Fodor's Germany - Fodor's (2016)
Schleswig-Holstein and the Baltic Coast
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Top Reasons to Go | Getting Oriented | What’s Where | Planning | Baltic Coast Beaches
Updated by Lee A. Evans
Germany’s true north is a quiet and peaceful region that belies, but takes a great deal of pride in, its past status as one of the most powerful trading centers in Europe. The salty air and lush, green landscape of marshlands, endless beaches, fishing villages, and lakes are the main pleasures here, not sightseeing. The Baltic coast is one of the most visited parts of Germany, but because most visitors are German, you’ll feel like you have discovered Germany’s best-kept secret. On foggy November evenings, or during the hard winter storms that sometimes strand islanders from the mainland, you can well imagine the fairy tales spun by the Vikings who once lived here.
In Schleswig-Holstein, Germany’s most northern state, the Danish-German heritage is the result of centuries of land disputes, flexible borders, and intermarriage between the two nations—you could call this area southern Scandinavia. Since the early 20th century its shores and islands have become popular weekend and summer retreats for the well-to-do from Hamburg. The island of Sylt, in particular, is known throughout Germany for its rich and beautiful sunbathers.
The rest of Schleswig-Holstein, though equally appealing in its green and mostly serene landscape, is far from rich and worldly. Most people farm or fish, and often speak Plattdütsch, or Low German, which is difficult for outsiders to understand. Cities such as Flensburg, Husum, Schleswig, Kiel (the state capital), and even Lübeck all exude a laid-back, small-town charm.
The neighboring state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern includes the Baltic Coast and is even more rural. On the resort islands of Hiddensee and Usedom, the clock appears to have stopped before World War II. Though it has long been a popular summer destination for families and city-weary Berliners, few foreign tourists venture here.
TOP REASONS TO GO
Brick Gothic architecture: The historic towns of Lübeck, Wismar, and Stralsund have some of the finest redbrick Gothic architecture in northern Europe. A walk through medieval Stralsund, in particular, is like a trip into the proud past of the powerful Hansetic League.
Rügen: One of the most secluded islands of northern Europe, Rügen is a dreamy Baltic oasis where endless beaches, soaring chalk cliffs, and a quiet pace of life have charmed painters, writers, and artists for centuries.
Schwerin: Nestled in a romantic landscape of lakes, rivers, forests, and marshland, the Mecklenburg state capital and its grand water palace make a great place to relax.
Sylt: A windswept outpost in the rough North Sea, Sylt is home to Germany’s jet set, who come here for the tranquility, the white beaches, the gourmet dining, and the superb hotels throughout the year.
The Baltic Sea Coast is convieniently broken down into three major areas of interest: the western coastline of Schleswig-Holstein; the lakes inland in Western Mecklenburg; and Vorpommern’s secluded, tundralike landscape of sandy heath and dunes. If you only have three days, slow down to the area’s pace and focus on one area. In five days you could easily cross the region. Berlin is the natural approach from the east; Hamburg is a launching point from the west.
Schleswig-Holstein. Rural Schleswig-Holstein is accented by laid-back, medieval towns and villages famed for their fresh seafood and great local beers (such as Asgaard in Schleswig), and the bustling island of Sylt, a summer playground for wealthy Hamburgers.
Western Mecklenburg. Lakes, rivers, and seemingly endless fields of wheat, sunflowers, and yellow rape characterize this rural landscape. Although the area is extremely popular with Germans, only a few foreign tourists or day-trippers from nearby Berlin venture here to visit beautiful Schwerin or enjoy the serenity. The area is famous for its many wellness and spa hotels, making it a year-round destination.
Vorpommern. Remote and sparsely populated, Vorpommern is one of Europe’s quietest corners. Compared to the coast and islands in the west, sleepy Vorpommern sea resorts on the islands of Usedom and Hidensee have preserved a distinct, old-fashioned charm worth exploring. Bismarck popularized the area by saying that it was like going back 20 years in time.
WHEN TO GO
The region’s climate is at its best when the two states are most crowded with vacationers—in July and August. Winter can be harsh in this area, and even spring and fall are rather windy, chilly, and rainy. TIP To avoid the crowds, schedule your trip for June or September. But don’t expect tolerable water temperatures or hot days on the beach.
GETTING HERE AND AROUND
The international airport closest to Schleswig-Holstein is in Hamburg. For an eastern approach to the Baltic Coast tour, use Berlin’s Tegel or Schönefeld Airports.
Boat and Ferry Travel
The Weisse Flotte (White Fleet) line operates ferries linking the Baltic ports, as well as running short harbor and coastal cruises. Boats depart from Warnemünde, Zingst (to Hiddensee), Sassnitz, and Stralsund. In addition, Scandlines ferries run from Stralsund and Sassnitz to destinations in Sweden, Denmark, Poland, and Finland.
Scandlines also operates ferries between Rostock/Warnemünde and the Danish island of Bornholm, as well as Sweden. Almost all Baltic Sea cruises dock in Warnemünde.
Scandlines. | 01805/116-688 | www.scandlines.de.
Weisse Flotte. | 0180/321-2120 for Warnemünde and Stralsund, 0385/557-770 for Schwerin | www.weisseflotte.de.
Local buses link the main train stations with outlying towns and villages, especially the coastal resorts. Buses operate throughout Sylt, Rügen, and Usedom islands.
The two-lane roads (Bundesstrassen) along the coast can be full of traffic in summer. The ones leading to Usedom Island can be extremely log-jammed, as the causeway bridges have scheduled closings to let ships pass. Using the Bundesstrassen takes more time, but these often tree-lined roads are by far more scenic than the autobahn.
Sylt island is 196 km (122 miles) from Hamburg via autobahn A-7 and bundesstrasse B-199 and is ultimately reached via train. B-199 cuts through some nice countryside, and instead of A-7 or B-76 between Schleswig and Kiel you could take the slow route through the coastal hinterland (B-199, B-203, or B-503). Lübeck, the gateway to Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, is 56 km (35 miles) from Hamburg via A-1. B-105 leads to all sightseeing spots in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. A faster route is the A-20, connecting Lübeck and Rostock. From Stralsund, B-96 cuts straight across Rügen Island, a distance of 51 km (32 miles). From Berlin, take A-11 and head toward Prenzlau for B-109 all the way to Usedom Island, a distance of 162 km (100 miles). A causeway connects the mainland town of Anklam to the town of Peenemünde, on Usedom Island; coming from the west, use the causeway at Wolgast.
Trains connect almost every notable city in the area and it’s much more convenient than bus travel. Sylt, Kiel, Lübeck, Schwerin, and Rostock have InterCity train connections to either Hamburg or Berlin, or both.
A north-south train line links Schwerin and Rostock. An east-west route connects Kiel, Hamburg, Lübeck, and Rostock, and some trains continue through to Stralsund and Sassnitz, on Rügen Island.
Although tourist offices and museums have worked to improve the English-language literature about this area, English-speaking tours are infrequent and must be requested ahead of time through the local tourist office. Because most tours are designed for groups, there’s usually a flat fee of €20-€30. Towns currently offering tours are Lübeck, Stralsund, and Rostock. Schwerin has two-hour boat tours of its lakes. Many of the former fishermen in these towns give sunset tours of the harbors, shuttle visitors between neighboring towns, or take visitors fishing in the Baltic Sea, which is a unique opportunity to ride on an authentic fishing boat. In Kiel, Rostock, and on Sylt, cruise lines make short trips through the respective bays and/or islands off the coast, sailing even as far as Denmark and Sweden. Inquire at the local tourist office about companies and times, as well as about fishing-boat tours.
