Growing up in the Westphalia region of Germany - an area of nothing but forests, hills and farmland - I’ve always been fascinated by Northern Germany and the coast. However, Northern Germany also has a pretty fab mountain range, which I completely fell in love with when I first visited a couple of years ago.
The Harz Mountains of Lower Saxony combine thick forests and snowy mountains with quaint medieval towns, picturesque half-timbered buildings and narrow alleyways. I’ve already been to the towns of Braunlage, Clausthal-Zellerfeld and Bad Harzburg, though this Christmas, I got the chance to explore beautiful Goslar for a day as well!
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Situated at the very edge of the Harz Mountains, Goslar is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, thanks to its many preserved medieval buildings and the long history of the place.
The town that's also known as the "Kaiserstadt" (city of the emperor) has 50,000 inhabitants and over 400,000 visitors a year - coming to see the old imperial palace or, as in our case, to visit the fabulous Christmas market in the heart of the old town.
What to do and see in Goslar
The Harz Mountains offer plenty of hiking, mountain-biking and skiing - depending on which time of the year you visit - but even if you’re looking for less sporty activities, Goslar won’t disappoint. Here’s what we got up to during our day in the town:
Visit the imperial palace Kaiserpfalz
The Kaiserpfalz Goslar was built in the 11th century and served as the residence of German emperors and kings back in the day. A visit costs 7,50€ and you can choose between a tour, or renting an audio guide and exploring the palace yourself.
I was visiting together with my (Norwegian) partner Simon and my parents, and as Simon doesn’t speak much German, he went for an English audio guide while my parents and I opted for the (German) tour. Only that it turned out not to be an actual tour but more of a lecture about the artwork of the summer hall of the residence.
Quite a disappointment to be honest, so I’d definitely recommend you to pay the 2,50€ for the audio guide as you’ll learn much more about the history of the place that way.
A visit takes approx. 1 1/2 hours and if visiting by car, you can park directly in front of the building and then go on to explore the city on foot from there.
View Goslar from above
Goslar is impressive to look at from the ground but even more so from above! The red rooftops of the half-timbered houses make quite a stunning view, which you can enjoy from the tower of the Marktkirche (Market Church).
I believed we payed 2,50€ per person and had to climb 232 steps but it’s totally worth it. There even are sofas on each floor for you to take a breath and relax, if climbing 230 steps sounds quite exhausting.
I admit, I did use them but then again, climbing a staircase like that, the morning after the grand Christmas Eve dinner is a good enough excuse, isn’t it?!
Stroll the old town
Goslar’s old town of half-timbered houses and narrow alleyways is a sight in itself and it seems like the streets are always crowded with tourists. Even on Christmas Day, there were busloads full of people from all over Germany, the Netherlands and even Sweden!!
I totally get it though - Goslar’s old town was quite a Christmas wonderland!
Attend the Christmas Market
The Christmas market there has the name "Christmas Market and Forest" and it really was magical! They set up a small forest in the middle of the old town with hidden stalls selling mulled wine and Bratwurst.
It was a really gorgeous market and not as tacky as some of the markets you can sometimes find in the bigger cities of Germany. They even had a stall selling Swedish "glögg" and one stall from Finland where you could buy honey.
The only thing that would have made the market even more magical would have been some snow but you can't have it all I guess...
The market takes place every year from late November until 30th December, which gives you the chance to visit during the holidays, if you can't make it earlier.
Enjoy the view from MAltermeisterturm
While the Market Church Tower offers you a great view of the old town from above, the Master Malter's Tower offers you a stunning view of the Harz Mountains. Situated at 419 meters above sea level, the tower is a great location to take pictures, and since they have a restaurant there, an even better location to sit down for a tasty meal.
At 1548! (the name of the restaurant and the year the tower opened) you can try traditional German cuisine from Currywurst to Schnitzel.
To get there you’d, unfortunately, need a car - or you can make a day trip out of it and hike!
Visit the mine at Rammelsberg
The silver, copper and lead mine at Rammelsberg is actually a UNESCO world heritage site as the earliest mining activities at Rammelsberg Mountain can be traced back to the 7th century!
We didn't visit the actual mine, but you can do so every day from 9 to 5pm (6pm in summer). Tickets cost between 9€ (standard day ticket without a tour) to 25€ (includes 3 guided tours).
You can find more infos here.
Beware of the witches!
The Harz is known for its many famous fairytales and witch stories (Goethe, for instance, mentioned the highest mountain of the Harz, the "Brocken" in his work "Faust"), so don't be surprised to see witches strolling the streets of Goslar!
This is especially the case if you're visiting on April 30th, the so called Walpurgis Night, which is when witches gather at the Brocken to celebrate the upcoming spring - the whole thing pretty much being Germany's answer to Halloween!
How to get to Goslar
Goslar is situated 90km from Hanover (which is also where the nearest airport is situated) and 45km from Brunswick. There are direct train connections from/to Hanover, Brunswick and Magdeburg, and on weekends even from/to Berlin.
You can also get there by (cheaper) interregional busses from Berlin, Magdeburg, Kassel, Dortmund and Düsseldorf. If you'd like to travel all around the Harz, you can, for example, hop on the regional bus to Clausthal-Zellerfeld or Harzburg.
Where to stay in Goslar
You have your pick between luxurious and budget hotels in Goslar, so here's a small selection:
- Novum Hotel Kaiserworth is situated right on the market square of Goslar in one of the town's prettiest buildings! If you'd like to splurge, you should stay here!
- Hotel Alte Münze is located in an old half-timbered building in the old town of Goslar, which makes it perfect if you're short on time!
- Hotel & Tagungszentrum Hessenkopf is located outside of the city centre, close to the forest. If you'd like to go hiking, this might just be the perfect option!
- Novum Hotel Brusttuch is the cheaper sister hotel of the Novum Kaiserworth and by staying here, you save a few bucks while still enjoying all amenities of the main hotel, for instance their breakfast buffet!
- Hostel Goslar is perfect if you're traveling on a budget, as rates are between 25€-55€, and you have your pick between a bed in the dorm, a private room, or even your own apartment.
More information about visiting Goslar
For more info, check out the website of Visit Goslar or Wayfaring with Wagner's account of Goslar covered in snow.
Would you rather like to visit Goslar at Christmas or during summer to go hiking?
Leave a comment below!