Are you trying to plan a trip to the beautiful Harz National Park in Germany? No need to look further cause this article covers everything! From the top things to do in Harz National Park to where to stay and eat to have an unforgettable experience.
Harz National Park is a true hidden gem in Germany and gained a lot of popularity over the last years due to its photogenic steam train. One might actually think that they’ve stepped onto the Hogwarts Express. But luckily you don’t need to step through a magical wall to board this unique form of transportation!
But Harz National Park has a lot more to offer than simply its red steam train. It’s a true hikers paradise and home to som of the cutest german towns you have ever seen.
Harz is definitely one of the most beautiful places in Germany and, compared to other more popular destinations in Germany such as Berchtesgaden or Eibsee, it’s not on a lot of tourists their radar.
- 🇩🇪 Prepare your visit to the Harz Mountains in Germany
- 🗺 How to reach Harz National Park in Germany
- 🚗 How to get around in Harz National Park
- 🏨 Where to stay in the Harz Region
- ❄️ When to visit Harz National Park
- 🚂 Wonderful Things To Do in Harz National Park
- 1. Wander through the historic town of Wernigerode
- 2. Admire Wernigerode Castle from its best viewpoint
- 3. Walk around lake Oderteich
- 4. Visit the Radau waterfall
- 5. Admire the Gustav Adolf Stave Church
- 6. Photograph the Harz steam train at Schierke train station
- 7. Ride up the Brockenbahn with the Harz steam train
- 8. Explore the Brocken plateau at Harz National Park
- 9. Visit the beautiful town of Quedlinburg
- Other blog posts you might be interested in
Wonderful Things To Do In Harz National Park In Germany
In 2006 Harz became the first National Park in Germany to cover two federal states: the eastern part in Sachsen-Anhalt and the federal government of Niedersachsen. The park in its total is nearly 274km².
Harz National Park is virtually uninhabited, but does contain some small towns. Nearly all the land within the Park is forested and belongs to the federal states.
But Harz National Park isn’t just known for its incredible nature. The summit of Mount Brocken is often covered in mist and has inspired many myths and tales about witches.
Legend has it that on the night of April 30 to May 1, witches fly their broomsticks to meet the devil at the top of the highest peak in the region – known as the Brocken. This night is called ‘Walpurgisnacht‘ and locals and tourists mark the occasion by dressing up and dancing their way into the new month of May.
🇩🇪 Prepare your visit to the Harz Mountains in Germany
🏨 Find the best accommodations on Booking.com
💰 Get reliable travel insurance from World Nomads
🚗 Rent a car to drive to the most beautiful places in Germany with SunnyCars.com
🎒 Pack a power bank, hiking shoes and a universal adaptor
🗺 How to reach Harz National Park in Germany
Harz National Park is located centrally North in Germany and is easy to reach by both car and public transportation. The Harz region is centrally located, but not really near any major cities. Once you are there, it is easy to get from one village to another by train, bus or car.
If you’re flying into Germany the major airports closest to the Harz region are Berlin, Hamburg, Hannover, Frankfurt and Leipzig.
From the larger cities, the train routes usually go by way of Halberstadt coming from the east, Goettingen or Kassel from the west and south, Hannover from the north, then changing to a local line going to the town you are starting with.
Check out the German Railway Schedules via the Deutsche Bahn website.
🚗 How to get around in Harz National Park
There are a couple of small towns located within the Harz region which are well interconnected by public transportation.
💡 TIP – You can save money by using the Harz Holiday Ticket. If you pay the visitor’s tax by staying in a hotel (in most of the Harz towns), they’ll give you a card that allows you to travel free on all the local buses around the Harz (but not the trains). See the Harzer Urlaubs-Ticket.
The town of Wernigerode is the most centrally located and in my opinion this is the best place to stay when visiting the Harz region. From here you can take the steam train, also known as the Brockenbahn, all the way up to Brocken mountain.
Other towns that you could stay at are Goslar, Thale or Quedlinburg.
My favorite way to get around? I will never not love the flexibility of driving myself. I’ve never been a fan of depending on public transportation but of course if there’s one country in Europe where public transportation is reliable, it’s Germany.
