Görlitz, the easternmost town in Germany, is hugely popular with film makers:
To say that Görlitz is a star of the silver screen is no exaggeration. In spite of its faraway location, Germany’s easternmost town is a favourite with film producers. Görlitz has been used as film sets in over 100 productions and the list grows.
You’re not guaranteed to meet film stars if you come here, but there’s a good chance, as it’s long been a favourite location. If you’d been here in 2012-3 you might have bumped into Bill Murray buying a bratwurst or Ralph Fiennes and Willem Defoe enjoying a quiet drink, as Wes Anderson was shooting his Oscar-winning “Grand Budapest Hotel” around the town, especially in the Art Nouveau Görlitzer Warenhaus Department Store.
But although it was Hollywood, or Görliwood, that brought us to this beautiful town, Görlitz is charming in many other respects, as we discovered.
Görlitz’s Medieval Heritage
Görlitz is on the extreme eastern edge of Germany, right on the border with the Polish town of Zgorzelec. A short stroll across the Neisse River and you’re in Poland.
Although we’ve only recently become aware of Görlitz, the first mention of this city was recorded around 1071. Görlitz sat near the crossroads of two important ancient trade routes, the “via Regia” and the “via Imperii”. Görlitz was a cloth-making city and over the centuries, it became an important centre for trade and science. Three of the city’s medieval towers are reminders of this period.
The Görlitz region has a complex history of belonging to various kingdoms and provinces in Eastern Europe. The town’s cuisine, cultural traditions and architectural heritage are a rich blend of Bohemian, Saxon, Prussian and Silesian influences.
Polish or German – the Oder-Neisse line
At the end of World War II, the international border between Germany and Poland, the Oder-Neisse line, was ratified at the Potsdam Conference. The area east of the Neisse River was given to the Republic of Poland. The smaller area west of the river, including Görlitz, was incorporated into the German Democratic Republic – the present day Federal Republic of Germany.
Today, Görlitz enjoys a close relationship with Zgorzelec, its Polish sister town on the other side of the Neisse River. Many young Poles cross the river every morning to work in the hospitality industry in Görlitz and many young Görlitzers go across to Zgorzelec at the weekends as the pubs and restaurants are cheaper there.
Rich architechture heritage
Görlitz survived the Second World War without any major damage and its wealth of historical buildings span architecture from over 500 years. There are some 4,000 buildings from all architectural periods, including the Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Art Nouveau. The absence of unsightly street advertisements and neon lights in the historic centre also makes it a perfect setting for movie producers. It is easy for them to transform Görlitz into a Strasbourg, Heidelberg, Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich, Paris or New York, etc.
Movie buffs will have a great time checking out all the film locations in Görlitz, including the Oscar-winning movie – The Grand Budapest Hotel. The extremely friendly staff at the Tourist Office will be happy to give you a map of the film sites. But there is much more to see in Görlitz than just Hollywood film locations.
Untermarkt – Görlitz main square
Everywhere you go in Görlitz, you’re bound to come across some architectural treasures. The historical city centre is small enough to get around on foot.
Our hotel, The Romantik Hotel Tuchmacher, was only a few minutes stroll north of the Untermarkt, so we regularly walked through this main square.
During medieval times, there used to be a weekly market here. Interestingly, the block of buildings in the middle (where the Hotel Börse is), used to be the dividing line between the north and south part of the square.
The sellers of small goods like bread, fish, shoes, etc. were allocated the north side, whereas the south side was reserved for craftsmen and merchants. The Hotel Börse building was once the place where merchants held their weekly meetings. It also served as a court and police station.
Today, Untermarkt is occupied by a row of buildings which make up the town hall, some hotels, cafés and restaurants. At sunset, it’s a pleasant place to enjoy an Aperol Spritz or glass of wine.
