First documented in 1118, Zwickau experienced its first boom after silver was found in Schneeberg in 1470. The mining entrepreneurs who traded with the valuable ore were mainly citizens of Zwickau, which quickly developed into one of the most important towns in the Electorate of Saxony. Martin Römer is one of the prominent personalities of that time. As a successful businessman, he maintained trading offices in Venice, Nuremberg and Augsburg. As a governor he dedicated himself to the development of his city and made numerous foundations. Until 1477 he had the swan pond built for defence purposes and for fish farming and in 1481 the granary. He played a decisive role in the expansion of the Latin school, which was first mentioned in 1383. One of the school directors was the scholar and "father of mineralogy" Georgius Agricola. The level of education and the open-mindedness of the bourgeoisie led to early contact with the Reformers. In 1520/21 Thomas Müntzer preached in Zwickau, in 1522 Martin Luther. After all, Zwickau was one of the very first cities in which the Reformation fully established itself.
Visitors still come across numerous architectural relics from the late Middle Ages and early modern times. These include the Martin Römer House from 1479 at Hauptmarkt 8 or the Dünnebierhaus built in 1480. The importance and self-confidence of the clothmakers' guild is reflected in the Gewandhaus, built between 1522 and 1525, which has been the theatre's venue since the 19th century. Even more venerable are the Priesterhäuser in the cathedral courtyard, whose roots can be traced back to the 13th century, making them one of the oldest preserved residential ensembles in Europe. Today they house the city museum. Visitors can go on a journey through the city's history and learn more about the Middle Ages, traditional crafts or mining.
Zwickau lost importance due to wars and epidemics, so that Robert Schumann saw the light of day in 1810 in a rather sleepy small town. But the 19th century finally brought a unique upswing. Industrialisation and especially the new possibilities of coal mining - the "black gold" - changed the city permanently and posed enormous challenges to the city's leaders.
Companies in the textile, chemical and porcelain industries were founded. In 1895, the printing company Förster & Borries, a family business that still exists today, produced the first book in multicolour printing. From 1855 to 1900 the population tripled, and by 1910 the population had grown by a further 18,000 to over 73,000 inhabitants. With the railway station suburb and the northern suburb, new districts were created which today are among Zwickau's most popular residential quarters. As early as 1845, the city received a railway connection to Leipzig, and in 1894 the first tram ran through Zwickau.
Between 1870 and 1898 alone, eight schools were extended or newly built. The municipal hospital founded in 1845, became the royal hospital from 1898 onwards - the nucleus of today's Heinrich Braun Clinic. In 1869, the "doctor of the poor" Samuel Schlobig opened his sanatorium and bathing establishment directly on the Mulde River, which was expanded in 1904 to include today's Johannisbad. The need for well-trained specialists was met in 1897 with the founding of the Engineering School, the forerunner of the Westsächsische Hochschule Zwickau - University of Applied Sciences.
1904 marked the birth of vehicle construction when August Horch, engineer and pupil of Carl Benz, settled in Zwickau. After leaving his own company, he founded the Audi brand in 1909/10. Together with Wanderer and DKW, Horch and Audi formed the four pillars of Auto Union AG, founded in 1932. Groundbreaking inventions by Zwickau engineers date back to this time, for example left-hand drive or front-wheel drive in large series production vehicles. After the Second World War, it was above all the legendary Trabant that consolidated Zwickau's reputation as an automotive city. Many of these traditions are successfully continued today. Volkswagen laid the foundation stone for the new plant in the north of Zwickau as early as 26 September 1990. Almost 6 million vehicles have since rolled off the production line. The production facility is currently being restructured to become the Group's first plant exclusively producing e-cars. There are numerous architectural testimonies to industrialisation, such as the KUNSTSAMMLUNGEN ZWICKAU Max-Pechstein-Museum, the "Neue Welt" or the former royal hospital. Finally, the living industrial culture is expressed in various events, such as the classic car rides Schwanenklassik and Horch-Klassik, the International Trabant Drivers' Meeting, the big mountain parade or the historical market, during which the epochs of the Middle Ages, Biedermeier and industrialisation are revived in the city centre.