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Regional route Saxony | Germany

Mining formed the foundation of industrialisation in Saxony, beginning as early as the 10th century and creating capital and early technical know-how. It is the Erzgebirge (Ore Mountains) region, with its numerous sites, which primarily demonstrates this. At the beginning of the 19th century, textile ... more


Mining formed the foundation of industrialisation in Saxony, beginning as early as the 10th century and creating capital and early technical know-how. It is the Erzgebirge (Ore Mountains) region, with its numerous sites, which primarily demonstrates this. At the beginning of the 19th century, textile processing became the force behind progress. The significance of the metal processing industry grew in the wake of textile manufacturing. Saxony is one of the birthplaces of the German automotive industry and renowned German automotive manufacturers continue to be based in the region.

“Money is made in Chemnitz, multiplied in Leipzig and spent in Dresden”. To this day, this Saxon saying emphasises the diversity of one of Europe’s vanguard industrial regions during the 19th and early 20th century – Saxony. The region of Chemnitz was the industrial centre, Leipzig was Saxony’s link to the rest of the world and Dresden was the headquarters of the public administration, there to serve the common good. Saxony’s Route of Industrial Heritage revives this trio and invites visitors to discover an industrial heritage landscape which is varied and rich.

Saxony sees itself as a state of culture and industry. Industrial heritage is part of Saxony’s culture and identity. It dates back to Erzgebirge mining operations in the Middle Ages and a pre-industrial commercial landscape which was involved in the global exchange of goods at an early stage. It was on this foundation that, around 1800, the region became a heartland of industrialisation developments in Europe. In the early 20th century, Saxony was the region with the highest proportion of industrial value creation and industrial workers. With its population educated in the fields of technology and culture, diverse small and medium-sized enterprises and as a sales market, Saxony was an attractive place for entrepreneurs, business founders and those looking for work. As a traditional export region, Saxony’s economy was especially dependent on free competition, the global market and, not least, peaceful cooperation.

Two world wars, three planned economies between 1914 and 1990, disconnection from the global market, the abolition of free enterprise and increasing modernisation deficits meant that Saxony fell behind over the course of the 20th century. Nevertheless, despite the drastic structural changes experienced by the economy and society, Saxony continues to see itself as an industrial economy following the introduction of the market economy in 1990. Its industrial heritage forms the basis for continuing the industrial age.

All of Saxony has been permanently shaped by commerce and industry. The cultural landscape of coal and steel is evident in the Erzgebirge. Industrial landscapes in the river valleys of the Erzgebirge foothills and in the old commercial landscapes of Lusatia and the Vogtland, industrial sites and cities, and also the landscape transformed by agriculture and mining (especially of lignite and uranium), are the result of an industrial history spanning more than 200 years. The international importance of Saxony’s industrial heritage is demonstrated by the inclusion of “Idea and Practice: organising shared interests in cooperatives” in UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List in November 2016 and in the UNESCO world heritage application “Mining Cultural Landscape Erzgebirge/Krušnohoří”.

Chemnitz Region
Mining, textile crafts and hydropower were decisive factors for the industrial heritage of south-western Saxony. The cotton spinning mill in Harthau, near Chemnitz, dating back to 1799 is considered to be Saxony’s first factory building. Diverse textile manufacturing allowed the region to develop into the centre of the German textile industry in the 19th century. Textile factories shaped small towns and villages, but textile production also stimulated the development of mechanical engineering and supply industries. Renowned manufacturers of steam and textile machines and machine tools emerged from repair workshops and, at the beginning of the 20th century, vehicle and business machine engineering companies.

Chemnitz was shaped by industry like no other Saxon city and therefore known as the “Manchester of Saxony”. Engineering, along with the textile industry, had a defining influence on the economic structure, which was subsequently shaped by office technology and vehicle manufacturing. Other regional focal points developed with the help of metal processing in Freiberg and Aue, musical instrument and lace production in the Vogtland, paper and wood processing in the river valleys and finally precision mechanics, electronics and household appliance engineering. Hydropower was superseded as an energy source by the black coal of the Zwickau-Oelsnitzer mining region starting in the mid-19th century and, from the early 20th century onwards, electricity generated from lignite became more important.

The Chemnitz region continues to be the most important industrial region in Saxony. The economy and vocational training are closely linked to this day thanks to leading technical training institutions in Freiberg, Chemnitz, Mittweida and Zwickau.

Leipzig Region
Its central location in the middle of Europe, good transport links and a tradition of trade fairs determined Leipzig’s development into the core of the central German economic area. A considerable consumer goods industry established itself alongside trade and transport with food industry companies and musical instrument production. Leipzig’s global reputation as a publishing centre was based on a unique concentration of businesses producing and trading in printed materials.

Engineering companies, foundries, chemical plants and large textile factories settled in Leipzig from the mid-19th century onwards thanks to excellent transport links. The planned industrial quarter Plagwitz in the west of the city was built on the initiative of the entrepreneur Carl Heine. Exemplary urban restructuring was initiated here after 1990.

