Described by the German heath poet, Hermann Löns, as the "brightly coloured town by the Harz", Wernigerode is an attractive destination on the Holtemme river, nestling against the northern foothills of said mountain range.
Wernigeorde's charm — derived from its impressive medieval-era Old Town with its fascinating fairy-tale castle and rows of centuries-old timber-framed houses — have led to it becoming a popular waystop on two major tourist routes: the German Timber-Framed Road and the Orange Route, a German-Dutch holiday road. The town is also a good base for exploring the northern Harz on foot or by mountain bike.
Wernigerode is first recorded in 1121 when it was the seat of the medieval County of Wernigerode, a status it held until 1429. It was during that time, in 1229, that it was granted town rights. Wernigerode's heyday came during the 14th and 15th centuries as it grew wealthy through trading in cloth, beer and brandy. However, it suffered from plague epidemics in the 16th century as well as the ravages of the Thirty Years' War and fell into decline.
From 1645 to 1807, Wernigerode was the seat of the County of Stolberg-Wernigerode. At the end of the 18th century, the town's economy picked up again, this time based on tanning and the manufacture of cloth and linen. In 1815 it was absorbed into the Prussian Province of Saxony. During the Industrial Revolution, new metal and wood industries settling here. The railways arrived in 1872, the same year that the Harz's best known brewery, the Hasseröder Brauerei, was founded.
After the Second World War, Wernigerode fell on the East German side of the Inner German Border in the newly-created state Saxony-Anhalt. Wernigerode became part of the restored state of Saxony-Anhalt in 1990 after German reunification and did not take long to restore the beauty of its timber-framed town houses. Wernigerode has a population of about 35,000.
Wernigerode has two junctions (Wernigerode-Nord and Wernigerode-Zentrum) on the B 6, a motorway-like dual carriageway that runs along the northern edge of the Harz from west to east. The B 6 branches off the A 7 motorway near Goslar and the A 395 motorway from Brunswick to Vienenburg.
Wernigerode is also the main depot and terminus on the Harz Narrow Gauge Railways. Trains, including steam-hauled services, than run to various destinations in the Harz, including its highest mountain, the Brocken.
Tip: The HarzTourCard enables you to travel by bus, train and narrow gauge train (except trains to the summit of Brocken) as much as you like within three days. It costs €18 for a single card, €34.50 for a family.
Wernigerode is about 1 hr 15 min by car from Hanover airport and about 1½ hours from Leipzig airport.
The vast majority of Wernigerode's important tourist sites are contained within the compact area of the old town, whose narrow cobbled streets aren't particularly amenable to motorized transportation. Walking is probably the most sensible way to get around.
If you're staying in a further-flung area, your best bet is to leave your car at one of the several car parks or roadside parking meter bays near the centre.
The local public transport organization Harzer Verkehrsbetriebe (HVB) operates a municipal bus network throughout the city, consisting of four lines that converge on the 2 Rendezvous bus station, located at Ringstraße 31 in the centre of town. Regular buses run seven days a week, from roughly 06:00 until 19:00 on weekdays and 09:00 until 17:30 on Saturdays, Sundays and legal holidays. From roughly 19:00 until 00:00, there's also more limited service courtesy of a night bus (Abendlinie). HVB's website includes a system map and schedules for each route.
Wernigerode has a wealth of historic sights and curiosities. Without a shadow of doubt, though, its top sights are its preserved medieval castle overlooking the town and its splendid town hall. But wandering around its ancient, sometimes still cobbled streets, the tourist will come across rows of colourful timber-framed houses and oddities like the Leaning House and the tiny "Smallest House" in Wernigerode, as well as museums that reflect the town's history and culture.
1 Wernigerode Castle (Schloss Wernigerode), Am Schloss 1 (follow the signs from the town centre). A walk around this striking medieval castle is well worth the effort of the climb from the town centre. There are numerous paths through the woods and grounds of the castle. A climb onto the Agnesberg hill behind it is rewarded with a view over the castle, the town, and the edge of the Harz mountains that many visitors simply miss. The more adventurous can make their way through the woods into the valley of Christianental, where there is a forest inn serving traditional German fare and a small wildlife park with deer, wild boar and birds of prey. The castle is now a museum which is open to the public - see "Museums" section below.
