city centre Gorlitz fairytale town in Germany

Visit Gorlitz – an authentic fairytale town in Germany

Today’s post is for all of you who like underrated travel destinations and love exploring lesser known places. Gorlitz is where it’s at! Let me introduce you to Gorlitz – an authentic fairytale town in Germany. Compact in size but with a big international character. 

Not only is Gorlitz one of the many beautiful towns in Saxony, it boasts interesting architecture which made the town Germany’s top filming location. Steeped in history and often used in top Hollywood productions, this town is packed to the brim with interesting activities. Walk over the river to its Polish part, discover architectural wealth or admire picture-perfect cobbled streets. You never know what you may find in this idyllic town.

Please Note: the original German spelling is “Görlitz”. However, to max out the best results for SEO I’ll use its original name and the English spelling “Gorlitz” without the Umlaut interchangeably throughout the post.

6 Reasons to Visit Gorlitz

This post actually has more pictures of Gorlitz the fairytale town in Germany than text and for once, I managed to keep the word count under 6k words. So with that being said, I let the pictures do the talking and hope you’ll enjoy today’s post.

Historic Town Centre & Architectural Diversity

Gorlitz’s historic town centre is Germany’s largest heritage area. 4,000 properties including museums, cafes, villas and residences are more than 500 years old. The well-preserved buildings reflect an array of styles: gothic, renaissance, baroque, neoclassical, historicism and art nouveau – you name it and Gorlitz has it. The reason for this intact architectural wealth is that Gorlitz was largely spared during the Second World War.

Germanys oldest renaissance building in Görlitz
The Silesia Museum, Germany’s oldest secular Renaissance building (1526)
Gorlitz town centre with Nikolaiturm
Just one of the many picture-perfect cobbled streets in the city centre Görlitz

Surprisingly, Gorlitz has not (yet) received a UNESCO title, but they have applied to be considered for a title for the past 30 years. In the running is a special architecture unique to Gorlitz: the so-called “hall buildings” – impressive merchant palaces and sleeping quarters with solid constructions compete for the UNESCO title. In total, there are approximately 35 of these merchant palaces, some dating back as far as 1500. 

The Silesia Museum, Hotel Frenzelhof or the Biblical House are prime examples of typical hall buildings. Striking characteristics are the arcades with iconic cross vaults and a generous courtyard which allowed whole horse carriages to bring in goods; mostly textiles and cloth. The town runs a special hall building exhibition alongside their entry for UNESCO which allows visitors to tour the hall house in Brüderstraße 9 and learn more about these buildings, their significance and preservation. 

The Filming Industry & Hollywood

Next to the former cloth & fabric trade, another industry developed and thrived in Gorlitz. This authentic fairytale town in Germany is a top address for Hollywood productions and the filming industry. Since the 1950s, more than 100 films have been shot here. The charming cobbled streets and wealth of historic buildings create an authentic atmosphere which location scouts love. 

Gorlitz carried the title of European Film Location of the Decade (2007-2017) and has welcomed stars such as Emma Thompson and Ralph Fiennes. Since 2020, there’s been a designated route, the “Walk of Görliwood” which highlights important stations across town. Film fans can explore more of the glamorous Hollywood side on a self-guided tour. Each of the walkable 40 locations has signage in English and German.

Popular Filming Locations in Gorlitz are
– The lower market square
– The arcades at the Brown Stag (Brauner Hirsch)
– The department store
– Nikolai Cemetery
– Train Station
– “Gründerzeit” (founders period) district

cross rib vaults from Brown Stag building in Gorlitz
The cross rib vaults from Brauner Hirsch (Brown Stag) | Picture Credit: Europastadt GmbH Hanna Maiwal
Department store Gorlitz film location for Grand Budapest Hotel
Art Nouveau on the inside | Picture Credit: Europastadt Görlitz Zgorzelec GmbH Hanna Maiwal
Germanys prettiest department store in gorlitz
Historicism style on the outside – The Grand Budapest Hotel

Selected Görlitz Film Trivia

Grand Budapest Hotel – shot at the department store at Demiani Square. Even though the store sits empty, it was still voted as Germany’s prettiest department store. The local Café CaRe produced all the cakes used in the film and several A-list actors signed the town book.