If you don’t have your own car but you do want to rent one I highly recommend checking outSunnyCars.com.
🏨 Where to stay in the Harz Region
During our stay in the Harz region we opted to stay in the cute town of Wernigerode, which is centrally located.
From here all of the best things to do in Harz National Park are only 30 minutes driving away.
Below you can find some of my favorite choices for unique and wonderful hotels in Wernigerode.
- Travel Charme Gothisches Haus – This wonderful 4 star hotel is located in the heart of Wernigerode, right next to the central market place within the historic centre.
- Boutiquehotel Schloßpalais – I love a good boutique hotel and this one come with a lavish breakfast spread and a lovely spa and wellness facility.
- Ringhotel Weißer Hirsch – This traditional 4 star hotel stems from 1717 and is located right at the historic market place in Wernigerode.
❄️ When to visit Harz National Park
Harz National Park is a wonderful region to visit year round but in my personal opinion winter is by far the most magical time. Never in my entire life have I ever seen so much snow. The trees on top of the Brocken mountain are covered in a icy carpet and if you go off road you’ll soon find yourself knee deep in snow.
So if you want to enjoy a true winter wonderland then I highly suggest visiting the area from December to Februari.
Another favorite season of mine is fall. Hiking trails tend to be less crowded than during the summer months and hotels are usually a lot cheaper during this time of year. And since Harz National Park is densely forested, you can expect an abundance of magnificent hues of orange, yellow and red.
But if you want to experience what the famous Walpurgisnacht is all about you’ll need to visit from the 30th of April until the 1st of May. Expect to see a lot of people dressed up as witches living their best lives.
🚂 Wonderful Things To Do in Harz National Park
There are a ton of fun things to do in the Harz region and below you can find my top choices which will guarantee you to have an incredible holiday!
1. Wander through the historic town of Wernigerode
The historic town of Wernigerode is a must visit when you’re traveling to the Harz region. It’s centrally located, which also makes it one of the most ideal places to stay. It
Imagine wood timbered houses in pastel colors, small cobble stone streets and the smell of freshly made mulled wine hanging in the air.
And the best part is that most of the streets in the old part of the city are car free so you can roam around freely.
2. Admire Wernigerode Castle from its best viewpoint
As you might know Germany is world famous for its beautiful castles so of course you can also find one perched above the city of Wernigerode. It was originally a medieval fortress, which was intended as a secure stop along the way of German emperors during their hunting trips to the Harz.
Since 1930, parts of the castle have been open to the public. The interiors of almost 50 rooms can be visited during a two-part tour. Since 1998 the castle has functioned as the first German centre of art and history of art of the 19th century.
A tour through the castle will approximately take up to 1 hour and costs €8, although they can charge an additional fee if you want the tour to be in English. Prior booking is mandatory and you can do so here.
Opening hours – 10 am until 5pm
I, however, didn’t visit the castle itself but instead I opted for finding a beautiful viewpoint over it! And I guess from the photo below you can say “mission accomplished”!
The best view over Wernigerode castle can be found from Agnesberg, a small hill right next to the castle. When you drive up the castle road you’ll notice a lot of “no parking” signs alongside the road so please respect those and park your car at one of the foreseen parking lots.
The hike up is only 10 minutes and pretty easy. But make sure to wear decent hiking shoes cause the roots and leafes on the ground can become pretty slippery.
3. Walk around lake Oderteich
Lake Oderteich is one of the most beautiful lakes in Northern Germany and can be found in the middle of Harz National Park. During our visit in December the lake had already frozen over but the entire area felt like pure magic with a thick layer of snow covering the ground and trees.
The entire loop around lake Oderteich is 4.5km long and it will take about 1,5 hour to complete it. It might take a little longer if there’s a lot of snow on the ground cause some parts can be slippery and do make for some hilarious moments.
4. Visit the Radau waterfall
I am an absolute sucker for a beautiful waterfall, especially if you can simply find it alongside the road.
