Zwickau town hall and theatre

Coat of arms

Coordinates: 50°43′N 12°30′E / 50.717°N 12.500°E / 50.717; 12.500Coordinates: 50°43′N 12°30′E / 50.717°N 12.500°E / 50.717; 12.500
Country Germany
State Saxony
District Zwickau
  Lord Mayor Pia Findeiss (SPD)
  Total 102.54 km2 (39.59 sq mi)
Population (2015-12-31)[1]
  Total 91,123
  Density 890/km2 (2,300/sq mi)
Time zone CET/CEST (UTC+1/+2)
Postal codes 08001–08067
Dialling codes 0375
Vehicle registration Z

Zwickau (German pronunciation: [ˈtsvɪkaʊ]; Sorbian: Šwikawa, Czech Cvikov, Polish: Ćwików) is a town in Saxony, Germany, it is the capital of the district of Zwickau. Zwickau is situated in a valley at the foot of the Erzgebirge mountains and is within the Saxon triangle, an area including Leipzig-Halle, Dresden and Chemnitz. The town has approximately 100,000 inhabitants, but has a regional catchment area of over 480,000 people.[2] From 1834 until 1952 Zwickau was the seat of the government of the south-western region of Saxony.

Zwickau, known as the city of automobiles,[3] is the centre of the Saxon automotive industry, with a tradition over one hundred years old. Well known beyond Germany's borders are car makers such as Horch, Audi, Auto Union (silver arrows Type A, B, C, D), Trabant and Volkswagen. Since 2000 its history has been presented in the August-Horch Museum,[4] inside the former Audi Works. The University of Applied Sciences Zwickau (Westsächsische Hochschule Zwickau) trains automotive engineers.

The valley of the 166 kilometres (103 miles) long Zwickauer Mulde river stretches from the Vogtland to Colditz Castle at the other end. The Silver Road, Saxony's longest tourist route, connects Dresden with Zwickau. The ADAC City Guide 2005 wrote: "The town of Zwickau has transformed itself over the years from a traditional mining town into an elegant Art Nouveau town, which is well worth discovering."[5]

Zwickau can be reached by car via the nearby Autobahns A4 and A72, the main railway station (Zwickau Hauptbahnhof) and is also reachable via a public airfield which takes light aircraft.


The main market of Zwickau
Town hall, main façade from 1866–67 and earlier.
The river Zwickauer Mulde in Zwickau
St. Marys church, at dusk.
St. Catharine's church

The region around Zwickau was settled by Slavs as early as the 7th century. The name Zwickau is probably a Germanisation of the Sorbian toponym Šwikawa, which derives from Svarozič, the Slavic Sun and fire god.[6] In the 10th century, German settlers began arriving and the native Slavs were Christianized. A trading place known as terretorio Zcwickaw was mentioned in 1118. The settlement received a town charter in 1212 and hosted Franciscans and Cistercians during the 13th century. Zwickau was a free imperial city from 1290–1323, but was subsequently granted to the Margraviate of Meissen. Although regional mining began in 1316, extensive mining increased with the discovery of silver in the Schneeberg in 1470. Because of the silver ore deposits in the Erzgebirge, Zwickau developed in the 15th and 16th centuries and grew to be an important economic and cultural centre of Saxony.

Its nine churches include the Gothic church of St. Mary (1451–1536), with a spire 285 ft. high and a bell weighing 51 tons. The church contains an altar with wood carvings, eight paintings by Michael Wohlgemuth and a pietà in carved and painted wood by Peter Breuer.

The late Gothic church of St. Catharine has an altar piece ascribed to Lucas Cranach the elder, and is remembered because Thomas Müntzer was once pastor there (1520–22). The town hall was begun in 1404 and rebuilt many times since. The municipal archives include documents dating back to the 13th century.

Early printed books from the Middle Ages, historical documents, letters and books are kept in the Town Archives (e.g. Meister Singer volumes by Hans Sachs (1494–1576)), and in the School Library founded by scholars and by the town clerk Stephan Roth during the Reformation.