2 Emperor Tower (Kaiserturm). 24 hours a day. This stone observation tower is not part of the town's old fortifications, though it certainly looks of a piece with the remaining medieval-era towers: named and dedicated in honor of Kaiser Wilhelm II, the Kaiserturm has stood since 1902 at the 478-m summit of the Armeleuteberg hill a short distance south of the town centre. From its top, you can enjoy breathtaking views of the castle and old town of Wernigerode and out to the high summits of the North Harz. Free.
3 Half Tower (Halbschalenturm), north side of Burgberg between Nöschenröder Straße and Lindenallee. In the middle of a small park near the castle is another remnant of Wernigerode's medieval city wall: the semicircular shell of one of the old watchtowers (the side facing away from the castle is open) that was the object of a partial restoration in the 19th century at the request of Count Otto zu Stolberg-Wernigerode, and now is protected from the elements by a new slate roof.
4 Western Gate Tower (Westerntorturm), Westernstraße at Ringstraße. This imposing tower, 38 m high, is first recorded in 1356 and acted as a toll gate. It was built in Early Gothic style and formed part of Wernigerode's city wall.
5 Krummel House (Krummelsches Haus), Breite Straße 72. The Krummel House is another old, timber-framed building, now a restaurant, whose timberwork is beautifully decorated. It was built in 1674 by corn merchant, Heinrich Krummel.
6 Leaning House (Schiefes Haus), Klintgasse 5. The Schiefes Haus is an old, timber-framed watermill, the present building dating to 1680 and built for the Guild of Clothmakers. It has subsided on one side because of the undercutting action of the mill stream over the centuries. The stream, which used to supply water to the mill and town, is no longer visible. Today the Leaning House is home to a local society.
7 Oldest House (Ältestes Haus), Hinterstraße 48. Wernigerode's oldest house was built around 1400 as a plain post-and-beam structure. It is one of the few that survived the Great Fire of 1847.
- The smallest house in Wernigerode is now a museum; see below.
Elsewhere around the Old TownEdit
8 Medieval Town Hall (Rathaus), Marktplatz 1 (on the market place). Described as a "pearl of medieval timber-framed architecture" the town hall is stunningly beautiful and has dominated the town's market square since at least 1277. It used to be owned by the counts of Wernigerode and acted as a courthouse, and as a place of medieval entertainment including weddings. Guided tours are available and the cellars house a classic Ratskeller restaurant.
9 Old Mint (Alte Münze), Oberpfarrkirchhof 5. The Old Mint is one of the few remaining timber-framed buildings in Wernigerode from the 16th century. It has a stone base. Today it is home to the Harz Library and town archives.
10 Orangery (Orangerie), Lindenallee 21. The old Orangery, with its pleasure garden (Lustgarten), was built between 1713 and 1719 by Count Ernest of Stolberg-Wernigerode and was supposed to be a miniature version of the Palace of Versailles.
11 St. John's Church (St.-Johannis-Kirche), Pfarrstraße 24. St. John's Church is the oldest surviving church in Wernigerode and dominates the northwestern edge of the historic Neustadt. The oldest parts of the church - the west tower and transept - were built in the Romanesque style around 1279. Its original main hall was expanded in 1497 into a triple-aisled nave. The church underwent extensive restoration in the 19th century and, after being damaged in the air raid of 22 February 1944, was further restored during the post-war years. Especially impressive is the Gothic carved altar from 1415, the pulpit dating to the early 1600s and a sculpture of John the Baptist from around 1500. One of the portraits on the octagonal font is of the great reformer, Martin Luther.
12 Town Fountain (Wohltäterbrunnen), Am Marktplatz (in the market square in front of the town hall). The ornate cast iron fountain in the market square was cast in 1848 in Ilsenburg in a neo-Gothic style. It was intended to commemorate those people who had worked for the good of the town.
13 Firefighting Museum (Feuerwehrmuseum Wernigerode), Steingrube 3, ☎ . Th 14:30-16:30; Sa 14:30-17:00. The Firefighting Museum has an interesting collection of historic firefighting equipment and a covers the history of firefighting in the town and area. By donation.
14 Harz Museum (Harzmuseum), Klintgasse 10, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. M-Sa and public holidays 10:00-17:00. Housed in a historic timber-framed house in the oldest quarter of Wernigerode, the Harz Museum is dedicated to the history of the Harz including fossils, minerals and rocks, the Harz mining industry, its animal and plant life, as well as the history of the town. It also has exhibitions of art by Harz artists. Adults €2. Reductions available.
15 Museum of Aviation and Technology (Museum für Luftfahrt und Technik), Gießerweg 1, ☎ . Daily 10:00-17:00 except 24 and 25 Dec. The Museum of Aviation and Technology displays over 40 aircraft and helicopters, and over a thousand other exhibits in its two halls. Adults €4.50, Children 6-15 €2.50. Under 6 free.
