Lifestyle & Culture

Staycation Germany: Harz region, Wernigerode offer an incredible range of fairytale towns, outdoor adventures

Other staycation destinations

Quedlinburg ~This beautiful, timber-framed UNESCO World Heritage-listed town checks all the boxes for historic town and is only a 30-minute drive from Wernigerode. It is also on the steam train route, so you could also ride here in style. As Quedlinburg was untouched during the war, some of Germany’s oldest buildings covering five centuries can be found here. Perched above the town like a protective father stands the imposing castle and Collegiate Church/Stiftskirche St Servatii.

Wandering around this ancient city is a pleasure for history buffs and
photographers alike. There are several museums, a guided tour of the town and many little curio and handicraft stores.

• Goslar ~ This medieval town with its stunning half-timbered buildings with UNESCO World Heritage status is also a 30-minute drive from Wernigerode. The 1,000-year-old town was once called the “Rome of the North” as it was the centre of German Christianity and also northern Germany’s seat of government. Meandering about the crooked cobbled streets, you find delights around every corner, the buildings reflecting the town’s prosperity through its mineral and silver mining industry.

The town has an imperial palace and several museums to visit, a 7.5km hiking trail called the Liebesbankweg and a plethora of shops to browse.

Saxon Switzerland ~ Saxon Switzerland or Saechsische Schweiz, close to the Czech Republic border, is 1.5 hour’s drive or a train ride from Dresden. You can even take a river cruise to the area. If you wish to stay in the park, the towns of Pirna or Bad Schandau offer plenty of accommodation options.

Pirna ~ On the banks of the River Elbe, with its medieval historic centre, the town offers ample opportunity to wander its winding streets much as the Italian artist Canaletto did in the mid-18th century. It has a disturbing history from the Nazi era but has become much loved as a gateway town to the park.

Bad Schandau ~ The oldest spa resort in Saxon Switzerland offers a medieval town centre, shops, spa facilities, a botanical garden and some beautiful old houses all situated along the banks of the River Elbe.

Saxon Switzerland National Park ~ Saxon Switzerland park is a 92-square-kilometer natural rock park offering 700 summits for climbers and 400 square kilometers of hiking trails and cycle routes. The strange shapes of the eroded sandstone rocks, gorges and cliffs provide a stunning backdrop and home to lynx and eagles as well as other wildlife found here. You are encouraged to leave your car outside the park and use the park’s own eco-friendly bus.


The Bastei Bridge ~ This is the most famous landmark of the park, a 194-meter-high rock formation over the River Elbe, which has a pedestrian bridge to enable tourists to enjoy the breathtaking view.

Königstein Fortress ~ A hilltop fortress on the bank of the river and once you have passed over the three drawbridges, you will see why this place has stored royal art treasures and prisoners over the centuries.

Cycle paths ~ Running alongside the river, the park offers the cyclist wonderful opportunities to see the stunning park with more than 50 kilometers of trails, some of which provide some steep ascents but are so worth the view. If you didn’t bring your bike, there are several places to rent in the area.

Climbing ~ This is the home of free climbing, and the bizarre sandstone formations provide great opportunities for experienced and novice climbers, and with 17,000 climbing routes, you will be spoiled for choice! The rules are strict here, so make sure you follow them for the benefit of the sensitive habitat. If you are a beginner, there are expert climbing instructors in the area to guide you. Königstein Climbing Forest also offers high rope courses for all the family

Note: All activities are dependent on local coronavirus restrictions.

Once again, who needs long-distance travel when you have all this on your doorstep?


About the author:

Jackie Harding was born in the United Kingdom. As a longtime expat, she’s lived in Boston for 12 years and in the Netherlands for the past nine years.

Trained as a nurse in the U.K., she worked for nine years in the United States as a special education teacher’s assistant. Since moving to the Netherlands, she has discovered writing and photography.

Contributing to Dispatches since 2016, Jackie has written about her travels around Europe as well as about expat life and issues.

She also covered the Women’s March Amsterdam.

She’s married to British businessman Martin Harding and is the mother of two international adult children.

You can read more of Jackie’s work for Dispatches here.

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