Important agricultural machinery factories established links to the surrounding areas. The innovative agricultural region was the site of the food industry. Exploitation of lignite deposits began at the end of the 19th century. Large-scale mining and the lignite and chemical industries defined the region economically and environmentally from that point onwards. The post-industrial leisure landscape “Neuseenland” was created in the south of Leipzig after 1990 once the environmental damage and encroachments on surrounding landscape had been remedied.

National transport interchanges make Leipzig an attractive location for automotive manufacturing and logistics companies today. Educational and research institutes, culture and the free spaces created by the structural changes after 1990 attract young creative types, scientists and new businesses.

Dresden Region
Dresden’s economy was initially influenced by its status as a seat of royal power and the associated demands of its wealthy citizens. The city, for a long time the largest in Saxony, saw companies of national significance dealing in consumer and luxury goods and the food, drink and tobacco industries establishing themselves as a result. At the end of the 19th century, science-based industries settled in the central Elbe valley around Dresden. Chemical industry companies specialising in pharmaceutical and hygiene products, electrotechnical companies and the optical goods and precision mechanics industries defined the industrial structure.

The other surrounding areas were home to heavy industry, engineering, mining and watch manufacturers. The Deutsche Werkstätten company, based in Dresden-Hellerau since 1910, pioneered a new culture of products and work. The Technical University of Dresden remains important for innovative companies and the training of a highly-qualified workforce.

Lusatia, in the east of Saxony, was and continues to be shaped by the textile industry, engineering, vehicle manufacturing and the food industry. Lignite mining in Lusatia has shaped the landscape since the end of the 19th century and forms the basis of the large-scale electrical economy.

The Route of Industrial Heritage in Saxony

The Route of Industrial Heritage gives us living witnesses to an era in which Saxony was the leading industrial region in Germany. The previous importance of Saxony as the strongest economy in Germany can be experienced along the route, either in living museums or production sites which remain active to this day. The mining, textile, vehicle, transport, food, drink and tobacco, printing and paper sectors are what stand out from the varied range of industries which once existed. Other industrial sectors and superb architectural achievements are also prominent.


ERIH Anchor Points

The framework: a listed factory building from around the turn of the 20th century. Inside: innovative products of Saxon industrial history, the major ones highlighted on a silver strip. The exhibits cover more than 200 years, from the beginning of industrialization to this day. There are, for ...

Saxon Museum of Industry | Chemnitz Museum of Industry
Zwickauer Straße 119
09112 Chemnitz, Germany

Zwickau | Germany
Horch street, Audi street, Trabant street: a quick glance at the map immediately reveals that this is all about cars - and not common ones at all! A Horch 303 fire engine from 1927, for instance, with Germany's first standard eight-cylinder unit under the bright red bonnet. Or a DKW F 1 built in ...

August Horch Museum
Audistraße 7
08058 Zwickau, Germany

Member Sites ERIH Association

The town of Crimmitschau lies on the River Pleisse about 17 km north-west of Zwickau. Domestic textile manufacturing flourished in the region in the early 19th century, but from the 1850s production was concentrated in factories to such an extent that by 1900 the town was regarded as the ‘stadt der ...

Saxony Industrial Museum | Pfau Brothers Textile Factory
Leipziger Strasse 125
08451 Crimmitschau, Germany

Großpösna | Germany
Central Germany has a long history of the extraction, refining and use of lignite. The testimony of this industry that profoundly shaped the landscape will soon be nothing more but "blue spots" – that is lakes – on the map. Only the few remaining open-cast mining machines will tell the story of the ...

Am Westufer 2
04463 Großpösna, Germany

Leipzig | Germany
An historic printing works in Leipzig accommodates a museum which holds collections of international significance and offers to visitors opportunities for gaining an understanding of the technologies that enabled the communication of knowledge of many kinds for 500 years before the advent of the ...

Museum of the printing arts
Museum für Druckkunst
Nonnenstrasse 38
04229 Leipzig, Germany

Oelsnitz/Erzgebirge | Germany
Coal in the area around Oelsnitz, 25 km south-west of Chemnitz was mined on a large scale between 1844 and 1971, although some had been extracted by farmers from their own fields in earlier times. Some 200 shafts were sunk in the district, ranging in depth from 9 m to 1200 m, the deepest of them ...

Oelsnitz Mining Museum
Pfockenstrasse 28
09376 Oelsnitz/Erzgebirge, Germany


In Zinnwald, a suborb of Altenberg in the eastern part of the Ore Mountains, tin was already being mined in the 16th century. Later, tungsten ores and lithium mica were mined. Today, it is especially worth visiting the mine “Vereinigt Zwitterfeld zu Zinnwald” with the Tiefer-Bünau gallery and the ...

