Bordering Poland and its sister town Zgorzelec, Görlitz is located in Saxony and is Germany’s most eastern city. In a time where modern structures often dominate their older neighbours, there are few places left you can visit and feel truly overwhelmed by such impressive non-stop architecture. Yet, there’s so much more to this fine city than its magnificent buildings.
Prepare to be swept away by the romantic, old-world feel Görlitz oozes. Restaurants, bars, hotels and more places to see than you will probably have time for are all knitted together by the meandering Neisse River, completing an ideal itinerary for any getaway.
Be treated like a movie star
Of course, no place is complete without its people. We often measure how good or bad an experience was from the welcome we received. The friendly local people and businesses of Görlitz are, quite rightly so, very passionate and proud of their heritage. They want you to experience it too, so expect a genuinely warm welcome and first-class service.
Though often referred to as the pearl of Silesia, this tucked-away corner of Germany isn’t quite a hidden gem. Unscathed by the destruction of the second world war, Görlitz is one of few places in this beautiful country that remained more or less intact. Thousands of well-preserved listed features, spanning ten centuries, not only draw in tourists from all corners of the globe but also cementing an ongoing relationship with a famous frequent visitor called Hollywood. It’s fair to say if Hollywood has fallen in love with Görlitz, you will too.
Be seduced by a stunning location and heavenly food
Having been at the heart of Europe’s most important trade routes has undoubtedly contributed to the city’s eclectic mix of opulent-looking structures. Renaissance, Art Nouveau, Baroque and early Gothic buildings paint a colourful cityscape found nowhere else in the country. Görlitz rivals many of the world’s more famous cities, but without boasting too much about it.
Görlitz the movie location
Its popularity as a top Hollywood film destination confirms the pull Görlitz has. Inglourious Basterds (Tom Cruise), The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Book Thief, and The Young Karl Marx are all hit movies which took advantage of the glorious Görlitz. The start of The Reader (Kate Winslet) was filmed here, not in Berlin; and the animation Around the World in 80 Days’ Parisian market town scene was actually the Untermarkt. There’s no telling who you might rub shoulders with during your visit.
While you can wander the picturesque cobbled streets, craning your neck to view the conveyor-belt of sights, there’s no better way to absorb its beauty than from a seat in one of the old town’s many bars and restaurants. Here you can tease your taste buds with world-class cuisine at a fraction of what you’d pay in London or Paris.
Located in the Altstadt part of the old town, the Untermarkt plays host to an excellent choice of places to indulge your culinary senses. Bohemian eateries where hedonists gather offer a refuge for tired travellers to sip coffee while a choice of traditional Silesian and international cuisine can be found at every corner; Russian, Italian and French restaurants always proving popular with locals and tourists alike.
If you don’t want to eat al fresco and watch the world pass by, you can dine in a historic building where light is by lantern and the ceilings are vaulted; the Vino e Cultura is a foodie’s paradise. However, don’t be under the illusion that Görlitz, with its seductive powers, is a city where only lovers roam; trendy modern bars cater for a younger crowd too.
Silesian heavens and other local food
Almost every city has its own famous food, and Görlitz certainly has its. Schlesisches Himmelreich, which translates to Silesian heavens, is a traditional pork loin dish served in a plum gravy with savoury dumplings. This tasty classic, which remains one of the city’s most popular, is one you can’t miss. A Silesian warm potato salad (with smoked bacon) also makes for a yummy lunchtime snack. If you love meat, you can indulge in a mighty Bohemian roast. Alternatively, delight in exquisitely cooked monkfish or take your pick of mouth-watering vegetarian options.
For dessert, Hefeplinsen with applesauce and raisins is highly recommended.
Famous Görlitz Beer
There are fewer nations on the planet more famous for producing excellent beer than Germany. Therefore, it’s no surprise that Görlitz, which seems to get everything else so right, brews its own: Landskron, named after the nearby mountain, is a strong pilsner best served ice-cold on a balmy summer’s evening sat by the river. The Landskron brewery also produces seasonal beers like Mailbock, which packs a punch and is usually only available in springtime. Radeberger and Freiberger are also popular local beers supplied by breweries near Dresden.
Things to see and do
Görlitz hosts a range of events throughout the year including the International Street Theatre Festival, The Görlitz Jazz Festival and, one of the entire region’s most impressive events, the Historic City Festival. If you visit at Christmas, the Silesian Christmas Market is an event in itself. Here you can sample fine foods and buy artisan goods from both sides of the border.
While Görlitz caters well for food lovers, movie fans and anyone who appreciates a stunning setting, it also has plenty to keep the little ones happy. Besides the usual leafy parks and safe play areas, the city has a choice of interesting and fun places all the family can enjoy.
The Senckenberg Museum of Natural History
Prepare to be wowed at the Senckenberg Museum. There are some fascinating exhibitions which offer a glimpse into a range of habitats from the wilds of Upper Lusatia to tropical rain forests. You can also brush up on your knowledge about evolution.
Görlitz Toy Museum
Spend an hour at the Görlitz Toy Museum (Spielzeugmuseum) and see what children from the Saxon Ore Mountains used to play with, or reminisce over an exhibition of classics from your own childhood.
The Nature Conservation Zoo
Five hectares of Görlitz have been turned into a nature lover’s paradise. The Nature Conservation Zoo (Naturschutz-Tierpark Görlitz) is an award-winning parkland and home to hundreds of animals, all enjoying a carefully crafted, almost natural, environment. It’s always a hit with children and adults alike.
You can’t deny that, however beautiful the architecture is, cities always looks their best at night, when dressed to impress and to show off under the subtle tones of spotlights; an ambience of calm adds to the sounds of chatter, laughter and music.
Görlitz by night, however you choose to spend it, offers the perfect backdrop. Whether you want a romantic candle-lit meal, a quiet glass of wine or to party until the early hours, unsurprisingly, Görlitz delivers. However, bear in mind that although there is a good choice of bars, it is not famous for being a city filled with drunken partygoers like some infamous destinations are.
A choice of great places to stay
Like any major city, Görlitz has an excellent choice of accommodation to suit all budgets. You can choose anything from a boutique hotel to a backpacker’s hostel, an impressive hotel like the Mercure Parkhotel, or something in-between like the Dreibenger Hund. A short search online or on foot will lead you to a comfortable bed and welcoming hosts. Most places are located within reach of the city sights or are right in the heart of it all.
Getting around Görlitz
If you want to explore outside the old town, all the standard modes of transport are available. Two tramlines connect the suburbs to the city (about four miles away) and tickets can be bought at the station. If you’re travelling around Germany, ZVON tickets can be used here too. The tram doesn’t stop at every area outside the city, but local buses do and you can use your ticket for either. A journey by tram offers a whistle-stop of some of the city’s best views.
Planning your trip: best time to visit
As you’ve probably realised, Görlitz is an all-year-round destination. When you plan to visit depends on you, really. If you don’t like the cold, then either pack some warm clothes or visit in the warmer months. Spring is always a treat where Nature puts on her displays; walks outdoors will take your breath away, especially up Landskron Mountain. If you are thinking to explore in the winter months, be sure to check about access when the snow falls.