There are many beautiful nature spots around Germany and the Harz national park in Lower Saxony is one of the most scenic and perfect four outdoor lovers. To give you directions on what to do in the Harz region, Germany, and what to expect on your trip, check out my top 15 things to do for a Harz Mountain Holiday.
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Top 10 Best Places to Visit in the Harz, Germany
Goslar Old Town
Goslar is a former Imperial city, a current UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of the best preserved old towns in the world! If you ask me, it’s one of the most gorgeous towns in Germany.
The town consists of 1500 timbered houses, a Romanesque church, a stunning palace, 12th century stone houses and tons more to explore.
Wandering around Goslar Old Town is a quaint and fun way to spend an afternoon when visiting the mountain region of Harz, Germany.
Plus, it boasts an impressive imperial palace as it once was the seat of the German Kaiser. It was built between 1040 and 1050 and was extensively renovated with added murals and hosts wonderful exhibitions.
No trip to the Harz mountains in Germany is complete without a visit to the Mount Brocken. It’s the highest peak in northern Germany.
This massive mountain is covered in mist nearly 300 days out of the year. The high altitude and thick mist create a haunted forest vibe, which makes for a super spooky atmosphere, and awesome creepy pictures. No wonder it features in local tales about (not so) secret witch meetings.
It’s said that even Swedish witches have been travelling all the way to Mount Blåkulla on their brooms during Easter.
If you’re not feeling a mountain trek, there’s a steam locomotive train that will shuttle you to the top. (More on Harz trains further below.)
No matter how you get there, be sure to check out the Brockenhaus and museum at the summit, which will teach you all about the history of the mountain.
The Rappbode Dam in Harz, Germany is so much more than just a dam. It is the highest dam in all of Germany.
On top of all that it’s home to the Mega Zipline, an exciting adventure which reaches a speed of up to 55 miles per hour.
Even if adrenaline and thrills are not your thing, the Rappbode Dam is still well worth a visit, as it offers a magnificent view of the best of the best of human engineering.
Of course, you don’t need to just stand there and look at the dam for great views. There are also hiking options for you to really take a breather in nature. For example, you can take the trail from Rappbode to Benneckenstein. This way, you can see the Harz train and actually walk underneath it.
This town in the Harz region is most famous for being the birthplace of Martin Luther in 1483. It makes sense thent that Lutherstadt Eisleben prides itself on being the source of inspiration for the Protestant Reformation.
The town is full of beautifully crafted memorials to Martin Luther, and because of these memorials, the town was granted UNESCO World Heritage status in 1996. Don’t miss this off the beaten path historical site on your trip to the Harz, Germany.
Once the most influential church in all of North Germany, Monastery Walkenried is now the home of a big museum all about monastic life.
It was founded in 1127 and back then was the first and largest Gothic church in the region. The history of this building is varied and exciting, and there’s no better place to learn about it than in the monastery’s museum itself.
This ancient town in the Harz region of Germany has been around since 1121, and is a perfect example of traditional ancient architecture.
Wander through picturesque, cobblestone alleys and explore the timber town hall, the crooked house with an off kilter foundation, and the smallest house in the city, which is only about 3 meters by 4 meters.
Sitting high above the city on a hilltop is Castle Wernigerode, which combined with the old quaint streets, makes you feel like you’re walking around in a fairy tale town.
If you’d like to visit the castle as well, it’s open every day of the week but closes before sundown, so plan ahead.
One of the prettiest towns to see in the Harz mountains is Quedlinburg. Walking around town feels like a trip back into the Middle Ages with so many historic buildings creating the most charming atmosphere.
Do plan an extensive stroll around the Old Town in Quedlinburg to immerse yourself before entering any of the museums.
Once the capital of the East Franconian German Empire, there are still many impressive buildings introducing you to its colorful history. Step into the Collegiate Church, which is dedicated to St Servatius, and explore the crypt, cross vaults, capitals, tombs, and murals inside.
