Let me start by telling you what Harz is, in case you don’t know already, and no it is not a typo. The Harz national park, with its 600 to 1141 meters above sea level, is as close as it gets to mountains in the north of Germany. In spite of not being the Himalayas, the Harz mountains have their charm. The Harz mountains are dotted with picturesque towns and UNESCO heritage sites. The region also offers a plethora of entertaining things to do for those who love the outdoors. If you do decide to visit the Harz region, you won’t go home disappointed.
The Harz National Park is located between the Lower Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt regions in the north of Germany. It is almost halfway between Hamburg, Hannover and Berlin. That means, that whether you are visiting the Hansestadt (a.k.a. Hamburg) or exploring the German capital, taking a quick trip to the Harz mountains will never be too far off.
If you are visiting the park from the Saxony-Anhalt side, I can’t recommend enough the historical town of Quedlinburg. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and it is the perfect home base for the duration of your time in the Harz area. But, if you’re coming from the Lower Saxony side, you could make Clausthal-Zellerfeld your base. From there you can explore the area. Either way, you’ll find plenty of things to do. But if you need a little inspiration to get you started planning what to do during a weekend in the Harz, keep on reading.
Visiting the Saxony-Anhalt side of the Harz Mountains
Recommended Home-Base in the Harz National Park: QUEDLINBURG
British writer Simon Winder described Quedlinburg as a “daft little Harz Mountain town” and said that its sheer beauty was never far from his mind. He misses its “rambling street pattern, the beauty of the countless, red-roofed half-timbered houses and, of course, the ‘pocket Schloss’ perched on its hill with a beautiful Romanesque abbey.”
He wasn’t wrong. The UNESCO World Heritage site of Quedlinburg was every bit as mind-boggling as we had hoped. From the friendliness of the locals, as we experienced first hand, to the history-filled cobblestoned roads and timber-frame houses. Oh and let’s not forget the mouth-watering carrot cake!
You’ll fall in love with the cheery tourist information clerk. And with the hidden coffee shop and restaurant housed in the old Jewish house. You won’t be able to get the views from the church tower out of your head. And the history behind every corner…let’s say that Quedlinburg is hard to forget.
WHERE TO STAY IN QUEDLINBURG
Anyhow, enough rambling about Quedlinburg’s unforgettable character. As you know by now, once you decide that you want to visit a place, you may need to find somewhere to stay. Quedlinburg has several options when it comes to hotels. Yet, I can recommend Hotel Theophano*, in the market square.
Hotel Theophano’s location has as much history as the rest of the town. The half-timbered house in the heart of Quedlinburg was built in the middle of the 17th century by a successful businessman in the baroque “Quedlinburger Sonderstil”. After that, it was owned by many different people. Until 1991 when it was finally returned to the family of the latest known owner. After careful restoration, Hotel Theophano opened to the public in 1993.
Needless to say, that the rooms have been renovated. They are now a careful combination of the well-preserved historical heart and all expected amenities of a 21st-century hotel. Oh, and did I mention yet how amazing the beds are? On top of that, the breakfast buffet was of the utmost quality. And the 24-hours reception personnel and, well everyone else working there for that matter, were as lovely and welcoming as it gets. No question or query, for silly it may have been, would go unanswered.
Besides that, with your reservation you receive a transport ticket for the region so you can move arouns without having to take your car. Which takes me to our next point of order and probably the reason you are here in the first placer…
WHAT TO DO IN THE HARZ REGION
Once you’re settled in, and before you head out to the mountains for a hike, it’s time to explore the city. Quedlinburg has plenty to keep you entertained for a day.
You can start by exploring the historic old town on your way to the castle and the cathedral. And of course, take a tour of both of them. There is also an exhibition at the cathedral about the history of the region where you’ll learn all about the area.
Once you feel enlightened by the region, you can continue walking to Münzenberg. Up a hill with stunning views over the opposing cathedral and castle. In nr. 4 you can visit one of the best preserved medieval mummies there is. But check before you get all giddy, as it may be closed.
Walking down the road back to the market square, you can take a look at the city church. If you are lucky enough, you may be able to take a tour of the flat and tower atop. The views are incomparable.
After dinner at our personal favourite eating spot in town “Himmel & Hölle” (you have to try their späzle!!), you can take a night tour guided by the “night watch” for more insights into the life and customs of old Quedlinburg.
Once you are done exploring your home base, you can either take the local bus/train (as mentioned above, a transport ticket is included for the duration of your stay when you book a hotel) or drive to the neighbouring Drei Annen Hohne station. The single trip up to Brocken mountain on board the Harz Mountain Railway steam engine train (a.k.a. the Brocken Railway) costs about 25 € and it’s a worthy experience.
I would highly recommend taking the Brocken railway up and hike through the forest down, back to the station, taking in the beauty of the region.
Another highly recommended outdoor option in Harz, is to hike along the Harz Witches Trail. With a total of 60 Km, this route takes you along some of the most stunning locations along the Harz mountains. And you can collect the Harz Witch Trail stamps if you’re lucky to find them along the way!! This route (or parts of it) are especially great for a day out with the family, and an easy way to get kids into hiking and the outdoors.
A Weekend in the Lower Saxony Side of the Harz Mountain Range
If you decide to make Clausthal-Zellerfeld your base, the Hotel zum Harzer* was a delight. With renovated adorable rooms and a hearty breakfast included, it’s a good value for money. Oh, and there are plenty of parking spots around so you won’t have any issues. As for things to do in this area of the Harz National park, you could take a stroll by the many artificial lakes, visit the neighbouring town of Goslar and take a tour of the old mines, Rammelsberg (another of UNESCO’s cultural heritage for all humanity sites!) or visit one of the locations of the film Monument Men.
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Everything I did and all the places I stayed in during these trips were paid by me and had not been sponsored or paid for in any way.