Travel in Germany: Five reasons why you should visit architectural gem Görlitz

Renowned for its thousands of listed buildings, this "pearl" on the eastern border is a must-see for architecture lovers.

Travel in Germany: Five reasons why you should visit architectural gem Görlitz
The city centre of Görlitz. Photo: DPA

While cities like Cologne, Munich and Frankfurt attract the bulk of tourists, they all have one drawback – they were destroyed during the the Second World War. That’s why a visit to medium-sized towns can be so rewarding.

Görlitz is one such town that was untouched by bombs. This piece of historical fortune means that it is the best and largest example of Grunderzeit architecture in the country.

Situated on the eastern edge of Saxony, Görlitz lies partly in Poland and partly in Germany. The two cities are split by the River Neiße.

Here are five reasons why Görlitz is worth a visit.

It has a famous medieval centre

The city of Görlitz first came to prominence in the 13th century as a trading post on the Via Regia, one of the most important trade routes in central Europe. The Obermakrt, still completely intact, was the main market where cloth from the west and honey and furs from the east were traded.

A Sechsstädtebund (six city alliance) formed with nearby towns including Bautzen and Zittau increased the power and wealth of the city. Leftover today are an abundance of architectural styles from the 13th to the 16th centuries.

The city hopes to have its old town listed as a UNESCO world heritage site.

The Hallenhäuser have been proposed as a world heritage site. Photo: DPA

It once went to war over beer

Back in the 15th century the right to brew beer was a big thing in much of Germany. Not everyone got to do it, but it brought large profits to the privileged few who could. 

Görlitz, a growing power at the time, managed to convince the Kaiser to give it exclusive rights to brew and sell beer in the surrounding region.

This didn’t go down in the nearby town of Zittau which was known to sell the best beer between Dresden and Prague.

When Görlitz seized a large quantity of ale that had been brewed ‘illegally’ in a nearby town the Zittauers retaliated, attacking a village outside Görlitz and taking its cattle and pigs.

These days the city is know for Landskron beer. Photo: DPA

The war dragged on for several years before both sides buried the hatchet.

The two towns reportedly still can’t decide on who makes the better beer.

One of the wealthiest German cities of the 19th century

The second golden age for the city came in the 19th century when it successfully established itself as a kind of retirement home for the wealthy.

In the middle of the century Görlitz had the fortune of being the largest commune in terms of its land size in the Prussian Reich. It used this to good effect, selling wood from its ample forests to stock up its treasury.

With such wealth it could afford to drop taxes for the elderly, who moved to the city in droves.

A visionary town mayor also connected it to the rest of the kingdom via Germany’s first large railway viaduct. The city planners used their new riches to build a city in the image of London, Vienna and Paris.

At the time it was considered the most beautiful province city in Germany.

READ ALSO: A portrait of Görlitz, the city that could elect Germany's first AfD mayor

It is the largest monument in Germany

As proof of how architecturally significant the city is, 4,000 buildings are listed as protected in its city centre, making it the largest area of monuments in Germany.

Much of the historic architecture lay in disrepair at the end of the communist era.

Luckily a mysterious donor from Munich has been transferring hundreds of thousands of euros each year into a fund to refurbish the buildings.

Loved by Hollywood

Filming the Grand Budapest Hotel. Photo: DPA

Due to the fact that there is almost no 20th century architecture in the city centre, Görlitz is a dream location for film producers. The city has marketed this strength to good effect and is now often known by its moniker, Görliwood.

Some of the biggest stars in the business have worked on set in the town. Emma Thomson, Kate Winslet and Quentin Tarantino have all been there in recent years.

If you watch films like Inglorious Basterds, the Grand Budapest Hotel and Alone in Berlin carefully enough you might start noticing the same buildings re-appearing.

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Five of Germany’s most magical Christmas Markets to visit in 2021

Despite rising infection numbers, most of Germany’s Christmas markets will be open to fill our hearts with festive cheer this year. We give you a rundown of five of the country’s most magical Christmas markets.

Five of Germany's most magical Christmas Markets to visit in 2021
The entrance to the Stuttgart Christmas market in 2019. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Tom Weller

In 2020, many Christmas markets in Germany had to close or were scaled back massively because of the pandemic. This year – at least at the time or reporting – lots of markets are set to open in the coming weeks. 

Here are five we love at The Local Germany. If you have any suggestions for magical Christmas markets in Germany, please leave a comment below. 