Don’t count on eating a meal at odd hours or after 10 pm in this largely rural area. Many restaurants serve hot meals only between 11:30 am and 2 pm, and from 6 to 9 pm. You rarely need a reservation here, and casual clothing is generally acceptable.
In northern Germany you’ll find both small Hotelpensionen and fully equipped large hotels; along the eastern Baltic Coast, some hotels are renovated high-rises dating from GDR (German Democratic Republic, or East Germany) times. Many of the small hotels and pensions in towns such as Kühlungsborn and Binz have been restored to the romantic, quaint splendor of German Bäderarchitektur (spa architecture) from the early 20th century. In high season all accommodations, especially on the islands, are in great demand. TIP If you can’t book well in advance, inquire at the local tourist office, which will also have information on the 150 campsites along the Baltic Coast and on the islands.
PLANNING YOUR TIME
The bigger coastal former Hanseatic League cities make for a good start before exploring smaller towns. Lübeck is a natural base for exploring Schleswig-Holstein, particularly if you arrive from Hamburg. From here it’s easy to venture out into the countryside or explore the coastline and towns such as Schleswig, Flensburg, or Husum. The island of Sylt is a one- or two-day trip from Lübeck, though.
If you have more time, you can also travel east from Lübeck into Mecklenburg-Vorpommern: Some of the must-see destinations on an itinerary include Schwerin and the surrounding lakes, the island of Rügen, and the cities Wismar and Rostock.
DISCOUNTS AND DEALS
Larger cities such as Kiel, Lübeck, Wismar, Schwerin, and Rostock offer tourism “welcome” cards, which include sometimes-considerable discounts and special deals for attractions and tours as well as local public transportation. Ask about these at the visitor-information bureaus.
Tourismusverband Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.| Pl. der Freundschaft 1 | Rostock | 0381/403-0500 | www.tmv.de.
BALTIC COAST BEACHES
Although Germany may not be the first place on your list of beach destinations, a shore vacation on the Baltic never disappoints. The coast here ranges from the remote bucolic shores of Usedom to the chic beaches of Sylt.
Be sure to rent a Strandkorb, a kind of beach chair in a wicker basket, which gives you all of the sun, but protects you from the wind and flying sand. You can rent these chairs by the hour, half day, or day. There is usually an office near the chairs; look for the kiosk that sells sundries and beach toys nearest the chair you want.
A blue flag on the beach indicates that the water is safe for swimming. But, be aware that water temperatures even in August rarely exceed 20°C (65°F). There’s a Kurtaxe (a tax that goes to the upkeep of the beaches) of €1.50-€5 for most resort areas; the fees on Sylt average €3 per day. Fees are usually covered by your hotel; you should get a card indicating that you’ve paid the tax. You can use the card for discounted services, but don’t need to present it to visit the beach.
It is believed that about 40 million years ago a pine forest grew in the area that is now the Baltic Sea. Fossilized resin from these trees, aka amber, lies beneath the surface. In fact, this area has the largest known amber deposit—about 80% of the world’s known accessible deposits. The best time for amber “fishing,” dipping a net into the surf, is at low tide after a storm when pieces of amber dislodge from the seabed.
BALTIC COAST BEST BEACHES
If you’re partial to the bucolic and tranquil, head to the car-free island of Hiddensee, Rügen’s neighbor to the west. With a mere 1,300 inhabitants, Hiddensee is the perfect place to look for washed-up amber.
Germany’s largest island, Rügen has picture-perfect beaches, chalk cliffs, and pristine nature. It also served as the stomping ground for the likes of Albert Einstein, Christopher Isherwood, and Caspar David Friedrich. An easy day trip from Berlin, the town of Binz is the perfect Rügen getaway. Binz has a nice boardwalk, a pretty beach dotted with Strandkörbe, and fine mansions.
You’ll find a wonderful white-sand beach at Prora and a smattering of artists’ studios; the hulking abandoned resort here was designed by the Nazis to house 20,000 vacationers in the Kraft durch Freude (Strength Through Joy) program.
Germany’s northernmost island is the granddaddy of all beach resorts and by far the most popular seaside destination in Germany. Sylt is chic and trendy, but, despite being overrun by tourists, it is still possible to find your own romantic abandoned stretch of beach. Westerland is the most popular beach, with its long promenade and sun-drenched sand. The “Fun-Beach Brandenburg” bursts at the seams with family-friendly activities, volleyball, and other sporting contests. Farther afield, the red cliffs of Kampen are the perfect backdrop for a little mellow sun and schmoozing with the locals. It’s a lovely place for a walk along the shore and up the cliffs, where the view is spectacular. The best beach for families is at Hörnum, where a picture-perfect red-and-white lighthouse protects the entrance to the bay.
The towns of Ahlbeck and Herringsdorf are the most popular on Usedom Island, with pristine 19th-century villas and mansions paired with long boardwalks extending into the sea. For the true and unspoiled experience, head west to Ückeritz, where the beach feels abandoned.
A resort town popular with German tourists and local day-trippers from Rostock, the 20 km (12 miles) of windswept white-sand beach can’t be beat. A fun promenade stretches the length of the beach and features daily music performances and restaurants ranging from high-end dining to fish shacks where you can get a paper bag filled with fried mussels.
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Husum | Sylt | Schleswig | Kiel | Lübeck
This region once thrived, thanks to the Hanseatic League (a trading confederation of Baltic towns and cities) and the Salzstrasse (Salt Route), a merchant route connecting northern Germany’s cities. The kings of Denmark warred with the dukes of Schleswig and, later, the German Empire over the prized northern territory of Schleswig-Holstein. The northernmost strip of land surrounding Flensburg became German in 1864. The quiet, contemplative spirit of the region’s people, the marshland’s special light, and the ever-changing face of the sea are inspiring. Today the world-famous Schleswig-Holstein-Musikfestival ushers in classical concerts to farmhouses, palaces, and churches.
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158 km (98 miles) northwest of Hamburg.
The town of Husum is the epitome of northern German lifestyle and culture. Immortalized in a poem as the “gray city upon the sea” by its famous son, Theodor Storm, Husum is actually a popular vacation spot in summer.
The central Marktplatz (Market Square) is bordered by 17th- and 18th-century buildings, including the historic Rathaus (Town Hall), which houses the tourist-information office. The best impression of Husum’s beginnings in the mid-13th century is found south of the Marktplatz, along Krämerstrasse; the Wasserreihe, a narrow and tortuous alley; and Hafenstrasse, right next to the narrow Binnenhafen (city harbor).
Husum Tourist Office. | Grossstr. 27 | 04841/89870 | www.husum.de.
Schloss vor Husum (Husum Castle).
Despite Husum’s remoteness, surrounded by the stormy sea, wide marshes, and dunes, the city used to be a major seaport and administrative center. The Husum Castle, which was originally built as a Renaissance mansion in the late 16th century, was transformed in 1752 by the dukes of Gottorf into a redbrick baroque country palace. | König-Friedrich V.-Allee | 04841/897-3130 | €5 | Mar.-Oct., Tues.-Sun. 11-5.