The Book Thief – Unterer Markt (lower market square) was the main filming site. Several German towns rejected the filmmaker’s proposal for some scenes e.g. large Nazi banners hanging from houses or a live-action stake of burning books was classed as too controversial – but not an issue for Gorlitz. 

The Reader – For the film, the historic trams had to be brought into Gorlitz but they used the town’s original tram lines. Another filming location is the art nouveau house in Jakob Straße 5a. Built in 1912/13 by master builder Franz Grunert, it served as Hanna’s flat and for some of the court scenes. The building features delicate glass artwork, stucco and valuable wooden artwork adorning the salon on the first floor. Today, 5a is home to a restaurant, offices and seminar rooms. 

Jakobstrasse 5a a popular filming location in Germany
Jakob 5a – a popular filming location in Germany

Top Tip: Ride with the Görliwood Explorer Tour Bus
This is a special tour bus dedicated to showing you all the filming locations in the Old Town. The 1h tour guided by the German voice actor for Samuel L Jackson is informative and highly entertaining. I really enjoyed that there were no earphones required as speakers throughout the bus allowed for a great acoustic. The bus runs multiple times from the Reichenbacher Turm/Obermarkt. Tickets cost 13€ (information is correct as of 2023).

Via Regia & Ecumenical Pilgrimage Way

The Via Regia was first mentioned in the early 13th century. The “Royal Way” was used mostly by armies and led Augustus The Strong and Napoleon to Gorlitz. Its second function was to bring in the trade. Over the centuries, Gorlitz established itself as a centre for weaving, fabrics and woad.

A third group that is associated with the Via Regia are pilgrims. Next to the Via Imperii, the Via Regia is one of the oldest cultural routes across Europe. Starting in Moscow and ending in Santiago, it covers over 4500 km. The parts in Germany are also known as the ecumenical pilgrimage way which is 450 km long. Parts of the ecumenical pilgrimage way can be cycled easily e.g. from Leipzig to Naumburg. Even though the pilgrimage route is an extension of the Camino in Spain, the infrastructure isn’t as advanced and used these days. 

Via Regia in Görlitz
The Via Regia in the city centre Görlitz

READ: Beautiful Bike Tour on the Ecumenical Pilgrimage Route in Germany

One Settlement, Two Countries

Gorlitz is Germany’s most eastern town and lies on the border with Poland. Proclaimed as a double town in 1998, it shares its location with a Polish counterpart, Zgorzelec. Both towns have the same name origin. Derived from the Slavic language Sorbian, “Gorelic” or “Goreliz” means “burnt land” – the kind of burnt land that had to be cleared before it could be settled. 

Separated by the river Lusatian Neisse, you can visit both sides casually via the Altstadtbrücke. This footbridge was restored in 2003/04. No border control is required. 

Altstadtbrücke connecting Görlitz and Zgorzelec
Altstadtbrücke connecting Germany and Poland
Altstadtbrücke connecting city centre Görlitz and Zgorzelec
Casually strolling over to Poland, no border control required!
Gorlitz pfarrkirche fairytale town germany
View from Altstadtbrücke over the German part, Pfarrkirche in Görlitz. Yes, the dingy got stuck 🙂

Cafés & Coffee Culture

Gorlitz is one of these quaint German fairytale towns that invites you to sit, drink coffee and enjoy local food. As a rather small town, Gorlitz surprisingly has many eateries from a variety of cuisines and there’s of course, good old German “coffee and cake” culture. 

Did You Know? One favourite ingredient in Gorlitz is poppy seeds. You’ll find several sweet treats such as the Silesian poppy dumplings (Mohnpiele) or poppy seed cake on the café menus. 

Lucullus Coffee House – a coffee house not in the traditional Viennese style, but more a proper German place that serves coffee and cake. There’s a small yet intimate backyard with a garden – extremely delightful in the summer to sit here amongst locals and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere. 

Cafés in the labyrinth of the Old Town – Ratscafé, Café Flair all with al fresco seating

Ratscafe one of the many cafes in Görlitz
I see you! Ratscafé is one of the many cafes in Görlitz
Cafe Central cafes in Gorlitz
Café Central gives fairytale vibes

Café Central – on Berliner Straße towards the train station. Run by the local Saxonian bakery chain Schwerdtner, this is a very quaint bakery. The coffee to go is ok but it’s more about the building and little fountain outside for a perfect opportunity to capture that “authentic fairytale town in Germany” flair. 

