A wooden crate bearing the name "Augsburger Puppenkiste" - virtually everyone in Germany knows this iconic symbol of the country's best-known puppet theatre. Visitors to Spitalgasse, however, discover much, much more than can fit into a single box.
Ever since the theatre's debut performance on 26 February 1948, it has won the hearts of generations of children and adults alike. Once an infirmary, the venue still puts on performances that give people a chance to see the art of puppetry up close. This way, it maintains the tradition started by director and actor Walter Oehmichen and his wife Rose, who worked together to bring their wooden figures to life. With lovingly created sets that are full of details, the theatre takes its audience to a world full of wonder and adventure when it stages classics such as Puss in Boots, Hansel and Gretel and Urmel the Dinosaur. Its performances of The Magic Flute by Mozart or Wagner's Ring are a must-see for opera fans. Grown-ups can enjoy more entertainment in the form of cabaret in the evening. The programme changes every year. The theatre has been run by the same family for three generations. Its shows are incredibly popular, so you have to act fast if you want to get a ticket. Information about its current season and performances is available here.
If you come to the theatre to see one of the elaborately staged puppet plays, it's well worth staying in the building to visit the marionette museum that opened in 2001. Located on the floor above the stage, its permanent exhibition resembles a journey through Germany's recent history in the company of hand-carved figures that are popular the length and breadth of the country - Mikesch the Tomcat and Hotzenplotz the Robber are just two examples. The range of wonderful sets is also a sight to behold. The museum serves as a stage to more than just the celebrated "stars on strings" from Augsburg - it also hosts temporary exhibitions that introduces visitors to puppet heroes from near and far. Running until early November 2019, the current exhibition is called "From Augsburg throughout the entire world- puppet theatre along the Fuggers' trading routes". Visitors can learn more about how Augsburg's influential Fugger family lived and about the era's trading activities with metal, spices and cloth.
There is a café and restaurant at the theatre too: Die Kiste has an informal, familiar atmosphere, and it's a perfect place to get a meal at a good price. The menu has one particularly charming feature: dishes are named after the puppet theatre's stars. The rooms of the former infirmary are available for hire to anyone looking for an unusual location for a special event, such as a wedding or office party. Children can invite friends to birthday parties at the museum. The range of activities includes a special tour that transports them to the world of Jim Button or Urmel the Dinosaur.
When walking back to the station, take a look at the pedestrian lights at Spitalgasse 6. The usual stop-and-go symbols have been replaced by a silhouette of Kasperl in honour of one of the marionettes from the theatre.
News, prices and opening hours are all available here.
It takes about 20 minutes to walk from Augsburg's main station to the Augsburger Puppenkiste marionette theatre. Leave the station via an exit on the eastern side and, turning right, walk a short distance along Viktoriastrasse until you reach the traffic lights. The street bends slightly to the left and is now called Halderstrasse. Walk down Halderstrasse for 450 m until you reach the junction with Hermanstrasse. Cross Hermanstrasse at the lights. Walk along Schiessgrabenstrasse for 130 m and cross to the other side of it and Konrad-Adenauer-Allee when you reach Beethofenstrasse. Turn right and when you reach the other side of Konrad-Adenauer-Allee and go left after 300 m at a street called Weite G., then go right at Milchberg 280 m later. Walk along Milchberg for 180 m, and go right at Spitalgasse. The puppet theatre is at no. 15, which is on your left 180 m along the street.