This is the most famous house on Wasserreihe, where writer Theodor Storm (1817-88) lived between 1866 and 1880. It’s a must if you’re interested in German literature or if you want to gain insight into the life of the few well-to-do people in this region during the 19th century. The small museum includes the poet’s living room and a small Poetenstübchen (poets’ parlor), where he wrote many of his novels. | Wasserreihe 31 | 04841/803-8630 | €3.50 | Apr.-Oct., Tues.-Fri. 10-5, Mon. and Sun. 2-5, Sat. 11-5; Nov.-Mar., Tues., Thurs., and Sat. 2-5.
WHERE TO STAY
Fodor’s Choice | Geniesser Hotel Altes Gymnasium.
$$$ | HOTEL | In a former redbrick high school behind a pear orchard, you’ll find a surprisingly elegant country-style hotel. The rooms are spacious, with wood floors and modern work space and amenities. The restaurant Eucken serves game (from its own hunter) and German country cooking such as Rücken vom Salzwiesenlamm mit Kartoffel-Zucchini-Rösti (lamb fed on saltwater grass with potato and zucchini hash browns). Pros: stylish and quiet setting; a perfect overnight stop on the way to Sylt. Cons: far from any other sights. | Rooms from: €195 | Süderstr. 2-10 | 04841/8330 | www.altes-gymnasium.de | 66 rooms, 6 suites | Breakfast.
44 km (27 miles) northwest of Husum, 196 km (122 miles) northwest of Hamburg.
Sylt (pronounced ts-oo-LT) is a long, narrow island (38 km [24 miles] by as little as 220 yards) of unspoiled beaches and marshland off the western coast of Schleswig-Holstein and Denmark. Famous for its clean air and white beaches, Sylt is the hideaway for Germany’s rich and famous.
A popular activity here is Wattwanderungen (walking in the Watt, the shoreline tidelands), whether on self-guided or guided tours. The small villages with their thatch-roof houses, the beaches, and the nature conservation areas make Sylt one of the most enchanting German islands.
Getting Here and Around
Trains are the only way to access Sylt (other than flying from Hamburg or Berlin). The island is connected to the mainland via the train causeway Hindenburgdamm, and Deutsche Bahn will transport you and your car from central train stations at Dortmund, Düsseldorf, Hamburg, Stuttgart, and Frankfurt directly to the Westerland station on the island. In addition, a daily shuttle car train leaves Niebüll roughly every 30 minutes from 5:10 am to 10:10 pm (Friday and Sunday 5:10 am to 9:40 pm). There are no reservations on this train.
Tourismus-Service Kampen. | Hauptstr. 12 | Kampen | 04651/46980 | www.kampen.de.
Sylt Marketing GmbH. | Stephanstr. 6 | Rantum | 04651/82020 | www.sylt.de.
Westerland. | Strandstr. 35 | Westerland | 04651/9988 | www.westerland.de.
The Sylt island’s unofficial capital is the main destination for the wealthier crowd and lies 9 km (6 miles) northeast of Westerland. Redbrick buildings and shining white thatch-roof houses spread along the coastline. The real draw—aside from the fancy restaurants and chic nightclubs—is the beaches. | Kampen | www.kampen.de.
Rotes Kliff (Red Cliff).
One of the island’s best-known features is this dune cliff on the northern end of the Kampen beaches, which turns an eerie dark red when the sun sets. | Kampen.
Altfriesisches Haus (Old Frisian House).
For a glimpse of the rugged lives of 19th-century fishermen, visit the small village of Keitum to the south, and drop in on the Old Frisian House, which preserves an old-world peacefulness in a lush garden setting. The house also documents a time when most seamen thrived on extensive whale hunting. | Am Kliff 13 | Keitum | 04651/31101 | €3.50 | Easter-Oct., weekdays 10-5, weekends 11-5; Nov.-Easter, Tues.-Fri. 1-4.
Naturschutzgebiet Kampener Vogelkoje (Birds’ Nest Nature Conservation Area).
From the mid-17th century, this area served as a mass trap for wild geese, but today it’s a nature preserve for wild birds. | Lister Str. | Kampen | 04651/871-077 | €3 | Apr.-Oct., weekdays 10-5, weekends 11-5.
St. Severin Church.
The 800-year-old church was built on the highest elevation in the region. Its tower once served the island’s fishermen as a beacon. Strangely enough, the tower also served as a prison until 1806. Now a Lutheran church, it is a popular site for weddings. | Pröstwai 20 | Keitum | 04651/31713 | www.st-severin.de | Free | Daily 9-6. Tours Apr.-Oct., Sun. at 10; Nov.-Mar., Sun. at 4.
Sylter Heimatmuseum (Sylt Island Museum).
This small museum tells the centuries-long history of the island’s seafaring people. It presents traditional costumes, tools, and other gear from fishing boats and relates stories of islanders who fought for Sylt’s independence. | Am Kliff 19 | Keitum | 04651/31669 | €3.50 | Easter-Oct., weekdays 10-5, weekends 11-5; Nov.-Easter, Tues.-Fri. 1-4.
The island’s major town is not quite as expensive as Kampen, but it’s more crowded. An ugly assortment of modern hotels lines an undeniably clean and broad beach. Each September windsurfers meet for the Surf Cup competition off the Brandenburger Strand, the best surfing spot. | Westerland.
Buhne 16 and Roter Kliff.
Kampen’s beach—divided into the Buhne 16 and the Roter Kliff—is the place where the rich and famous meet average joes. Bunhe 16 is Germany’s most popular nudist beach and Germans call this section the great equalizer, as social inequalities disappear with the clothing. The Red Cliff section is less crowded than Buhne 16 and clothing is required. The beach access point offers one of the best views of the Cliffs and North Sea; the viewing platform is wheelchair accessible. The beaches are surrounded by a ring of dunes that beg for exploration. Amenities: food and drink; lifeguards; parking; showers; toilets; water sports. Best for: partiers; sunset; swimming; walking. | Kurstr. 33 | Kampen.
Westerland’s beach bursts at the seams in the summer months. More than 6 kilometers (4 miles) of pristine white sand is filled with more than 4,000 Strandkörbe, a kind of beach chair in a wicker basket, which are all for rent. There’s also volleyball, soccer, darts, and other beach sports, and everyone is invited to participate in the Beach Olympics, which are held every Friday at 2 pm in the summer months. Despite its popularity, it is easy to find some privacy on the many secluded bike and footpaths. Amenities: food and drink; lifeguards; parking; showers; toilets; water sports. Best for: partiers; snorkeling; walking; windsurfing. | Kurpromenade | Westerland.
The town of Hornum is bordered on three sides by a rock-free, fine-white-sand beach that is perfect for paddling, quick dips in the sea, or simply lounging in one of the ever-present Strandkörbe beach chairs. The main beach is one of the most family-friendly on the island and it’s easily accessible from the promenade. A magnificent red-and-white lighthouse looms over the beach. Hornum is the best place to take long walks along the Wattenmeer. Amenities: food and drink; lifeguards; parking; showers; toilets; water sports. Best for: surfing; swimming; walking; windsurfing. | An Der Dune | Hornum.