In 1520 Martin Luther dedicated his treatise "On the Freedom of the Christian Man" to his friend Hermann Muehlpfort, the Lord Mayor of Zwickau. The Anabaptist movement of 1525 began at Zwickau under the inspiration of the "Zwickau prophets".[7] After Wittenberg, it became the first city in Europe to join the Lutheran Reformation. The late Gothic Gewandhaus (cloth merchants' hall), was built in 1522–24 and is now converted into a theatre. The city was seriously damaged during the Thirty Years' War.

The old city of Zwickau, perched on a hill, is surrounded by heights with extensive forests and a municipal park. Near the toen are the Hartenstein area, for example, with Stein and Wolfsbrunn castles and the Prinzenhöhle cav, as well as the Auersberg peak (1019 meters) and the winter sports areas around Johanngeorgenstadt and the Vogtland.

In the Old Town the Cathedral and the Gewandhaus (cloth merchants' hall) originate in the 16th century and when Schneeberg silver was traded. In the 19th century the city's economy was driven by industrial coal mining and later by automobile manufacturing.

On 17 April 1945, US troops entered the city. They withdrew on 30 June 1945 and handed Zwickau to the Soviet Red Army. Between 1944 and 2003, the city had a population of over 100,000.

A major employer is Volkswagen which assembles its Golf, Passat and Phaeton models in the Zwickau-Mosel vehicle plant.

Economic history

The Brückenberg I Hard coal mine (later named Karl-Marx), here in 1948
Production of the last Trabant in 1990

Coal mining

Coal mining is mentioned as early as 1348.[7] However, mining on an industrial scale first started in the early 19th century. The coal mines of Zwickau and the neighbouring Oelsnitz-Lugau coalfield contributed significantly to the industrialisation of the region and the town.

In 1885 Carl Wolf invented an improved gas-detecting safety mining-lamp. He held the first world patent for it. Together with his business partner Friemann he founded the "Friemann & Wolf" factory. Coal mining ceased in 1978. About 230 million tonnes had been mined to a depth of over 1,000 metres. In 1992 Zwickau's last coke oven plant was closed.

Many industrial branches developed in the town in the wake of the coal mining industry: mining equipment, iron and steel works, textile, machinery in addition to chemical, porcelain, paper, glass, dyestuffs, wire goods, tinware, stockings, and curtains. There were also steam saw-mills, diamond and glass polishing works, iron-foundries, and breweries.

Automotive industry

In 1904 the Horch automobile plant was founded, followed by the Audi factory in 1909. In 1932 both brands were incorporated into Auto Union but retained their independent trademarks. The Auto Union racing cars, developed by Ferdinand Porsche and Robert Eberan von Eberhorst, driven by Bernd Rosemeyer, Hans Stuck, Tazio Nuvolari, Ernst von Delius, became well known all over the world. During World War II, the Nazi government operated a satellite camp of the Flossenbürg concentration camp in Zwickau which was sited near the Horch Auto Union plant. The Nazi administration built a hard labour prison camp at Osterstein Castle. Both camps were liberated by the US Army in 1945. On 1 August 1945 military administration was handed over to the Soviet Army. The Auto Union factories of Horch and Audi were dismantled by the Soviets; Auto Union relocated to Ingolstadt, Bavaria, evolving into the present day Audi company. In 1948 all large companies were seized by the East German government.

With the founding of the German Democratic Republic in 1949 in East Germany, post-war reconstruction began. In 1958 the Horch and Audi factories were merged into the Sachsenring plant. At the Sachsenring automotive plant the compact Trabant cars were manufactured. These small cars had a two-cylinder, two-stroke engine. The car was the first vehicle in the world to be industrially manufactured with a plastic car body. The former VEB Sachsenring manufacturing site was acquired by Volkswagen in 1990 and has since been redeveloped as an engine and transmission manufacturing facility.

Audi-AG together with the city of Zwickau operates the August Horch Museum in the former Audi works.

Uranium mining

Two major industrial facilities of the Soviet SDAG Wismut were situated in the city: the uranium mill in Zwickau-Crossen, producing uranium concentrate (known as "yellow cake") from ores mined in the Erzgebirge and Thuringia, and the machine building plant in Zwickau-Cainsdorf producing equipment for the uranium mines and mills of East Germany. Uranium milling ended in 1989, and after the reunification the Wismut machine building plant was sold to a private investor.


