banks of the Rhine in Biebrich, a district of Wiesbaden. He was working on ‘The Mastersingers of Nuremberg’, commissioned by the Mainz-based music publisher Franz Schott. The house was surrounded by a large garden, parts of which were built on in later years. Today the building is privately owned.

Wagner was so fond of Biebrich that he planned to build a festival hall on an area of land belonging to the city known as the ‘sand pit’. Nothing came of this, however. Instead, in the early 20th century, a three-and-a-half hectare Richard Wagner Park was laid out in Biebrich.

More about Wiesbaden


The young Richard Wagner took up his first post in Würzburg, where his brother had secured him a position as choir director. Wagner’s house at no. 7 Kapuzinerstrasse remains intact to this day with a plaque outside commemorating its famous tenant. Wagner enjoyed his time in Würzburg.

He especially liked to go with his friend, the piano teacher Alexander Müller, to the ‘Am letzten Hieb’ beer garden on Galgenberg Hill with its glorious views of the city and the citadel.

Wagner completed his first opera ‘Die Feen’ (The Fairies) in Würzburg, although it took until after his death for this to be given its premiere.

More about Würzburg

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