Once a prosperous Saxon town, Plauen suffered heavy damage in World War II and never quite recovered. The old town has a charming, fairy-tale quality, however, with its cobbled streets and half-timbered houses. The Rathaus (town hall) is a particularly impressive Gothic building, and there are several lovely churches, including the 14th-century Marienkirche. Today, Plauen is a lively, modern city with a good range of shops, restaurants and bars. It’s also a popular base for exploring the surrounding countryside, including the stunning Vogtland and the Erzgebirge mountains.