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A Complete Travel Guide to the Harz Mountains: 9 Best Things to Do in Germany’s Secret Adventure Wonderland

A Complete Travel Guide to the Harz Mountains: 9 Best Things to Do in Germany’s Secret Adventure Wonderland

Everything you need to know including the best attractions, when to visit, where to stay and how to get around
Alexander & VictoriaHi! We're Alex & Victoria - a digital nomad couple from Copenhagen escaping 9-5 to chase adventures in our beautiful world. Learn more about us here.
Disclaimer: Our stay in the Harz Mountains was made possible in collaboration with the Harzer Tourismusverband. Also, some of the links in this article are affiliate links (including links to Amazon) providing us with a small commission if you make a qualifying purchase – at no extra cost to you. We greatly appreciate your support! As always, we share our honest opinion, and everything is written by us.
Fairytale towns and mystical mountains

The Harz Mountains have captured the imaginations of poets, writers and artists alike for centuries, and we can easily understand why.

This tucked-away region of Northern Germany is home to more cobblestone streets and timber-framed houses than we had room for on our camera’s memory card, and even though there are more cultural and historic attractions here than can fit on most people’s itineraries, the real draw of the Harz is the mountains.

While they are quite a bit shorter than their far-away southern neighbours of the Alps, they are much more accessible – especially for people in Northern Europe looking for shorter travel times. Or for those who are rather looking for mellow (mostly) ice-free hikes in beautifully forested and hilly landscapes full of myths and tales.

If you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, you won’t be disappointed by the Harz Mountains, either. From gigantic swings to endless kilometres of hair-raising mountain bike routes; the region has got you covered.

As you can probably tell, we were completely charmed by the magical Harz Mountains. And we think you will be, too.

In this travel guide to the Harz Mountain, we will share our best tips on what to see and do in the area, where to stay, when to visit and much more!

Harz wooden boardwalk
The Harz Mountains are a special place.

Why visit the Harz Mountains?

As we alluded to in the introduction above, we think that the Harz Mountains are a very suitable holiday option for many types of travellers.

The mountains (and their accessible northern location) are the big draw here, offering everything from easy family- and dog-friendly hiking routes to 2,000+ kilometres of mountain biking trails for thrill-seekers. Less daring bikers will also find plenty of nicely marked trails.

On top of that, we shouldn’t forget that there are clean, swimmable lakes everywhere – perfect for cooling down in the summer months.

In winter, snow falls regularly in the Harz creating more than 500 kilometres of cross country trails including several floodlit tracks as well as 53 downhill slopes ranging from easy to hard in difficulty.

The towns of the Harz Mountains are truly unique with incredibly well-preserved city centres full of cute houses, romantic streets and pretty churches.

You can mix spending time in the charming towns with exploring the forested paths through the misty rolling hills and mountains or you can simply focus on one or the other.

Either way, the Harz Mountains offer an easy getaway that will surely have you longing for more.

Goslar, Harz
Step back in time in the medieval towns.
Harz Lake drone shot
The Harz is accessible, yet still remote and adventurous.

Our time in the Harz

We were invited by the Harz Tourism Association and spent 4 full days in the Harz Mountains in the middle of November.

While it was a bit chilly, we had a great time exploring both the towns and the surrounding nature – all without tourist crowds.

Goslar was the base of our adventures for most of our visit, but we also spent a night in lovely Quedlinburg to experience the eastern part of the Harz.

We could easily have used more time in the area! When we return one day, it would be awesome to see the castle in Wernigerode and more of the national park. Alex also dreams of mountain biking here.

Scroll further down to see the things we did during our time in the Harz!

Alex & Victoria at lake
While we really liked the towns of the region, we especially enjoyed the great outdoors of the Harz.
Autumn in the Harz
Autumn was a beautiful time to visit.

Map and geography

Depending on how you look at it, the Harz Mountains are either located in the middle of everything or the middle of nowhere (in the good sense!).

