The Harz Mountains are one of the most legendary regions in Germany. In GDR times, the region was partly a restricted area. Today it attracts millions of visitors every year. So there’s no question that we have to introduce you to the best Harz sights. Because between the nature park and the half-timbered houses, there are many more sights that are almost unknown, but belong on every visit agenda. Let’s start with the most beautiful Harz sights.
Brocken – The highest peak in the north
A hike to the Brocken is an absolute must for a visit to the Harz Mountains. Here in the national park you can really enjoy nature and pass small streams on the way through the fairytale forests. Unfortunately, the bark beetle troubles them right now, which is also due to the fact that a spruce monoculture was planted here in the past. From the peak of the Brocken you have a magnificent view, which under good weather conditions ranges all the way to Leipzig. The summit is closed to car traffic. If you prefer not to walk up to the Brocken, a ride on the Brockenbahn is worthwhile.
Harzer Schmalspurbahnen – With steam to the Harz attractions
One of the most beautiful ways to explore the Harz Mountains is with the Harz narrow-gauge railroads. The old steam locomotives (and sometimes diesel cars) take guests in all directions of the Harz. Here you can choose between three routes:
- Brockenbahn – Takes passengers up the Brocken mountain and back to Wernigerode
- Harzquerbahn – Crosses the Harz Mountains once from Wernigerode in the north to Nordhausen in the south, making it the longest narrow-gauge line in Germany
- Selketakbahn – Runs from Quedlinburg to Eisfelder Talmühle on Germany’s oldest narrow-gauge line through a beautiful river valley
The trips with the Harz narrow-gauge railroads are not quite cheap. But if you want to enjoy a short ride for little money, you can also take a simple short route: For example, a trip from Wernigerode to Schierke (instead of to the Brocken) is a good choice.
Schierke – Base camp for the Brocken
Schierke is a health resort and is located at the foot of the Brocken. The picturesque half-timbered houses in the middle of the valley of the Cold Bode make Schierke a nice stopover. From here you can also start a relatively short, albeit quite sporty climb up the Brocken. But there are also numerous other hiking trails that lead along here. In the “Alte Apotheke” (“Old Pharmacy”) you can try the herbal schnapps Schierker Feuerstein, which was invented here.
Rübelandbahn – Alternative to the narrow gauge railroads
The Rübelandbahn is an alternative to the Harz narrow-gauge railroads. However, it is not a narrow-gauge railroad, but runs with steam locomotives on the standard gauge. The line is electrified and is also used by freight trains. However, the trips with the historic steam locomotive do not take place daily, but only about once a month. More information about when the trips take place can be found on the website of the Rübelandbahn working group.
Dripstone caves in Rübeland – Mini zoo for caudate amphibians
Rübeland is home to two famous dripstone caves. The Baumannshöhle is even the oldest show cave and the oldest natural monument in Germany. Even Goethe admired the bizarre shapes that have been formed over thousands of years. Almost next door lies the Hermann’s Cave. Here you can see a population of grotto olms, which were released in the 1930s and actually come from Slovenia. The grotto olms are amphibians that live underground. On guided tours of the caves, you’ll learn all about the formation of the caves and their inhabitants. Unfortunately, there are no combined tickets and the tickets for 8.50 € entitle you to visit only one cave at a time.
Wernigerode – Small town with small train and the smallest house
Wernigerode is not only the best base camp for exploring the Harz Mountains. The town hall on the market is one of the most beautiful in Germany. The castle could also fit as a fairy tale castle or perhaps a Dracula film adaptation. The surrounding old town is home to, among other things, the smallest house in Germany. Eleven people are said to have once lived there. Trains run from the Wernigerode station of the Harz narrow-gauge railroads to Nordhausen and the Brocken. In Miniaturland, there are models of the most important sights in the Harz Mountains. And the Aviation Museum offers a collection of impressive aircraft and flying machines.
Quedlinburg – Because a café in a house would be boring
Quedlinburg does not belong geographically directly to the Harz, but it is located in the Harz district. And already because of the magnificent old town, the city is one of the most beautiful Harz sights. Hundreds of half-timbered houses line up in this UNESCO World Heritage Site and give Quedlinburg its own charm. Especially nice: the café in the seven houses. From the collegiate church, whose first buildings were here under Henry I, you have a beautiful view of the Harz Mountains and the surrounding old town. By the way, this is where the state of Lithuania was first mentioned in a chronicle.
Misery and sorrow are close together – literally
Misery (Elend in German) and sorrow (Sorge in German) are close to each other. And in the Harz Mountains, even quite officially. Because there are two places in the Harz that have that name. The inner-German border used to run here. You can find out more about this in the Sorge Border Museum. Elend, on the other hand, is home to Germany’s smallest wooden church, which was inaugurated in 1897 and is still used for church services today. Given the shrinking church communities everywhere, there aren’t many anymore, but at least there are a few.
Halberstadt – Underestimated cathedral city with a Jewish history
One of the places in the Harz Mountains that is often overlooked is Halberstadt. However, Halberstadt Cathedral is one of the most beautiful cathedrals in central Germany. The builders probably took their inspiration from the cathedral of Reims in France. The bell ringing, with 13 bells of various sizes, is among the best in Germany. And the cathedral treasury dates back to the Fourth Crusade in the 13th century. Also worth seeing in Halberstadt are the Klaus Synagogue and the Behrend-Lehmann House, which bears witness to Halberstadt’s once important Jewish community. In the Spiegelsberge, people used to go hunting. Today, many come here because of the largest giant wine barrel in the world.
