Tips for your vacation in the Harz Mountains in Germany
It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that I’m a big fan of Germany. I travel there quite often and figured it was about time for a new blog on one of my favorite regions: the Harz Mountains. In the fall of 2018 I was invited by the Dutch branch of the German tourism board to visit this region. I didn’t just do quite some spectacular things but also visited the best historical places, hiked through nature, enjoyed some of the best Kaffee mit Kuchen ever and more. You will read all my tips for the Harz Mountains in this blog.
Where are the Harz Mountains in Germany?
This is a question I’m often being asked by people who I tell about the Harz Mountains. The Harz region is the northernmost mid-mountainrange in Germany and is located in the middle of the country, more or less. From the German-Dutch border it’s about a 4 hour drive.
The Harz Mountains is a mining area and quite mountainous. The highest peak is Brocken, measuring 1.142 meters above sea level. The length of the Harz Mountains is some 110 kilometers and the width is some 30 to 40 kilometers. It’s a popular spot for a short getaway or a longer vacation for those who love charming small towns and the outdoors.
When you choose to go to the Harz Mountains you will find a large selection of sights to choose from. Whether you want to visit the typical German half-timbered houses, pump up your adrenaline level or enjoy amazing meals: the Harz Mountains will definitely not disappoint you.
Beste places to visit in the Harz Mountains
In the Harz region there are numerous sights well worth visiting. Even though I cannot describe them all, I made a small selection of the best things to see and do. It has become a combination of culture, nture and adventure, making it a very diverse destination. But before you continue reading, I hope you’ll take a moment to check out this video that I made of my visit to the Harz Mountains. It will give you an impression of what the Harz has to offer and what the rest of my article is about:
Culture: the prettiest places in the Harz Mountains
Even though you may not expect it, you can visit various cultural places in the Harz Mountains, such as Quedlinburg and Wernigerode. I visited both towns during my most recent trip and will tell you all about them below.
The quaint little town of Quedlinburg
Quedlinburg is a medieval city located in the foothills of the northern Harz area. The old town center is the perfect place to stroll around for a couple of hours. Quedlinburg is listed on the UNESCO World Heritage list for its amazing half timbered houses and it’s phenomenal architecture. You will find more than 2.000 half timbered houses in Quedlinburg, most of them in near-perfect condition. The St. Servatii church and the Quedlinburg Castle are worth visiting as well.
From the gardens near the castle you have stunning views over the old center and mountains in the distance. At the base of the hill there are plenty of small shops, cafes and restaurants for a snack or a meal. Tip: make sure to visit Quedlinburg just before Christmas. During this time of the year, plenty of privately owned gardens in the city center open up for visitors and have their own small Christmas markets. This time of the year is called ‘Advent in den Höfen’ and is organized annually.
Another suggestion is to walk around the old town with a local guide who can tell you all about Quedlinburg’s history. I joined Herr Kunze for a two hour tour and he told me all about the city, well known and unknown stories as well as lesser visited places. I have to say that the number of tourists here was quite low and not nearly as high as in other historical towns in Germany. Just something for you to consider!
Wernigerode and its castle
Another historical town worth visiting is Wernigerode. I overnighted in the central located Hotel Am Anger from where I could stroll directly into the heart of the city. From here you can walk right into the mountains. I spent an afternoon here and hiked up to the Wernigerode Castle, towering out above the city. It’s quite a steep walk up but you will be rewarded with amazing views into the distance once you are up. From here I continued my walk on towards Agnesberg and from the Erfgrabenweg I passed many great see-throughs, offering me views of Brocken in the distance.
Wernigerode is also the start of the Brockenbahn, the historical Harz railway which I’ll tell you more about later on in this post. Good food can be found at Harzer Schnitzelstubchen in Hotel Alte Brennerei and a perfect Kaffee mit Kuchen was made for me at Louisen Cafe.
Nature in the Harz Mountains
For those looking for impressive nature: you will not be disappointed. Previously I already wrote this blog about how I lost my heart to the Harz and about hiking a section of the Harzer Hexenstieg. I also climbed Brocken back then and during this visit, I climbed it again, from another trail this time.
A ride with the Brockenbahn – the famous Harz railway
The Brockenbahn is a 19 kilometer narrow gauge railway between Wernigerode and Brocken, the highest mountain in the Harz. The journey will take place with an old steam train and take some 1.5 hours one way. It’s one of the most scenic railways in Germany. Along the way there are stops in Drei Annen Hohne and Schierke. I decided to get off in Schierke and from here walk up to my final destination: the top of Brocken.
The Brockenbahn has several departures each day but also has a summer and winter schedule. Times can be found here. The fare for a one way journey in 2018 was € 28 and for a return ticket it was € 43. It’s advised to book ahead or be at the ticket office in time as it’s a popular attraction and can be very busy.
