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Chemnitz: the discovery of the modern.

Chemnitz: the discovery of the modern.

In many ways, Chemnitz is one of Germany's most modern cities. It flourished during the industrial revolution, and business and research continues to thrive here, while at the same time its architecture and culture show strong modernist influences.

The GDR government never fully rebuilt the centre of Chemnitz following its near total destruction in 1945, but that didn't stop them renaming the city Karl-Marx-Stadt. An enormous monument to Karl Marx, weighing 40 tonnes and standing over seven metres tall in the city centre, is virtually the only remnant of those days. Though the larger-than-life bust of the 'Das Kapital' author attracts many visitors, the city values it at only one euro – which might explain the scowling expression on his face. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, large-scale construction resumed in the heart of the city – including projects by renowned architects such as Helmut Jahn, Christoph Ingenhoven and Hans Kollhoff. A modernist approach and a process of continuous improvement and innovation has given the new centre its distinctive look. Chemnitz's main shopping street has a particular urban charm and blends the historical and the modern to great effect. The High Tower of the Old Town Hall offers the best views over the market square and the rooftops beyond. The tower watchman – dressed in his historical uniform – has served as protector and timekeeper for the city's people since 1488, and today takes visitors on a journey back in time through centuries of Chemnitz history. A captivating contrast to the functional office blocks and residential buildings is provided by the old city centre with its baroque Siegert'sches Haus, the ornamental market hall and the modernist town baths. Thrown into the mix are shopping arcades, restaurants and cafés, leisure attractions and cultural venues. Chemnitz is a destination of international class, and won the DIFA award for Europe's best urban quarter thanks to its blend of industrial heritage, entertainment and nightlife.

However, it's not just the many cathedrals of industry that point to Chemnitz's prosperous past. There are also grand residential properties from the late 19th century, art nouveau villas and an abundance of public and private buildings from the Bauhaus period. The Kassberg district is one of the largest and most beautiful Gründerzeit quarters in Europe. Visitors to Chemnitz can also look forward to a wide choice of culture, with theatres, museums, galleries and the civic hall plus a packed programme of festivals and events, not to mention the much-loved variety theatres of Sachsenmeyer Kabarett and Chemnitzer Kabarett. The distinctive Gunzenhauser Museum, with its fabulous collection of classical modernist works, is worth visiting for its architecture alone. Erected between 1928 and 1930, the building formerly housed the headquarters of the local savings bank, and remains one of the best examples of the New Objectivity style: plain and simple with clean lines. Another attraction notable for its architecture alone is the Tietz arts centre. Once a department store, it is now the city's leading destination for culture and education as the home of the Natural History Museum, the municipal library and the New Saxony Gallery. Just around the corner are numerous restaurants, cafés and clubs that offer a range of entertaining options day or night. Whatever you see or do in Chemnitz, you're guaranteed to have a good time. And along the way you're sure to pass the giant head of Karl Marx. Long may he watch over the city.

City Highlights

The bust of Karl Marx in Chemnitz, which was known as Karl-Marx-Stadt from 1953 to 1991, seems to be looking down somewhat wistfully on developments in the new city centre. Back then, the mighty statue, hewn out of grey granite by Soviet artist Lev Kerbel and dedicated in 1971, provided the backdrop for parades and other large-scale events at the many festivals and anniversaries in the GDR. It is one of the largest free-standing portrait busts in the world – second only to the Sphinx in Egypt.

Opened in December 2007 as part of the Kunstsammlungen galleries in Chemnitz, Gunzenhauser Museum is one of the most important private collections of art that is permanently open to the public.

The museum houses the collection of Munich art dealer Alfred Gunzenhauser who amassed almost 2,500 works by 270 different artists over a period of many years. Holdings include almost 300 works by Otto Dix and Germany's second-largest collection of works by Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, the famous Expressionist from Chemnitz and co-founder of the group of artists known as Die Brücke.

The puppet theatre at the Luxorpalast delights visitors with a fascinating theatrical experience. It has two stages: the main auditorium and a smaller, more intimate setting in the basement. Shows are aimed at younger audiences aged four and over, but adults and older children will also enjoy the diverse repertoire of performances featuring traditional marionettes, hand puppets and beautifully crafted stick puppets.

Nearly 300 years ago people in Chemnitz came upon a forest made of stone – a geological sensation that remains a mystery to this day. You can now marvel at this collection of fossilised tree stumps dating back more than 290 million years, some with an astoundingly beautiful, naturally smooth finish, in the inner courtyard of the DAStietz cultural centre. More interesting facts about the history and origins of Chemnitz's petrified forest can be discovered at the nearby Museum of Natural History.

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