The Harz is situated directly in the middle of Germany with easy autobahn access from several big cities, but it’s far away enough to make its visitors feel completely at ease – and give that special far-away-from-urban-life atmosphere that city-dwellers often so desperately need.

Technically, the Harz Mountains are located in the three states of Lower Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia. The region stretches for approximately 100 kilometres from west to east and 32 kilometres from north to south.

Oberharz drone shot
The northwestern and higher third of the Harz Mountains is known as the Oberharz where the highest elevations are found while the southeastern part is known as the Unterharz.

Where to stay in the Harz Mountains

The Harz Mountains area is compact enough that any choice of location will still leave you able to visit the rest of the region in a breeze – especially if you travel by car.

While staying in the mountains would surely be lovely if you intend to mostly hike, we think a city location will fit most travellers best. This way, you won’t be constrained by food options and you’ll still be very close to nature.

Goslar is your best bet with Quedlinburg a close second. Wernigerode is also worth your consideration.

Search for the best value accommodation in the Harz Mountains here.



Booking.com

Value for money

Goslar: Romantik Hotel Alte Münze

4-starred Hotel Alte Münze has the perfect location in Goslar right next to the central Market Square.

The hotel almost feels like a small town; a mix of buildings old and new tucked away on a quiet side street. As we arrived here after the sun had set on our first day in the Harz, we felt transported back in time on the cobbled streets (almost like we were in an old film!)

As an added bonus, the restaurant at Hotel Alte Münze serves vegan meals. The service at the reception was also top-notch.

Check prices and availability at Romantik Hotel Alte Münze.

The junior suite complete with beams and wooden furniture
The junior suite complete with beams and wooden furniture. ©Hotel Alte Münze

Goslar: Hotel Der Achtermann

As you arrive in Goslar by train, you can’t miss the 4-starred Hotel Der Achtermann.

Being the largest hotel in town, it’s only fitting that they also have a huge spa area complete with an adventure swimming pool, a hot tub and several saunas – just what we needed after a long day out exploring the Harz!

Check prices and availability at Hotel Der Achtermann.

The tower of Der Achterman
The tower of Der Achtermann is pretty imposing.
The pool at Der Achtermann
The pool at Der Achtermann. There’s also a big wellness area. ©Hotel Der Achtermann

Quedlinburg: Romantik Hotel am Brühl

Quedlinburg is the most romantic town of the Harz with its perfectly preserved historic city centre.

For the most romantic stay, look no further than the 4-starred Hotel am Brühl.

We only stayed here for a single night but loved the atmosphere and design from the first moment we set foot in the hotel.

Check prices and availability at Romantik Hotel am Brühl.

Our beautiful room at Hotel am Brühl
Our beautiful room at Hotel am Brühl.

What to do in the Harz Mountains

There are so many incredible attractions and things to do in the Harz Mountains that this travel guide couldn’t possibly fit them all.

These were our favourites.

Here are the 9 best things to do in the Harz Mountains:

  1. Experience the historic city centre of Goslar
  2. Go inside the Rammelsberg Mine
  3. Walk across the Titan-RT Suspension Bridge
  4. Learn about the Upper Harz Water Management System
  5. Experience Quedlinburg’s medieval charm
  6. Go on short and long hikes in the Harz Mountains
  7. Hike around the Oderteich Lake in the national park
  8. Visit the rock formations of the Teufelsmauer (Devil’s Wall)
  9. Follow in Luther’s footsteps in Lutherstadt Eisleben

Experience the historic city centre of Goslar

Goslar is the main city of the Harz Mountains and historically the most important one.

The Rammelsberg Mine (described below) is located just a few kilometres south of town, having made Goslar famous and wealthy.

Every single street in the old city is unique with more than 1,500 timber-framed houses in total – each more crooked and charming than the next – lining the cobblestone streets.

Stunning churches abound in Goslar with more than a handful located very close to each other in the city centre.

Also, don’t miss the palace!

