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 the Harz Mountains. Its has an impressive medieval town centre with rows of charming, centuries-old, timber-framed houses and is dominated by a fascinating, fairy tale castle that is open to visitors.
Its popularity and charm have led to it becoming a 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 became 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. The industrial revolution saw 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.
In 2004 Wernigerode celebrated the 775th anniversary of being granted town rights.
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.
The local bus services offer four routes into the local area.
Wernigerode has a railway station on the Heudeber-Danstedt–Vienenburg line with two-hourly services that run between Hanover and Halle using the Harzexpress.
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.
Wernigerode is about 1 hour 15 minutes by car from Hanover airport and about 1½ hours from Leipzig airport.
Wernigerode has a number of car parks and roadside parking meter bays near the centre. The town centre and castle are all within easy walking distance of the more central car parks.
The medieval town hall in Wernigerode
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.
Wernigerode Castle (Schloss Wernigerode), Am Schloss (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 itself and 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 itself is now a museum which is open to the public - see "Do" section below.
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 was originally owned by the counts of Wernigerode and acted as a courthouse, as well as a place of medieval entertainment including weddings. Guided tours are available and the cellars house a classic Ratskeller restaurant.
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.
Wernigerode's smallest house (Das kleinste Haus), Kochstraße. Wernigerode's smallest house is now a museum.
The 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 thanks to 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.
The 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.
The Old Mint (Die Alte Münze). 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
The Oldest House (Ältestes Haus). 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.
Western Gate Tower (Westerntorturm). This imposing tower, 38 metres 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 fortifications.
Demi-bastion Tower (Halbschalenturm).
Emperor Tower (Kaiserturm).
The Orangery (Orangerie). 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.
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.
Wernigerode Castle Museum (Museum Schloss Wernigerode), Am Schloss, ☎ +49 (0)3943 553040, . May-Oct 10:00-18:00 daily; 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. Today, 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: €2.50; under 6: free; family card: €14.50.
Harz Museum (Harzmuseum), Klint 10, ☎ +49 (0)3943 654454 (email@example.com). Mo-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..
Museum of Aviation and Technology (Museum für Luftfahrt und Technik), Gießerweg 1, ☎ +49 (3943) 633126, . Daily 10:00-17:00 except 24 and 25 Dec. The Museum of Aviation and Technology displays over 40 aircraft and helicopters as well as over a thousand other exhibits in its two halls.Adults: €4.50, Children 6-15: €2.5. Under 6: free.
Firefighting Museum (Feuerwehrmuseum Wernigerode), Steingrube 3, ☎ +49 (0)3943 601131. 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. Honesty box.
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 metres away and has super views of the town. The return leg is via the Zwölfmorgental valley.
Harz Narrow Gauge Railways (Harzer Schmalspurbahnen), Hauptbahnhof Wernigerode, ☎ +49 (0)3943 558-0, . 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), ☎ +49 (0)3944 954 7148 (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)
Christmas time in Wernigerode
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 renown 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.
Wernigerode has a range of good restaurants ands 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).
Harzer Baumkuchen Cafe, Neustadter Ring 17, ☎ +49 (0)3943 632726 (Harzer-Baumkuchen@gmx.net). Mo-Sa 10-18; So & hols 12-18. 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 200g piece of cake..
Fürstengrotte (Restaurant und Pension Fürstengrotte), Burgberg 9 a/b, ☎ +49 (0)3943 54590, . Cosy, rustic cellar restaurant whose terrace has a good view over the old town and the Harz. Harz specialities and homemade cakes.Budget prices..
Banchetto, Westernstraße 30, ☎ +49 (0)3943 604059, . Italian restaurant, small but good food and Italian wine on the menu.Budget..
Ratskeller, (Underneath the Rathaus). Good food and quiet atmosphere in a typical Ratskeller restaurant in the historic cellars of the town hall. Ideal for that slightly special occasion. Mid-price.
Waldgasthaus Armeleuteberg, ☎ +49 (0)3943 632279, . Traditional forest inn in the woods behind Wernigerode. Its location in a hunting area is reflected in its menu which includes venison, boar and wild mushrooms.Mid-price.
Café Wien, Breite Str. 4, ☎ +49 (0)3943 632409, . Charming, traditional café near the centre of the town.
Weisser Hirsch, Marktplatz 5 (on the market place), ☎ +49 (0)3943 602020, . Attractive timber-framed four-star hotel with a gourmet restaurant. Great location on the market place with views of the town hall.Splurge.
Ars Vivendi, Bahnhofstraße 33, ☎ +49 (0)3943 626606. Music and cocktail bar. Disco and dancing every Friday and Saturday.
alles-Füll-bar, Breite Straße 67, ☎ +49 (0)3943 636230. Small bar with large selection of whiskeys. Friendly atmosphere.
Schlieper's Restaurant Café Bar, Burgstraße 7, ☎ +49 (0)3943 632179. Restaurant and bar in the pedestrian zone, 3 minutes from the market square.
Christianental, Christianental 43, ☎ +49 (0)3943 25171, . 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.€25-29 pppn including breakfast. Half board: €12 pppn..
Hasseröder Hof, Amtsfeldstraße 33, ☎ +49 (0)3943 632506, . Small timber-framed inn not far from the town centre and the local swimming baths.€28-35 pppn in a double room. Half board: €10 pppn.
Alt Wernigeröder Hof, Pfarrstraße 50a, ☎ +49 (0)3943 94890, . checkin: 12:00-21:00; checkout: 07:00-11:00. A traditional hotel in Wernigerode's town centre, just a few minutes walk from the station.double rooms from €75.
Hotel Stadt Wernigerode (Langer Stieg 62), ☎ +49 3943 63070, . Moderately priced Plattenbau style hotel on the edge of the town that still has a faint air of East Germany about it.
Hasseröder Ferienpark, Nesseltal 11, ☎ +49 (0)3943 5700, . A holiday village with holiday apartments and cottages and free access to the open-air pool. Minimum stay: 3 days or 1 week in the peak season. Apartments: €75-185..
Hotel Am Schlosspark, Am Ziegelberg 1, ☎ +49 (0)3943 262322, . Traditional hotel and cafe in a quiet wooded area on the edge of the Castle Park. 20 minutes walk from the town centre.Double room: €60 (low season) to €80 (high season).
Gothisches Haus, Marktplatz 2, ☎ +49 (0)3943 6750, . Four star hotel and listed building in the old market place.€142 per room.
Ramada Treff Hotel, Pfarrstraße 41, ☎ +49 (0)3943 9410, . One of the largest hotels in Wernigerode, close to the Marktplatz. Definitely a splurge!Double room: from €90.
Hotel Fürstenhof, Nöschenröder Straße 42-43, ☎ +49 (0)3942 407915, . Historic four-star hotel with wonderful views of the Mühlental valley and Wernigerode Castle. Sauna, internet access.Double rooms: €79 to 139; apartments: €119 to 249. Breakfast:€10 pp.
HKK Hotel Wernigerode (Harzer Kultur- und Kongresshotel), Pfarrstraße 41, ☎ +49 (0)3943 941-0. Modern four star hotel just 100 metres from the historic old town.Double rooms: from €104. Half-board: extra €19 pppn.