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Jena: a beautiful blend of nature, history and technology.

Jena: a beautiful blend of nature, history and technology.

Famously home to such companies as Schott Glas and Zeiss, Jena offers a remarkable combination of industrial and intellectual heritage, research, innovation and academia. This is as evident in the city's institutions and universities as it is in the bars of the wonderful old quarter, which as cosy as they are traditional.

Light, glass and optics: thanks to the 'big three' – Carl Zeiss, Ernst Abbe and Otto Schott – Jena became one of Germany's leading industrial cities during the second half of the 19th century. Their collaboration produced the Zeiss factory and Schott Glas, both famous around the world. Research and enterprise cemented Jena's status as a centre of science and learning – a status that brings with it some exceptional museums. Chief among these are, of course, the Schott Glass Museum and the Optical Museum, dedicated to the life and legacy of Carl Zeiss and Ernst Abbe. But there are fascinating museums of literature and art history as well, including the City Museum at Alte Göhre or the Kunsthof Jena gallery. Jena is also dotted with architectural monuments, many of them associated with famous names. For example, there's the Zeiss planetarium that first opened in 1926, or the telescope-shaped JenTower, the tallest building in the city and the second tallest in eastern Germany.

Three other high-rise buildings are of particular interest too, each one helpfully named after the year of its completion: Bau 15 (Germany's first ever high-rise), Bau 36 and Bau 59 are prominent features of the city centre. Jena's idyllic setting in the Saale valley, ringed by steep limestone cliffs, makes it a very special destination. This was not lost on Goethe, who enjoyed regular trips to Jena, spending a total of five years in the city. Fellow writer Friedrich Schiller lived in Jena for twice that time. His summer house on Schillergässchen is a magnet for literature buffs – the oval stone table where he often sat with Goethe remains in the garden to this day. Then as now, the well-kept streets of the old quarter were the centre of social, student and literary life. Today, of course, there are also trendy cafés, excellent restaurants and delightful shops. You can even still see some of the 'seven wonders' of Jena here, such as the ornamental astronomical clock on the town hall and the Draco from around 1600, a terrifying dragon with seven heads thought to represent a board of examiners at the university.

City Highlights

The Glass Technology Laboratory founded by Otto Schott in 1884 is now the Schott Glass Museum, which recounts the fascinating history of his company's products and technology.

Authentic exhibits, pictures and films introduce visitors to the innovative world of Schott glass. The villa where the influential scientist and industrialist once lived has an exhibition documenting his rich and varied life. Other exhibitions document the ups and downs of the company, from its origins and the days of the GDR to reunification and its emergence as a leading international technology corporation.

Opened in 1926, the Zeiss Planetarium is the oldest planetarium in the world and also the biggest in Germany thanks to its 25-metre dome.

Its repertoire includes astronomy and general education programmes for adults and children, musical shows, children's events and spectacular multimedia laser shows. A laser all-dome projection system was installed in October 2006. The Zeiss Planetarium is now one of only two planetariums in the world offering shows with images that cover the entire dome.

This famous landmark in the heart of Jena was originally built as a new research centre for Carl Zeiss. The cylindrical design by star East German architect Hermann Henselmann is reminiscent of an eyepiece for a microscope. Until its renovation in 1999-2001, the tower was used by the University of Jena. At 128 metres high, it is also one of the tallest buildings in Germany's new federal states. From the Scala restaurant at the top of the tower, you can enjoy a magnificent panoramic view of Jena's spires and squares as well as the impressive hills of fossil-flecked limestone in the distance.

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