Goslar mountains
Goslar is surrounded by mountains.
The animated clock in the central market square of Goslar
You can’t miss the animated clock in the central market square.
Canals of Goslar
We found the canals of Goslar really charming.
Goslar museums
If you run into a rainy day and want to spend more time inside than outside, there are several museums to visit in town.
Palace of Goslar
Learn about the grand history of Goslar at the palace.
Views from the palace
The views from the palace grounds are also great.

Using Goslar as a base for the Harz Mountains

We used Goslar as a base for our adventures in the Harz Mountains.

Not only is it conveniently located with easy access to both the mountains, attractions and other towns of the Harz, it’s also an idyllic place in itself.

Goslar is just big enough to have what you need in terms of supermarkets, restaurants and the like while still retaining that smalltown charm that makes you lower your shoulders a bit and commit to a slower pace of life.

Goslar alleys
Getting lost in these alleys is a perfect way to spend an afternoon.
Cute houses Goslar
How couldn’t you fall for these cute houses?

Where we stayed in Goslar

We stayed at two different hotels in Goslar: Romantik Hotel Alte Münze and Hotel Der Achtermann.

Hotel Der Achtermann is conveniently located close to the train station of Goslar in the northern part of the old town.

The hotel is huge with more than 100 rooms. We loved the spa area with a big adventure pool and several different saunas.

Hotel Alte Münze is quieter and has more of a boutique feel to it. The location also couldn’t be better.

The exterior of Hotel Alte Münze in Goslar
The historic exterior of Hotel Alte Münze in Goslar.

Go inside the Rammelsberg Mine

Have you ever been inside a mine? Prior to visiting Rammelsberg, we hadn’t, and we must say we found the experience to be fascinating!

Imagining the lives of the miners spending all day inside the damp, dark environments with no electricity… Even when they did wear headlamps during the last years, it was still a gruelling job.

On our visit, we got to go into the mine itself and follow in the footsteps of the miners in the narrow galleries.

Before closing in 1988, the Rammelsberg Mine had more than 1,100 years of consecutive mining history – and archaeological finds date mining activity here a mind-blowingly 3,000 years back in time!

Tip: It’s cool inside the mine (even in summer) so remember to bring a jacket or an extra layer.

The mines of Rammelsberg
The mines of Rammelsberg were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992.
Rammelsberg mine inside
The ore found here contained mostly zinc, lead and copper along with some silver and small amounts of gold. These metals are what much of Goslar’s wealth was founded on.
Rammelsberg Mine, Goslar
For centuries, almost half of Germany’s entire silver production had origins in the Harz Mountains.
Rammelsberg Museum
The huge museum at Rammelsberg provides interesting insight into the deep history of Rammelsberg.
Herzberger Teich drone
Don’t miss the Herzberger Teich right next to Rammelsberg.
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Walk across the Titan-RT Suspension Bridge

Travelling around the Harz Mountains, you will quickly realise how big of a role water has played here historically.

To this day, it still does – exemplified by the Rappbode Dam (Rappbode-Talsperre) – the largest dam in the Harz region and the highest dam in Germany.

The 458-metre long suspension bridge Titan RT runs parallel to the dam – and it’s open for pedestrians.

Walking 100 metres above the water below, you don’t want to walk here if you suffer from serious vertigo… The views are great, though!

If you feel extra brave, check out the GigaSwing – dubbed the most spectacular pendulum jump in Europe.

The bridge is open every day from 09:00 to 18:00 and the price to cross it is 6 euro for adults (~ 6.8 USD) and 4 euro for children aged 4-14 (~ 4.5 USD).

Walking across the Titan-RT Suspension Bridge
Walking across the Titan-RT Suspension Bridge is one of the coolest things to do in the Harz Mountains.
Views from Titan RT
The views are fantastic.
Other side of Titan RT
The other side of the dam is equally impressive.

Learn about the Upper Harz Water Management System

To run a mine, you need energy. A lot of energy.

If you’re from a century without electrical switches and gas stations, using running water as your source of energy is almost just as good as the modern alternatives. That’s what the Upper Harz Water Management System is all about.

