At the foot of the Harz mountains just over the border in Lower Saxony, not far from Quedlinburg and Wernigerode, is yet another town with 1,800 half-timbered houses, the epitome of adorable. One of Germany’s hidden treasures with an imperial past whose wealth came from the surrounding zinc, copper and silver mines. The town has remained practically unchanged, making it a must-see UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the best cities to visit in Northern Germany!
I’ve never met a half-timbered town that I didn’t like and each one is even more captivating than the last, equally charming, yet so different in character. No city can capture my imagination quite like a half-timbered town.
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Goslar and the Harz Mountains are an easy day trip from Berlin, Leipzig or even Hanover as it is just under 2 hours driving from any of the towns! But, you could easily turn Goslar into a weekend trip and visit some of the other beautiful half-timbered towns in the region as well as explore the Brocken via a steam train ride!
History of the Town
Upon the discovery of silver in the 10th century, the little hamlet of Goslar was transformed into one of Northern Europe’s leading medieval towns beloved by emperors and popes for its deep coffers, acquiring the nickname “the treasure chest of the North”. Less than a hundred years later, the town would become the seat of the Holy Roman Emperors of Germany for the next 300 years. By 1532, the neighboring duke of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel had snatched the mine. Eventually the town’s funds dried up and lead to the halt of the town’s growth, therefore, preserving it’s captivating medieval Altstadt. During the Second World War, a POW camp was formed here, which also helped to spare the town from any damage. Today, Goslar is one of the most picturesque half-timbered towns in Northern Germany!
What to Do in Goslar
First and foremost, it’s vital to wander through the Altstadt (Old Town), beginning with the Markt. Here you’ll find an array of medieval architectural styles huddled around the quaint square. In the center of the square is the town’s icon – an imperial eagle perched atop a fountain dating back to 1230. It’s here I would recommend starting your sightseeing in Goslar.
Though the town is small, there are still many things to see in Goslar. With gabled arches and Gothic windows, the 15th century Gothic Rathaus (City Hall) looks rather simple on the outside, but the real treasure is on the inside. The Huldigungsaal (The Chamber of Allegiance) is a council chamber with a spectacular display of Renaissance artwork completed by an unknown artist.
As history would have it, the town was plagued by counterfeiters. To purge himself and the city, the city mayor employed an artist to create the masterpiece that now encircles the entire interior of the chamber, displaying heavenly images showcasing the town’s wealth. Perhaps the artist secretly painted himself into the mural and you can find him.
The room was forgotten about, used as an archive and discovered again in the late 19th century. The 500 year old masterpiece was well preserved…until now. Unfortunately, the chamber is now sealed off, visible only through a looking glass window because of the number of tourists rubbing up against the wall and the humidity. The painted wood has begun to chip and peel because of the unfavorable climate of the room.
Opening Times: Monday – Friday 11:00 am – 3:00 pm, Saturday, Sundays & Holidays 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
- Adults 3,50 €
- Groups (per person) 2,50 €
- Children 1,50 €
Caddycorner from the city hall, you’ll find the brightly colored Kaiserworth Hotel, a 15th century guildhall of cloth merchants and cutters. Along the side of the building, you’ll find the Dukatenmännchen who strains to excrete a coin in mockery of the town’s counterfeiters and debtors. Quite possibly the strangest thing you’ll find in Goslar and clearly the most disturbing!
Also in the main market, you’ll find a beautiful grey shingled building which was once the old treasury. Every day at 9am, noon, 3pm and 6pm, the square becomes crowded with tourists and locals all vying to catch a glimpse of the beloved Glockenspiel which displays the town’s mining history. For an undisturbed view of the Glockenspiel, I suggest watching it from the balcony of the Rathaus!
At the opposite end of the Markt, you’ll find the Marktkirche, known as the Pfarrkirche (The Gothic Church of Saints Cosmas and Damian) with Romanesque stained glass windows and two mismatched towers. If you love climbing towers for breathtaking panoramas, then you don’t want to miss climbing the tower! By far the easiest tower to climb with a large wooden staircase, the trek to the top was worth it for a view over the half-timbered town, a glimpse of the Kaiserpfalz in the distance. Clearly, climbing the tower is one of the best things to do in Goslar!
