The Harz Mountains are the tallest in central and northern Germany. Covered with blue lakes, forested slopes and plummeting streams, this region of the country offers attractive views and fantastic natural beauty. Hiking and walking are excellent in the summer, while cross-country skiing will keep you busy in the winter. There are many cities to visit and things to do in the Harz Mountains region.
Things to See in the Harz Mountains
Travelers call this region the land of German fairy tales. You’ll find steep-roofed homes with cobblestone streets, rushing streams, dark forest and towering mountains. And there’s a reason why this region is called the land of fairy tales. The Harz Mountains were an important source of German folklore, and many of these stories are known outside the country as well, including: Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel, The World and the Seven Kids, Rapunzel, The Frog Prince, Rumpelstiltskin and Sleeping Beauty.
But it’s not just fairy tales that attract tourists to the mountains. You’ll find wonderful attractions in and around the Harz Mountains that will keep you busy for days.
Brocken in is the tallest mountain in the Harz range, and it also happens to be the setting of Goethe’s most famous scenes in Faust. According to legends, witches gather at the top of the mountain on April 30. The mountain has long been associated with witchcraft. And if you’re not up for a long hike, you can take an old steam train to the top of Brocken. Along the way, you’ll pass through many towns on the Harz. The closest city to Brocken is Wernigerode.
Harz Mountains Waterfall
The National-Park Harz is accessible via Wernigerode. It’s a great place to walk or ride, and from here, you can hike to the top of Brocken. This beautiful hike will take you through picturesque countryside.
Towns in and around the Harz Mountains
While you’ll find many quaint villages nestled in the mountains, there are three medieval towns, similar to Rothenburg ob der Tauber, that attract the most visitors: Quedlinburg, Wernigerode and Goslar. Here, you’ll find enchanting castles, fun museums and beautiful historic buildings. Aside from these three cities, there are other villages and towns scattered along the mountains as well.
Goslar is a charming town with half-timbered houses and running streams. The town is revered for its wood carvings on the exterior of homes. Just outside of the town, you’ll find the Rammelsberg silver mine, which operated for more than 1,000 years.
A UNESCO site, Quedlinburg is a quaint town that’s been ruled by women for the majority of its history. It was Germany’s first capital and a prominent city in medieval times.
Weringerode sits at the base of Brocken. One of the town’s most prominent sites is its castle, which sits on top of a hill overlooking the medieval village below. The castle was built during the 12th century and was once the seat of the Counts of Stolberg. Inside, you’ll find rooms of medieval tapestries and furniture as well as ornate wood carvings.
The town’s gothic-style town hall, known as Rathaus, was built during the 16th century. If you visit, be sure to take a stroll down the Breite Strasse, a pedestrian street, to see the impressive line of carved wooden homes. Along the way, you’ll pass by numerous sidewalk cafes, shops and restaurants.
Thale is a quaint town that sits on the entrance of a river gorge. Here, you can take a gondola (similar to a cable car) to the top of the mountain, which is famous for its pagan rituals and a deep rooted history of witchcraft.
Rubeland is just west of Thale and home to many ancient, large caves. While exploring the caves, you’ll see striking stalactites. At one time, these caves were inhabited by bears, and humans would eventually make these caves their home during the Stone Age.
Specialties of the Harz Mountains
When people think of the Harz Mountains, they think of beer and cheese, but these are just two of the region’s specialties.
Harzer Käse is one specialty from the region, which is a type of curd cheese made from soured milk. This low-fat cheese is typically flavored with caraway. It’s an aromatic cheese with a very strong flavor. Harzer Käse is typically eaten with onions on wholegrain bread with oil, vinegar and pepper.
Venison is also a local specialty in the Harz Mountains region. Some restaurants also serve wild boar and bison.
The Harz Mountains have inspired some of the most famous poets and writers, such as Goethe and Heinrich Heine. As the inspiration for so many fairy tales and a rich history of witchcraft, the Harz are a place of legend and folklore. And even if you don’t believe in fairy tales, the quaint villages and scenic views are sure to draw you in and leave a lasting impression.