Bikini Görlitz– if you’re after a modern and trendy café to work at, check out Bikini at Theater Passage 21/22

Solid Base for Exploring the Lusatia Region

Whilst I hate including “the best bit about destination X is the train to Z”, I have to say Gorlitz would make a great base for a few days and explore the area further. Lots of attractive day trips from Gorlitz would include the Rakotz Bridge at Kromlau Park, the UNESCO castle and gardens in Bad Muskau, Herrnhut, Kamenz, Bautzen or the Dinosaur amusement park in Kleinwelka. Wroclaw is also a short train journey away, so there are lots of options. 

READ: What Happened to The Devil’s Bridge in Germany?

Random Facts about Gorlitz

  • The sun rises in the East: Gorlitz is the first German town to start the day
  • A sweet treat, the nonpareils, was invented here by Rudolf Hoinkis at the end of the 19th century
  • An anonymous benefactor donated half a million Euros annually to the town between 1995-2016. The generous fund has been used to restore and maintain the historic buildings
  • The Silesia Museum located within the Schönhof complex is Germany’s oldest secular Renaissance building (1526)
  • Birkenstock has its largest manufacturing outlet in Gorlitz and produces daily 50.000 pairs of shoes
  • The clock of the Trinity Church on the Upper Market is always seven minutes ahead. This goes back to the clothmakers‘ uprising in 1527, when a traitor made the clock ring too early, so the conspirators holding one of their secret meetings bumped into the night guards

FAQs about Gorlitz fairytale town in Germany

I understand this is quite a lengthy post and you may have some quick questions about Gorlitz, an authentic fairytale town in Germany. You can, of course, always come back to any section of my post and read in more detail what you’d need for your trip. If you have questions or need help, please get in touch and I’m happy to assist. 

Where is Gorlitz & How Do I Get There?

Gorlitz is in East Germany and lies on the border with Poland. By car it is just a tiny bit quicker than by train, but not that much. Overall it’ll require some efforts to get to Gorlitz. Here are the timings in comparison:

Berlin: by car 3h, by train 3 1/2h

Dresden: by car 70 minutes, by train 1 1/2h

Is Gorlitz solo travel friendly?

I loved visiting Gorlitz and had no issues as a solo traveller. Sometimes smaller towns in Germany with mostly local visitors tend to be hesitant of international guests, but not so Gorlitz. This quaint market town is very friendly and open to visitors. Its hospitality has been praised by the entire film crew of The Grand Budapest Hotel including Ralph Fiennes and Jeff Goldblum. As a Thank You, Gorlitz received a special preview of the movie and a video message by director Wes Anderson. Gorlitz responded with a counter Thank You and Congratulations wishes when the film received its Academy Awards.  

Thanks so much for reading. If you’ve enjoyed my Gorlitz post and would like to support my blog & research, you can do so via Buy Me a Coffee.

Till next time,


You may also enjoy reading:

Additional Sources:

Cover picture & picture credit: Unterer Markt by (c) Martin Langhorst
20 Reasons To Visit Görlitz by Görlitz-Information Europastadt GörlitzZgorzelec GmbH
Görliwood: Oscar® award-winning Görlitz by Görlitz-Information Europastadt GörlitzZgorzelec GmbH

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  • Reply
    Peggy Zipperer
    16 February 2023 at 1:51 pm

    What a beautiful town! It seems like just the place for leisurely wandering and taking in the architecture – and “strolling” across the boarder to Poland is so cool. Your pictures are absolutely stunning.

  • Reply
    16 February 2023 at 3:30 pm

    I looked at the beautiful buildings and asked myself how they survived WW2 so well. Then you answered my question in saying it was spared the destruction of the time.
    Such a unique town, in that a river separates it into two countries. I love that idea of walking from German speaking to Polish speaking in a few mins within a city – I assume the two languages are arranged that way.
    It would certainly merit a UNESCO status from you lovely photos and I never knew it was used so extensively in films.