'Vereinigt Zwitterfeld zu Zinnwald' Visiters Mine
Goetheweg 8
01773 Altenberg, Germany

Altenberg | Germany
The town of Altenberg is part of the Erzgebirge (the ore mountains) region of Saxony and is situated just north of the border with the Czech Republic, 32 km due south of Dresden. Tin was mined in the area from the mid-fourteenth century until extraction finally ceased in 1991. The dominant feature ...

Altenberg Mining Museum
Mühlerstrasse 2
01773 Altenberg, Germany

Until German reunification, the motorcycle plant in Zschopau was one of the largest motorcycle manufacturers in the world. In place of the brand “DKW”, which was claimed by the new Auto Union in West Germany, the GDR brought in “MZ”, an abbreviation of "Motorcycle works Zschopau". And so it is not ...

Augustusburg Castle, Motorcycle Museum
Schloss 1
09573 Augustusburg, Germany

Chemnitz | Germany
The entrepreneur Esche family always thought further than their own stocking factory – much further. The forefather of the dynasty, Johann Esche, had – as is shown in the Esche Museum in Limbach-Oberfrohna – recreated a stocking knitting frame in 1700 and thus sustainably influenced the economic ...

Esche Villa
Parkstraße 58
09120 Chemnitz, Germany

Chemnitz | Germany
The land or state, once the kingdom, of Saxony was home to one of Europe’s most innovative engineering industries in the first half of the twentieth century, and a leading centre for the production of motor vehicles. Under the GDR motor manufacturing plants fell into disrepute because of their role ...

Museum of Saxon Road Vehicles
Zwickauer Strasse 77
09112 Chemnitz, Germany

Chemnitz | Germany
The railway museum at Chemnitz is located in the Hilbersdorf locomotive depot which closed in 1992. Its buildings, now designated historical monuments, include two roundhouses with 20 m turntables, water cranes, facilities for supplying locomotives with coal and sand, and inspection pits. Its large ...

Saxon Railway Museum
An der Dresdner Bahnlinie 130c
09131 Chemnitz, Germany

Döbeln | Germany
The Döbeln horse-drawn tram was not created until 1892, although electric trams were available, but they needed high initial investment and therefore did not become popular quickly. The horse-drawn tram connected the railway station, which is on the main line from Leipzig to Dresden, with the town ...

German Horse-drawn Tram Museum
Niederwerder 6
04729 Döbeln, Germany

Dresden | Germany
Dresden is a city of the first importance in the development of transport within its region. It was the terminus of the first long-distance railway in Germany, which opened to Leipzig in 1839, and passenger steamers worked on the River Elbe from 1837. The paddle steamer Diesbar, built in 1883-4, ...

Dresden Museum of Transport
Johanneum am Neumarkt Augustusstrasse 1
01067 Dresden, Germany

Dresden | Germany
One problem – two solutions: above the “Blue Wonder” bridge in Dresden, two historical steep-grade railways go up and down the banks of the Elbe, on both sides of the Loschwitz stream. Both were built around 1900. Both are also tourist attractions and part of public transport in one. One connects ...

Dresden Suspension Railway
Pillnitzer Landstraße 5
01326 Dresden, Germany

Dresden | Germany
The garden city in Hellerau is the first and most consistent implementation in Germany of the garden city idea of the English social utopian Sir Ebenezer Howard. Howard had designed the model of planned urban development in 1898 in response to poor housing and living conditions as well as the ...

Hellerau Garden City
01109 Dresden, Germany

Dresden | Germany
When the steel girder bridge that connects the Dresden districts of Blasewitz and Loschwitz was officially opened in 1893, it provoked partly indignant rejection. Even in the 1930s serious consideration was given replacing it with a “more pleasant” reinforcedconcrete bridge. The sight of the riveted ...

Loschwitz Bridge 'Blue Wonder'
zwischen Schiller- und Körnerplatz
01326 Dresden, Germany

Dresden | Germany
For more than 170 years visitors to Dresden, he capital city of Saxony, have enjoyed cruises by steamboat on the River Elbe. The steamboat company, Elbdampfschiffahrts-Gesellschaft was formed in 1836, and its successor company offers a selection of cruises of varying lengths, some going upstream to ...

Saxon Steamboat Company
Anlegestelle: Terrassenufer
01067 Dresden, Germany

Dresden | Germany
On one of his journeys to the Orient, the factory owner Hugo Zietz had an amazing brainwave! Why not build a cigarette factory in the style of a mosque as a contrast to the predominantly baroque buildings in the city of Dresden? He even named it after a tobacco growing area in Turkey, Yenidze. The ...

Yenidze Cigarette Factory
Weißeritzstr. 3
01067 Dresden, Germany

Tin ore was discovered in the region of Ehrenfriedersdorf, 34 km south of Chemnitz, in the 13th century and was mined until the early 1990s. Some silver was also extracted from the local mines, as well as a wide variety of minerals.Visitors are now carried on a train into the old workings 100 m ...

Saxon Museum of Industry | Ehrenfriedersdorf Tin Mine
Am Sauberg 1
09427 Ehrenfriedersdorf, Germany