Cities & Culture

Jena: a beautiful blend of nature, history and technology

Jena: The city at night ©Getty Images (Nikada)

As a City of Science, Jena offers a remarkable combination of industrial and intellectual heritage, research, innovation and academia. This is as evident in its institutions and universities as it is in the traditional bars in the wonderful Old Town.

Research and enterprise cemented Jena's status as a centre of science and learning, so it's no wonder that the city boasts various exceptional museums: the Optical Museum and the Schott Glass Museum, dedicated to the life and legacy of Carl Zeiss and Ernst Abbe, play a leading role in the fields of science and technology. The city is also home to fascinating museums of literature and art history, including the Kunsthof Jena gallery, as well as architectural monuments associated with big names, including the Zeiss planetarium that first opened in 1926.

Jena's idyllic setting in the Saale Valley, ringed by steep limestone cliffs, was not lost on Goethe, who spent a total of five years in the city. Fellow writer Friedrich Schiller lived in Jena for twice that time. Near his summer house on Schillergässchen, the oval stone table where he often sat with Goethe remains in the garden to this day. The pretty streets of the Old Town, scattered with cafés, restaurants and shops, are the centre of social, student and literary life here. 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. Dating back to around 1600, this terrifying dragon with seven heads is thought to represent a board of examiners at the university, which was founded in 1558.

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