16 Smallest House (Kleinste Haus), Kochstraße 43. May-Oct: daily 10:00-16:00; Nov-Apr: Tu-Su 10:00-16:00. Built in the mid-18th century, this is a handsome Baroque-style half-timbered structure much like the others in Wernigerode's old town — except, of course, for its size. In the 1920s, its owner, a well-to-do craftsman who lived there with his wife and seven children, deeded it to the city who now maintains it as a historic house museum with period furnishings and interpretive exhibits. €1.
17 Wernigerode Castle Museum (Museum Schloss Wernigerode), Am Schloss, ☎ . May-Oct: daily 10:00-18:00; Nov-Apr: Tu-F 10:00-17:00. Wernigerode Castle is an impressive, preserved, medieval castle on a hillside dominating the town. The original Romanesque castle was built in the 12th century, but has been much altered over the years. Until they were dispossessed in 1945, it was the residence of the counts of Stolberg and, later, the princes of Stolberg-Wernigerode, but today it is a fascinating museum. The splendid, turreted stone and half-timbered castle has magnificent views over the town of Wernigerode. You can see the original state rooms that once hosted Europe's highest aristocracy. The castle appears very much as it was when the owners, the counts of Wernigerode, were dispossessed in 1945 and the rooms display many of their artefacts from paintings and books, to furniture and table settings. There are also changing exhibits and the castle hosts a variety of events and scientific symposiums. The museum has audio guides in English, so you can go at your own pace and take in the atmosphere. There is also a cafe in the courtyard and great views from the terrace. A must if you have a couple of hours. Adults €6; children 6-14: €3.00; under 6 free; family card €15.00.
Natural sights in the areaEdit
There are several worthwhile walks in the local area, but Wernigerode is also a great starting base for exploring the Harz by rail, road, mountain bike or on foot.
Market Place to Wernigerode Castle, start at Marktplatz. From the market square (Marktplatz) head down Marktstraße to the end, turn L into J.S.Bach Straße, at Schöne Ecke follow the Burgberg road uphill, turn R by the Fürstengrotte restaurant onto the steep path (Schlossaufstieg) up to the castle. Distance: about 1.3 km. Time: 30 min. Return by foot or on the road train (Schlossbahn or Bimmelbahn)
Armeleuteberg, start at Marktplatz. Head down Westernstraße from the Marktplatz and through the Western Gate Tower. Turn L at the Westernkreuzung crossroads into Salzburgstraße. Continue straight up the long winding forest road called Die Winde. After just under 3 km you reach the Försterplatz and restaurant of Armeleuteberg, named after the hill. The Emperor Tower (Kaiserturm) is above the inn about 400 m away and has super views of the town. The return leg is via the Zwölfmorgental valley.
Harz Narrow Gauge Railways (Harzer Schmalspurbahnen), Hauptbahnhof Wernigerode, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Explore the Harz mountains on the the Harz Narrow Gauge Railways - a network of charming railway lines that take you to some of the most beautiful parts of the Harz. Take a steam train to the top of the Harz's highest mountain, the legendary Brocken, or discover the picturesque Selke Valley by rail. A rail journey to Nordhausen on the far side of the Harz, 60 km away, takes 2½ hours. Wernigerode is home to the main terminus for the railways. There is a second station in Wernigerode - Bahnhof Westerntor.
Wernigerode is a great starting point for hiking in the northern Harz and the Harz Club (Harzklub) maintains hundreds of miles of trail and organises guided walks. For more information contact at their local branch: Volker Friedrich, Horstberg 18, 38855 Wernigerode, Tel. 03943 654301.
Harz Hiking Award Scheme (Harzer Wandernadel), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. There are over 200 checkpoints in the Harz Hiking Award Scheme, several of which are in the Wernigerode area. Equipped with a pass book and set of maps the idea is to visit the checkpoints usually sited at places of interest - ruined castles, hilltops, viewing points, lakes and museums - and stamp your pass book. You can earn badges for the number of stamps collected and there are also special badges for collecting stamps on themed routes like the Inner German Border. The pass book and maps can be bought at tourist or information offices in the area or online. Pass book €2, map set €7.50.