Blankenburg – The Welf prince wants to have it
In Blankenburg, there is a real Welf castle to see, which Prince Ernst August of Hanover has been fighting over for decades. The baroque palace garden is one of the most beautiful in the region. And with the Michaelstein Monastery, Blankenburg also offers an important stop on the so called Romanesque Road. Concert series are held at the local music academy, and the grounds are perfect for a stroll. Just outside the town lies the ruins of the medieval Regenstein Castle, which is also one of the best sights in the Harz mountains. From here you have a great view all the way to the Brocken.
Ballenstedt – Appreciated not only by Nazis and Communists
Ballenstedt is a rather tranquil town in the Harz Mountains. Unlike most places in the region, Ballenstedt belonged to the Principality of Anhalt for a long time. And what many also do not know: The famous founder of Naumburg Cathedral, usually called Uta of Naumburg, was actually named Uta of Ballenstedt. You can still visit the ancestral seat of her family today and also walk through the magnificent castle garden on a hill. Ballenstedt was also famous during the Nazi era, as a Napola, an elite Nazi school, once stood here. In the GDR, the building was then converted into the district party school of the SED.
Gernrode – The biggest bird in a clock
Gernrode is a really typical town for the Harz and has some of the things to offer that you would probably expect from a typical Harz visit. Because in addition to the impressive collegiate church of St. Cyriakus, which is located on the Romanesque Road, you can see the largest cuckoo clock in the world here. Exactly, because the Harz Clock Museum has specially installed a cuckoo here, which entertains you every hour on the hour. You can immediately wash down the “shock” with a local schnapps from the Harz liqueur factory. Cheers!
Bode Valley – Hike through the German Grand Canyon
From the Roßtrappe you can see how massively the Bode river has worked its way through the granite rocks of the Harz and today forms the Bode Valley here, which is sometimes called the German Grand Canyon. In the valley there are wonderful hiking trails from Treseburg to Thale that will completely meet your expectations of the Harz Mountains. There are rapids, whirlpools and the fast river. If you walk along the ten kilometers from Treseburg, at the end you will have the opportunity to take a cable car to the Hexentanzplatz or the Roßtrappe.
Thale – Taking the cable car to the witches
Once upon a time, in pre-Christian times, witches were said to have gathered here every year on April 30 for Walpurgis Night and danced around the fire. Whether this is true is not entirely clear. But on April 30, it is still celebrated with many costumed people. And even otherwise, both Hexentanzplatz (“Witches’ Dance Square”) and the Roßtrappe offer a breathtaking view. From the Roßtrappe, a beautiful princess is said to have once jumped from the cliff on a white steed. Her pursuer Bodo fell into the river, which is therefore called Bode. A hoof-like imprint actually exists. Take a cable car to the Hexentanzplatz (round trip 7 euros) or the chairlift to the Roßtrappe (round trip 4.50 euros).
Devil’s wall – Come hell or high water
Speaking of legends: There are a lot of them in Thale. The Brothers Grimm wrote that the devil and God wanted to divide the world. To separate the kingdoms, the devil built a wall. In a fit of rage, however, he destroyed it. What remained was the Devil’s Wall, which stretches for about 20 kilometers through the Harz Mountains. The bizarre rocks are a great backdrop for photos. Access is free.
Rappbode dam – Adrenaline rush high above the valley
The Rappbode Dam is a gigantic technical monument and at the same time the highest dam in Germany. The dam wall rises 106 meters for the production of drinking water and electricity. You can easily walk over the wall for free or even just drive over it by car. If you need a little more thrill, you have two options: Walking across the newly built suspension bridge Titan RT (6 Euro entrance fee) right next to it is still quite harmless. For the more adventurous among you, there’s either a zipline across the valley or even a Gigaswing, which is a rope swing. Help!
Hasselfelde charcoal burning – Very hot wood
The Harz charcoal burning is also a hot affair. But at least you won’t fall off anywhere. Instead, you can experience in the Harzköhlerei how charcoal was made in the Harz mountains in the past. The charcoal burners in this unique museum still make about 50 tons of beech charcoal a year. In the museum and during the guided tours you will learn how this works and then you can take a bag of this handmade charcoal for barbecuing.
Falkenstein Castle – Traveling to the Middle Ages
Falkenstein Castle is one of the most beautiful castles in eastern Germany. It is located in the middle of the forests of the Harz Mountains. With its thick walls and half-timbered architecture, it looks like a real castle from the Romanesque period. In the Falkenburg you can book a meal with medieval representations and there are often medieval markets. But the most beautiful thing is the view of the surrounding Harz foothills from the tower of the Falkenburg.
Stolberg – Cookies, Cookies, Cookies!
The southern Harz is on the radar of far fewer visitors to the Harz. This is a pity, because the half-timbered houses of medieval Stolberg are among the most beautiful in the region. Thomas Müntzer was born here and several battles of the Peasants’ War took place near Stolberg. A walk through the castle will take you on a journey back in time to the courtly life of the Renaissance and Baroque periods. In the city, on the other hand, there are delicious coffee houses and at FRIWI you can stock up on delicious cookies, gingerbread and other delicacies.
- Feldhoff und Anne Christine Martin, Stefan (Author)
What are the most beautiful Harz sights for you and where have you always wanted to go in the Harz Mountains? Let us know and write us a comment!