TIP: take the first train from Wernigerode (departure at 08.55 am in 2018) as this will be the most quiet ride. Most people will still be having breakfast in their hotel during that time of the day. I took this departure and it was pretty quiet, however on the return journey during the early afternoon the train was loaded.
There are various ways to climb Brocken, this time I chose to hike up from Schierke. This option is about 6 km long and gains about 500 meters in altitude. The first few kilometers are on a wide forest road, only the last bit is truly steep and strenuous on a nearly vertical and rocky trail. Not one for the faint hearted, well worth the effort. Just before arriving at Brocken you will walk along the paved road with all the other visitors, making it an easy end of the hike. Once on the top you have an amazing view of the whole Harz area and beyond.
Visit Nationalpark Harz
The Harz National Park is made up up dense forests, steep cliffs and rock formations. The tree line is located at some 1.100 meters, meaning that the top of Brocken is just above the tree line. In the national park you’ll find countless hiking trails, one of them being the Harzer Hexenstieg, one of the Top Trails of Germany. In various locations you will find nature park houses where you can find all kinds of information about the national park. Torfhaus and Drei Annen Hohne are among those places able to provide you with information.
Riding the cable cars at Thale
Another fun thing to do but less touristic than Brocken are the cable cars near Thale, just west of Quedlinburg. You can take the cable car up to Hexentanzplatz (dancing place of the witches of the Harz) on the top of the mountain. Here you will also find a funpark, a mini golf and a toboggan run. These last attractions looked a little touristy but if you venture off the main area you will soon leave everyone else behind.
From the mountain station you’ll have stunning panoramas of the Bodetal, a 10 kilometer deep valley between Thale and Treseburg. Together with a visit to Quedlinburg this is a nice thing to see and do for one of your days in the Harz. A good lunch can be eaten at the mountain hut on Hexentanzplatz or any of the other restaurants around it.
Aventure in the Harz at the Harzdrenalin Center
Since a couple of years the Harz has some fun attractions for the thrill seekers at the Harzdrenalin Center. You’ll find this center in Oberharz am Brocken, at about a half hour drive from Wernigerode. A visit to the Harzdrenalin Centrum is a nice add on to your visit to the Harz Mountains. Even if you are not doing any of the activities they offer, it’s still worth to see the views over the Rappbodetalsperre and surrounding mountains.
Mega Zipline in the Harz
Did you check out the video posted above yet? If not, scroll back up and have a look at how I cross the Rappbodetalsperre with the 1 kilometer long Mega Zipline. I was incredible nervous just before take off but OMG it was so cool! The zipline is about a kilometer long and the flight takes about a minute. Time enough to actually enjoy it. A ticket costs € 39 and a car will take you back to the starting point. Walking is also an option of course, if your legs can still carry you after such a thrilling ride.
The Titan RT swing bridge
The longest swing bridge in Germany is located right here in the Harz Mountains. It’s around 100 meters above the Rappbodetalsperre and almost 500 meters long. It’s pretty amazing to dangle right above the ground. With a bit of luck there’s some wind making it an even more exciting experience. In order to access Titan RT you’ll need to buy a ticket for € 6 and additionally there’s a 3 euro parking fee for the area. More about this swingbridge can be found in this blog about Titan RT.
Where to overnight – nice hotels in the Harz Mountains
In the Harz Mountains there are plenty of options for overnighting. From bungalow parks to small B&B’s and pretty hotels in half timbered houses: there’s something for everyone’s wishes. I stayed at Hotel Am Anger in Wernigerode: a charming 3.5 star hotel located right in the heart of the city. My room offered views of the Wernigerode castle and next to the reception you’ll find the Louisen Cafe which offers amazing coffee and cakes. All other accommodations in the Harz can be found here.
This is how you plan your weekend getaway in the Harz Mountains
Finally I’d like to help you to plan your weekend getaway to the Harz Mountains in four days. The below is ofcourse just a suggestion and depends on how active you’d like to be. Lovers of cultural sights can easily spend a full day in Quedlinburg or Wernigerode, whereas hikers will need more time in the mountains. At least it’ll give you an idea of what a weekend in the Harz could look like:
Day 1. Arrival in Wernigerode, afternoon walk in the city center and to the castle
Day 2. Ride the Brockenbahn to the top of Brocken, or walk up from Torfhaus or Schierke
Day 3. Visit to Quedlinburg and Thale Bergbahnen
Day 4. Morning visit to Titan RT and optional the Mega Zipline, afternoon departure
Conclusion and disclaimer
I hope you enjoyed reading my blog about the Harz and that you found this travel guide useful. This trip was made in collaboration with the German Tourism Board and Harz Tourismus. In this blog you’ll find some affiliate links. If you decide to buy and/or book something through them, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.