Harz mountain Brockenbahn railway is a narrow gauge wonder

by Germany

No visit to the Harz Mountains in Germany should be considered complete without riding on the historic and thoroughly magical “Brockenbahn” railway. The Brocken narrow gauge Harz Mountain train is powered by steam engines and winds its way to the peak of the Brocken, the highest point in the Harz.

The train, in former East Germany, traces its history to the late 1800s as well as through two world wars and Soviet repression during the decades Germany was divided by the Berlin Wall. Somehow, it managed to survive. In 1992, with fully restored carriages and steam engines under the now privatized Harz Mountain Railway (www.hsb-wr.de/en) banner, it re-established a route to the Brocken summit, home of a Soviet listening post during the war. The train carries tourists throughout the day on a ride that takes a little over an hour and a half, puffing steam and smoke from Wernigerode up past Steinerne Renne, through a 70-meter (230-foot) tunnel, to Drei Annen Hohne, and then up and up, steeply grunting through Schierke and finally winding its way around the Brocken to arrive at the barren summit. The Brocken, at 1,142 meters (3,747 feet), is also the highest point in northern Germany.

Riding the Brockenbahn Railway

Your ride on the Brockenbahn railway will begin at the main Wernigerode train station, though you can also jump on the train at the Westerntor station just a kilometer distant. While you can take the train round-trip, we’d recommend just riding up and enjoying a marvelous walk down after spending an hour or so visiting at the summit. One way tickets are 23 euro for adults and 11.50 euro for children ages 6 to 11.

This classic ride begins at the main Wernigerode train station although you can also jump on the train at three other stations in Wernigerode. While you can take the train round-trip, we’d recommend just riding up and enjoying a marvelous walk down after spending an hour or so visiting the summit. One-way tickets are EUR 23 for adults and EUR 11.50 for children 6-11.

HITT Tip: You can also visit other towns in the entire Harz region via the railway with group and multi-day tickets available depending on your goals (click here to read our story on Quedlinburg, another charming Harz region village). If you are staying at a hotel in the area, you receive for free as part of tourist tax a pass to take any and all buses at no cost. Consider taking the train up and then hiking in one of many directions possible before catching a bus back.

We can assure everyone that train buff or not, anyone who enjoys history and a bit of adventure will fully enjoy the picturesque scenery of the Harz as forests and meadows give way to an open, wind-swept plateau with stunning views in all directions near the Brocken summit. (Be sure to watch a our brief video about the train ride at the end of this story).

Brockenbahn at the summit of the Brocken

Passengers disembark from the Brockenbahn railway at the summit of the Brocken.

HITT Tip: If you are a photographer, nothing beats a shot of the train leaving the station or exiting a tunnel. Look for the train leaving the Westerntor station in Wernigerode for great photo ops up close (but not too close please). For a memorable photo of the train leaving the tunnel (with a very good telephoto lens), hike approximately 3 kilometers north of Drei Annen Hohne and the hotel there, staying east of the road and the railroad tracks on various dirt paths and roads until you come to an obvious overlook with views across the valley to the train tracks. Be sure you have your Brockenbahn railway train schedule so you know how long to wait … or how fast to hike.

On the hike down on one of many superbly well-marked paths, you can head to many destinations, including Drei Anne Hohne where you can easily catch a bus back to Wernigerode,. You can also, as we did, hike all the way to Wernigerode itself. You’ll need to be in good physical shape, pack food and snacks and plenty of water, as well as appropriate clothing for weather changes, with good walking shoes a must.

Along the way, you’ll find it’s not difficult to imagine the Brocken being a meeting place for witches. Dense forests and whispering winds conjure up images of Hansel and Gretel. Goethe was so impressed with the Brocken legend that he set a scene from Faust there. And don’t forget to head into the tourist information office during your stay for your sticker depicting a witch – free with a tourist pass that comes with a hotel stay.

HITT Tip: You’ll need a very good map if you hike down, and there isn’t much better than the “Rund um den Brocken” 1:25:000 Harz National Park waterproof map by Kompass. You’ll find it for EUR 9 in most good German bookstores.

There is also a two-map set of the Harz in 1:50,000 scale – not quite as good for hiking. Karte 1 (Map 1) includes the Brocken line and shows paved roads, footpaths, and topographic contours along with GPS coordinates. It is available online through Amazon for $10 plus shipping or you can find the map in Germany at many larger bookstores for EUR 10.

Kleinhesselhoer See, Englischer Garten

International Donaufest in Ulm

Artist's War Memorial Bethlehemkirchplatz

Sowohl Als Auch Restaurant & Coffee House

Museum in the Kulturbrauerie (Alltag in Der DDR)

Berlin Underground Tours - Gesundbrunnen station

Gedenkstaette Mauer

Drei Annen Hohne


Wernigerode Train Station - Brockenbahn


The Brocken

Heads up! This information on the Brockenbahn railway was accurate when we published it on HI Travel Tales, but, as we know, traveling is all about changes (and inflation, sadly). It is your sole responsibility to confirm prices, transportation schedules, hours of operation, safety and health considerations, and any other important details before your adventure.

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