Ulrike Köppel: Weimar – A lively cultural, tourist and congress location

Weimar’s secret? A great many myths and a liveliness that is often not credited such a great, small city. On the one hand there are the classics, the heritage of which justifies Weimar’s fame, the modern with the Bauhaus artists and their revolutionary ideas and on the other hand the exceedingly vital cultural scene, with a density that amounts to that of a metropolis. The appearance of the city with its parks and gardens, castles and museums is, again, contrastingly idyllic, calm and in the best sense, small-town: no long distances. The congress centre of the new Weimarhalle, the castle, the mar­­ket and the numerous hotels are all situated only a stone’s throw apart.


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Weimar has millions of visitors
All this makes Weimar unique and an anomaly. Not only perceived, but rather proven through figures: based on the population more guests stay overnight in Weimar than in Berlin, Hamburg or Dresden. If 800 overnight stays per 100 residents is counted in Weimar, there are 450 in Berlin, 400 in Hamburg and 700 in Dresden – an expressive indication of the economic importance of tourism in the classical city.
For the past three years, the overnight figures have averaged over the 500,000 mark – the highest in Thuringia – it was for the first time achieved in 1999 when Weimar was the European Capital of Culture and had become the cultural Mecca for travellers. Goethe and Schil­ler are – without a doubt – the stars of classical literature and still an important reason for travelling. Many visitors connect Weimar to these two names first and marvel in wonder when they discover the abundance of famous personalities and places in Weimar: Lucas Cranach, Johann Sebastian Bach, Franz Liszt, Henry van de Velde, Walter Gro­pius, Lyonel Feininger and Paul Klee – for the past three centuries Weimar has developed into an intellectual-culture centre in Germany. If an­­other do­­cu­ment­ed proof of Weimar’s importance in the world is required, the reference in the UNESCO World He­ritage List helps: the classical Wei­mar with a total of 13 en­­sembles and the “Bauhaus” with three buildings were eternalized there in the nineties.

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In addition to the numerous foreign and domestic overnight guests, three million day visitors also arrive every year. Whether as tourist groups or as theater goers from the neighbouring city: the people of Weimar always he­­art­ily welcome their guests – and with selected service. This is surely one of the many reasons why Weimar is re­­cording increasing numbers of guests. More than 3,500 beds are available in all categories.
The weimar GmbH ensures that this development is not disrupted with its marketing management targeted at national and international guests. Of­­fers, programmes and publications spe­­cific to the various target groups, visitor-flow oriented trade fairs and elaborate online presentations ensure a con­tinual and increasing presence on the urban tourism market. Cooperation with local cultural institutions, with other cities of Thuringia and direct neighbours Erfurt, Jena and the Weimar territory (in the framework of the ImPuls Region) helps to bundle powers and so ensure more scope. The best example is currently the cooperation with the Bauhaus Lab 2009: the weimar GmbH, the “Klassik Stiftung Weimar”, Erfurt, Jena, and the Weimar territory are here all in the same boat.

A thrilling cultural life
Numerous cultural highlights appor­tioned throughout the year enjoy great popularity: the German National The­atre with its tightly filled programme schedule and with its widely appreciated pro­­ductions, the Weimar State Or­­chestra with its tradition going as far back as the Goethe period, the “pélerinages” art festival with its director Nike Wagner, diverse festivals, numerous cabaret plat­­forms – all these guarantee an exciting and thrilling cultural life.
The “Klassik Stiftung Weimar” adds a new angle with its museums, constant exhibitions and special displays in the castle, new museum or in one of their other houses. The public focus is on the “Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek” (Duchess Anna Amalia Library), which was lavishly renovated after burning in 2004 and has now been reopened to the public, drawing immense crowds.

 

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It is no different with the parks and castles in and around Weimar: they belong to the lovingly cherished cityscape – in­­comparably many treasures on one spot. And last but not least, on and off venues for tiny-yet-superb or large-and-impressive events – exactly as in Goethe’s time.

All these established cultural institutions are enriched by a large number of private initiatives, galleries, student projects, which ensure fresh, modern and sometimes provocative performances, and so, the danger of museamization of a whole city is not even feared at all.

Prospering congress location
If Weimar’s reputation lives off its myths and its classical commemoration sites (which were almost all built more than two hundred years ago), the heartbeat of the congress location is a young, not yet ten years old, modern building, which nevertheless fits in beautifully with the centre of the idyllic historic city – the “congress centrum neue weimar­halle” (congress centre of the new “Wei­­marhalle”) or just Wei­mar­halle. Since its opening in 1999 it has been the showplace for numerous in­­ter­na­tional congres­­ses and small or large conferences. Soon the number of visitors that have apprecia­­ted this house will total one million – con­­gress visitors and concert-goers likewise.

Congress participants especially praise the location in the middle of Germany, in the city centre and nevertheless a­­­midst greenery – the transition of extremely flexibly designed functional rooms running into adjoining parks, and thus in­­ducing some organizers to relocate their program­mes in the open.


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“In Weimar at last” was sighed, for instance, by judges from all over Ger­many, who were already very excited about this congress location and not disappointed. “Perfect service, high stan­dard, all our needs were fulfilled” – letters with such contents often reach Weimarhalle. One presents out­­standing service that, coupled with an excess of incentive possibilities, inspires many congress visitors. And if one wants to go outside of the city for a seminar or workshop, there is a festival room in the castle, a modern villa on the outskirts of the Ilm Park, the orangery in Belvedere or perhaps the much smaller tea pavilion in Tiefurter Park. Not to mention the outstandingly developed network of congress possibilities in the hotels.

Weimar – a place with an unforgettable repertoire of themes that year after year is a magnet for visitors from a­­­round the world.

 

Ulrike_Köppel2_Foto_weimar_GmbH_Maik_SchuckThe author was born in 1968 and has been the CEO of weimar GmbH since 2003. Weimar GmbH is a company re­­sponsible for the economic development, congress and tourism service. She is also in charge of the entire tourism business in Weimar, the operation of the Weimarhalle, the congress service, marketing and media and together with the City Council, for economic de­­vel­op­ment.