Welcome to the highest low mountain range in northern Germany and one of the most beautiful mountains in the entire country: the Harz Mountains. Spread over an area of more than 2,000 km², you can find breathtaking nature, picturesque small towns with medieval atmosphere, numerous UNESCO cultural sites, national parks, and plenty of adventure opportunities for young and old.
A blog post about the Harz has been redundant for a long time. And not just because I grew up here, but rather because there is hardly any other region in Germany with so many unique places to discover. The Harz is so much more than just a destination for hiking groups and outdoor sports enthusiasts. Families, couples, photography fans, and young people are also guaranteed to get their money’s worth here.
Since the Harz is full of grandiose sights, we focus in this article mainly on the most beautiful towns and cities in the Harz. I hope that in the future a report about the most beautiful hiking trails will follow.
What makes the Harz Mountains so special?
The Harz Mountains are simply a great destination at any time of the year: whether it’s for winter sports, hiking, outdoor adventures, or sightseeing in some of the most beautiful places in Germany. The Harz region convinces with spectacular nature, species-rich flora and fauna, UNESCO-designated attractions, picturesque villages, geological and cultural diversity, and plenty of adventure opportunities for young and old.
Harz Mountains Facts
- 2.226 km² area
- covers three German federal states
- The name is derived from the German medieval word “Hart”, which means mountain forest
- the highest elevation is the Brocken with 1.141 meters
- Numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites
- Around 2,200 km of mountain bike trails
Where are the Harz Mountains on a map?
The Harz Mountains are located at the intersection of the three federal states of Lower Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, and Thuringia. Here, the largest part lies in Saxony-Anhalt and only a tiny part in Thuringia. Therefore, at the time of the division of Germany, the mountains were also divided by the former German-German border. The Brocken, the highest elevation of the mountains, thus belonged to the territory of the GDR.
The Harz Mountains are about 110 km long and 30 to 40 km wide and thus extend over a distance of 2,226 km². The towns of Seesen in the west and Eisleben in the east are considered the borders of the Harz Mountains.
The best towns in the Harz Mountains, Germany
Now that you know why the Harz Mountains are so special, you will surely want to know which are the most beautiful places to visit in the Harz Mountains. We will focus mainly on towns worth seeing in the Harz. However, we will deal with the best hiking trails in the great nature of the Harz in another article.
The Imperial City of Goslar
How could I write an article about the Harz Mountains without mentioning my wonderful hometown Goslar? This medieval town resembles one of those cities you heard about when your parents used to read you from an old fairytale book as a child.
With its narrow medieval streets, picturesque half-timbered houses, impressive market square, and imposing imperial palace that once served as the summer residence for numerous German emperors, Goslar is truly a showstopper.
So it’s hardly surprising that Goslar’s old town, along with the Rammelsberg mine on the outskirts of the city, has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. To this day, Goslar owes a few unique tourist attractions to the mine and its medieval wealth, which made it possible to build and maintain this beautiful town.
A visit is especially worth it in December when the Goslar Christmas Markets enchants its visitors with its festive vibe.
The colorful town of Wernigerode
Wernigerode, often referred to as the colorful city on the Harz Mountains, is one of the most underrated cities in Germany. Medieval half-timbered houses make the city center a real experience. Especially the impressive town hall, located on the town’s market square, stands out. But Wernigerode’s smallest house, which houses a museum inside, and the Leaning House are also worth visiting.
The city’s highlight is the imposing castle, which sits on an elevation above the city. Built between the 12th and 13th centuries, the castle now serves as a museum and a vantage point over the city and the surrounding nature.
If you want to experience the entire Harz Mountains without leaving Wernigerode, you can marvel at replicas of the Harz sights in the Miniatures Park or visit the Harz Museum to learn more about the largest mountain range in northern Germany.
World Heritage Town Quedlinburg
Quedlinburg is arguably the most famous city in the Harz Mountains. However, anyone who has ever walked through Germany’s impressive largest half-timbered town will hardly be surprised to learn that this historic old town also holds a title as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. But with its incredible mix of different architectural eras, Quedlinburg’s inner city is also truly something special.
The 2,000 or so half-timbered houses dating back several centuries, the cobblestone winding streets, and the Renaissance town hall probably account for most of the charm of this popular city. A walk through Quedlinburg is almost like a journey back in time. Starting with the medieval buildings, which are still as well preserved as in hardly any other city in Germany, to Romanesque architecture on the Romanesque Road, to Gothic and neo-Gothic churches and the Hällenhof (Court of Hell), one of the oldest stone buildings in the region.
In the castle museum, you can also get a great overview of the city’s history through the different eras. It is worth a visit.