Zwickau is bounded by Mülsen, Reinsdorf, Wilkau-Hasslau, Hirschfeld (Verwaltungsgemeinschaft Kirchberg), Lichtentanne, Werdau, Neukirchen, Crimmitschau, Dennheritz (Verwaltungsgemeinschaft Crimmitschau) and the city of Glauchau.



Year Population
1462 ca. 3,900
1530 ca. 7,677
1640 2,693
1723 3,753
1800 4,189
1840 9,740
1861 20,492
1871 27,322
December 1, 1875 ¹ 31,491
December 1, 1890 ¹ 44,198
December 1, 1900 ¹ 55,825
December 1, 1905 ¹ 68,502
December 1, 1910 ¹ 73,542
June 16, 1925 ¹ 80,358
June 16, 1933 ¹ 84,701
May 17, 1939 ¹ 85,198
October 29, 1946 122,862
August 31, 1950 138,844
December 1, 1960 129,138
December 31, 1972 124,796
June 30, 1981 121,800
1986 120,900
June 30, 1997 102,100
December 31, 2002 100,892
December 31, 2012 95,089

¹ Census data


The production of the Trabant was discontinued after German reunification, but Volkswagen built a new factory, and Sachsenring is now a supplier for the automobile industry. Nowadays the headquarters of the Volkswagen-Saxony Ltd. (a VW subsidiary) is in the northern part of Zwickau.


Zwickau is home to the University of Applied Sciences Zwickau with about 4700 students and two campuses within the boundaries of Zwickau.


The city is close to the A4 (Dresden-Erfurt) and A72 (Hof-Chemnitz) Autobahns.

Zwickau Hauptbahnhof is on the Dresden–Werdau line, part of the Saxon-Franconian trunk line, connecting Nuremberg and Dresden. There are further railway connections to Leipzig as well as Karlovy Vary and Cheb in the Czech Republic. The core element of Zwickau's urban public transport system is the Zwickau tramway network; the system is also the prototype of the so-called Zwickau Model for such systems.

The closest airport is *Leipzig-Altenburg with a very limited number of flights operated by the low cost carrier Ryanair. The nearest major airports are Leipzig-Halle and Dresden offering a large number of national and international flights.


House where Robert Schumann was born 1810, museum at Hauptmarkt 5

In the town centre there are three museums: an art museum from the 19th century and the houses of priests from 13th century, both located next to St. Mary's church. Just around the corner there is the Robert-Schumann museum. The museums offer different collections dedicated to the history of the town, as well as art and a mineralogical, palaeontological and geological collection with many specimens from the town and the nearby Erzgebirge mountains.

Zwickau is the birthplace of the composer Robert Schumann. The house where he was born in 1810 still stands in the marketplace. This is now called Robert-Schumann-House and is a museum dedicated to him.

The histories of the Audi and Horch automobile factories are presented at the August Horch Museum Zwickau. The museum is an Anchor Point of the European Route of Industrial Heritage (EIRH).

Historical mayors

Notable people

Born Before 1900

Robert Schumann
Janus Cornarius

Born after 1900

Twin towns—sister cities


  1. "Aktuelle Einwohnerzahlen nach Gemeinden 2015] (Einwohnerzahlen auf Grundlage des Zensus 2011)" (PDF). Statistisches Landesamt des Freistaates Sachsen (in German). July 2016.
  2. Zwickau in Zahlen (Zwickau in Numbers)
  3. Industrie und Wirtschaft (Industry & Commerce)
  4. Official Website of August Horch Museum Zwickau Archived November 2, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ADAC Travel Guide, Towns and Cities from A to Z – City Guide Germany Travel Information, first edition June 2005, 368 pages, ISBN 3-89905-233-1
  6. Zwickau von Stadbaurat Ebersbach in: Deutschlands Städtebau (Germany's cities), Deutscher Architektur und Industrieverlag Berlin 1921
  7. 1 2  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Zwickau". Encyclopædia Britannica. 28 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 1061.

External links

Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Zwickau.
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