A Complete Travel Guide to the Harz Mountains: 9 Best Things to Do in Germany’s Secret Adventure WonderlandEverything you need to know including the best attractions, when to visit, where to stay and how to get around
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!
Table of contents
- Why visit the Harz Mountains?
- Our time in the Harz
- Where to stay in the Harz Mountains
- What to do in the Harz Mountains
- Where to eat in the Harz Mountains
- How to get around the Harz Mountains
- How to get to the Harz Mountains
- When to visit the Harz Mountains
- What to bring to the Harz Mountains
- Minimise your impact
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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:
- Experience the historic city centre of Goslar
- Go inside the Rammelsberg Mine
- Walk across the Titan-RT Suspension Bridge
- Learn about the Upper Harz Water Management System
- Experience Quedlinburg’s medieval charm
- Go on short and long hikes in the Harz Mountains
- Hike around the Oderteich Lake in the national park
- Visit the rock formations of the Teufelsmauer (Devil’s Wall)
- 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!
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
How to get around the Harz Mountains
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
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.
Fly into either Berlin, Hamburg, Hannover, Leipzig or Frankfurt and catch a local train or hire a car to get to the Harz Mountains.
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.
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.
What to bring to the Harz Mountains
- Travel insurance. Never travel without it!
- A good camera – here’s a guide to the gear we use.
- Sunscreen. The sun can be strong even in winter.
- Hiking shoes.
- Swimwear and a towel if you plan to swim.
- Water and snacks.
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.