Blossom Town Blankenburg
Blankenburg (Harz) is probably one of the lesser-known cities in the Harz region. Despite its not too great fame or just because of it, it is worth a visit. If you’ve ever heard of Blankenburg, it’s probably in connection with Blankenburg’s impressive castle. In fact, this Harz town offers two fantastic castles.
The small castle gained local fame, especially for its unique Baroque castle garden. The more than 100-hectare garden ensemble invites you to daydream during an extended walk.
Stroll through the impressive terrace garden or relax at the adjoining mountain garden. Fans of photography and landscape architecture should not miss these beautiful parks.
If you couldn’t get enough of imposing castles during your visit, the next castle, Regenstein Castle and Fortress, is already waiting for you just outside Blankenburg.
But also the old town of Blankenburg (Harz) with its fantastic half-timbered houses is definitely worth a visit.
Bad Lauterberg im Harz
Pure relaxation awaits you in Bad Lauterberg. As a recognized Kneipp spa and Schroth spa town, Bad Lauterberg offers everything you need for a real relaxation vacation. The small town is even considered the oldest water spa in northern Germany.
Situated in the southern part of the Upper Harz Mountains, plenty of relaxation opportunities await you alongside fantastic adjacent nature in the Harz National Park. In addition to two spa parks, which offer a great opportunity for a long walk, there are also a few specialized clinics. You can find even more relaxation in the Vitamar bathing and sauna fun and the Kirchberg thermal bath.
If the term Walpurgis means something to you, you have certainly heard of Thale. Because according to ancient Germanic tradition, the witches of the region fly to Thale every year on Walpurgis Night, April 30, to celebrate on the Hexentanzplatz (Witches Dance Square). No wonder that the Walpurgis Night in Thale is a real highlight for all visitors. Besides a big party, especially the Walpurgis Market is a popular destination during the Walpurgis days.
But also outside of Walpurgis, Thale is a great destination in the Harz Mountains. Besides the Hexentanzplatz, you should also stop by Thale’s other granite massif, the Rosstrappe. Furthermore, Thale is directly connected to the beautiful Bode Valley, where breathtaking nature awaits you.
In the town itself, the adventure museum Harzeum has opened its doors for you. Here you can learn more about the history of the place, but also about the animal world. If you are interested in the wildlife of the Bode Valley, you should definitely visit the Hexentanzplatz Zoo.
Mountain and University Town Clausthal-Zellerfeld
The city of Clausthal-Zellerfeld, located in the Upper Harz Mountains, has made a name for itself primarily as the seat of the Technical University and thus tries to combine offers for its young and older visitors. The town is located in the middle of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Oberharzer Wasserwirtschaft and thus offers plenty of idyllic hiking and walking trails along numerous picturesque lakes.
If you’re interested in the mining history that was once so crucial to the region’s wealth and the construction of all those unique architectural structures in the Harz, don’t miss a visit to the Mining Museum.
The mining farmers’ market, which takes place every Thursday in the district of Zellerfeld, attracts numerous visitors every week. Because then not only fresh regional food but also rows of handicrafts are for sale here.
Another popular attraction of the town is the market church of the Holy Spirit. What makes it special is its striking blue color and the fact that it’s considered one of the largest wooden churches in the world.
Only a few minutes’ drive from Clausthal-Zellerfeld are the two small villages of Hahnenklee and Bockswiese. Although they are only a short distance from Clausthal-Zellerfeld, the two officially count as a district of Goslar.
A visit to Hahnenklee is a real must for nature lovers, as there are plenty of unique hiking trails to discover. Especially the Liebesbank trail (Love bench trail), which is the first premium hiking trail in the Harz Mountains, is a popular trail for couples, families, groups, and solo hikers at the same time. Even though it is a relatively short hiking trail with 7 km, it offers a real experience with its 25 love benches along the way, which each represent the sequence of a love relationship.
Another highlight in Hahnenklee is its stave church. Built according to the Nordic model, it is the only stave church in Germany and therefore something very special.
Therapeutic climatic spa Bad Sachsa
If you are looking for fresh, healthy air, you should probably choose Bad Sachsa as your destination in the Harz Mountains. Starting with a walk through the dreamy old town of Bad Sachsa, where you can admire the old half-timbered buildings of the city.
nature and hiking trails surrounding the small town in the Harz Mountains also add to Bad Sachsa’s charm. The spa park also provides beautiful walking options without leaving the city. To learn more about the surrounding nature, a visit to the NatUrzeit Museum is mandatory. But also the Grenzlandmuseum is an exciting place, which deals with the history and life at the Inner German border – a really worth seeing museum, not only on rainy days.
