Welcome to Görliwood! From The Reader (2008) to Inglourious Basterds (2009) or The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) – Görlitz, the easternmost town in Germany, has no doubt become one of Europe's most popular film location hot spots in recent years. So in this blog post, I will tell you how you can trace the famous filming locations of several big screen blockbusters on your very own Görlitz Film Locations walk.
A brief introduction to Görlitz
Located on the East German border close to Poland, Görlitz is one of the few German cities that were spared from destructive allied bombing raids during World War 2.
Thus, the city still preserves a wealth of historical buildings. Many of these date from the so-called art nouveau period (built roughly between 1890 and 1910). At this time, Görlitz was an important industrial hub and the economy was booming.
However, during the time of the East German communist régime GDR and especially after the fall of the Berlin wall, many of these grand inner city buildings were abandoned as people moved to the outskirts and to the West for better housing or work opportunities.
Today, many buildings in Görlitz have been beautifully restored. However, when I visited I was surprised and somewhat shocked by the huge amount of buildings that were still empty, had not been refurbished or simply left to decay. I had never before seen such an amount of abandoned buildings in any other city worldwide.
For filmmakers though, this specific situation is a true blessing! In recent years, countless national and international film productions have made use of the town's unique architecture, which is particularly suitable to recreate past eras for period films. Thus, Görlitz has earned the nickname “Görliwood”.
Furthermore, in 2017, Görlitz was even named European Film Location of the decade after the city had won a Europe-wide online voting contest organised by the European Film Commission.
An abandoned hotel for sale in Görlitz
Practical Information about visiting Görlitz
How to get there: You can easily get to Görlitz by bus or train from other German cities, such as Berlin or Dresden.
Where to stay: I can recommend Menzels Pension Drehscheibe. A conveniently priced Bed & Breakfast with lots of original décor from the glorious days of the turn from the 19th to the 20th century!
How to get around: Görlitz is a really small town, so you can easily walk everywhere and do the self-guided walk with your Görlitz Film Locations map, which you can pick up at the Tourist Information Centre (Obermarkt 32) free of charge. The tourism information centre also offers guided walking and bus tours, although not many of them are available in English. Check their website for more info.
Menzels Pension Drehscheibe
Some of the films shot on location in Görlitz
Around the World in 80 Days (2004)
The Reader (2008)
Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Young Goethe in Love (OT: Goethe!, 2010)
Measuring the World (OT: Die Vermessung der Welt, 2012)
The Book Thief (2013)
The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
Monuments Men (2014)
Alone in Berlin (2016)
The Young Karl Marx (2017)
The Captain (OT: Der Hauptmann, 2017)
Never Look Away (OT: Werk ohne Autor, 2018)
Scene from "The Book Thief". Photo: © 2013 – Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.
The Görlitz Film Locations Walk
This central square is where the tourist information centre is located and thus the perfect starting point. If you decide to join a guided bus or walking tour through Görlitz, they usually start from here, too.
Here, you can also pick up your copy of the Görlitz Film Location map (available in English and German).
Görlitz' "flagship movie" The Grand Budapest Hotel (for which the city won the European Film Location of the decade award) was also filmed here.
I think it's fair to say that this square, dominated by Görlitz' Old Town Hall and its distinctive arches, has been the most popular filming location in Görlitz.
Films that have been shot here include: The Reader (2008), Inglourious Basterds (2009), Young Goethe in Love (2010), Measuring the World (2012), The Book Thief (2013), The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), The Young Karl Marx (2017), and most recently the German World II drama The Captain (2017).
Time for a coffee break? Head to the Ratscafé (Untermarkt 24) and treat yourself to a delicious Nusstörtchen (nut tart) and a coffee speciality inspired by Vienna's coffeehouse culture. They also have a great selection of teas as well as cooked meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
If you're interested to learn more about the versatile history of the region, check out the Silesian Museum located next to the Old Town Hall.
By the way, whenever a film is shot in Görlitz, the film stars usually stay at the Hotel Börse also located on this square. So if you happen to be in town for a production, watch out for those film stars!
This square is one of Görlitz' many film locations for The Reader (2008).
The film partly takes place during the 1950s in Heidelberg, West Germany. Here, the 15-year-old Michael (David Kross) starts an affair with a female tram conductor (Kate Winslet), who is almost 20 years his senior.
The tram scenes were primarily shot on and around the Demianiplatz and the neighbouring Marienplatz (where the Görlitz department store is located).
4. Bautzener Straße
You might recognize this street wall from the film "The Reader"
5. Görlitz Department Store
First opened in 1913, the Görlitz department store was once a very luxurious "shopping temple" for the high society.
Hundred years later, in 2013, a private investor acquired the property with plans to completely refurbish it. However, it is currently not known when the reopening will take place. For a look inside, it's possible to visit the inside of the building every Thursday from 2 to 6 pm.
A look inside the Görlitz department store, filming location of "The Grand Budapest Hotel"
When you walk south from the Görlitz department store towards the Görlitz train station, you can discover some of the streets that featured in the World War 2 resistance drama Alone in Berlin (2016) with Emma Thompson, Brendan Gleeson, and Daniel Brühl.
Filming location of "Alone in Berlin" in Görlitz
7. Görlitz Train Station
Walking straight ahead from the city centre via Wilhelmsplatz, you will reach Görlitz' old train station. Like many locations in Görlitz, the train station still preserves its old art nouveau style.
Görlitz train station
8. Gründerzeitviertel / Augustastraße
This area provides some of Görlitz' most stunning architecture. Especially the Augustastraße features many beautifully restored rows of houses from the glorious art nouveau period.
Thus, it makes sense that this area was used as the backdrop for several movies in which an old era was recreated through film. Among them are The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), which takes place in the 1930s, Alone in Berlin (2016) and The Captain (2017), which both take place during World War 2, as well as The Reader (2008), which was set in the 1950s.
Augustastraße in Görlitz, Germany
A little further out:
9. Görlitz Graveyard
To recreate Germany in the year 1919, the World War 1 aftermath drama Frantz (2016) used several East German cities as filming locations, among them Wernigerode, Quedlinburg, and Görlitz.
Some of the film's key scenes were filmed at the graveyard of Görlitz. I didn't go there due to lack of time. However, on the map it looked like it is just a short walk away from the Untermarkt square.
Scene from "Frantz". Photo: © X Verleih
10. Polish twin city Zgorzelec
If you would like to use your visit to Görlitz to cross off yet another European country from your bucket list, just cross the bridge into Görlitz's Polish partner city Zgorzelec.
Görlitz and Zgorzelec used to be one city before they split into a German and a Polish part in 1945. The historical city centre is located on the German side (Görlitz).
There is no strict border control when walking over the bridge, but you should nevertheless take your passport with you!
Over to you: Have you visited Görlitz or are you planning to? Let me know in the comments below!
Unless otherwise credited, all photos by © Sonja Irani | filmfantravel.com
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