WHERE TO EAT
Fodor’s Choice | Hotelrestaurant Jörg Müller.
$$$$ | SEAFOOD | Owner Jörg Müller, considered by many to be the island’s leading chef, serves haute cuisine in the gracious and friendly setting of an old thatch-roof farmhouse, which doubles as a small hotel. Müller even makes his own salt from the North Sea water. Of the two restaurants, the Pesel serves local fish dishes, whereas the formal Jörg Müller offers a high-quality blend of international cuisines, where any of the four- to six-course menus are a nice option. | Average main: €48 | Süderstr. 8 | Westerland | 04651/27788 | www.hotel-joerg-mueller.de | No lunch | Reservations essential.
$$$$ | ECLECTIC | Sansibar is the island’s most popular restaurant, and more a way of life than a place to eat. It’s the longtime favorite of a diverse clientele—basically everyone ever on Sylt—who often make it a rambunctious night out by imbibing drinks with no regard for the morning after under the bar’s maverick logo of crossed pirates’ sabers. The cuisine includes seafood and fondue, and more than 800 wines are on offer. The Sunday brunch is incredible. To get a table even in the afternoon, you must reserve at least six weeks in advance. | Average main: €30 | Strand, Rantum-Süd, Hörnumer Str. 80 | Rantum | 04651/964-546 | www.sansibar.de | Reservations essential.
WHERE TO STAY
Fodor’s Choice | Dorint Söl’ring Hof.
$$$$ | RESORT | This luxurious resort is set on the dunes in a white, thatch-roof country house, and the view from most of the rooms is magnificent—with some luck you may even spot frolicking harbor porpoises. The brightly furnished rooms are spacious, covering two floors, and each is equipped with a fireplace. The real attraction here, however, is the restaurant, where renowned chef Johannes King creates delicious German-Mediterranean fish dishes. The hotel is in quiet Rantum, at the southeast end of the island. Pros: one of the few luxury hotels on the island with perfect service and a top-notch restaurant; right on the beach. Cons: remote location; often fully booked; rooms tend to be small. | Rooms from: €395 | Am Sandwall 1 | Rantum | 04651/836-200 | www.soelring-hof.de | 11 rooms, 4 suites | Breakfast.
$$$ | B&B/INN | One of Sylt’s loveliest old thatch-roof apartment houses, this is a quiet alternative to the busier main resorts in Kampen and Westerland. The Ulenhof has two buildings 750 yards away from the beach in Wenningstedt. The larger apartments, for up to three people, are a good deal. A separate bathing facility offers a huge wellness area with two saunas, a pool, and a Tecaldarium, a Roman-style bathhouse. Pros: a great, but small, spa. Cons: off the beaten track and away from the main action in Kampen and Westerland; credit cards are not accepted. | Rooms from: €180 | Friesenring 14 | Wenningstedt | 04651/94540 | www.ulenhof.de | No credit cards | 35 apartments | Breakfast.
Club Rotes Kliff.
The nightspots in Kampen are generally more upscale and more expensive than the pubs and clubs of Westerland. This is one of the most classic clubs on Sylt—a bar and dance club that attracts a hip crowd of all ages. | Braderuper Weg 3 | Kampen | 04651/43400.
The Compass is not as trendy as the typical Sylt nightclub. The mostly young patrons, however, create a cheerful party atmosphere on weekend nights. | Friedrichstr. 40 | Westerland | 04651/23513.
82 km (51 miles) southeast of Sylt, 114 km (71 miles) north of Hamburg.
Schleswig-Holstein’s oldest city is also one of its best-preserved examples of a typical north German town. Once the seat of the dukes of Schleswig-Holstein, it has not only their palace but also ruins left by the area’s first rulers, the Vikings. The Norse conquerors, legendary and fierce warriors from Scandinavia, ruled northern Germany between 800 and 1100. Although they brought terror and domination to the region, they also contributed commerce and a highly developed social structure. Under a wide sky, Schleswig lies on the Schlei River in a landscape of freshwater marshland and lakes, making it a good departure point for bike or canoe tours.
Getting Here and Around
Schleswig’s train station is 3 km (2 miles) from the city center. It’s easiest to take Bus No. 1501, 1505, or 1506 into town. You’ll find the buses across the street from the front of the train station, and all stop at Schloss Gottorf.
What to Eat in Schleswig-Holstein
The German coastline is known for fresh and superb seafood, particularly in summer. A few of the region’s top restaurants are on Sylt and in Lübeck. Eating choices along the Baltic Coast tend to be more down-to-earth. However, restaurants in both coastal states serve mostly seafood such as Scholle (flounder) or North Sea Krabben (shrimp), often with fried potatoes, eggs, and bacon. Mecklenburg specialties to look for are Mecklenburger Griebenroller, a custardy casserole of grated potatoes, eggs, herbs, and chopped bacon; Mecklenburger Fischsuppe, a hearty fish soup with vegetables, tomatoes, and sour cream; Gefüllte Ente (duck with bread stuffing); and Pannfisch (fish patty). A favorite local nightcap since the 17th century is Grog, a strong blend of rum, hot water, and local fruits.
The fishing village comes alive in the Holm neighborhood, an old settlement with tiny and colorful houses. The windblown buildings give a good impression of what villages in northern Germany looked like 150 years ago. | Süderholmstr.
The impressive baroque Schloss Gottorf, dating from 1703, once housed the ruling family. It has been transformed into the Schleswig-Holsteinisches Landesmuseum (State Museum of Schleswig-Holstein) and holds a collection of art and handicrafts of northern Germany from the Middle Ages to the present, including paintings by Lucas Cranach the Elder. | Schlossinsel 1 | 04621/8130 | www.schloss-gottorf.de | €9 | Apr.-Oct., daily 10-6; Nov.-Mar., Tues.-Fri. 10-4, weekends 10-5.
Wikinger-Museum Haithabu (Haithabu Viking Museum).
The most thrilling museum in Schleswig is at the site of an ancient Viking settlement. This was the Vikings’ most important German port, and the boats, gold jewelry, and graves they left behind are displayed in the museum. Be sure to walk along the trail to the Viking village, to see how the Vikings really lived. The best way to get there is to take the ferry across the Schlei from Schleswig’s main fishing port. | Haddeby, Am Haddebyer Noor 2 | Busdorf | 04621/813-222 | www.schloss-gottorf.de/haithabu | €7 | Apr.-Oct., daily 9-5; Nov.-Mar., Tues.-Sun. 10-4 | Free parking.
WHERE TO EAT AND STAY
$ | GERMAN | Taste the “Divine beer of the Vikings” at Schleswig’s only brewery. While the Luzifer Restaurant offers typical brewpub fare, it is the small Viking twists, like roast meat served only with a knife and horned glasses that make this place worth a visit. The Divine beer is a malty cold-fermented amber lager that can be highly addictive. | Average main: €12 | Königstr. 27 | 04621/29206 | www.asgaard.de.
$ | GERMAN | This small restaurant in a city mansion dating back to 1699 serves mostly fish from the Schlei River. The food is solid regional fare such as Zanderfilet (pike-perch fillets) or Gebratene Ente (roast duck). The familial, warm atmosphere and the local dark tap beers more than make up for the simplicity of the setting. Reservations are advised. | Average main: €13 | Lollfuss 102 | 04621/23984 | Closed Wed. No lunch.