Maritime Christmas Market on the Koberg, Lübeck

Lübeck, the so-called “Christmas city of the North”, will be welcoming the festive season this year by lighting up its old town with over 500,000 Christmas lights.

The northwest of the old town island is where you’ll find the maritime-themed Christmas market which has been going since 2011.

Centred around the gothic, middle-aged church of St. Jacob, this Christmas market celebrates the city’s historical sea-faring residents by creating a cosy harbour atmosphere with old wooden barrels, nets and a stranded shipwreck as well as a Ferris wheel with an unforgettable view of Lübeck’s old town and harbour.

Culinary stands offer visitors sweet and savoury dishes, and beverages such as hot lilac punch, mulled wine and, of course, rum.

Extra info: The current rules for events and hospitality in Schleswig Holstein is that 3G applies (entry for the vaccinated, people who’ve recovered from Covid or people who show a negative test)  but from Monday, November 15th, indoor areas will be enforcing the 2G rule (excluding the unvaccinated).

The Christkindlesmarkt in Augsburg Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Karl-Josef Hildenbrand

Christkindlesmarkt, Augsburg

With its origins in the 15th century, the Christkindlesmarkt in Augsburg is one of the oldest in Germany, and the Renaissance town hall provides a particularly beautiful backdrop to this winter wonderland.

As well as a wide variety of stands selling handcrafted nick-nacks and tasty treats, the Augsburg market also has some especially magical features, including the “Heavenly Post Office,” and “Fairytale Lane”: an animated fairytale depicted in ten scenes in decorated shop windows around the market place.

Extra info: In order to keep dense crowds to a minimum, the Angel performance will not take place this year. The market will also be spread out over more locations in the historic centre and there will be fewer mulled wine stands than in previous years. The stalls will be distributed over the Hauptmarkt, Lorenzer Platz, Schütt Island and Jakobsplatz.

Meanwhile, masks will have to be worn due to the high Covid numbers in Bavaria – and there will be 2G rules around the mulled wine stands, meaning unvaccinated people will not be served alcohol.

READ ALSO: State by state – Germany’s Covid rules for Christmas markets

Medieval Market and Christmas Market, Esslingen

The Medieval Market and Christmas Market in Esslingen, with its backdrop of medieval half-timbered houses, offers visitors a trip back in time, with traders and artisans showing off their goods from times gone by.

The stands show off the wares of pewterers, stonemasons, blacksmiths, broom makers and glass blowers, as well as some old-fashioned merchants selling fun themed goods like drinking horns and “potions” in bottles.

Extra info: This year the number of stands will be reduced from more than 200 to around 120 and the stage shows, torch parade and interactive activities will not be taking place.

View from above the historic Streizelmarkt in Dresden. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Robert Michael

Streizelmarkt, Dresden

No Christmas Market list would be complete without the Streizelmarkt – Germany’s oldest Christmas market in the “Florence on the Elbe”.

This market, which you will find in Dresden’s city centre, first took place in 1434, and since then it has acquired quite a reputation.

The ancient market is home to the tallest Christmas pyramid in the world, as well as the world’s largest nutcracker.

Amongst the dozens of traditional stands, visitors to this market must also try the Dresdner Christstollen: the famous fruit loaf that is baked according to a traditional recipe with chopped dried and candied fruits, nuts and spices and dusted with powdered sugar.

Visitors can also take a ride on the historic Ferris wheel and gaze down upon the lovingly decorated huts of the Striezelmarkt.

Extra info: This year there will be no stage program and the mountain parade has been cancelled.

Old Rixdorf Christmas Market, Berlin

Although not as well-known as some of Berlin’s other Christmas Markets, the Old Rixdorf Christmas market is a romantic and magical spot which is well worth a visit. In the south of city in Richardplatz, Neukölln the old village of Rixdorf was founded in1360.

This charming setting is home to historic buildings such as the Trinkhalle and the Alte Dorfschmiede, and is illuminated every year with kerosene lamps and fairy lights. The stalls and booths are run by charitable organizations and associations. There are homemade trifles and handicrafts, but also culinary delights such as fire meat, waffles, pea soup, and numerous varieties of mulled wine and punch.

Extra info: The Old Rixdorf Christmas Market will be following the 2G model, meaning that all visitors over the age of 12 will be required to be fully vaccinated or recovered from Covid-19.