At the Bruderstrasse end of the Untermarkt is the oldest wing of the Rathaus. The section includes the Rathausturm (Rathaus tower) and Rathaustreppe with its famous Renaissance staircase and balcony. On top of the column is “Lady Justice” with a scale in one hand and a sword in the other. It is worthwhile climbing to the top of the Rathaus tower for a view of the historic centre. To do this, we had to join a guided tour. Just wait at the steps and at the scheduled time the guide will appear.
The oldest Renaissance building
The Schönhof is the oldest Renaissance building in Görlitz . You can’t miss this red building in front of the Rathaus. It was built in 1526, immediately after the city fire of 1525. The tiled floor dates from the late Middle Ages.
If you’re curious about things medieval, go to the first floor where there are remains of a former medieval toilet with water purge. After extensive restoration, the building became the home of the Silesian Museum in 2006. All the important aspects of Silesian cultural history can be seen in this museum.
Obermarkt – the upper square
At the end of Bruderstrasse is the Obermarkt, the largest square in the Görlitz historical centre. In this huge square (it’s actually rectangular in shape) are the Burgherhaus, the Dreifaltigkeits-kirche (Trinity Church) and the Reichenbach Tower. The centre of this square is used as car parking space which is a shame as it spoils the character of the square. Nevertheless, it is worthwhile exploring the many alleys and side streets.
One of the alleyways, the Verrätergasse (Traitor Street) has an interesting tale attached to it. On the wall in the alley is the inscription “DVRT 1527” which refers to an event in 1527. In a building at the end of the alleyway, the cloth-makers had planned an uprising against the municipal council that year. Word of this uprising got out and the municipal council was alerted. The council got the monk at the Trinity Church to bring forward the church tower clock by seven minutes. When the conspirators came out of their hiding at the appointed time, they were met by council guards. Some were jailed and others were expelled from the city. To this day, the Trinity Church clock on the bell-tower still chimes seven minutes early and we were there to witness this!
Venture a little further from the city squares and you’ll see 13th-century walls and pristine towers, such as the massive Kaisertrutz (Emperor’s Shelter). This 15th-century circular bastion marked the gateway to the city and is now the home of the municipal museum.
Other interesting sights
- Peterskirche – an imposing 15C church famous for its Sonnenorgel (sun organ)
- Heiliges Grab -15C replica of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem
- Nikolaiturm – part of the city’s defense ring until the beginning of the 19th century
Places to Eat
Görlitz is accustomed to hosting famous international visitors such as actors, film directors and film production crew. As such, there are many places where you can enjoy a nice meal, including the slightly upmarket Schneider Stube at the Romantik Hotel Tuchmacher.
If you are a meat eater, “Schlesisches Himmelreich” (Silesian Heavens) is a favourite dish of Görlitz. Unfortunately, not being meat eaters, we’re not able to say how “heavenly” this lightly smoked pork loin Silesian dish is. Görlitz also brews its own traditional beer, the famous Landskron. However, nothing can lure Tony away from Czech beer and in Görlitz he was thrilled to be able to enjoy his Gambrinus beer.
Where to Stay
I was very tempted to book the Hotel Börse for our stay as this was where the entire film crew for the Grand Budapest Hotel stayed during the production of the movie. I was glad that I booked the Romantik Hotel Tuchmacher instead. The Hotel Börse is right on the Untermarkt with its many bars and restaurants. UEFA Euro 2016 was on and there was a lot of loud cheering and shouting going on, right into the early hours. Other nice hotels in the historic centre include the Emmerich Hotel Görlitz, Hotel Schwibbogen Görlitz, Hotel Italia Rennaisancehaus and the Görlitz Apartment In der Bütt.
See the complete list of Görlitz hotels Here.
How to get here
Görlitz may be at the eastern end of Germany, but it is very easy to get here by train from Berlin or Dresden. Görlitz central station is close to the historic centre and there are taxis at the station. We caught the train from Berlin which needed just one change at the town of Cottbus.
Don’t miss the other Görlitz features at our website:
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