Want to make a short trip this winter? You may think of a citytrip to Cologne or Berlin (not a bad choice!) but maybe, I have an even better idea to add some color to those gray winter days. Go to Wernigerode in Northern Germany! The small town at the foot of the Harz Mountains is also called ” die Bunte stadt am Harz”, literally translated ‘the colorful city of the Harz’. Without any doubt, this name refers to the vivid half-timbered houses in the inner city.
1. Admire the fairy-tale town hall
The town hall of Wernigerode is considered as one of the most beautiful town halls in Europe but that’s no surprise, right? WAUW!
In the Middle Ages, the building would have served as a “playhouse”, some sort of medieval theatre where a variety of festivities were organized. It was rebuilt into a town hall after the original town hall was ruined by a fire in 1528. During these renovations, the bell towers were placed on the roof. For your information: the tourist information centre is situated next to the town hall.
In front of the town hall, you can see the ‘Wohltäterbrunnen’ on the historical market square, and that’s not just a fountain. It’s a tribute to certain people who did good things for the city, the so called benefactors. The gold-plated decorations are beautiful.
2. Stroll through the cobblestone streets
… and look around! Numerous half-timbered houses give color to the historic city center.
3. Museum Schiefes Haus
Forget Pisa. Take a funny picture at the crooked house in Wernigerode, a former mill.
The crooked house is one of those houses that immediately catches your attention. With a slope of 7°, the house is even more crooked than the tower of Pisa!
You can visit the crooked house from Tuesday till Sunday (11 – 17u). There is a small museum that tells the history of the building through a video and pictures. It takes not a lot of time to run through the information (that’s only available in German). Nevertheless, it was a fun experience to visit the house and feel the skewness. The admission price is very low, only 1 euro per person. The crooked house is right behind the town hall.
4. Visit Wernigerode Castle
The castle of Wernigerode watches over the city from above. It’s situated on a hill and you can reach it after a short uphill walk. When you’ve already walked enough, there are off course other possibilities, like the Bimmelbahn or the Schlossbahn , both small trains. The yellow Bimmelbahn takes off behind the town hall ( Marktstraße 9 ) and goes several times a day to the castle. The Schlossbahn has multiple starting points.
The castle was once built as a medieval fort but was renovated a number of times throughout history. It’s possible to take a step back in time and visit the castle. Go to the official website for more information about opening hours and prices.
5. Viewpoint Agnesberg
Looks like a postcard, doesn’t it? From Wernigerode Castle, it doesn’t take you long to walk to this magnificent viewpoint at the Agnesberg (51° 49′ 48.11″ N, 10° 47′ 52.66″ E). From there, you look out over the city and the surrounding mountains. It’s definitely worth the short (but steep) walk!
6. Eat baumkuchen
Don’t miss the ‘baumkuchenhaus’, located on the outskirts of town. The production of the ‘Harzer Baumkuchen’ takes place there, a local delicacy. That’s a round, layered cake that looks a bit like the growth rings of a tree. That’s why it is called ‘baumkuchen’ or tree cake. The preparation of this cake differs from those of classic cakes. The baumkuchen is baked layer by layer on a rotating bar.
Every Friday and Saturday afternoon (14 – 16u), demonstrations are taking place in the Baumkuchenhaus. It’s your chance to see how the cake is made and to try a piece of the freshly baked baumkuchen. Go for it! You also can go to the tavern to taste a bigger piece and when you can’t get enough of it, there’s a shop where you can buy different varieties of the cake. I returned home with quite a big supply of baumkuchen… guilty!
7. Take a seat on the Brockenbahn
In the Harz region, there are still multiple steam trains in operation. The ‘Harzer Schmalspurbahnen’ is a network of narrow gauge. A narrow gauge is a railway track which is narrower than a usual train track. You can choose out of 3 possible tracks on the network. I hopped on the Brockenbahn and slided through the impressive winter landscape. It seemed like a ride with the mysterious Polar Express, which was once one of my favorite Christmas movies. The terminus of the Brockenbahn may not be the north pole (however, you would believe it when you see all the snow!), it’s a magical train ride. The Brockenbahn takes you from Wernigerode or Drei Annen Hohne to the top of the Brocken. Read more about it in my next blog post!
8. Hotel Altora
My partner and I stayed at Hotel Altora, situated across the railway station. It’s a perfect starting point for your daytrip with the Brockenbahn! Beside, the historical city centre of Wernigerode is at walking distance. It takes only 10 minutes to walk to the market square. Not only the location of the hotel, but also the warm, nostalgic atmosphere appealed to us.
Go to the website of hotel Altora for more information about facilities and prices.
9. Restaurant 1835
You can dine in the hotel restaurant, Restaurant 1835. From there, you can watch the steam trains getting refilled with coal and getting ready for departure. And the experience gets even more complete when your drink is brought to your table by a model train. I recommend to book your table in advance.
In case you were not yet a train enthusiast, it’s very likely to become it after your visit to the Harz region!
10. Altwernigeröder Kartoffelhaus
For me, there’s nothing better than simple, rural food. In Wernigerode, you can find this in the Altwernigeröder Kartoffelhaus where numerous potato dishes are on the menu. Simple, but delicious!