Opening Times: Daily from 11:00 am – 5:00 pm
- Adults: 2,00 €
From here, you can either walk around the town yourself, or take a city tour via horse-drawn carriage – obviously one of the most romantic things to do in Goslar, or at the very least, one of the of the most charming! The ride takes about 25 minutes and shows you all the highlights of the town. I settled with a photo. Pick up point is directly next to the Marktkirche!
- Adults 5,50 €
- Children 2,00 €
Or you can take a ride aboard the Goslar Bimmelbahn (City Train), which takes about 35 minutes. Pick up point is directly in front of the Rathaus.
- Adults 6,50 €
- Children 4-12 3,00 €
Continuing on, I suggest walking south down Hoher Weg. At Hoher Weg 1, you’ll find Brusttuch House (Scarf House). An un-official town landmark is the “Butter Hannah” of a young maid churning butter with one hand and with the other lifting her skirt above her buttocks. Today, it’s one of the most beautiful buildings in Goslar and is a hotel (Novum Hotel Brusttuch ⭐⭐⭐) and restaurant.
At the end of Hoher Weg is the Domvorhalle (Goslar Cathedral) even though it is more of the remnants of a collegiate church. The church building was demolished in 1819–1822 and the stones sold off to pay the town’s debts and build new buildings. Today, only the porch of the north portal is preserved and on the inside, you’ll find the Imperial Throne of Goslar dating back to the 11th century. Here, you’ll also find a large parking lot if you plan to drive into the town.
Just across the grassy weise is on of Goslar’s main attractions, the former imperial palace, the Kaiserpfalz, built by Heinrich III but rescued and recreated by Kaiser Wilhelm I in 1868, resulting in him becoming a sort of Holy Roman Emperor by association. Today, this 11th century Romanesque masterpiece displays beautiful artwork of historical triumphs of the emerging empire, the Second Reich.
Opening Times: Daily April to October 10:00 am – 5:00 pm; November – March 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
- Adults 7,50 €
- Children 4,50 €
Now, to the charming fairy tale book part of the town!
From the Kaiserpfalz, we walked along Heerwinkle street, known as the Frankenbergerviertel (the miner’s parish quarter) where we were first greeted to a few houses built with sombre slate shingles on their facades. Before entering the neighborhood, a small sign enlightens you to the different types of colored shingles, and from where in Europe they originated from.
From there we meandered down Obere Mühlenstraße until we intersected with Bergstraße. Of importance here, dominating the corner is the Siemenshaus (Schreiberstraße 12). This was the mid-19th century house of the Siemens family who founded one of today’s global corporations. The house is free to visit.
Opening Times: Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 am – noon.
On we trekked, seeking out the most adorable gingerbread houses where Bersgstraße turns into Peterstaße. This quarter of town even has their own equally humble church, the Frankenberger Kirche. How far apart these homes were in social status in comparison to the one’s near the Siemens house. Yet today, the humble homes of the miners are picture perfect. Seriously, Goslar is one of the cutest towns in Northern Germany and this is quite possibly one of the most beautiful streets in Germany!! I must have taken a hundred pictures just on this one winding street. See for yourself… and sorry, not sorry for the excess photos!
Along with Wernigerode and Quedlinburg, Goslar is one of the best German towns to visit, especially in Northern Germany. There are a plethora of adorable half-timbered towns scattered throughout Northern Germany, but I would say this was definitely one of the prettiest half-timbered towns! I would even go so far as to say it’s one of the most romantic towns in Germany with picturesque cobbled-stoned lanes and alleys winding their way though the town. The streets were completely empty except for a few locals here and there and we were able to stroll hand in hand as we went, well, when I wasn’t too busy snapping photos. It’s just so hard to resist capturing the charm of this medieval town in Germany!
Where to Eat in Goslar
Butterhanne (Marktkirchhof 3) – Not even going to lie right now, we ate here twice. Once for lunch, and again for dessert. The restaurant has your typical German cuisine, however, what drew us to eat here twice was that they offered a Schnitzel with Blueberry sauce! I know, one for the records! And it was pretty damn delicious!
