The Untermarkt in Görlitz (lower market) is the older of the two main market squares in Görlitz and, in my opinion, the most beautiful spot in the city!
The Untermarkt is lined with beautiful Renaissance buildings and is divided in two by a row of buildings in the center of the square called die Zeile (the row). During warm seasons you can find people sitting out at the cafes and restaurants in the evenings, enjoying the magical atmosphere of the historic market with its cobble-stoned streets and arcades. Many of Görlitz’s festivals take place on the Untermarkt like the Tippelmarkt and Altstadtfest.
Here are a few things to be sure to look out for while you are exploring the lower market:
The Rathaus (town hall) actually consists of several buildings from different time periods. The old town hall (Altes Rathaus) dates back to the Renaissance period – inside there are beautiful painted wood ceilings and you can peak into the inner courtyard with its bay window for the court.The Rathausturm (town hall tower) was built in the 16th century with elaborate clocks, dials and a lion that roars with organ pipes. If you take the tour of the tower you may be able to push the button that sets the lion roaring, like I did! But that’s not the only reason to climb to the top – the panoramic views of Görlitz from above are well worth the climb! The town hall steps are decorated with a statue of Justitia – but she is not blind, a symbol of the free jurisdiction that the city of Görlitz had.
The new town hall (Neues Rathaus) was built at the beginning of the 1900s in neo-Renaissance style and features the coat of arms of the Lusatian League – an alliance of six towns: Görlitz, Bautzen, Kamenz, Lauban, Löbau and Zittau. Lauban now lies in Poland and is called Lubań. This league increased the security and political influence of its member cities from 1346-1635.
From March through December there are tours of the tower Wednesday-Sunday from 11:00am-6:00pm on the hour. Tours are in German, require no reservation and cost 4€ for adults.
Schönhof is the oldest Renaissance building in Görlitz – after the city fire in 1525 it was rebuilt by the council’s master builder, Wendel Roskopf the Elder. The wooden ceilings and wall paintings inside have been preserved form the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries – that alone would make the building worth a visit, but it is also home to a fantastic collection of items housed by the Silesian Museum.
The Scales (Waage) is a Renaissance house in the middle of the Untermarkt, constructed in 1600. When goods arrived in the city they were weighed, registered and paid for here.
Did you know? There was a famous visitor on the Untermarkt – in 2005 Jackie Chan swung out of a window while filming Around the World in 80 Days! Görlitz appeared in the first 15 minutes of the film, primarily as a stand-in for Paris!
The Brauner Hirsch (brown deer) is a baroque town house and one of the most extensive houses in the city. It used to be a hotel and brewery. The building (as well as the Untermarkt in general) is very popular with film makers, like Wes Anderson in his film Grand Budapest Hotel.
The Ratsapotheke (the town apothecary) is a Renaissance building with a beautiful façade and portal rebuilt by Wendel Roskopf the Younger around 1550 for a merchant. Until 1832 it was the only pharmacy in Görlitz and today you can sit outside and enjoy a coffee and dessert in its café.
The “Whispering Arch”(Flüsterbogen) gets its name from a unique auditory effect – if you put your ear to one end of the arch while someone whispers into the other, you can hear them clearly at the your end. So climb up and put your ear to the arch – don’t be embarrassed, every visitor has to try it at least once!