Finally, you should definitely visit the Salztal-Paradies adventure pool, which provides fun and relaxation at the same time with its bathing and sauna area.
The small town in the district of Goslar is the perfect destination for those in search of nature and relaxation. Hiking enthusiasts are particularly fond of Bad Harzburg. On the treetop path, you can experience the region’s biodiverse nature at heights of up to 26 meters, allowing you to discover the Harz Mountains from a whole new perspective. Other great ways to experience the region from lofty heights include the BaumSchwebeBahn, the Burgberg cable car, and the Skyrope high ropes course.
If you prefer to stay on the ground, you can learn more about the creatures on the ground and the roots of the plants native to the area at numerous adventure stations on the tree root trail. However, many other excellent hiking routes are waiting for you in the region. The so-called Luchstour and the Kästeklippentour were even awarded the German Hiking Seal.
If you are more in the mood for relaxation, the Sole-Therme and the Silberbornbad are probably your best bet.
Luther town Eisleben
As can already be seen from the title Lutherstadt, the traces of the reformer Martin Luther in his birthplace can hardly be denied to this day. Together with the Lutter Memorials of Lutherstadt Wittenberg, the city’s memorials have been awarded a UNESCO World Heritage Site title. In addition to the house where he was born and died, the UNESCO sites include the churches of Sankt Petri-Pauli, Sankt Andreas, and Sankt Annen and the monument on the market square.
However, the Helfta Monastery and Eisleben’s theater, together with the charming old town, are also considered the town’s main attractions.
Esperanto town Herzberg am Harz
Herzberg am Harz is another rather unknown city in the Harz Mountains, which is nevertheless a great tourist destination. The title of Esperanto City was given to Herzberg because of its outstanding efforts for the Esperanto language. Thus, the planned language is taught in all city schools and the city’s intercultural center. In addition, many congresses, meetings, and events on the subject are held in the city.
Probably the most popular sight in Herzberg is the almost 1000-year-old Guelph Castle. Herzberg Castle, located on a hill above the city center, is considered the largest castle complex in Lower Saxony. Due to its half-timbered architecture, the Guelph Castle is considered one of the most beautiful and unique castles in the region. Inside it, you can learn more about the history of the city, in addition to a tin museum.
In addition to long walks and hikes in the enchanting surrounding nature, a stroll around the lake Juessee, located in the middle of the city of Herzberg, is also worthwhile.
Located at about 800 meters above sea level, this district of Altenau, another district of Goslar, is considered the highest settlement in Lower Saxony. With its unique nature and view of the Brocken, Torfhaus is the perfect travel and excursion destination for nature and outdoor enthusiasts. Because there are numerous hiking trails of various difficulty levels and lengths. Following the Goethe hiking trail, you can even hike up to the Brocken from here.
If you want to take it a little easier, you can also take an extended walk across the Torfhaus moor via the wooden footbridge. In the national park visitor center, you can also warm up and find a lot of interesting information about the surrounding nature and its inhabitants.
Torfhaus is also extremely popular with active visitors. While you can experience the surroundings from your mountain bike in the summer, there is a fabulous ski resort here during the cold winter months.
Historic Europe town Stolberg (Harz)
A real insider tip, even among those who know the Harz mountains, is the small town of Stolberg. But if you get lost on a trip to the small town in the southern Harz, you will be enchanted by its picturesque old town. With its location nestled between valleys, Stolberg seems like a town out of a storybook. You can admire a whole of 380 half-timbered houses during a relaxed walk through the town.
But also the Stolberger Castle should not be missed as a landmark of the city. It is perched a bit above the old town on a hill, so you can hardly miss it. While the castle once served as home to important counts, today there is a museum inside, where you can learn more about the interesting history of the small town.
Air spa and western town Hasselfelde
In Hasselfelde, two worlds meet, which could hardly be more different. On the one hand, here is an idyllic little town with a quiet atmosphere, pure air, and surrounded by fantastic natural landscapes.
Hasselfelde’s hiking trails provide access to some of Harz’s most important hiking trails, such as the Harzer-Hexen-Stieg and the Via Romae pilgrimage trail. Popular recreational activities also include the Waldseebad lake and the Harzköhlerei Stemberghaus charcoal kiln, where charcoal is still traditionally made today.
On the other side, Hasselfelde is also home to the western town of Pullman City. This exciting theme park will take you back in time to the Wild West. Because here Indians and cowboys make their mischief. The park is popular with families, groups, and bachelor parties at the same time.
Which is your favorite place in the Harz? Or do you have an insider tip for us that is not on the list? Let us know in the comments below!