A UNESCO city of overwhelming beauty, Goslar is under the northwestern hills of the Harz range in Lower Saxony. One of these peaks, Rammelsberg proved especially lucrative for Goslar, and the city’s finances were boosted by its lead, copper and silver mines. Rammelsberg has some of Europe’s oldest mining infrastructure, and its Medieval tunnels and chambers are revealed at a sensational museum.
For two centuries that mineral wealth even put Goslar at the centre of the Holy Roman Empire, and 1,000 years after it was built the Imperial Palace is an absolute must. Goslar hit its peak in the 15th and 16th centuries, and its merchants competed to build ever more fantastical homes that make up a romantic townscape today.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Goslar:
Goslar’s old town looks a lot like it did when the Rammelsberg mine was generating serious wealth for the city’s merchants in the 15th and 16th centuries.
We’ll talk about the splendid market square a bit later, but there are a few other obligatory stops on a tour.
One is the old mint building on Münzstraße from the start of the 16th century, while Kemenate Röver cultural centre on Frankenberger Straße, from roughly the same time, has very ornate Gothic window arches and conceals a Romanesque two-storey cellar that once stored bee.
Standing across from the Marktkirche is the Brustruch, from 1526 which has an outlandishly steep hipped roof, above a romantic bay window and timbers carved with hundreds of mythical figures.
2. Rammelsberg Mining Museum
It’s no mystery why the mine on the Rammelsberg mountain watching over the city to the south share’s Goslar’s UNESCO World Heritage status.
This silver, copper and lead mine was in operation almost continuously from the 10th century up to 1988. And its story is intertwined with that of Goslar, as it was the reason Emperor Henry II established a royal palatinate in the city in the 11th century, and why Goslar entered the Hanseatic League of trading cities in 1267. There’s evidence from every period, like spoil tips from the 900s and the Rathstiefste, one of the oldest German mine tunnels, cut in the 12th century.
You’ll also journey into the Feuergezähe, Europe’s oldest subterranean mine chamber, dating to the 13th century and visit the Maltermeister Turm, the oldest over-ground building at any German mine, constructed in the mine’s heyday in the 15th century.
3. Imperial Palace of Goslar
The Holy Roman Emperors of the Salian dynasty had their throne at this startling Medieval palace, yet another of Goslar’s UNESCO wonders.
Dating back to the beginning of the 11th century, and its Kaiserhaus with a double storey great hall, was the largest secular building of the period, measuring 54 metres by 18. The German Royal to use the Imperial Palace was William of Holland in 1253, after which the site fell into decline becoming a court, granary and prison.
Finally Kaiser Wilhelm I gave his seal of approval to a reconstruction of the palace in 1875 during a wave of German nationalism.
Two of the high points of the tour are the Reichsaal (Empire Hall) and its rich murals, and the Palace Chapel, which has the 13th-century effigy tomb of Emperor Henry III, on which his heart is preserved in an octagonal gilded capsule.
4. Goslarer Rathaus
The earliest architecture at the town hall complex is from the middle of the 15th century, and this would be modified over the next 400 years.
The lasting changes were made in the 1500s when the Hanseatic and imperial free city Goslar was at the height of its powers.
At this time the Huldigungssaal (Hall of Homage) was designed as a council meeting chamber, and every available surface was covered with Late Gothic paintings that have a vibrancy that will catch you off-guard.
The town hall’s east wing opens onto the marketplace with a Gothic arcade.
5. Neuwerkkirche Goslar
Hardly a stone has been moved since this 12th-century church was founded, which means its basic structure is as pure an example of Romanesque architecture as you could hope to find.
Give yourself a while to appreciate the building from outside, sizing up the pair of octagonal western towers, and then coming around to the three apses which are richly articulated and have patterned exterior columns and capitals.
There are also capitals with an eclectic array of carvings in the apses’ interiors, as well as murals painted in the 13th century.
The most impressive of these glows with gold leaf is in the dome of the central apse and shows Jesus on Mary’s knee flanked by Peter and Paul.
At the centre of Goslar’s marketplace it will dawn on you just how long this square has been a fixture of daily life in the city.
The Martkbrunnen fountain is exceptionally old; its lower basin is from the 12th century and is the largest piece of bronze cast anywhere at that time.
The basin above is 100 years younger, while the Holy Roman Imperial eagle crowing the monument is much more recent and was only added in the 1700s.
On the south side is the arcaded Kaiserworth guildhall dating to 1484 and decorated with statues of Holy Roman Emperors.
And opposite the town hall the slate-clad Kaiserringhaus has a glockenspiel and automatons from 1968. The figures act out scenes from Goslar’s mining past at 09:00, 12:00. 15:00 and 18:00.
7. Marktkirche St. Cosmas und Damian
First documented in 1151 the Market Church would be given a Gothic redesign in the 14th and 15th centuries when its outer aisles were widened into naves.
The oldest architecture is on the “westwork”, where two 66 metre towers dwarf the marketplace.
