A UNESCO World Heritage city, Quedlinburg rests below a sandstone cliff that has an abbey and palace on top. The king of East Francia, Henry the Fowler founded Quedlinburg in the 10th century, and his successor, Holy Roman Emperor Otto I would hold court here and develop the city.
Quedlinburg has been left with enigmatic Ottonian and Romanesque architecture from the High Middle Ages when a long succession of Abbesses held sway from the cliff-top. Those Abbesses remained in charge up to 1803 when the abbey was dissolved.
Over five centuries, merchants and artisans built hundreds of half-timbered houses down the slope in the old town and on the Münzenberg hill. There are more than 1,300 half-timbered buildings in all, which may make you wonder if you’ve stepped into the realm of fantasy.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Quedlinburg:
1. Stiftskirche St. Servatius
A monumental sandstone construction on the Schlossberg, this Lombard Romanesque church is a three-aisled basilica consecrated in 1129. The church is the resting place of Henry the Fowler, founder of the Ottonian dynasty.
His bones and those of his Matilda of Ringelheim are still preserved in the fresco-covered crypt beneath the chancel.
In the nave spend some time admiring the capitals and imposts, richly carved with depictions of plants and animals, particularly eagles.
A little higher, the frieze under the clerestory is also decorated with animal motifs.
A stairway in the choir leads to the treasury, which has astonishing Early and High Medieval works like the Quedlinburg knotted carpet from the 12th century and the Servatius Reliquary and ivory box embellished with delicate gold filigree.
In the magnificent interiors of the 16th-century Renaissance palace on Schlossberg is a museum that maps Quedinburg’s prehistory, ancient history and Medieval times.
The galleries explain how the Schlossberg took shape during the reign of Henry the Fowler in the 10th century, and take you into the world of the Ottonians.
From this period you can see the oldest remnants of stuccowork in the German-speaking world, dating to the 900s.
There are also Bronze Age hoards unearthed not far away in Lehof and Groß Orden.
The palace’s interiors are also worth the entry fee, offering a taste of noble life in Quedlinburg in the 17th and 18th centuries.
3. Timber-framed Houses
Quedlinburg’s old town is the very definition of cosy, and at the last count the city had 1327 half-timbered houses.
While all of them radiate old-time charm, there are some that need to be top of your list.
At Breite Straße 39 is Gildehaus zur Rose (1612), is distinguished by its two tiers of colourful, carved panels and home to a long line of wealthy merchants.
The Börse (Stock Exchange) at Steinweg 23 is a three-storey Baroque house from 1683, and was the first building designed by master carpenter Andreas Besen, who would help shape Quedlinburg in this period.
Also make a detour for the Weißer Engel (1623), a merchant and guesthouse at Lange Gasse 23, and the striking three-storey cube-like building at the corner of Breite Straße and Schulstraße, dating to 1660.
This hill to the west of Schlossberg and old town was born out of a separate settlement and is packed with some 65 half-timbered houses.
It all came about at the end of the 10th century when a convent was founded by the widow of Otto II, Empress Theophanu.
When the Reformation arrived in the 16th century the convent was closed down and artisans like tinkers and scissor grinders moved into the area, building small timber-framed houses around the dilapidated monastic buildings.
There’s a museum about the history of the Münzenberg, preserving the convent church, a beautiful Ottonian basilica.
Also stop for the wonderful views east to the Schlossberg.
The piece de resistance in the market square is Quedlinburg’s old town hall.
Unlike most of the city’s architecture this 13th and 14th-century building is made entirely from stone, in the Gothic style and crested by a steep saddle roof.
Under its lush coating of ivy there are a few details to pick out: Over the portal is the city’s coat of arms, which is also represented by a mosaic on the ground to the left side.
Behind this is the Roland statue of a knight brandishing a sword and shield, signifying Quedlinburg’s town privileges.
6. Marktkirche St. Benedikti
In the old town, the Marktkirche was a place of worship for Quedlinburg’s merchants in the 10th century and has kept a lot of Romanesque stonework from its early years.
From the outside this is most obvious on the western towers, which have narrow semi-circular windows and blind arches.
The two towers have different heights as the south one was damaged in a fire, while the apartment of Quedlinburg’s night watchman is open to visitors and allows you to survey the old town to the east, south and west.
Check out the Baroque high altar (1700), Renaissance pulpit (1595) and a masterful Late Gothic winged altar in the south aisle from 1480 with an image of Mary with Child on its central panel.
7. St. Blasii
Now a concert hall, this former church may well be the oldest in the city.
The monolithic square tower has stonework from the 10th century, long before the first mention of the building in 1222. In the 1710s, everything except for that tower was given a Baroque redesign.
For the tastes of that time the interior is surprisingly discreet, but the wooden pews, stalls and gallery have an understated beauty, while the 18th-century pulpit is very theatrical for its gilded columns, statues and imitation red marble.
