Welcome to Görlitz, a beautiful town in Germany and my new home! Since moving here, I have wanted to know it better and to share it with others. This is what inspired me to start this website, to explore my new surroundings and to share them with you. This post is an introduction to the highlights of the city, please follow the links for more information!
Görlitz is a town of around 56,000 people. Situated on the Polish/German border and the banks of the Neiße River, Görlitz is the easternmost city in Germany and has a unique relationship to its Polish neighbors. Before the redrawing of borders after World War II, the town of Görlitz was on both sides of the river. Today, with just a short walk across the Altstadtbrücke (Old Town Bridge) in Görlitz you arrive in its other half, the Polish city of Zgorzelec. The proximity and partnership of the two cities makes Görlitz a unique location where both cultures can be experienced and can benefit from one another. Take advantage of this by taking a stroll across the bridge to enjoy delicious Polish food or even take a day trip to one of the many lovely locations just a short distance away from Görlitz.
But let’s back up a bit! Görlitz was first mentioned in a document in 1071 as the small Sorbian village Gorelic. It is likely that this village existed on the hill where the Peterskirche (St. Peter and Paul Church) and the Untermark (Lower Market) exist today. Throughout its history, Görlitz has been a part of Lusatia, Bohemia, Saxony and Prussia. Today the region where Görlitz lies is called the Lower Silesian Upper Lusatia (Niederschlesische Oberlausitz) in the German federal state of Saxony.
Görlitz received town rights in 1303 and soon followed the right to mint coins, brew beer, sell cloth, and to store the woad plant used to dye the cloth blue. The making and selling of cloth was a big business in Görlitz and helped the town to thrive. Its location along the important trade route Via Regia made it a center for commerce. In 1346 Görlitz became a member of the Upper Lusatian Six City League along with Bautzen, Löbau, Zittau, Kamenz and Lauban. This cooperation helped keep the trade routes safe and brought prosperity to the cities involved.
The Lower Market (Untermarkt) in Görlitz, once home to prosperous cloth merchants, is lined with beautiful Renaissance and Gothic buildings. Take a stroll along the black cobblestone, feeling immersed in history, or enjoy a drink or meal in one of the many restaurants and cafes. These beautifully preserved sights have inspired many directors, like Wes Anderson and Quentin Tarantino to make films here, leading to the town’s nickname “Görliwood”. The Lower Market boasts beautiful arcades as well as hall houses such as the Baroque House on Neißstraße, also home to the gorgeous Upper Lusatian Library of Sciences and one of the several great museums in town.
The Lower Market is also the center for many exciting events throughout the year in Görlitz, including the Altstadtfest (Old Town Festival), Schlesischer Christkindelmarkt (Silesian Christmas Market), and the Schlesischer Tippelmarkt (Silesian Pottery Market).
From the Lower Market you can walk down the beautiful Brüderstraße, a street lined with more beautiful and historic buildings as well as shops and cafes, to arrive at the Upper Market (Obermarkt), ringed with beautiful Baroque residences like the Napoleon House and crowned by the Kaisertrutz (Imperial Keep), a fortification that earned its name during the 30 Years’ War when it served as a defense against the imperial troops and today home to the Museum of History and Culture. Other remnants of the former city walls in Görlitz include the Reichenbacher Turm, Dicker Turm, and the Nikolaiturm.
Along with its historic towers and stunning merchant houses, Görlitz is also home to many beautiful pre-reformation churches open to visitors. The most visible and stunning is of course the Peterskirche***LINK TO PETERSKIRCHE*** which dominates the town’s skyline, but the other churches are worth a visit as well. The Dreifaltigkeitskirche is perhaps my favorite, with its beautiful interior and spooky legend. The Nikolaikirche is a monument to WWI soldiers and surrounded by an amazing, atmospheric graveyard and the Frauenkirche – although dwarfed by the surroundings buildings and traffic, is worth a visit. For those interested in sacred sites, the Heiliges Grab is a very accurate replica of the Holy Grave in Jerusalem, built in the late 1400s.
Beside the Frauenkirche is the famous Kaufhaus – a beautiful department store in Art Nouveau style that was featured prominently in the film Grand Budapest Hotel. The Kaufhaus is currently only open sporadically to visitors but there are plans to reopen it as a department store in the future.
Görlitz also has a lot to offer for those looking to commune with nature. The Landeskrone is the city’s mountain. At 420 meters high (1378 ft), the mountain is a popular place for locals to hike and once on top, affords a beautiful view of the area. The mountain lends its name to the local brewery and while you are up there you can enjoy a cold Landskron.
A recent addition to the area is the Berzdorf Lake. Once a lignite mine, it was filled in with water in 2013 and is now a popular place for people from Germany, Poland and Czechia to swim, bike, cycle and play.
You will be stunned at how beautifully preserved Görlitz is – as well as how lucky. Few German cities can boast an old town as unspoiled by the scars of war and modernization. During World War II the town was spared from major damage, the main losses being all seven bridges which were blown up by the retreating Wehrmacht during the final days of the war. During GDR times the old town was left mostly abandoned and the old buildings began to crumble and decay. If the Wall hadn’t come down in 1989, the old town might have met the same fate as many other cities during this time – being torn down to make way for modern buildings and apartments. In addition to these strokes of luck, the city also had a secret admirer! Beginning in 1995, an anonymous donor gifted the city with one million Deutsche Mark (approximately € 511,500) each year for the purpose of renovating and renewing the old town. In 2017 the town was notified that the donations would be ending – but the evidence of this amazing gift can be seen all around the city today and the identity of the benefactor remains a mystery.
Görlitz can be easily reached by car, train or plane and is close to several major destinations:
- Berlin approximately 217 km (135 miles)
- Dresden approximately 110 km (68 miles)
- Prague approximately 167 km (104 miles)
- Wrocław approximately 173 km (107 miles)
So, now that you’ve read this post I am sure you are dreaming about your next trip to Görlitz, and I certainly can’t blame you! Be sure to check out my other posts for more information or contact me if you would like some personalized tips for your stay, I am always happy to help and eager for others to experience Görlitz!