Ringhotel Strandhalle Schleswig.
$$ | HOTEL | A modern hotel overlooking the small yacht harbor, this establishment has surprisingly low rates. The rooms are furnished with timeless dark furniture. Pros: central spot in the heart of Schleswig; great views. Cons: lack of flair; rather bland rooms. | Rooms from: €100 | Strandweg 2 | 04621/9090 | www.hotel-strandhalle.de | 30 rooms | Breakfast.
The tiny Keramik-Stube offers craft work and beautiful traditional handmade pottery. | Rathausmarkt 14 | 04621/24757.
Northern Germans are devout tea drinkers, and the best place to buy tea is Teekontor Hansen. Try the Schliekieker, a strong blend, or the Ostfriesenmischung, the traditional daily tea. | Kornmarkt 3 | 04621/23385.
53 km (33 miles) southeast of Schleswig, 130 km (81 miles) north of Hamburg.
The state capital of Schleswig-Holstein, Kiel, is known throughout Europe for the annual Kieler Woche, a regatta that attracts hundreds of boats from around the world. Despite the many wharves and industries concentrated in Kiel, the Kieler Föhrde (Bay of Kiel) has remained mostly unspoiled. Unfortunately, this cannot be said about the city itself. Because of Kiel’s strategic significance during World War II—it served as the main German submarine base—the historic city, founded more than 750 years ago, was completely destroyed. Sadly, due to the modern reconstruction of the city, there is no real reason to spend more than half a day in Kiel.
Kiel Tourist Office. | Andreas-Gayk-Str. 31 | 0431/679-100 | www.kiel.de.
Kieler Hafen (Kiel Harbor).
At Germany’s largest passenger-shipping harbor, you can always catch a glimpse of one of the many ferries leaving for Scandinavia from the Oslokai (Oslo Quay). | Oslokai.
Kunsthalle zu Kiel (Kiel Art Gallery).
One of northern Germany’s best collections of modern art can be found here. Russian art of the 19th and early 20th centuries, German expressionism, and contemporary international art are on display. | Düsternbrooker Weg 1 | 0431/880-5756 | www.kunsthalle-kiel.de | €7 | Tues.-Sun. 10-6 (to 8 pm Wed.).
Schifffahrtsmuseum (Maritime Museum).
Housed in a hall of the old fish market, this museum pays tribute to Kiel’s impressive maritime history. The exhibit includes two antique fishing boats and an impressive collection of multimedia workstations that detail Kiel’s role as a center of the fishing industry. | Wall 65 | 0431/901-3428 | www.kiel.de | €3 | Apr.-Oct., daily 10-6; Nov.-Mar., Tues.-Sun. 10-5.
U-Boot-Museum (Submarine Museum).
A grim reminder of one aspect of Kiel’s marine past is exhibited at this museum in Kiel-Laboe. The vessels of the much-feared German submarine fleet in both World Wars were mostly built and stationed in Kiel before leaving for the Atlantic, where they attacked American and British supply convoys. Today the submarine U995, built in 1943, serves as a public-viewing model of a typical World War II German submarine. The 280-foot-high Marineehrenmal (Marine Honor Memorial), in Laboe, was built in 1927-36. You can reach Laboe via ferry from the Kiel harbor or take B-502 north. | Strandstr. 92 | Laboe | 04343/42700 | Memorial €6, museum €4.50, or €9.50 for both | Apr.-Oct., daily 9:30-6; Nov.-Mar., daily 9:30-4.
WHERE TO EAT AND STAY
$ | GERMAN | Kiel has been a center of German brewing since the Middle Ages, when industrious citizens brewed around the clock for export and visiting merchant seamen. Although this brauhaus is relatively new, beer has been brewed in this house since medieval times. You can try the Naturtrübes Kieler and other north German beers in pitchers, or order a small barrel for your table and tap it yourself (other patrons will cheer you). The hearty food—mostly fish, pork, and potato dishes—does not earn awards, but it certainly helps get down just one more beer. | Average main: €11 | Alter Markt 9 | 0431/906-290 | www.kieler-brauerei.de.
$$ | ECLECTIC | Because modern locals aren’t interested in anything old-fashioned, there are no traditional fish restaurants in Kiel—instead, the dining scene looks for new and innovative seafood from all over the world. The stylish Quam, its yellow walls and dimmed lights paying homage to Tuscany, serves specialties from Germany, Italy, France, and Japan to a mostly young, very chic crowd. | Average main: €15 | Düppelstr. 60 | 0431/85195 | Closed Sun. No lunch | Reservations essential.
Hotel Kieler Yachtclub.
$$$ | HOTEL | This traditional hotel overlooking the Kieler Föhrde provides standard yet elegant refurbished rooms in the main building and completely new, bright accommodations in the Villentrakt. The restaurant serves mostly fish dishes; in summer try to get a table on the terrace. Pros: central location in the heart of Kiel; nice views. Cons: service and attitude can feel a bit too formal at times. | Rooms from: €197 | Hindenburgufer 70 | 0431/88130 | www.hotel-kyc.de | 19 rooms, 2 suites | Breakfast.
This is one of the many chic and hip bars in Kiel. | Alter Markt 19 | 0431/96812.
A college crowd goes to Traumfabrik to eat pizza, watch a movie, or dance (Friday is best for dancing). | Grasweg 19 | 0431/544-450.
60 km (37 miles) southeast of Kiel, 56 km (35 miles) northeast of Hamburg.
The ancient island core of Lübeck, dating from the 12th century, was a chief stronghold of the Hanseatic merchant princes, until its almost complete destruction in 1942. It was the roving Heinrich der Löwe (King Henry the Lion) who established the town and, in 1173, laid the foundation stone of the redbrick Gothic cathedral. The town’s famous landmark gate, the Holstentor, built between 1464 and 1478, is flanked by two round squat towers and serves as a solid symbol of Lübeck’s prosperity as a trading center.
Getting Here and Around
Lübeck is accessible from Hamburg in 45 minutes either by InterCity trains or by car via the A-24 and A-1, which almost takes you from one city center to the other. Lübeck is also well connected by autobahns and train service to Kiel, Flensburg, and the neighboring eastern coastline. The city, however, should be explored on foot or by bike, as the many tiny, medieval alleys in the center cannot be accessed by car. Tours of Old Lübeck depart daily from the tourist Welcome Center on Holstentorplatz (€7, June-Aug., Sat. at 11:30).
Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival.
In summer, try to catch a few performances at this annual music festival (mid-July-late August), which features orchestras composed of young musicians from more than 25 countries. Some concerts are held in the Lübecker Dom or the Marienkirche; some are staged in barns in small towns and villages. For exact dates and tickets, contact Schleswig-Holstein Konzertorganisation. | Lübeck | 0431/570-470 information, 0431/237-070 ticket hotline | www.shmf.de.
Lübeck Tourist Office. | Holstentorpl. 1 | 00451/889-9700 | www.luebeck.de.
Fodor’s Choice | Altstadt (Old Town).
Proof of Lübeck’s former position as the golden queen of the Hanseatic League is found at every step in the Altstadt, which contains more 13th- to 15th-century buildings than all other large northern German cities combined. This fact has earned the Altstadt a place on UNESCO’s register of the world’s greatest cultural and natural treasures. | Lübeck.
