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In the heart of Germany, buried deep in the woods, lies the beautiful and fairytale-like Harz National Park. If you’re a fan of hiking, cycling, outdoor adventures, fairytales, cobblestone streets, and old mountain villages, this is where you’ll want to be.
Our rule of thumb for most weekend getaways from Düsseldorf is that the destination is not further than 2 hours, whether that be via plane, train or car. Harz National Park is an exception simply because it truly is one of the coolest destinations in Germany, and it is only about a 4-hour drive from Düsseldorf.
Why is the Harz so spectacular?
Well, the Harz stretches about 100 kilometers long and 30 kilometers wide, so far that it’s actually a part of three different German states, Thuringia, Saxony-Anhalt, and Lower Saxony. It is home to 3 of the world’s UNESCO heritage sites (Rammelsberg Mine/Goslar Old Town, Quedlinburg Old Town, and Lutherstadt Eisleben), one of the longest suspension bridges in the world, and Europe’s longest railway network that offers daily steam engine train rides. Need I say more?
To top it all off, the Harz is simply one of the most breathtaking places in the country.
How to get from Düsseldorf to the Harz?
While the Harz region is certainly accessible by train (taking about 5 hours and requiring at least 2 changes), I would suggest driving there (if you don’t have a car, rent one – it’s more affordable than you might think). In order to see all there is to see and do in the region, you’ll definitely need a car. Otherwise, your best option would be to take the train into Wernigerode or Blankenburg and use public transit to get from town to town.
The most majestic things to do in the Harz
In case you need a little more convincing, here are just 5 of the experiences that I enjoyed while visiting the Harz this Autumn. Additionally, in the wintertime, the Harz is well known for alpine skiing and cross country skiing and offers up a number of beautiful spas, wellness centers, and natural springs. In the summer, the Harz is a popular place for cycling, hiking, fishing, boating, and diving.
Take the old steam train to the top of the Brocken Summit
Jumping on the old steam trains of the Harz region is like jumping into the pages of a fairytale book. There are 3 different train lines to choose from, all of which are quite pricey, but 100% worth the money spent. I would suggest taking the steam engine train (the Brockenbahn) from Wernigerode up to the Brocken Summit, the highest point in the Harz standing at 1,142 meters. The views from the Brocken Summit looking down into the deep valleys of Harz National Park are incredible.
Tip: If you’re going to do this ride, I would suggest going in the winter when it’s snowing, in the fall when the leaves have changed color or in the summer when the trees are lush and green!
You can get more information about the Brockenbahn, the timetable, and the ticket prices on the Harzer Schmalspur Bahnen website.
Hike down the Brocken Summit to Schierke
In order to save money (as I mentioned, the Brockenbahn is quite expensive), we decided to hike back down to our accommodations located in Schierke. The hike down from the Brocken Summit to Schierke takes about 2 hours and is about 5.5 kilometers. The hike offered tons of different landscapes, all with incredible views! If you don’t have a pair of hikers, you’re going to want to buy a pair before embarking on this adventure!
For more information on hiking the trails from/to Brocken, you can take a look at the Harz Tourism website.
Cross the Titan-RT Suspension Bridge
The Titan-RT is said to be the world’s largest pedestrian suspension bridge as it stretches 458,5 meters long across the stunning Rappbode Dam in the Harz. For the adrenaline junkies, there is also a zip line running next to the bridge called the “GigaSwing” which sends you soaring 100 meters across the Rappbode Dam.
For more information on parking and location, you can visit the Titan-RT website.
Wander the cobblestone streets of Quedlinburg
Quedlinburg is a picture-perfect town if you’ve ever dreamt of wandering through a real-life fairytale. The Old Town is still home to more than 1,200 half-timbered houses which line the little cobblestone streets. The Old Town has been listed as a UNESCO world heritage site due to its medieval origins and outstanding history. You can spend the entire day just roaming through the vine-covered streets of Quedlinburg, checking out the one-of-a-kind shops, and enjoying the delicious little cafes around town.
If you’d like to plan a visit, you can check out more information on the Quedlinburg website.
Explore the half-timbered houses of Wernigerode
Wernigerode is one of the larger cities in the Harz region and a wonderful place to spend the day exploring. Similar to Quedlinburg, most of the town is filled with cobblestone streets and half-timbered homes, yet there is also a modern sector including newer shops and restaurants. Comparatively speaking, I would say Quedlinburg is more spectacular when it comes to charming architecture, but Wernigerode is a great place to be if you’re interested in a little shopping too. The city takes great pride in having built one of Germany’s most beautiful city halls and of course, perched up on the hill, is the Wernigerode Castle, a favorite among all travelers.
For upcoming events and city tours, you can visit the Stadt Wernigerode website.
Best places to eat around the Harz?
When it comes to small towns in Germany, you can pretty much guarantee that you’ll find a Chinese restaurant and a couple of traditional German restaurants open for business even in the off-seasons. In the Harz, you’ll certainly find these types of restaurants, but you’ll also find a number of high quality and delicious alternatives. Here are just a few noteworthy spots:
In the middle of the woods (in a few locations), you’ll find small wooden huts serving up Kukki’s famous pea soup. It’s cheap and it’s delicious, definitely, a must-try, especially during the cooler months!
Vincent – Café & Käsekuchenbäckerei
We happened to stumble upon Vincent’s Café (aka. the cheesecake bakery) when we were exploring the Quedlinburg castle. At the bottom of the castle, you’ll find a cute courtyard and this delicious bakery filled with tons of different mouth-watering cheesecakes… apple walnut, triple chocolate, white chocolate rhubarb… have I sold you yet?
The Quedlinburg Brauhaus Lüdde is a favorite for locals, travelers, young and old. This beautiful and open concept brewery serves up some delicious German cuisine and of course, a selection of home-brewed beers.
The Karoffelhaus in Blankenburg has been rated one of the best restaurants in the Harz on a number of different websites. My curiosity sent me there for dinner to see if the ratings were true. The service was okay, the location was okay, the menu was okay… but the food… the food was delicious! I ordered the potato and chicken skillet and still dream about ordering it again soon!
Best places to stay around the Harz?
The Harz is simply one of the best places in Germany to book a little-timbered house for you, your friends, and your loved ones. There are many hotels, spas and bed and breakfasts built in these small timbered homes, you shouldn’t have a problem finding one that fits your expectations. If you’re looking for a central rental, I would suggest checking accommodations in Wernigerode, Blankenburg, Goslar, or Quedlinburg. If you have a car and don’t mind staying in nature, there are tons of small villages worth exploring too! We stayed in Schierke, a beautiful tiny village within hiking distance to the Brocken Summit.
A great luxury option
Villa Le Palais located in the Old Town of Quedlinburg (my favorite location). Approximately 100 Euros per night.
An Instagrammable option
Ferienhäuser Am Waldschlößchen are small little fairytale-like cabins in the woods perfect for a family getaway, affordable, and offers up super cool bragging rights! Approximately 60 Euros per night.
An affordable option
Pension Harzer-Waldwinkel is a beautiful little pension in the middle of nature. Approximately 30 Euros per night.
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