Afterwards, walk up to castle hill in the Southwest of town and try to imagine what the original residential town must have looked like. There are still some extremely pretty historic buildings, including the diocese church, standing.
These were part of the diocese founded by Mathilde, the widow of King Henry I. It includes the church. Over the past years, many stabilization efforts have taken place as the hill is made up of crumbly sandstone.
One of the most stunning things to see in the Harz mountains is the Hamburger Wappen (“Hamburg’s coat of arms”) or Drei Zinnen. This is a very odd rock formation made of sandstone formation with three pinnacles reaching for the sky. It’s part of the Devil’s Wall (Teufelsmauer).
You can find it near Timmenrode and Quedlinburg at an elevation of 252 above sea level. You can get up to the base of the pinnacles by taking the 15 steps that have been cut into the rock.
Why the funny name? Because of its three pinnacles, it shows resemblance to the coat of arms of the city of Hamburg. In it, you can see the city gate with its three towers.
Known as the gate to the Harz, Germany, the town of Halberstadt does make for a nice introduction to the area. It’s located in the North and is loved for its Old Town.
Already from afar you can see one of its most prominent sights, the Halberstadt Cathedral and Liebfrauenkirche.
Fun fact: If you want to experience the world’s slowest organ piece, you still can. It is supposed to go on for 639 years and is performed in the Burchardikirche and was thought of by John Cage.
To get out into nature, hike to the Klus mountains (Klus-Berge) South of the town, including the rocks Klusfelsen, Fünffingerfelsen und der Teufelsstuhl. Sadly, they have been heavily damaged due to natural and human erosion. So don’t climb them!!
They were first mentioned in 1070 and a hermitage was set up here. The word Klus actually derives from the word Klausner, which means hermit.
Another one of the bigger cities at the fringe of the in the mountain region Harz is Harzgerode. Already in 975, a Benedictine abbey was founded here. Probably in the 13th century, the Castle of Harzgerode was built.
Besides this, there are many other sights, such as the castle ruin Günstersburg, the Castle Heinrichsberg or the townhall. When it comes to museums, you can visit the mining museum, the technical museum for the machine factory Carlswerk and the mouse trap and curiosity museum in Güntersberge.
Top 5 Fun Activities in the Harz, Germany
Hiking the Harz
It being the mountains, naturally there are plenty of options and trails for Harz mountains hiking. Trails are maintained and have proper signage so you can easily navigate the network of over 8000 km (4971 miles) and choose between shorter and longer tracks.
To keep hiking the mountains in the Harz, you have a selection of hotels and B&Bs that are close to the trails so you don’t need to have a car to get back and forth.
There can easily be a separate post about all the best hikes and how to master them but for the sake of brevity, here are a two of the best Harz hikes (and there are many more).
Poetry lovers, this one’s for you. The Goetheweg trail extends for 9,000 kilometres and winds through untouched forests, picturesque valleys, and lush meadows.
This trail follows the path that Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the famous German poet, took in 1777 when he decided to climb Mount Brocken.
Whether you decide on just a taste of this magnificent trail, or want to take on a longer adventure, this hike is perfect for anyone looking to get back to nature, while connecting with the history of the best in German literature.
The witches trial might be the most popular and scenic of them all. If you visit the magical Brocken for its many folktales and myths, this trail is a must. But the nature alone will blow you away.
Roam among mixed and pine forests, gape down rugged ravines and tread lightly on the high moors. I absolutely enjoyed the diversity of the landscapes you get to experience.
No wonder, for instance, the historical burrows for the water collection in the Upper Harz are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage.
Take the Harz train
The Harz Narrow Gauge Railways are a fleet of 25 steam locomotives that travel through the Harz countryside, offering stunning, once in a lifetime views of mountain peaks.
