To explore this 1,000-year-old town, park your car, put on a pair of comfortable shoes, and set out on foot through the Altstadt, which has more than 1,000 half-timbered buildings from the 15th to the 18th century. The impressive Rathaus was built in 1450. The portico, with Gothic cross-vaulting, opening on to the Marktplatz, was used by merchants for centuries. Above this is the citizens' meeting hall and the councilmen's meeting chamber, lavishly decorated in the early 1300s with a cycle of 55 paintings depicting biblical and heathen iconography and believed to incorporate the zinc miners returning home from the Rammelsberg mines.
Marktplatz, in front of the Rathaus, was for a long time the town's hub of activity. In the center of the large square is a 13th-century fountain with two bronze basins and the German imperial eagle at the top. Many visitors think seeing the Glockenspiel perform is the highlight of their visit. Every day at noon, 3, and 6pm (there's a smaller version of the spectacle at 9am), a procession of mechanized miners, representing the silver trade of long ago, traipses out of the innards of the clock tower.
The churches of Goslar provide a look into the architectural history of the area. Many of the oldest -- five had already been built by 1200 -- have been expanded and altered from their original Romanesque style to their current Gothic appearance. The Romanesque Marktkirche, just behind the Rathaus, has 700-year-old stained-glass windows and a 16th-century bronze baptismal font. From Marktplatz, take Rosentorstrasse north to reach the 11th-century Jakobikirche, later transformed into a Gothic masterpiece, complete with baroque altars. The church contains a Pietà by Hans Witten (1520). Farther down the street, the Neuwerkkirche, in a garden, has retained its purely Romanesque basilica, and its well-preserved sanctuary contains a richly decorated choir and stucco reliefs. It was originally constructed as a Cistercian convent in the late 1100s.
The 12th-century Frankenberg Kirche, on Bergstrasse, was completely remodeled in the 1700s. Over the elaborate baroque pulpit and altars hangs the intricately carved Nun's Choir Gallery, bedecked with gilded saints and symbols.
One of the reminders that Goslar was once a free imperial and Hanseatic city is the Breites Tor (Broad Gate), a three-towered town gate with walls up to 4m (13 ft.) thick. From here, you can follow the old town fortifications to the Kaiserpfalz, Kaiserbleek 6 (tel. 05321/3119693), a Romanesque palace that was the ruling seat of the emperors in the 11th and 12th centuries. You can view the 19th-century murals that cover its walls and visit the Ulrichskapelle, where the heart of Heinrich III was placed inside a large sarcophagus. The site is open April to October daily 10am to 5pm, and November to March daily 10am to 4pm. Admission is 4.50€ for adults and 2.50€ for children.
For a quick overview of Goslar's history, visit the Goslarer Museum, at the corner of Abzuchstrasse and Königstrasse 1 (tel. 05321/43394), which has displays of the architecture of the early town and several relics of the past. The museum also contains a large geological collection from the Harz Mountains. It's open April to October Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 5pm, and November to March Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 4pm. Admission is 4€ for adults and 2€ for children.
Into the Depths of an Ancient Mine
Just outside Goslar, about 1.5km (1 mile) south of the town center (follow the signs), you can explore an ancient mine. As early as the 3rd century A.D., lead, zinc, copper, silver, tin, and a little gold were being mined here. The Weltkulturerbe Rammelsberg, Bergtal 19 (tel. 05321/7500; www.rammelsberg.de), conducts guided tours at hourly intervals, on foot or on a small underground train. The museum is open daily 9am to 6pm (closed Dec 24 and 31). Walking tours cost 12€ for adults and 7€ for children. Prices include a ride on the underground train. For more information, call either the museum or the tourist office in Goslar (tel. 05321/78060).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.