The people of the Harz Mountains were ingenious in their ways of using water to drive the water wheels of the mines, and the systems are still clearly on display today.

We walked along a few of the hundreds of kilometres of ditches that were dug to divert water. As the dirt had to be put somewhere, there are walking trails along most – if not all – of them.

It’s also impossible to miss the 100+ water reservoirs (although many of them actually are hidden a bit off the beaten track). They were historically used as “batteries” and are now mostly used for swimming in summer.

To learn more about the water management of the Harz Mountains and go on a guided tour in the surrounding landscape, pay a visit to the Upper Harz Mining Museum (Oberharzer Bergwerksmuseum) – one of the oldest technological museums in Germany.

Guided tour
You’ll learn absolutely everything about the Upper Harz Water Management System on a guided tour from the museum.
Landscape Oberharzer
Simply walking around in the landscape is a great experience by itself.
Yellow tree
Miner's playground
This “miner’s” playground “Robinson Spielplatz Harz” near Clausthal-Zellerfeld looked like a great place to take kids.
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Experience Quedlinburg’s medieval charm

Could a town be much more romantic than the UNESCO-listed city of Quedlinburg?

Often heralded as one of Germany’s prettiest towns, Quedlinburg is the epitome of a fairytale countryside town.

With more than 2,000 timber-framed houses, some dating back hundreds and hundreds of years, there’s an almost endless array of cute atmospheric cobblestone streets, perfect for slow strolls (and a soon-to-be-filled photo library).

History has been kind to Quedlinburg in that wars have been fought elsewhere and almost no houses have burned, making for a very authentic experience.

A must-do in Quedlinburg is visiting the Schlossberg (Castle Mountain). Unfortunately, it was in the middle of some renovations while we stayed in town, but walking up the hill and catching the magnificent views of the city and surrounding landscapes was nevertheless totally worth it.

Quedlinburg street
Quedlinburg is pretty no matter where you look.
The smallest house of Quedlinburg
This is the smallest house of Quedlinburg. So cute!
The smallest house up close
The smallest house up close. We saw it from up the hill and had to pay it a visit at its own level.
Quedlinburg romantic city
Quedlinburg is surely one of Germany’s most romantic cities.
Schlossberg
Catch the views from the Schlossberg.
Sun at Schlossberg
We got super lucky with some sun while we were up there.
The Schlossberg Garden.
Every house in Quedlinburg is unique
Every house in Quedlinburg is unique.
Cute house in Quedlinburg
This one is a tourist favourite.
Market Quedlinburg
Markets are often held in town.
Quedlinburg houses

Where to stay in Quedlinburg?

We stayed at the lovely Romantik Hotel am Brühl, perfectly located super close to the old town.

The hotel is designed in a charming style and we loved our stay. This is surely one of (if not the) best hotels in Quedlinburg.

Check prices and availability at Romantik Hotel am Brühl.

Hotel am Brühl
The backyard of Hotel am Brühl is really cosy – perfect for the warmer months.

Go on short and long hikes in the Harz Mountains

The Harz Mountains are a prime hiking spot with more than 9,000 kilometres of marked trails crisscrossing hills, towns, rivers, forests, valleys and meadows.

Many hikes are dog-friendly (and some are even stroller-friendly!), but you’ll also easily find hikes in the Harz with more demanding terrain and elevation gains.

If you’re looking for longer trails, you’re equally spoilt for choice.

Choose between the Harzer Hexenstieg (100 km), the Harzer Baudensteig (100 km), the Harzer Grenzweg (100 km), the Karstwanderweg Suedharz (200 km), the Selketal-Stieg (72 km), the Harz Monastery Trail (64 km), the Harzer Foersterstieg (60 km) and the Teufelsmauer Stieg (35 km)… To name just a few.

The Harzer Hexenstieg is a popular trail running all the way through the Harz Mountains from Osterode in the west to Thale in the east for about 100 kilometres – notably taking you over Brocken, the highest peak of the Harz.