The Harz Mountain Railway trains circle the mountain one and a half times before stopping at the top, giving you tons of excellent photo opportunities of all the beauty surrounding you on the journey. Don’t forget to bring your good camera!
The ride takes anywhere from one and a half to two hours, depending on which route and train you decide to take.
Harz sight tip: You can see the the world’s largest model railway and observe modellers and technicians while they are working on the next stages of Miniatur Wunderland. There’s even a miniature Las Vegas night scene, Hamburg cityscape, and the Airport Knuffingen. Get your skip the ticket line online here*.
Bocksberg Outdoor Action
Don’t mistake the Bocksberg for the famous Blocksberg mountain of the Harz. This one is much smaller and at its top you can try out some very cool outdoor experiences.
Especially if you are planning longer or super active trips to the Harz mountains, you should consider visiting.
For one, there’s a toboggan ride, which means you can sled down the hill in summer. No snow needed. In fact, the toboggan ride is open all year round.
If you’re into mountain biking, you can rent a bike and take advantage of the dirt track and biker park.
If you seek some more adrenaline, try jumping into a giant inflatable pillow from a height of nine meters. I did it from three meters and was already scared like crazy. (You can see my embarrassing video here.)
Another, but much more tame activity in the Harz is the climbing park in Bad Harzburg. It’s perfect if you travel with other people or want a cool company event. You can climb various difficulty levels at four or ten meters high.
On ropes, planks and tree trunks you can practice your balance and see how kickass you really are. If you dare, you can swing yourself all the way down from eight meters on a giant tree swing. At first, it’s scary but incredible fun!
Feel like a bird? Try the tree top walk in Bad Harzburg, In the center is a tower of 30 meters in height with a viewing platform at 26 meters (85 feet) going up in a circular motion. From it, a path leads into the forest. And some forest walking is a must in the Harz mountains but you won’t find such a unique trail anywhere else in the region.
In total, the tree top walk is 1000 meters (0.62 miles) long. You can visit this unique Harz attraction all year round, even over Christmas and New Years Eve.
The trail is wheelchair accessible.
Quick Travel Q&A
What makes the Harz National Park special?
This 247 square kilometer park is beautiful and wild, consisting of almost entirely spruce and beech forests.
The Harz National Park is a haven for local plants and animals, and a stunning and relaxing place to explore on your trip to Harz, Germany.
There are tons of hiking trails for all levels of fitness and experience, so whatever nature experience you’re looking for, you’ll be able to find outstanding Harz experiences in nature.
How to get to Harz
From Berlin to the Harz mountains, it takes about three hours by car and four by train with several changes. Here, train travel isn’t as convenient as having a rental car.
To get to the Harz mountains from Magdeburg is much easier. You only drive for 90 minutes by car. With public transport, you can get to Harzgerode from Magdeburg by taking the train to Quedlinburg and then the local bus. Both takes a little over two hours.
What are the best cities in the Harz region?
Around the Harz mountains in Germany you can find many bigger and smaller towns, some of which are absolutely stunning.
Especially if you want to base yourself in the Harz, it’s a good idea to pick one of the biggest towns to enjoy some Harz sightseeing and be able to hit the trails easily as you are well connected. Even without a car.
Try the following places for starters: Quedlingburg, Halberstadt, Wernigerode, Harzgerode and Hasselfelde.
What’s the highest peak in the Harz mountains?
That would be the famous Brocken with an elevation of 1,141.1 meters (3,744 ft).
Which of these cool things to do in the Harz, Germany is most interesting to you?
More Germany tips here:
- What to expect in Schwerin
- Seeing the gorgeous fields of winter aconites in Jena
- Why you should the terribly underrated Gera in Central Germany
- Which restaurants in Erfurt foodies should try
- Don’t miss out on the Vogtland hiking trails
- Where to go in the Altes Land region near Hamburg
- How to plan a 3-day hike through the Vogtland
- Tips on German bus travel
- Why you should visit Regensburg in South Germany
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