The city of Saalfeld

Saalfeld is a town in Germany, capital of the Saalfeld-Rudolstadt district of Thuringia. It is situated on the Saale River, 48 km south Weimar the cultural capital of Germany. Located between Nuremburg and Leipzig. The population of the district is 120,000, Saalfeld itself has a population of 28,000.

It is best known internationally as the former capital of the branch of the House of Wettin (known also as the Windsors) today's British royal family.


Saalfeld is one of the ancient towns of Thuringia, founded by the 7th century. Between 1699 and 1826, it was one of two capitals of the duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. Like Coburg, its sister town to the south, Saalfeld is linked to many of Europe's royal families.

For example, Queen Victoria's mother was the Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, while Queen Victoria's husband Albert also came from the house of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. At about the same period, the royal family of Belgium was founded by Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld and the Princess Juliane of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld married the crown prince of Russia.

The 1st Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld built Saalfeld Castle in 1677 to be the capital of his duchy. Saalfeld Castle, which has been renovated and is today the town administrative building, was home to four generations of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld dukes. The 4th Duke Ernst Frederick, was the last duke to be born in Saalfeld. His heirs, the 5th Duke Franz Frederick and the 6th Duke Ernst III Anton were the last dukes of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld.

Ernst III Anton would go on to found the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha while Franz Frederick, in an unprecedented display of conquest through marriage, would put his children and grandchildren into the ruling houses in many European countries.

The most famous of this would be the House of Windsor, as the 5th Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld was the grandfather of both Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom and her husband, Albert, Prince Consort.

The Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld bloodline continues unbroken from Queen Victoria through to Queen Elizabeth today. Other descendents of the Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld line include Wilhelm II, German Emperor, Alexandra, Empress consort of Russia, Victoria, Queen consort of Spain. Leopold I, King of the Belgians, Ferdinand II, King consort of Portugal, Carlota, Empress consort of Mexico, Ferdinand I, King of Bulgaria, Sofía, Queen consort of Spain, Princess of Greece and Denmark, Maud, Queen consort of Norway, and Marie, Queen consort of Romania.

In 1764, Ernst Frederick's moved the capital from Saalfeld to Coburg and in 1805, his son and heir the 5th Duke Franz Frederick bought the castle Rosenau as the new seat of the duchy. During the time of Ernst III Anton, the neighbouring royal line of Saxe-Gotha and Altenburg became extinct. Ernst Anton III received the duchy of Gotha but in exchange had to give up Saalfeld.

The city is still partly surrounded by old walls and bastions, and contains some interesting medieval buildings, among them being a palace, built at the start of the early modern era in 1679 on the site of the Benedictine Abbey of St. Peter, which was destroyed during the German Peasants' War (1525). Other notable edifices are the Gothic Church of St. John, dating from the beginning of the 13th century; the Gothic town hall, completed in 1537; and, standing on an eminence above the river, the Kitzerstein, a palace said to have been originally erected by the German King Henry I, although the present building is not older than the 16th century. But perhaps the most interesting relic of the past in Saalfeld is the ruin of the Hoher Schwarm, called later the Sorbenburg, said to have been erected in the 7th century.

The Battle of Saalfeld, part of the Napoleonic Wars, took place on October 10, 1806. At the time the battlefield was located outside of the town today the battlefield is located within the borders of the twon. 

After the division of Germany, Saalfeld station became a border station on the Halle–Bamberg railway—one of two routes that could be taken by trains between Leipzig/Halle and Nuremberg. As a border station its steam locomotive shed assumed extra importance as Saalfeld essentially became the southern terminus of DDR train services. Due to the continued use of steam locomotives in East Germany after the end of steam area in West Germany, the area became a mecca for railway enthusiasts for some years. 

What to do

Saalfeld is situated between the mountains and lakes of the Thuringian Forest. As such, there is a wealth of outdoor options including hiking, skiing, fishing, hunting, rock climbing, sailing and many other sports.

Thuringia, despite being one of the smaller states in Germany, is well known for its winter sports. Within about an hour's drive of Saalfeld, there are multiple options for skiing, nordic skiing, skating and indoor winter sports. At the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, more than half of the gold medals taken by Germany were won by athletes from Thuringia. In the Winter Olympics 2010 in Vancouver, Germany placed second in the overall medal count and again, half the gold medals were won by athletes from Thuringia. Over the last decade, Thuringia have won as many Winter Olympic gold medals as Switzerland and Russia, and more than France or China.

Saalfeld is also a popular base for hikers taking on the mountainous 168km Rennsteig, Germany's most famous hiking trail. Also located just outside of the town are the world famous fairy caves. It is a must to see if you are in the area.


In earlier times Saalfeld was known for its silver mines. Today, Saalfeld has a number of prosperous industries, including the manufacture of machinery, bricks, paint, malt, cigars, hosiery and vinegar. Tourism and recreation-related activities make up a significant part of the local economy. Other industries are brewing,

printing and iron-founding, and there are ochre and iron mines in the area.

Tourist information
Stadt Saalfeld

Markt 1
07318 Saalfeld
Phone: 03671 5980
Fax: 03671 598206
E-Mail: info@stadt-saalfeld.d

 Open all year
April - October                           daily 09.30 - 17.00 Uhr
November - March                   daily 10.30 - 15.30 Uhr
January                                            Sa/So  10.30 - 15.30 Uhr