Wernigerode is a half-timbered town located at the foot of the Harz mountains in Germany. Walking through ‘the colorful city of the Harz’ is like walking into a fairy tale, with its colorful town hall, its medieval castle on the hill and the nostalgic steam trains puffing through the surrounding dark forests.
One of the most beautiful town halls in Europe
The building in which the town hall of Wernigerode is located was once built as a count’s playhouse. Its function evolved after the original town hall got distroyed by the city fire in 1528. It is a strong example of half-timbered architecture in Germany. Some of the guided city walks you can book in the tourist information office offer the chance to take a look inside the historical town hall.
A wide range of interesting museums in Wernigerode
Even on a rainy day, you will not get bored in Wernigerode. There are plenty of museums worth visiting, such as the Fire Museum or the Aviation Museum. A special one is Museum Schiefes Haus. The leaning house is one of the most striking half-timbered houses in Wernigerode which is, with a slope of 7°, even more crooked than the tower of Pisa. Crazy, right!? For the entrance fee of just one euro, you can learn everything about the history of this building. Just a hundred meters away is the smallest house of Wernigerode, which can also be visited.
Castle on the hill
From the city center, you can reach the castle of Wernigerode by foot or with the so-called ‘Bimmelbahn’. The Bimmelbahn is a small train going to the castle several times a day. Its departure point is located behind the town hall. When you decide to walk to the castle, you can expect a short but steep climb as Schloss Wernigerode is located high above the city. ‘The castle on the hill’, as Ed Sheeran would sing. Once you reach the top, you will be rewarded with a magnificent view over Wernigerode and the surrounding Harz Mountains. In the background, you can even see the Brocken with its round mountain top. For an even wider view, climb to the viewpoint on the Agnesberg, which is one of the stamping points of the Harzer Wandernadel.
Wernigerode Castle is open to public. During an individual visit, you will get an impression of the medieval castle life. You will see the courtyard, as well as several interior spaces of the castle. The most impressive room was the banquet hall, with large wall paintings and a large dining table. It must have been so special to be able to dine here in the Middle Ages. The entrance fee (in 2021) is 7 euros for an adult. It’s not allowed to take pictures inside the castle. So, one more reason to go and see it yourself!
A magical train ride starting in Wernigerode
In the Harz region in Germany, steam trains still puff daily through the landscape over a network of narrow tracks (the Harzer Schmalspurbahnen). In the winter of 2019, I first went aboard the Brockenbahn and took off for a magical train ride to the top of the Brocken mountain. In a previous blog post, I’ve listed the most important information for your day trip with the Brockenbahn.
A meeting place for witches
In the 16th and 17th century, many witch trials took place in this area, just as in other parts of Europe. The women seen as witches often were widow and had a good knowledge of plants and herbs. They were accused of witchcraft and were executed. This fascinating and dark part of history immediately caught my attention during history class.
The Brocken is known for its extreme weather conditions: from strong windstorms all year round to thick snow carpets in winter. Be sure to check the forecast before you get off to the exposed mountain top. Also good to know is that the Brocken mountain is surrounded by fog at least 300 days a year, covering the majestic landscape. Don’t be too disappointed. The dense fog reduces your visibility but it also makes the legends come alive. One of these legends tell that in the night of April 30 to May 1, witches came together at the top of the Brocken, so they could meet the devil and perform magic spells. Curious about these legends? Then you should definitely come to the Harz in early spring, when the Walpurgis festival is celebrated.
When you notice a colorful building on the outskirts of Wernigerode, it’s probably the Baumkuchenhaus, where a very special kind of cake is produced. The round layer cake looks like the growth rings of a tree, that’s why it is called ‘baumkuchen’ (or literally translated tree cake). The preparation of this cake is slightly different from the one of classic cakes. The baumkuchen is baked layer by layer, on a kind of rotating spit. You can see it with your own eyes every Friday and Saturday afternoon. In the tavern, you can enjoy a coffee with a piece of cake. You can choose between different varieties, just like in the shop.
Where to stay in Wernigerode: Hotel Altora
Hotel Altora is located near the station of the Harzer Schmalspurbahnen. In Restaurant 1835, the hotel’s restaurant, you can see the steam trains passing by, while your drink is brought to the table through a model train. Railroad nostalgia at its best. If you have gained inspiration to build your own model railway at home, you can immediately visit the HSB shop. The hotel is within walking distance of the historical center of Wernigerode. I would like to come back to Hotel Altora, not only because of the location of the hotel, but also because of the warm, nostalgic atmosphere.
Any potato lovers?
In the center of Wernigerode, you will find many great restaurants. If I have to recommend one of them, I choose for the ‘Altwernigeröder Kartoffelhaus’, as I am a big potato lover. On the menu not only German classics such as ‘Bratkartoffeln’ with fried egges but also southern variations.
RELATED ARTICLE: Recently, I visited the Harz region in Germany for the online travel magazine Mountainreporters. This was a nice sequel to the previous trips I made in this region. You can read the full article on mountainreporters.com.