The regional capital Magdeburg is one of the oldest cities in Germany's new federal states, although the course of its history has not always been smooth. As an imperial seat, Hanseatic power and fortified city, Magdeburg has repeatedly been ravaged by war and destruction. Yet it has always had faith in its own future, has always rebuilt and reinvented itself, whilst preserving the memory of the two Ottos who shaped the city.
Otto the Great, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire from 962, was so enamoured with his favourite residence that he presented it to his wife Edith as a gift. Magdeburg locals still revere their beloved Otto today. Indeed, he is buried within the city's most significant cultural and historical building: the Cathedral of St. Mauritius and St. Catherine with its imposing towers that can be seen for miles around. It is one of the most spectacular architectural monuments in central Germany, the city's most famous landmark and Germany's first Gothic cathedral, and it boasts a wealth of artistic sculptures and carvings. Another artistic highlight on cathedral square is the Green Citadel, a late work by artist and architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser. Typical of the Austrian's inimitable style, the building creates a charming contrast to the venerable cathedral and the sheer magnitude of this central square. The other Otto close to the hearts of the people of Magdeburg? Otto von Guericke, the great politician and scientist who lived in Magdeburg through the difficult period during and after the Thirty Years' War. He served as his home city's urban planner, protector and mayor for a total of 50 years. Today, the Otto von Guericke Museum pays tribute to this great mind. And on the subject of Magdeburg's museums, there is now so much more to discover than just a few years ago. New exhibitions have been established, collections have been substantially expanded, and no expense or effort was spared in founding the top-flight Technology Museum.
The Natural History Museum, the Monastery of Our Lady art museum – which occupies the city's oldest building – and the Cultural History Museum are three exhibitions of international standing. Back in the city centre, on Alter Markt square, not far from the cathedral, is the celebrated Magdeburg Horseman. This bronze replica of the first freestanding equestrian statue north of the Alps was created around 1240 and depicts the revered Emperor Otto I – or at least that is what the people of Magdeburg believe. The original is on display in all its glory in the Cultural History Museum, its home since 1967. The city centre is also a shopping hub with an impressive 2.5 square metres of retail space per inhabitant, putting it up there with Germany's top shopping destinations. Nearby Hasselbachplatz square and the surrounding streets are lined with dozens of pubs, bars and restaurants, plus one of Germany's best-known currywurst bars, 'Curry 54'. Hassel Night Line also takes place here – a street festival (held twice a year) with open-air stages and music on every narrow street. For those who prefer a slightly more sedate pace, there's plenty of culture on offer in Magdeburg, and not just in the museums. The city's theatre, literature and music scenes are extensive and varied, following in the tradition of playwright Georg Kaiser, writer Erich Weinert and composer Georg Philipp Telemann – all of whom were born in Magdeburg. Magdeburg is a city full of surprises with a strong character and a unique beauty, which always makes a lasting impression. Nowhere is that more true than in glorious Elbauen Park – discover for yourself its serenity, its culture and everything else that it offers.