It’s not difficult to see which one of the towers suffered a fire in 1589, as the north tower was rebuilt with a Renaissance-style cupola.
This is also the tower that you can scale to view the city from the old roost for Goslar’s watchman.
Down below there are nine Medieval stained glass windows from the 13th century, frescoes painted around 1440 and a bronze baptismal font cast in 1573.
8. Stiftskirche St. Georg
In the Hahndorf district is a late-Baroque church of uncommon beauty.
The Stiftskirche St. Georg was attached to an Augustinian monastery, the buildings of which remain today.
The church is on the northern flank of the courtyard and has consistent Italianate Baroque architecture and decoration from the 1710s.
The interior walls are plastered with lively stuccowork, forming cartouches, foliate patterns and representations of Mary, Joseph and the Apostles.
The high altar is as rich as it is large, filling the whole back wall of the choir and is carved from wood, with deep red imitation marble columns framing an image of the Crucifixion.
The pulpit from 1721 is another masterpiece, almost overloaded with giltwood and white statues, while the choir stalls from later that same decade have intricate wooden inlays.
Put together with a lot of love, this museum acts out Goslar’s 1,000-year history using hand-painted miniature figures made of tin.
There are 50 highly detailed dioramas on the development of the city, key moments down the years and the Rammelsberg Mine.
Youngsters will be rapt by the 30 dioramas depicting fairytales.
The museum has a small army of more than 10,000 figures in total, and you’ll even be invited to paint a tin figure of your own.
The setting is delightful too, in a 500-year-old mill that once processed bark and roots for leather tanners.
10. Gustav Adolf Stave Church
Head southwest to the old spa resort of Hahnenklee, which was developed at the turn of the 20th century.
Awaiting you is something you’d never expect to see in Lower Saxony: a Nordic-style stave church.
This was built in just a year and consecrated in 1908. The architect came up with the design after a visit to Borgund in Norway.
The timber is from spruce trees sourced from the Bocksberg mountain close by, and there are Viking-style interlace patterns on its ceiling.
The church is on a scenic hillside over Hahnenklee, and has a melodic carillon that chimes on the hour.
11. Mönchehaus Museum
The Goslarer Kaiserring is a prestigious art prize presented since 1975 by Golsar art association to leading contemporary artists.
Among the former winners are Henry Moore, Joseph Beuys, Cy Twombly, Nam June Paik, Sigmar Polke, David Lynch and Olafur Eliasson.
When the association was set up it moved into the Mönchehaus (1528), a half-timbered farmhouse from 1528, one of the city’s most beloved landmarks.
There’s normally an exhibition by the prize-winner each year, as well for up-and-coming artists awarded a scholarship by the association.
The museum also puts on a busy programme of accompanying talks, workshops and concerts.
12. Frankenberger Kirche
A couple of streets east of the Imperial Palace on the Frankenberg hill is a church first erected in the 12th century, now blending Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque styles.
Something neat to remember about the Frankenberger Kirche is that its western towers were once defences in the city walls.
The vaulting inside was fashioned in the 1230s, while the choir and southern transept are Gothic and went up in the 14th and 15th centuries.
The portal on the south side of the church has a Romanesque tympanum, showing Christ, Peter and Paul, from 1200. The altar and pulpit are Baroque and were produced by a local sculptor in the mid-1670s.
Also head to the western gallery, which has frescoes from the 13th century.
13. Breites Tor
Goslar’s prosperity in the late Medieval period attracted unwanted attention and the Free City took great effort to protect itself.
The most vital of the city’s defences was the Breites Tor in the east of the city as it protected the entrance on the road from the territory of the Duke of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel, hostile to Goslar in this period.
The gate dates to 1443 and In the 16th century it was reinforced into a small fortress with inner and outer towers.
Some of this stronghold was lost once the Breites Tor had outlived its usefulness in the 18th and 19th centuries.
But the tower of the inner gate, a former barracks (Werderhof) and the circular outer gate close by are testament to less peaceful times.
14. Siemens Haus
You’ll recognise the name of one of Goslar’s largest and most photogenic half-timbered houses.
Constructed in 1693, this house was put up by an ancestor of the international technology and telecommunications brand.
The Siemens Haus has been in the family ever since, apart from during a hiatus from 1778 to 1916 and today is has meeting rooms and the family archive.
On the timber above the entrance you can decipher the motto “Ora et labora”, “Pray and work”. Check in with the tourist office if you want to go inside.
One of the curious things is the brewery, from the time when some 380 houses around the city were granted the right to make their own beer.
If the coniferous landscape of the Harz mountains is calling out to you, there’s an award-winning trail on the southwestern edge of Goslar.
The Liebesbankweg has been declared the top walking path in Lower Saxony and the Harz range, and is a 7.5-kilometre rollercoaster walk.
Where the trail goes the extra mile is in its benches and decorative stations, all designed around the theme of romance and love.
There’s a drinking water source (Quelle der Liebe) and water playgrounds for little ones, while the each of the 25 carved benches is unique and has a romantic poem carved into it or benefits from a view worth sharing with a loved one.