A few hundred metres west of the marktplatz is the Schlosshotel zum Markgrafen, which operates the observation tower on its grounds.
You pay €1 and pass through a turnstile to begin your climb of this structure that used to be a defensive tower.
Like all of Quedlinburg’s towers, the side of the Sternkiekerturm facing the city is completely open.
If you’re wondering about the quirky design, the tower was redesigned in the late 19th century according to the Eclectic fashion of the time.
At 42 metres, this is the highest observation platform in Quedlinburg, with unbroken views east to the old town and south to the Schlossberg.
9. Fachwerkmuseum Ständerbau Quedlinburg (Half-timbered Museum)
In a town of more than 1,300 half-timbered houses, Quedlinburg is just the place for a museum on this topic.
The attraction is set in one of the oldest houses in the city, dating to the middle of the 14th century.
But its value comes from the “Ständerbau” construction, in which single vertical timber beams attached to the sill plate(base at the ground floor) rise all the way to the roof.
Outside you can see where wooden pegs have been hammered in to secure the beams against tensile and shearing forces.
The exhibition goes into the specifics of this and other kinds of timber-framed construction, and lets you in on the restoration efforts constantly taking place around Quedlinburg.
10. St. Wiperti
On the grounds of Henry the Fowler’s royal court on the southwest side of the Schlossberg is the Church of St Wigbert, famed for its 10th-century crypt.
The royal court was hosted at St.
Wipeti, while Otto I visited throughout the 10th century to commemorate his father and to celebrate Easter.
This lower portion was unchanged after the basilica above was reconfigured in the 12th century, and is obligatory for its arched niches and Ottonian-style capitals.
The upper building was a male monastery until the Reformation and was even used as a barn for a time, before being restored after the Second World War.
West of the church is the Wipertifriedhof cemetery, where Medieval tombs have been cut into the hillside on terraces.
In the Middle Ages this 15-hectare park hemmed by the Bode River belonged to the St. Wiperti Monastery.
After the Reformation it became a recreation area for Quedlinburg’s residents, and in 1685 Anna Dorothea, Abbess of Quedlinburg laid out the avenues that still shoot through the park today.
When the monasteries were dissolved at the start of the 19th century Brühl became a royal property before soon being gifted to the city by the King of Prussia.
After that an English landscape park with exotic trees was planted in 1866, and monuments were erected to illustrious Quelinburgers like Carl Ritter, one of the founders of modern geography.
In the 20th century the Quedlinburg architect and art collector Hermann Klumpp put together a collection of paintings, lithographs, woodcuts, etchings, watercolours and drawings by the Expressionist and Bauhaus artist Lyonel Feininger.
The gallery, which was given a modern extension in the 1990s, has something from each of Feininger’s creative phases between 1906 and 1937. There are also works by some of Feininger’s contemporaries, like Lovis Corinth, Kandinsky, Paul Klee and Emil Nolde.
13. Stiftskirche St. Cyriakus
For an easy and rewarding excursion, go south to Gernrode where another Ottonian monument is in store.
This collegiate church was founded in the 960s by the Margrave Gero, whose sculpted tomb is in the crossing below the steps to the choir.
The show-stopping attraction inside is the copy of the Jerusalem’s Holy Sepulchre.
This masterpiece of Romanesque art was carved over 50 years up to 1130 and is claimed to be most like the original in Jerusalem.
In the nave the capital columns have a variety of motifs, from human heads to stylised acanthus leaves.
14. Harz Narrow Gauge Railways
Quedlinburg is a terminus for a narrow gauge railway line winding through the massive scenery of the Harz mountain range.
This is the longest contiguous network in Europe running on steam power, and it comprises two 19th-century lines that have been joined up and then lengthened to include some of the destinations around the range.
The 8.5-kilometre line from Quedlinburg south to Gernrode opened in 2006 and is an extension of the Selketalbahn, laid in 1887. If you want to make a day of it you could take a return trip to Hasselfelde, 40 or so kilometres away, riding below rolling peaks like the 600-metre Ramberg in a vintage carriage
15. Bad Suderode
It was the women of Quedlinburg’s Medieval convent who first made the most of the natural beauty of this valley a short drive south of Quedlinburg.
The small Romanesque church in the resort is from that period, and is decorated with Late Medieval frescoes and reliefs depicting King David and the Wise and Foolish Virgins.
After the local spring waters were discovered to have health-giving properties in the early 20th century, Suderode was given its spa (Bad) designation and sophisticated Wilehlmine houses cropped up around the valley.
The water has an unusually high concentration of calcium, and people still come to the spa to soak in warm salt baths.
For others Bad Suderode’s beauty is in the landscape of the northern Harz mountains, ready to be uncovered on 245 kilometres of signposted hiking trails.