Fodor’s Choice | Holstentor (Holsten Gate).
Lübeck’s famous gate was part of the medieval fortifications of the city. It has two faces: one it shows the world and one it shows the city. The “field side,” which faces away, appears as if it is made of two defensive towers connected by a middle gate. The “city side” looks like one smooth building and has more windows, arcades, and friezes. The inscription on the field side, added in 1871, reads, “Concordia domi foris pax,” an abbreviated version of the statement, “Harmony within and peace outside are indeed the greatest good of all.” It houses a museum with ship models, suits of armor, and other artifacts from Lübeck’s heyday. | Holstentorpl. | 0451/1224129 museum | www.museum-holstentor.de | Museum €6 | Museum: Jan.-Mar., Tues.-Sun. 11-5; Apr.-Dec., daily 10-6.
Lübecker Dom (Lübeck Cathedral).
Construction of this, the city’s oldest building, began in 1173. | Domkirchhof | 0451/74704 | Free | Apr.-Oct., daily 10-6; Nov.-Mar., daily 10-4.
Dating from 1240, the Rathaus is among the buildings lining the arcaded Marktplatz, one of Europe’s most striking medieval market squares. | Breitestr. 64 | 0451/122-1005 | Guided tour in German €4 | Tour weekdays at 11, noon, and 3; Sat. at 1:30.
Two highly respectable-looking mansions are devoted to two of Germany’s most prominent writers, Thomas Mann (1875-1955) and Günter Grass (born 1927). The older mansion is named after Mann’s saga Buddenbrooks. Mann’s family once lived here, and it’s now home to the Heinrich und Thomas Mann Zentrum, a museum documenting the brothers’ lives. A tour and video in English are offered. | Mengstr. 4 | 0451/122-4240 | www.buddenbrookhaus.de | €6 | Jan.-Mar., Tues.-Sun. 11-5; Apr.-Dec., daily 10-5.
This mansion contains a museum devoted to wide-ranging exhibits on literature and visual arts, including the work of Germany’s most famous postwar writer and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature (1999), Günter Grass. | Glockengiesserstr. 21 | 0451/122-4230 | grass-haus.de | €6 | Jan.-Mar., Tues.-Sun. 11-5; Apr.-Dec., daily 10-5.
Heilig-Geist-Hospital (Hospital of the Holy Ghost).
Take a look inside the entrance hall of this Gothic building. It was built in the 14th century by the town’s rich merchants and was one of the country’s first hospitals. It still cares for the sick and elderly. | Am Koberg 11 | 0451/790-7841 | Free | Apr.-Sept., Tues.-Sun. 10-5; Oct.-Mar., Tues.-Sun. 10-4.
Marienkirche (St. Mary’s Church).
The impressive redbrick Gothic structure, which has the highest brick nave in the world, looms behind the Rathaus. Look for the old bells, as they are still in the spot where they fell during the bombing of Lübeck. | Marienkirchhof | 0451/397-700 | www.st-marien-luebeck.de | Apr.-Sept., daily 10-6; Mar. and Oct., daily 10-5; Nov.-Feb., daily 10-4.
WHERE TO EAT
Fodor’s Choice | Schiffergesellschaft.
$$ | GERMAN | This dark, wood-paneled restaurant dating back to 1535 is the city’s old Mariners’ Society house, which was off-limits to women until 1870. Today locals and visitors alike enjoy freshly brewed beer and great seafood in church-style pews at long 400-year-old oak tables. Above are a bizarre collection of low-hanging old ship models. A good meal here is the Ostseescholle (plaice), fried with bacon and served with potatoes and cucumber salad. | Average main: €19 | Breitestr. 2 | 0451/76776 | schiffergesellschaft.com | Reservations essential.
$$$$ | GERMAN | This restaurant has set a new standard of dining sophistication for Lübeck. Committed to the city’s maritime heritage, Wullenwever serves fish such as bass, halibut, plaice, pike, and trout, which is fried or sautéed according to local country cooking. It’s certainly one of the most attractive establishments in town, with dark furniture, chandeliers, and oil paintings on pale pastel walls. In summer, tables fill a quiet flower-strewn courtyard. Don’t order à la carte here. Instead choose one of the three- to seven-course menus, paired with wine. | Average main: €50 | Beckergrube 71 | 0451/704-333 | www.wullenwever.de | Closed Sun. and Mon. No lunch | Reservations essential.
WHERE TO STAY
Hotel zur Alten Stadtmauer.
$$ | B&B/INN | This historic town house in the heart of the city is Lübeck’s most charming hotel with small, modest, well-kept guest rooms on two floors. Comfortable beds, bright birch-wood furniture, a quiet setting, and a great (not to mention nutritious) German breakfast buffet make this a perfect choice for budget travelers looking for romance. Pros: cozy hotel with personal, friendly service; great location. Cons: rather simply furnished rooms; when it’s full, the hotel feels cramped. | Rooms from: €109 | An der Mauer 57 | 0451/73702 | www.hotelstadtmauer.de | 22 rooms | Breakfast.
$$ | HOTEL | A lovely country hotel set in 19th-century, redbrick farmhouses 10 minutes outside Lübeck, the family-run Friederikenhof is a perfect hideaway with a soothing garden and great view of the city’s skyline. Rooms are fairly large and appointed in a slightly modernized, country-house style with all the amenities of a four-star hotel. If you don’t want to drive into the city for dinner, try the fresh seafood at their intimate restaurant. Pros: charming, old-style farmhouse typical of the region; personal and very friendly service. Cons: outside Lübeck. | Rooms from: €110 | Langjohrd 15-19 | 0451/800-880 | www.friederikenhof.de | 30 rooms | Breakfast.
$ | HOTEL | Only a stone’s throw from the Holstentor, this hotel is close to all the main attractions and faces the moat surrounding the Old Town. It’s family-run and very comfortable, with modern rooms, mostly decorated with bright cherrywood furniture. Though small, the guest rooms are big enough for twin beds and a coffee table and come with either a shower or a bath. Pros: perfect location in the heart of Lübeck’s downtown area; major sights are all within walking distance. Cons: small pensionlike hotel without many of the amenities of larger hotels; bland decoration in rooms. | Rooms from: €93 | An der Obertrave 4-5 | 0451/702-490 | www.hotel-jensen.de | 41 rooms, 1 suite | Breakfast.
SAS Radisson Senator Hotel Lübeck.
$$ | HOTEL | Close to the famous Holstentor, this ultramodern hotel, with its daring architecture, still reveals a north German heritage: the redbrick building, with its oversize windows and generous, open lobby, mimics an old Lübeck warehouse. When making a reservation, ask for a (larger) Superior Class room, whose price includes a breakfast. A big plus are the very comfortable beds, which are large by German standards. The Nautilo restaurant serves light Mediterranean cuisine. Pros: luxury hotel in a central location; some rooms with river views. Cons: lacks the historic charm typical of medieval Lübeck. | Rooms from: €134 | Willy-Brandt-Allee 6 | 0451/1420 | www.senatorhotel.de | 217 rooms, 7 suites | Breakfast; Some meals.
Musik und Kongresshallen Lübeck.