You can also collect stamps at the 222 checkpoints of the Harzer Wandernadel, located all over the Harz Mountains, to record your visit. Collect all 222 and get the badge of Harz Hiking Emperor or Empress.

Harzer Wandernadel
There’s no time limit on collecting the hiker stamps of the Harzer Wandernadel.
Trail Harz
There are trails for all levels here.
The Harzer Hexenstieg.
The Harzer Hexenstieg (100 km) is one of the most popular longer hikes.
Hiker signs in the Harz
Signs are plentiful and very informative in the Harz.

Hike around the Oderteich Lake in the national park

Once, the Oderteich was the largest dam in Germany. Now it’s a listed UNESCO-World Heritage site in the Harz National Park where the previously planted spruce forest is turning into wild nature complete with dead wood and lots of biodiversity.

The Oderteich is perfect if you’re in search of a non-strenuous circular hike with great photo opportunities on the way.

The route around the lake is approximately 4.5 kilometres long and takes about an hour to walk.

Located inside the Harz National Park, nature here is protected and wild.

Oderteich wild landscape
A wonderfully wild landscape.
Trail at Oderteich
The trail is (mostly) very easy, but it’s unfortunately not wheelchair friendly.
Boardwalk Oderteich
The boardwalk fits nicely into the scenery at the Oderteich Lake.
Lake reflections
The lake reflections were super photogenic when we visited.
Victoria found an "Insta" stone
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Visit the rock formations of the Teufelsmauer (Devil’s Wall)

The Teufelsmauer – the Devil’s Wall – is the name of the rock formations (and the trail connecting them) laid out over about 35 kilometres between Blankenburg and Ballenstedt in the eastern part of the Harz.

The most interesting stone formations are the “Großvater “, “Hamburger Wappen”, “Papenstein”, “Königsstein”, “Mittelstein”, “Dicker Stein” and “Gegensteine”.

We parked our car near Thale and walked to the Mittelstein and Königsstein using the parking called “Parkplatz Teufelsmauer” on Google Maps located on Quedlinburger Str. 13 in Thale.

The hike was easy and provided great views of the rocks as well as the surrounding landscape.

On another visit, it would be lovely to walk the full length of the Teufelsmauer!

Teufelsmauer hike
Hiking the Teufelsmauer.
The Königsstein
The Königsstein.
Teufelsmauer
Continue along the path for even more crazy rock formations.

Follow in Luther’s footsteps in Lutherstadt Eisleben

If you’re a history buff, don’t miss Lutherstadt Eisleben – the home of Martin Luther.

Martin Luther was the seminal figure of the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, and in Lutherstadt Eisleben you can visit his birthplace as well as his death place.

Three churches you can’t miss on your visit:

  • St. Andreaskirche: The largest church in the city. St. Andreas played an important role in the Reformation and Luther delivered his last sermons here.
  • St.-Petri-Pauli-Kirche: This is where Martin Luther was baptized. Contact the church in advance if you want to get baptized here yourself in the new circular pool.
  • St. Annen: Visit the Augustinian Hermits Monastery and check out the incredible coffered ceiling from 1608 inside the church. Also, the views from up here across the Lutherstadt Eisleben are beautiful.

Parking tip: Parkplatz Siebenhitze is free all day long and very close to the city centre.

Lutherstadt Eisleben Luther statue
Martin Luther fundamentally reshaped German history and culture by translating the bible into German. Here he stands in the big market square of Lutherstadt Eisleben.
Views from St. Annen in Lutherstadt Eisleben
Views from St. Annen in Lutherstadt Eisleben.
Victoria at viewpoint
The wonderful exterior of St. Annen
The wonderful exterior of St. Annen.
St.-Petri-Pauli-Kirche
Don’t fall in the pool at the St.-Petri-Pauli-Kirche!
Lutherstadt Eisleben
Lutherstadt Eisleben.

Where to eat in the Harz Mountains

We were happy to see that there’s not only one but two completely vegetarian places to eat in Goslar.

