OT Itinerary: A Weekend in Quedlinburg - Germany's Cradle

More than a thousand years old, the town north of the Harz mountains, in the district of Harz, has charming winding alleys with aged cobblestones and spacious squares. Here's how to spend a weekend here
A Weekend Break In Quedlinburg, The Cradle of Germany
A Weekend Break In Quedlinburg, The Cradle of GermanyShutterstock

My recent discovery of small, charming places is Quedlinburg, a delightful mediaeval town at the northern edge of the Harz Mountains in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. More than a thousand years old, the town's winding alleys with their aged cobbles and the spacious squares towered by the massive sandstone rock of the castle hill with its imposing church transported me into times gone by. The castle, abbey, church, and surrounding buildings are exceptionally well preserved and are masterpieces of Romanesque architecture, all of which earned Quedlinburg a place on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list.  

More than a thousand years ago, German history began here. This is where Henry I was invested with royal dignity in 919, thus becoming the first king of the Holy Roman Empire of the German nation. Soon it became a favourite residence of the Saxon emperors, and Quedlinburg became known as the "Cradle of the German Reich". An exceptional example of a mediaeval European town, here the buildings from the Roman era, 2069 timber-framed houses and villas in Wilhelminian style, and Art Nouveau breathe the history and culture of past eras.

A Ride Through History And Heritage

At first, I took a 45-minute joy ride in the cute little toy train called Bimmelbahn. Equipped with a bell, it started at the Old Town's historic Market Place and winded its way through narrow streets, the original city walls, and medieval defence towers, chugging along centuries-old half-timbered houses, crossing historical bridges as I listened to the train driver's commentary, enlightening us on history, culture, and heritage. This tour is the ideal starting point for those who are not good on foot or want to enjoy the ride (like me).  

A Walk Up The Hill

Quedlinburg Castle Hill
Quedlinburg Castle HillWikimedia Commons

Later, I joined a guided walking tour for a more immersive experience. The ascent over 67 steps strengthens your blood cycle and is worthwhile for the beautiful view. The city is dominated by the 16th-century castle (now a museum) on the site of the old fortress and by the former abbey Church of St. Servatius, one of the masterpieces of Romanesque architecture.

After Henry died in 936, King Otto created the abbey on the castle hill of Quedlinburg in 936 on his mother's initiative, Queen Matilda (the widow of King Henry the Fowler), as her late husband's memorial. She was later canonised as Saint Mathilda. Henry was buried here, as was Mathilda herself. Saint Matilda founded a Frauenstift (a secular abbey of nuns or convent, normally of noble families) on the castle hill, where daughters of the higher nobility were educated. For many centuries, the abbesses enjoyed great prestige and influence. The abbey also received numerous gifts of precious books, manuscripts, and liturgical items, which were stored in the treasury as one of the most valuable church treasures of the Middle Ages, the Ottonian treasures. The most famous illuminated manuscript associated with the town, the 5th-century Quedlinburg Itala fragment, was once in the church, though later it was moved to a museum in Berlin. 

The abbey garden is at the foot of the castle hill (to the south is the Brühl park) and offers magnificent views of Quedlinburg. The well-maintained, small garden has pretty rose blooms and sculpted figurines. The creative will of several abbesses and two influential garden artists supposedly contributed to its beautification. There is a herbal garden as well.

The Half-Timbered Museum

This is one of the most ancient half-timbered houses in the country, hypothetically built in 1310 and the oldest in Quedlinburg. Having served as a residential house till the year 1965, the house is now a small museum where visitors can learn all about half-timbered architecture from the 14th to the 19th century and the restoration and reconstruction measures for its preservation. One of its kind in the world, it draws many tourists.  

Old or new, Quedlinburg steals your heart
Old or new, Quedlinburg steals your heartWikimedia Commons

The pretty houses in the new town are no less charming. The walks from my hotel in a neighbourhood to the old town, passing along well-manicured gardens and elegant houses, feasted my eyes every time. Old or new, Quedlinburg steals your heart with its beauty and charm. 

Quedlinburg, part of the Sachsen-Anhalt, is said to have the largest number of timber-frame houses, more than 1,200 of them. The number and high quality of the buildings dating from the medieval period and the town's history have earned it the UNESCO World Heritage Site tag. Read more about them here.

A Smorgasbord Of Cheesecake

Cheesecakes on the shelf of a bakery in Quedlinburg
Cheesecakes on the shelf of a bakery in QuedlinburgVijaya Pratap

Cheesecake seems to be Quedlinburg's speciality, for I found many bakeries selling stylised cheesecakes. One of them even had 99 varieties of cheesecake on its menu The unique German cheesecake made of Quark Cheese is much lighter, more delicious, and irresistible Our group feasted not on all 99 but half a dozen of the most delicious cheesecakes from a famous bakery in the quaint old town as a fitting finale to our fabulous visit to Quedlinburg. The taste still lingers, making me want to go back for more.

Related Stories

No stories found.
Outlook Traveller