Myriad concerts, operas, and theater performances take place at this major venue in Lübeck. | Willy-Brandt-Allee 10 | 0451/79040 | www.muk.de.
Local legend has it that marzipan was invented in Lübeck during the great medieval famine. According to the story, a local baker ran out of grain for bread and, in desperation, began experimenting with the only four ingredients he had: almonds, sugar, rose water, and eggs. The result was a sweet almond paste known today as marzipan. The story is more fiction than fact; it is generally agreed that marzipan’s true origins lie in the Middle East. TIP Lübecker Marzipan, an appellation that has been trademarked, is now considered among the best in the world. Any marzipan that uses the appellation Lübecker must be made within the city limits.
The city’s largest downtown shopping mall is next to the Holstentor and is filled with stores selling clothing or home accessories. | An der Untertrave 111 | 0451/75292.
Lübeck’s most famous marzipan maker, Niederegger, sells the delicacy molded into a multitude of imaginative forms at its Konditorei-Café flagship store. | Breitestr. 89 | 0451/530-1127 | www.niederegger.de.
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Wismar | Schwerin | Bad Doberan | Rostock | Warnemünde
This long-forgotten Baltic Coast region, pinned between two sprawling urban areas—the state capital of Schwerin, in the west, and Rostock, in the east—is thriving with trade, industry, and tourism. Though the region is close to the sea, it’s made up largely of seemingly endless fields of wheat and yellow rape and a hundred or so wonderful lakes. “When the Lord made the Earth, He started with Mecklenburg,” wrote native novelist Fritz Reuter.
60 km (37 miles) east of Lübeck.
The old city of Wismar was one of the original three sea-trading towns, along with Lübeck and Rostock, which banded together in 1259 to combat Baltic pirates. From this mutual defense pact grew the great and powerful private-trading bloc, the Hanseatic League (the Hanse in German), which dominated the Baltic for centuries. The wealth generated by the Hanseatic merchants can still be seen in Wismar’s ornate architecture.
Wismar Tourist Office. | Stadthaus, Am Markt 11 | 03841/19433 | www.wismar.de.
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Marktplatz (Market Square).
One of the largest and best-preserved squares in Germany is framed by patrician gabled houses. Their style ranges from redbrick late Gothic through Dutch Renaissance to 19th-century neoclassical. The square’s Wasserkunst, the ornate pumping station built in Dutch Renaissance style, was constructed between 1580 and 1602 by the Dutch master Philipp Brandin. | Wismar.
St. Georgen zu Wismar.
One of northern Germany’s biggest Gothic churches, built between 1315 and 1404, St. Georgen zu Wismar stands next to the Fürstenhof. It was a victim of the war, but has been almost completely restored. | St.-Georgen-Kirchhof 6.
QUICK BITES: To’n Zägenkrog.
While wandering among the medieval and modern jetties and quays of the port, you might feel the need for a snack. This seamen’s haven, decorated with sharks’ teeth, stuffed seagulls, and maritime gear, is a good pit stop along the harbor. | Ziegenmarkt 10 | 03841/282-716.
Fürstenhof (Princes’ Court).
The home of the former dukes of Mecklenburg stands next to the Marienkirche. It’s an early-16th-century Italian Renaissance palace with touches of late Gothic. The facade is a series of fussy friezes depicting scenes from the Trojan War. | Fürstenhof 1.
Marienkirche (St. Mary’s Church).
All that remains of the oldest sacral building in Wismar is the 250-foot tower. Although only partialy damaged in the war, the East German government demolished the hall of the church in 1960. Just behind the Marktplatz; the church is still undergoing restoration. At noon, 3, and 5, listen for one of 14 hymns played on its carillon. | St.-Marien-Kirchhof.
St. Nikolaikirche (St. Nicholas’s Church).
The late-Gothic church, with a 120-foot-high nave, was built between 1381 and 1487. A remnant of the town’s long domination by Sweden is the additional altar built for Swedish sailors. | St.-Nikolai-Kirchhof 15 | 03841/210-143 | Free | May-Sept., daily 8-8; Apr. and Oct., daily 10-6; Nov.-Mar., daily 11-4.
WHERE TO EAT
$$ | GERMAN | Regarded as one of the most attractive, authentic taverns on the Baltic—and correspondingly busy—this eatery focuses on Mecklenburg’s game and poultry dishes, such as the traditional Mecklenburger Ente (Mecklenburg duck). This filling dish is filled with baked plums, apples, and raisins, and served with red cabbage and potatoes. | Average main: €15 | Am Markt 19 | 03841/283-552 | www.alter-schwede-wismar.de.
Brauhaus am Lohberg.
$ | GERMAN | Wismar’s first brewery (1452) is the only place that still brews Wismarer Mumme, a dark beer with enough alcohol to keep it fresh for export as far away as St. Petersburg. The restaurant serves good-value typical pub food in an old half-timber house near the harbor. | Average main: €13 | Kleine Hohe Str. 15 | 03841/250-238.
WHERE TO STAY
Citypartner Hotel Alter Speicher.
$$ | B&B/INN | This small and personable family-owned hotel lies behind the facade of an old merchant house in the downtown area. Some of the rooms may be tiny, but it only contributes to the warm and cozy atmosphere. The lobby and restaurants are decorated with wooden beams and panels. The main restaurant primarily serves game, but it also prepares regional dishes. Pros: good location in easy walking distance to medieval Wismar. Cons: rooms have outdated furnishings and style; rooms tend to be small. | Rooms from: €119 | Bohrstr. 12-12a | 03841/211-746 | www.hotel-alter-speicher.de | 70 rooms, 3 suites, 2 apartments | Breakfast.
$$ | B&B/INN | Set at the dreamy Naun Lake, this country hotel is a hidden gem 15 km (9 miles) east of Wismar. The redbrick farmhouse and old thatch-roof barn make up an upscale yet casual hotel. Each room has a unique design (the owners are acclaimed Berlin interior designers), with white walls and terra-cotta tiles. There’s a fine restaurant serving German-Italian seafood on a terrace. Pros: great rural setting in quaint surroundings. Cons: outside Wismar; many day-trip visitors. | Rooms from: €175 | Seestr. 1 | Nakenstorf | 038422/4570 | www.seehotel-neuklostersee.de | 10 suites, 3 apartments | Breakfast.
Steigenberger-Hotel Stadt Hamburg.
$ | HOTEL | This first-class hotel hides behind a rigid gray facade dating back to the early 19th century, but the interior is surprisingly open and airy, with skylights and a posh lobby. The rooms have elegant cherrywood art deco-style furnishings. Downstairs, the Bierkeller, a cavernous 17th-century room with vaulted ceilings, is a trendy nightspot. Pros: the only upscale hotel in town; great package deals available; appealing interior design. Cons: lacks atmosphere and personal touches. | Rooms from: €95 | Am Markt 24 | 03841/2390 | www.wismar.steigenberger.de | 102 rooms, 2 suites | Breakfast.
32 km (20 miles) south of Wismar on Rte. 106.
Schwerin, the second-largest town in the region after Rostock and the capital of the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, is worth a trip just to visit its giant island castle.