Unfortunately, Soup & Soul Kitchen were closed for renovations during our stay, but we did visit the all-vegetarian café Schneeweiss & Rosenrot twice.

Using HappyCow, we had luck finding tasty vegan meals all over the Harz Mountains.

We didn’t visit it ourselves, but Naturkost-Hotel Harz is an all-vegan bed and breakfast located in the mountains near Bad Grund southwest of Goslar that also serves food for non-guests.

Bagel sandwich in Goslar
A special winter bagel sandwich at Schneeweiss & Rosenrot in Goslar.
Breakfast at Schneeweiss & Rosenrot
Schneeweiss und Rosenrot is also great for a plant-filled breakfast.
Alte Münze is not only a nice hotel, their restaurant is also a good place to dine for conscious eaters.
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How to get around the Harz Mountains

By car

We rented a car from Sixt in Goslar and drove around the Harz Mountains for 4 days.

The road network in the Harz is well-developed and it’s fast to go pretty much anywhere in the region. You’d be hard-pressed to find trips inside the Harz Mountains that take more than an hour of driving.

Parking is generally free in many places. In the towns and near attractions, you may have to pay a small fee if you park centrally.

By public transport

We didn’t use any public transport ourselves in the Harz Mountains, but it should definitely be possible to go almost wherever you like with a combination of local trains and busses.

Many trains and busses have timetables and routes that are specifically designed for hikers.

Don’t miss the steam trains that are still very much in use!

How to get to the Harz Mountains

By land

The Harz Mountains are connected to the German autobahn meaning you can go here by car from all of Europe in a whizz.

Be aware that people drive very fast on the sections of the autobahn that don’t have speed limits. Overtake with caution.

By air

Fly into either Berlin, Hamburg, Hannover, Leipzig or Frankfurt and catch a local train or hire a car to get to the Harz Mountains.

By train

To get to Goslar, we took the train from Copenhagen, Denmark which took about 7-8 hours total each way with transfers in Hamburg and Hannover.

Goslar train
There are good train connections to many cities in the Harz Mountains from Goslar.

When to visit the Harz Mountains

There’s no bad time to visit the Harz Mountains, but as with most other holiday destinations, avoiding the main holiday seasons is a good idea if you want to avoid crowds and enjoy cheaper accommodation.

Spring is a beautiful time to visit with warming weather, rushing water and blooming flowers.

Summer is naturally the warmest season. The summer holidays in Germany are spread out between the middle of June and the middle of September.

Autumn is a wonderful time to visit. We visited the Harz Mountains in the middle of November where we were lucky to still see some colourful leaves on the trees. For the best autumn foliage, it might make sense to visit a little bit earlier.

Winter is a popular time to visit for winter sports. Especially so during Christmas and New Year’s.

Autumn colours in the Harz
The autumn colours are so pretty in the mountains.
Autumn

What to bring to the Harz Mountains

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Minimise your impact

To minimise your impact during your visit in the Harz Mountains, follow these guidelines:

  • Bring your own drinking water in a refillable bottle.
  • Avoid single-use plastics, including straws.
  • Dispose of waste properly.
  • Check your sunscreen if you intend to swim. Many brands contain oxybenzone and other chemicals that are harmful to the environment.
  • Take only photos, leave only footprints. Let everything stay in its natural place.
  • Be considerate of other visitors.
  • Respect wildlife.
Thanks for reading

Thanks for getting all the way to the end! We hope this travel guide to the Harz Mountains has been useful.

What do you think about the northernmost mountains in Germany and all of the lovely historic towns?

If you’ve been to the Harz, it would be awesome to hear what you think we missed. Please share your best tips and tricks in the comments – thank you!

If you haven’t been yet, please don’t hesitate to ask us anything. We’re only happy to help.

A Complete Travel Guide to the Harz Mountains in Germany: 9 Best Things to Do and See
A Complete Travel Guide to the Harz Mountains in Germany: 9 Best Things to Do and See
A Complete Travel Guide to the Harz Mountains in Germany: 9 Best Things to Do and See

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