  • Reply
    16 February 2023 at 6:07 pm

    What an absolutely adorable town, the exact kind of place I love to visit. The buildings in their vibrant colors are just lovely, and the fact you can walk to Poland is really cool. I’m not surprised Gorlitz has been snapped up as a popular Hollywood filming location. This is for sure a place I need to visit soon, thanks for sharing

  • Reply
    Ângela Santos
    16 February 2023 at 9:03 pm

    The title of this post couldn’t be more accurate: Gorlitz really is a fairy-tale town. The architectural dichotomy of this place is fabulous. The austerity of some buildings, right next to others so delicately detailed…and those sundials and calendars painted on the walls are a treat for the eyes. I’m not surprised that Hollywood has chosen the city as a film set! I’m glad Gorlitz survived WW2, it would have been a shame if such an architectural wealth had been lost forever… as happened in so many other cities. I can easily see myself strolling in those streets 🙂

  • Reply
    17 February 2023 at 10:17 am

    Both countries are part of the Schengen Zone so no border control required.

  • Reply
    Ryan Biddulph
    17 February 2023 at 7:56 pm

    What a gorgeous place Carolin. Fairytale town indeed. The movie background sounds fascinating too; I can see why. Excellent blog post. So informative!


  • Reply
    18 February 2023 at 2:23 pm

    I have never heard of Gorlitz (or Saxony)! I can see why it’s used in top Hollywood productions – it definitely looks familiar. I’d love to spend some time walking the Walk of Gorliwood! I love all the bright colors of the building – it’s not over the top, but it does look bright. The street art compliments the colors as well! I love nonpareils, so you’ve definitely persuaded me to add this beautiful town to my list!!!

  • Reply
    22 February 2023 at 10:51 pm

    I thought Gorlitz was nice until I read that the Birkenstock factory is there and now I’m obsessed. I want to take a factory tour! And for sure shop at the outlet. Great film history, too. Who would have thought that this one little German city had so many cool things going on? haha

  • Reply
    28 February 2023 at 4:03 pm

    Such a charming city and I’m glad you included many photos as they are all lovely. I knew Gorlitz through movies as I’ve watched all the ones you listed in your post and I tend to research where movies are filmed but it’s great to read about the history of the city. I will definitely include Gorlitz on my trip to Saxony (I was meant to go in 2020 but Covid happened). It’s also cool to know you can just walk over to Poland! Great post.

  • Reply
    12 March 2023 at 12:53 pm

    I remember seeing your post on Twitter last time about this intriguing German town. It’s lovely to be cathing up and read more about your Gorlitz travel Carolin 😉 There’s something about border towns that make them alluring and worth visiting. It’s as if you travel to two places at the same time and then leaving a part of your heart to your lovers. Thanks again for sharing this with us.

    Jan –

  • Reply
    Flavia @latinatraveler
    12 March 2023 at 2:20 pm

    These photos are incredible Carolin! Gorlitz wasn’t even on my radar but I have added it to my list of places to visit and might add it to the itinerary for when I finally visit Prague. The coffee portion is always my favorite, but I also love the fact that it’s a border town. These always fascinate me and definitely something I’ll be attentive to when I go.

  • Reply
    21 March 2023 at 7:51 am

    I have always found the stone cobbled streets to be quite charming and they add a lovely character to any place. The architecture too looks quite beautiful here in Gorlitz. Also, it’s so cool that we can casually stroll in to Poland across the bridge and that too without border controls.

  • Reply
    1 April 2023 at 1:38 pm

    Wow, what a gorgeous place! The architecture is just stunning, reminds me a little of Bern even though they’re nowhere near each other. Another place added to my ‘to visit’ list, complete with cafe recommendations…my travel loving heart thanks you for sharing these amazing places I probably wouldn’t have heard about otherwise, and my bank balance wishes I’d stop reading your posts so I stop finding new places to visit!

  • Reply
    Lyn (aka Jazz)
    3 April 2023 at 6:09 pm

    What a stunning city! I have not travelled much in Germany but have been compiling list of towns and places to visit. Gorlitz is definitely on the list, now. As always, I appreciate how you include not only tips and recommendations but a bit about the history and culture, too. I live in a town where there is a lot of filming, so it’s always fun to visit other “sets” where people actually live.

  • Reply
    1 June 2023 at 6:37 am

    Interesting post, its been on our list for a while for a visit with Henry, possibly when he eventually does his Poland trip.

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