A university city on the banks of the River Spree, close to the Polish border, Cottbus is a little-known delight.
Close to the German border with Poland, the university city of Cottbus in the state of Brandenburg once made its name as a regional center for wool manufacturing. Today it serves as a major railway junction. This is a fitting role for a settlement that emerged originally as an intersection across two major trade routes: east-west from Silesia to Central Germany and north-south from Dresden to Frankfurt.
The town center today is renowned for the colorful facades of its quaint streets. You can very easily wander the old town and view local landmarks such as the Spremberg Tower, a 13th-century tower that was once part of the city’s walls and remains home to the civic emblem of the city.
To the west of the city center, take a trip to Schillerplatz, once a cattle market, but now the site of a remarkable art nouveau building that houses Cottbus’s foremost theater. You can also take in a show at the Cottbus Staatstheater, designed by Berlin architect Bernhard Sehring and opened in 1908. It has plays of all kinds, but has a particular reputation as a bastion for lively socially relevant dramas.
For those interested in the history of Cottbus, and of the Sorbian minority whose heritage is closely linked to it, take in the Wendisches Museum and Lodka cultural center.
Among the region’s major attractions are its acres of green space. Outside the city gates a green belt of parkland has emerged, making it the perfect spot for a stroll. Walk through the Spreeauenpark, the City Zoo, and the renowned Branitz Landscape Park, created by Prince Hermann von Pückler-Muskau. The site is strongly inspired by English design, with a serpentine lake as the centerpiece of a series of waterways and a light iron kiosk and several garden spaces.
Further attractions can found outside the city center. Venture nine miles (fifteen kilometers) from Cottbus to find yourself in Spree Forest, a protected UNESCO biosphere reserve since 1991. The shady spot is dotted with small waterways and old farmhouses, which makes it an enchanting place to spend a day.