Welcome to Ilmenau: Goethe and university town

Goethe in centre of IlmenauGoethe sitting in front of the town hall:

"I was always happy to spend time here, and still am.
Methinks the reason lies in the harmony that is struck here ..."

(Goethe wrote to Schiller on 29 August, 1795, from Ilmenau)

The Goethe and university town of Ilmenau contains population of approx. 30,000 people and is situated in the foothills of the Thuringian Forest. Surrounded by the mountains of the Thuringian Forest in Germany's "green heart", it makes an excellent base for hiking. It is also the start of the 20-km Goethe trail following in the footsteps of the great writer and poet. Ilmenau offers plenty of options for everyone - cultural enthusiasts, nature-lovers, sporty types and people who enjoy hiking and biking.

From Goethe to the MP3 player

Many things distinguish Ilmenau with its population of almost 30,000 - the natural beauty of the Thüringer Wald (the section of the wooded mid-German hills against which it lies) an old and attractive town centre, the impressive campus of Ilmenau University of Technology, renowned for research, and the associations with the town's most famous visitor, Goethe. You can steep yourself in Ilmenau's lively history and get to know this place through Goethe's eyes. Go on a tour of discovery through the historic heart of the town, stroll along promenades dating back to Ilmenau's heyday as a Mecca for those in search of a spa with cold water therapy. And do you like to go up to the heights? If so, come and sample the restfulness and breathtaking views of the Thüringer Wald and of the town and its university campus alongside the "Great Pond" (Großer Teich), all to be seen from our very own hill, 861 m.

Ilmenau is an ideal centre from which to go out on thought-provoking long-distance as well as circular walks. The former can include the Rennsteig which is close by and a major walking route; the latter take in the local communities and parts of the Thüringer Wald. Another long route, 20 km, is the Quality Path under the „Wanderbares Deutschland" scheme which goes by the name of Goethewanderweg and links the points between Ilmenau and Stützerbach where Goethe spent time. This instructive path is highly important in the scheme's 370 km network of walking routes. It takes in the Kickelhahn with the wooden shelter made famous by Goethe, the historic hunting range and the look-out tower. Our other Quality Path, from Goethe to Bach (Von Goethe zu Bach), leads from Ilmenau to Arnstadt.

Interesting facts


Tower on the Kickelhahn peakTower on the Kickelhahn

Ilmenau's landmark-the Kickelhahn tower (Kickelhahn)
A look-out on its eponymous hill some 3 km outside the town, at a height of 861 m, the Kickelhahnturm is Ilmenau's landmark. Many years ago, capercaillies lived on the Kickelhahn and their guttural calls are echoed in the name, for these game birds make a strange, whinnying sound during their display and mating period and so were known in German not only as the Auerhahn but also as the Kickelhahn or "giggle" bird; even their Gaelic name means "horse of woods". There is a stuffed capercaillie to bee seen in the Jagdhaus Gabelbach Museum, which used to be hunting loge.


Landmark of Ilmenau - goats fountain

The Goat Fountain - Ilmenau himmelblau (Ziegenbrunnen)

"In Ilmenau da ist der Himmel blau, da tanzt der Ziegenbock mit seiner Frau"
(from a German nursery rhyme-„Come to Ilmenau and chance on skies of blue and goats that dance").

It has always been a mystery where this rhyme came from. The only answer of any kind to the riddle relates to the blue sky. Ilmenau's skies are, indeed, more often blue than those in other areas which do not share its situation below a range of hills, for as clouds from the south cross the valley of the Ilm where the land falls away by a good 300 m, they tend to respond to the pressure change by reducing in volume.


Ilmenau, place of science

Ilmenau University of Technology looks back on a long tradition of higher education in the fields of electrical and mechanical engineering. Its present degree courses are those which will meet future needs: engineering, mathematics, physics, chemistry, economics and business and social studies, which can all be followed on a compact campus with five faculties.

One of the inventors of MP3, the data format, is Professor Karlheinz Brandenburg, who is head of Ilmenau´s Fraunhofer Institute for Digital Media Technology.