The Radau waterfall is located east within the Harz National Park and there’s plenty of parking spaces right next to it.
5. Admire the Gustav Adolf Stave Church
A stave church is a medieval wooden Christian church building once common in north-western Europe. Most of the surviving stave churches can be found in Norway but you can also find one in the beautiful Harz region.
TheGustav Adolf Stave Church is only 30 minutes driving from Wernigerode and definitely one of the best places to visit when you’re exploring Harz. It’s not everyday that you can see beautiful and historic architecture like this!
The church is a copy of the medieval Borgund Stave Church in Norway.
6. Photograph the Harz steam train at Schierke train station
One of the best and also easiest places to photograph the Harz steam train is near the train station in Schierke. There’s a small parking lot right next to the train station and when you’re facing the tracks from platform 1 you need to follow the tracks to the left.
The train traffic here is very low, with 1 train either going down or up every 20 minutes. The best time to capture the train is when it’s moving up the mountain. During this time it will blow the most steam into the air which will create a spectacular effect in your photos.
The ideal photography spot can be found right around the corner. When it’s safe quickly cross the tracks cause you’ll have a lot more space to walk on the right side of the tracks (when your back is facing the train station).
Keep on walking for about 100 meter and position yourself.
For taking a photo like this you’ll need a proper zomm lens, this is the only way to create this effect. I used my Tamron AF 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6.
To time your visit perfectly make sure to check the Brockenbahn timetable.
❗️Always be very careful and don’t stand too close to the tracks. The train is a lot wider than you think!
7. Ride up the Brockenbahn with the Harz steam train
Probably one of the best things to do in Harz is riding the steam train in Harz National Park. Especially during the winter months this truly is a fairutale experience. And let’s not kid ourselves. The only reason we fondle over this train so much is because it reminds us of the Hogwarts Express.
Well, I can tell you, it definitely was a magical train ride! A winter wonderland was flashing before our eyes and the best part was actually that you can hang out the window in some of the wagons!
The train ride from Schierke to Brocken takes about 30 minutes but time really does fly by when you’re having fun!
The ticket price is on the more expensive side. A train ride up and down to Brocken will cost you €49. But honestly, if you’re in Harz National Park you simply have to do this!
It also doesn’t matter where you get on the Brockenbahn, the price remains the same. So you can also step on the train in Wernigerode and pay the exact same price.
You can find the official train schedule for the Brockenbahn here and you can either buy your ticket online or at the train station itself.
8. Explore the Brocken plateau at Harz National Park
A tour to the Brocken is one of the highlights of any trip to the Harz.
The Brocken, sometimes also referred to as the Blocksberg, is the highest peak of the Harz mountain range and also the highest peak of Northern Germany. Although its elevation of 1141m is below alpine dimensions, its microclimate resembles that of mountains of about 2000m high.
The peak above the tree line tends to have a snow carpet from September to May, and mists and fogs shroud it up to 300 days of the year.
Its position and altitude in northern Germany ensures at times harsh winds and cold temperatures, comparable to the mountains of Iceland. So make sure to bundle up in those extra layers!
There are two ways to reach Brocken and as the Brocken summit is located within the Harz National Park it’s not allowed to drive up with a motorized vehicle.
- Take the Brocken Railway up to Brocken station (yes, that’s the same steam train as mentioned above).
- Hike up to Brocken from Schierke. The hiking trail is 5.4 km there and back and curls up the mountain. In your way up or down you’ll also walk alongside the train tracks at times which can result in incredible photo opportunities.
9. Visit the beautiful town of Quedlinburg
Quedlinburg is a small town situated just north of the Harz mountains and in 1994, the castle, church and old town were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Other blog posts you might be interested in
- The perfect 2 week road trip through Germany, Austria and Italy
- The Best Day Trips from Berchtesgaden
- The Perfect Visit to Königssee
- The most beautiful fairytale castles in Germany
- A fairytale road trip through Germany
- The perfect weekend in Hrensko
- Lake Eibsee Travel Guide
- How to visit the Geierley Suspension Bridge
- The 30 Most Beautiful Places in Germany
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