While eating here, we saw several other guests enjoying a large or extra large portion of Windbeutel (“Wind bag”) or what we call in English, a Cream Puff with ice cream and chocolate! Quite popular in Germany, but never have we seen one so big and we got the “smallest” size! Perhaps you saw my Insta-story!
Fun Fact: If you can eat a WHOLE normal sized Windbeutel, supposedly, you can order a second one FOR FREE! I double-dog dare you!
Brauhaus Goslar just next door is a great place for some traditional German cuisine, delicious beer and an amazing atmosphere!
How to Get to Goslar
The train station is at the northern edge of the town, an easy 5 minute walk to the center. Trains from Hannover arrive hourly and every 30; 1 hour 30 minutes from Quedlinburg.
Driving into the city center is possible, with parking lots around the town. Parking is free on Sundays all day where parking is permitted along streets.
Where to Stay in Goslar
⭐⭐⭐Novum Hotel Brusttuch – Just across the street from the Marktkirche and the main square, this 16th century building is one of the loveliest in the town! The rooms are decorated in a classy decor and even has an indoor pool!
⭐⭐⭐ Hotel Kaiserpfalz – Just a two minute walk away from the Imperial Palace, this hotel is warmly decorated in country style decor, typical of the region.
Hostel Goslar – is an old villa filled with historic furnishings and classy decor, while the rooms are simple and modern. Here you can rent a bike for free. Dorms start at 16 € and doubles at 48 €.
With any booking of a hotel in the town, you’ll be entitled to a small coupon book (Gästekarte) good for surrounding activities, restaurants and shops! Be sure to pick it up from your hotel at check-in!
You can also purchase the HarzCard for 29€ which includes entry to over a hundred regional attractions for 48 hours. You can also up it to 59 € for 4 days.
A Ride on the Steam Train to the Brocken
Germany’s largest network of narrow-gauge railways are interconnected throughout the Harz region which have been running since 1898. Except for a short period, due to some destruction caused during WWII and the division of Germany, the lines were no longer in use until after the reunification of Germany in 1990. (For more information on the Steam Trains) Taking a ride on these historic trains to the Brocken will transport you through a “mini-Black Forest” to the northern Germans.
The Brocken is the highest point in the region, which lies at the heart of the Harz National Park, filled with bewitching pagan stories of local witches and warlocks gathering every year on Walpurgisnacht (April 30th) at Hexentanzplatz in Thale. Steeped in European folklore, the Harz Mountains are known for some of Germany’s greatest literature and art.
As legend would have it, witches and warlocks descend upon the Harz by flying broomsticks and goats up to the Brocken. They exchange tall tales of evil deeds and cavort with the devil himself who maligns God, his angles and his teachings. For centuries, the surrounding locals lived in fear of running into a witch and to protect themselves, they hung crosses and herbs on their houses. The most superstitious would crack whips to ward off any evil forces.
Today, the tradition continues and include witches dancing around a fire to drive out the winter and greet the coming of spring.
The historic train ride (from Wernigerode) takes around 2 hours to arrive at the Brocken. You will have about 2 hours up at the top before your return journey, which is enough time to explore.
You can book seat reservations by online prior to your visit. You will email with a woman who will reserve your tickets. She will ask if you want the normal train or the special train. Not knowing there wasn’t much of a difference between either train, we opted for the special train, forking out 44 € each for a round trip ticket. However, our ticket included free entry into the Brocken Haus Museum to learn about the history of the region and how the Brocken was used by the DDR to spy on Western Germany.
Once on the train, you can walk around from one wagon to the next, taking pictures of the stream train as it winds its way up the mountain. Try not to be outside when going through any tunnels as the smoke from the engine with engulf you and is terrible to breathe!
If you’re interested in visiting Germany and are looking for more information, I highly recommend using the DK Eyewitness Travel Guide! Without these guides, I would be lost! This is my travel Bible!
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Day Trips in Northern Germany:
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