Hiking in the local area. Wernigerode is a great base for hiking in the northern Harz. Destinations that are within reach include the summit of the mighty Brocken, the Harz's highest mountain (14 km round walk via the Steinerne Renne pub); the town of Ilsenburg (11 km round trip), the Otto Rocks (10 km round trip) and the historic town of Blankenburg (13 km round trip). Another trail, the Upper Harz Crag Trail (Oberharzer Klippenweg - 12 km round trip) takes in several of the well-known tors in the area with great views of the surrounding countryside. More information is given on the town website (link at start of article)
Visiting during the winter months? Several ski resorts are located on the Lower Saxony side of the Harz mountains, 20-30 km west and south of Werningerode. Though they are not as big and internationally renowned as the ones in the Alps they are still there. Refer to the Goslar, Braunlage and Clausthal-Zellerfeld articles for more information.
Wooden toys. Originating in the Ore Mountains, the German wooden toy industry produces a wide range of wooden decorations and toys, often associated with, but not exclusive to, Christmas. Wooden tree decorations, Christmas pyramids, candle arches, nutcrackers and "smoking men" (Räuchermänner) are just some of the creations available.
Local spirits. Germany is renowned for its alcoholic spirits known as bitters, with their great variety of herbal and minty flavours, but the Harz has a particularly wide range of them, all made in local distilleries. Often sold in miniature bottles and drunk as chasers, the more widespread makes include Schierker Feuerstein and Brockenfeuer.
Christmas Market (Weihnachtsmarkt). Wernigerode's Christmas Market is especially atmospheric, thanks to its setting amongst the medieval town houses around the market square. Expect to find the usual range of Christmas artefacts, including wooden figurines, Nativity scenes, decorations and candles, as well as local produce and specialities.
1 Breite Straße. Many of the central shops are in this street, which is partially pedestrianised. Breite Straße dates back to 1399. Other main shopping streets are Westernstraße, Burgstraße and Marktstraße. On the outskirts of the town are some larger supermarkets.
Wernigerode has a range of good restaurants and cafes to tempt the palate, whatever your budget. It's well worth sampling the regional specialities such as game dishes and local cakes (such Harzer Baumkuchen or Brockentorte).
1 Harzer Baumkuchen Cafe, Neustadter Ring 17, ☎ , e-mail: Harzer-Baumkuchen@gmx.net. M-Sa 10:00-18:00; Su and holidays 12:00-18:00. Don't be put off by the rather garish-looking appearance of this cafe on the Neustadter Ring road. Its speciality is freshly backed products especially the Baumkuchen cakes that give it the name. On Fridays and Saturdays you can watch them baking. Expect to pay €4-5 for a 200 g piece of cake..
1 alles-Füll-bar, Breite Straße 67, ☎ . Small bar with large selection of whiskeys. Friendly atmosphere.
2 Ars Vivendi, Bahnhofstraße 33, ☎ . Music and cocktail bar. Disco and dancing every Friday and Saturday.
3 Schlieper's Restaurant Café Bar, Burgstraße 7, ☎ . Restaurant and bar in the pedestrian zone, 3 minutes from the market square.
1 Christianental, Christianental 43, ☎ . Modest and traditional forest inn in the Christianental valley behind Wernigerode, with its own wildlife park. There are 3 guest apartments each with 4 beds and one twin-bed apartment. All are en suite. Good hiking base. €32 per adult, €16 per child age 3-12 including breakfast; children 2 and under free. Half board: €16 per person..
Wernigerode's 2 post office is located at Minslebener Straße 19, about a kilometer outside the Old Town. It's open on weekdays from 09:00-12:30 and 13:00-17:00, and on Saturdays until 12:00.
There are no Internet cafés in town, but most hotels (and many other public places) offer public WiFi for free or for a nominal charge.
- Blankenburg, a historic, timber-framed town and castle on the northern rim of the Harz (20 min by road)
- Brocken, the highest mountain in the Harz, accessible by steam railway from Wernigerode.
- Halberstadt, the "Gateway to the Harz" from the north, contains many medieval buildings including a trio of 11th- and 12th-century churches.
- Quedlinburg, a UNESCO World Heritage site thanks to still more historic timber-framed buildings
- Brunswick, the Lion City, north of Wernigerode (about 30 min by road)
- Goslar, ancient imperial town on the northwestern edge of the Harz (about 20 min by road)
- Halle, Saxony-Anhalt's largest city (about 1 hr 20 min by road)
- Magdeburg, Saxony-Anhalt's capital, a medieval city on the River Elbe (about 1 hr 10 min by road)
- Schierke, home to a well-known local drink, Schierker Feuerstein.