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Saxony’s industrial heritage

Baroque architecture and ambitious start-ups, stunning lake scenery and the Elbe Sandstone Mountains – anyone visiting Saxony will soon discover it has a host of different facets. The state’s industrial heritage is one of them. Saxony was once Germany’s strongest region economically. This fact and the influence of industry on wider society have left their mark. The region’s industrial structures and traditions evolved over centuries. The sheer volume of industrial architecture and industrial heritage sites in Saxony rivals the high concentration of castles, fortresses, gardens, churches and theatres. Accordingly, Saxony is celebrating its industrial heritage throughout 2020 to draw attention to its huge significance.

A year-long programme of events across numerous venues will further highlight its relevance. Heritage enthusiasts can look forward to guided tours, interactive rallies and competitions staged by a variety of partners and stakeholders to bring Saxony’s industrial history to life.

The aim in 2020 is to fully appreciate the great industrial achievements of the past and present. Every resident carries this industrial heritage within them to some extent, whether in their personal life, through work, or more directly in terms of their local environment, with many new futures being created in former factories and on brownfield sites. “We Saxons are constantly surrounded by our industrial heritage and it’s an omnipresent part of Saxony’s past, present and future,” says Andreas Gosch of the team behind the 4th Saxony State Exhibition, which is dedicated to the topic and has the fitting title “Boom”.

As well as the main exhibition at the Audi-Bau building in Zwickau, visitors will be able to discover various aspects of Saxony’s industrial history at a further six authentic sites.


What do Audi and Trabant have in common? They were both born in Zwickau. The two marques may be very different, but their first models both rolled off the production line in this town in the west of Saxony. Stretching back over 100 years, Zwickau’s tradition of car building is notable for its pioneering spirit and ingenuity. Visitors to the August Horch Museum can trace its history, with the main focus being on mobility as a sign of change.


Click here for a 360-degree tour of the August Horch Museum in Zwickau


August Horch Museum Zwickau, picture: Oliver Göhler
Chemnitz Museum of Industry, picture: W. Schmidt


From teeny-weeny to XXL – machines made in Saxony are not constrained by size. Glashütte is known for its high-precision, intricate watches – masterpieces of Saxon engineering. Dresden is proud of its tradition of packaging machinery for chocolate, food items and tobacco products. Chemnitz, meanwhile, celebrates innovation in the field of machine tools. From high-tech to Industry 4.0, robots and smart systems, this tradition continues in Saxony today.


Click here for a 360-degree tour of the Chemnitz Museum of Industry


The mid-19th century saw the emergence and growth of a railway network in Saxony, for compelling practical reasons. The Leipzig–Dresden railway was the first long-distance railway line anywhere in Germany. After all, the products mined and produced in the region needed to be transported to customers and processing plants within Saxony and beyond. Marshalling yards and depots sprang up everywhere. Railway enthusiasts can explore this heritage to this day, with huge steam locomotives being among the attractions.


Venue Railway Chemnitz-Hilbersdorf, picture: Oliver Göhler
Oelsnitz Mining Museum/Erzgebirge, picture: Arndt Gaube


Welcome to a coal-mining area – mining of coal and lignite is still part of everyday life in some parts of Saxony. People have toiled both above and below ground to extract this raw material. In the Lausitz region, former slag heaps have been transformed into new landscapes and recreational areas, while visitors to the Erzgebirge mountains can get a first-hand impression of working underground at a demonstration mine.


Click here for a 360-degree tour of the Oelsnitz Mining Museum in the Erzgebirge mountains

Textile and Racing Museum, picture: Oliver Göhler


High-quality cloth and the finest fabrics, woven textiles, damask and lace destined to become luxurious clothing – there were and are workshops associated with the textile industry all over Saxony. Linen mills in the Lausitz region, cloth manufacture in Crimmitschau and various indigo printing workshops continue the tradition today. Local people are happy to share details of these historic crafts and demonstrate how the machines spin and weave. In Leipzig, visitors can also explore the network of passageways and courtyards, unique in the world, which previously formed a trading hub for fine fabrics.

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Click here for a 360-degree tour of the Gebrüder Pfau cloth factory in Crimmitschau



Silver brought wealth to Saxony. The first chunks of this valuable element were brought to the surface in Freiberg in 1168. Rulers and kings were, of course, delighted, but Saxony’s people also benefited from this treasure. Many branches of industry developed with the rise of silver in Saxony, bringing work and prosperity. Mining continues to shape the town of Freiberg today. Academics and students conduct research and learn here at the world’s oldest university of mining sciences, which is now a national resource.


Click here for a 360-degree tour of the Reiche Zeche silver mine


Freiberg silver mine, picture: Detlev Müller / TU Bergakademie Freiberg


500 years of industrial heritage in Saxony

The 4th Saxony State Exhibition – “Boom. 500 Years of Industrial Heritage in Saxony” – is curated by the German Hygiene Museum in Dresden and includes a major exhibition at the Audi-Bau building in Zwickau and six other venues across south-west Saxony.

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Bilderrechte „2020“: ibug, Zwickau 2013, © (Künstler), © Thomas Dietze (Foto); © Energiefabrik Knappenrode; © Sächsisches Wirtschaftsarchiv; wikimedia commons/UserJed

Year of Industrial heritage 2020

A broad cultural programme and an overview of all places around the Year of Industrial heritage can be found on the theme page.

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Route of Industrial Heritage

The route of Industrial Culture leads to elements of a golden age, in which Saxony was the leading industrial region of Germany.


More about the Industrial Heritage in Saxony

Steam-route Saxony

Title: D. Knoblauch