With an imperial past, a palatial prize of European Romanesque architecture and an Altstadt of medieval timber-framed beauties, GOSLAR is one of Germany's treats. A small town of just 48,000 people in the Harz foothills, perhaps, but a rich one figuratively and at one time literally. In the tenth century the discovery of silver transformed this daydreaming hamlet into one of northern Europe's leading medieval towns, whose deep coffers were loved by emperors and coveted by popes.
By the mid-eleventh century, less than a century after the first miners shouldered their picks, an imperial Diet (conference) of the Holy Roman Empire was held in the Kaiserpfalz, Goslar's new Romanesque palace. For over three hundred years the "treasury of German Emperors" ruled Germany's loose confederation of states as the seat of the Holy Roman Emperor and the city spent its wealth on home improvements – a building spree to give it the finery it deserved as a free imperial city (from 1342). Even a collective tightening of belts when the duke of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel snatched the mine in 1532 had its virtues: as funds dried up, so too did new building schemes, preserving the Altstadt as it was. As a POW camp in World War II it was also spared from bombing.
The area around the Markt is a cluster of showpiece buildings, from where one of the main streets, Hoher Weg, drives south to the Kaiserpfalz. Also south of town is the Rammelsberg mine, which until relatively recently still produced ores, and now offers tours. But the set pieces are only part of the attraction of Goslar: simply rambling around its huddled streets is pleasure enough, and there are many small but diverting museums dotted throughout the Altstadt.