The quintessential experience in Schwerin is one of the Weiss Flotte boat tours of the lakes—there are seven in the area. A trip to the island of Kaninchenwerder, a small sanctuary for more than 100 species of waterbirds, is an unforgettable experience. Boats for this 1½-hour standard tour depart from the pier adjacent to the Schweriner Schloss. | Anlegestelle Schlosspier | 0385/557-770 | www.weisseflotteschwerin.de | €12.50.
Schwerin. | Rathaus, Am Markt 14 | 0385/592-5212 | www.schwerin.de.
Alter Garten (Old Garden).
The town’s showpiece square was the setting for military parades during the years of Communist rule. It’s dominated by two buildings: the ornate neo-Renaissance state theater, constructed in 1883-86; and the Kunstsammlungen Schwerin (Schwerin Art Collection). | Schwerin.
Kunstsammlungen Schwerin (Schwerin Art Collection).
This gallery houses an interesting collection of paintings by Max Liebermann and Lovis Corinth, along with Dutch and Flemish works and sculpture. There are also exhibitions of contemporary art. | Alter Garten 3 | 0385/595-8119 | www.museum-schwerin.de | €8; temporary exhibitions €5; combined ticket for two museums €9, three museums €11, four museums €13 | Mid-Apr.-mid-Oct., Tues.-Sun. 10-6; mid-Oct.-mid-Apr., Tues.-Sun. 10-5.
North of the castle’s main tower is the Neue Lange Haus (New Long House), built between 1553 and 1555 and now used as the Schlossmuseum. The Communist government restored and maintained the fantastic opulence of this rambling, 80-room reminder of an absolutist monarchy—and then used it to board kindergarten teachers in training. Antique furniture, objets d’art, silk tapestries, and paintings are sprinkled throughout the salons (the throne room is particularly extravagant), but of special interest are the ornately patterned and highly burnished inlaid wooden floors and wall panels. | Lennéstr. 1 | 0385/525-2920 | www.museum-schwerin.de | €6; combined ticket for two museums €9, three museums €11, four museums €13 | Mid-Apr.-mid-Oct., daily 10-6; mid-Oct.-mid-Apr., Tues.-Sun. 10-5.
Schweriner Dom (Schwerin Cathedral).
This Gothic cathedral is the oldest building (built 1222-48) in the city. The bronze baptismal font is from the 14th century; the altar was built in 1440. Religious scenes painted on its walls date from the late Middle Ages. Sweeping views of the Old Town and lake await those with the energy to climb the 219 steps to the top of the 320-foot-high cathedral tower. | Am Dom 4 | 0385/565-014 | Free | Tower and nave May-Oct., Mon.-Sat. 10-5, Sun. noon-5; Nov.-Apr., Mon.-Sat. 11-4, Sun. noon-4.
On an island near the edge of Lake Schwerin, this meticulously restored palace once housed the Mecklenburg royal family. The original palace dates from 1018, but was enlarged by Henry the Lion when he founded Schwerin in 1160. Portions of it were later modeled on Chambord, in the Loire Valley. As it stands now, the palace is surmounted by 15 turrets, large and small, and is reminiscent of a French château. The portions that are neo-Renaissance in style are its many ducal staterooms, which date from between 1845 and 1857. | Lennéstr. 1 | €6; combined ticket for two museums €9, three museums €11, four museums €13 | Mid-Apr.-mid-Oct., Tues.-Sun. 10-6; mid-Oct.-mid-Apr., Tues.-Sun. and public holidays 10-5.
WHERE TO EAT
$ | GERMAN | A small family-owned restaurant and hotel with 16 guest rooms, the Schankstuben emphasizes Mecklenburg tradition. Its inviting restaurant is perfect for sampling local recipes such as Rollbraten von Spanferkel (roast suckling pig) or Maisscholle (corn-fed plaice). | Average main: €12 | Am Schlachtermarkt 9-13 | 0385/592-530 | www.alt-schweriner-schankstuben.de | No lunch.
$ | GERMAN | One of the most traditional and popular eateries in Schwerin, this restaurant has a long history of serving good wines that dates from 1740. The Weinbistro offers primarily German wine tasting and a small menu (mostly cheese plates or soups such as lobster bisque). Regional and international specialties are served in the modern restaurant, while in summer the Weingarten courtyard is one of the city’s most secluded spots to enjoy a good glass of wine. | Average main: €13 | Grosser Moor 56 | 0385/562-956.
$ | GERMAN | Don’t be fooled by the prefab exterior: Schwerin’s only brewery is an oasis of great beer and down-to-earth regional and brauhaus specialties like the Malzsack (a pork schnitzel breaded with brewing malt) or Mecklenburger lamb. There are also barbecued steaks and some vegetarian options. Wash it down with the house-brewed unfiltered light or dark beer. | Average main: €13 | Wismarsche Str. 126 | 0385/593-6693 | www.altstadtbrauhaus.de | No credit cards.
WHERE TO STAY
Hotel Niederländischer Hof.
$$ | HOTEL | The city’s most elegant hotel has a 4½-star rating in view of its luxurious interior, decorated in a classic style, its romantic, airy rooms, and the impeccable service. The fine nouvelle cuisine à la Mecklenburg (mostly seafood dishes) is another attraction. All this is tucked inside a late-19th-century historic mansion located on old Schwerin’s Pfaffenteich pond. Pros: interesting packages include tours, dinner, and more; great location right off a pond; within walking distance of the Schloss, boat docks, and downtown museums. Cons: formal atmosphere. | Rooms from: €150 | Alexandrinnenstr. 12-13 | 0385/591-100 | www.niederlaendischer-hof.de | 27 rooms, 6 suites | Breakfast.
Sorat-Hotel Speicher am Ziegelsee.
$$ | HOTEL | Towering seven stories above the old harbor, the Speicher am Ziegelsee was once a grain warehouse. The 1939 building’s rooms and spacious apartments are decorated with natural materials and earthy tones and have all the amenities of a modern, first-class hotel. A choice spot for sitting is the wooden terrace bordering the lake. Pros: unbeatable location on a lovely lake; very friendly and professional service; lakeside dining. Cons: old-style warehouse building; rooms may seem cramped for some travelers; a bit far from the action. | Rooms from: €110 | Speicherstr. 11 | 0385/50030 | www.speicher-hotel.com | 59 rooms, 20 apartments | Breakfast.
NIGHTLIFE AND PERFORMING ARTS
German drama and opera are staged in this fine historic theater. | Am Alten Garten | 0385/53000 | www.theater-schwerin.de.
This is the city’s hottest dance club. It features house and soul DJs who attract a stylish young crowd every Saturday night. | Klöresgang 2.
Started in 1993, this annual summertime festival features open-air drama or comedy performances, which are heald at various venues around Schwerin including the Mecklenburg State Theatre, the castle garden, the National Theatre, and the National Museum. | Schlossstr. 1.
Antiques and bric-a-brac that have languished in cellars and attics since World War II are still surfacing throughout eastern Germany, and the occasional bargain can be found. The best places to look in Schwerin are on and around Schmiedestrasse, Schlossstrasse, and Mecklenburgstrasse.
60 km (37 miles) east of Wismar on Rte. 105, 90 km (56 miles) northeast of Schwerin.
Mostly famous for its cathedral, Bad Doberan is a quaint town that also has Germany’s oldest sea resort, Heiligendamm. The city is a popular weekend and summer getaway for people from Rostock and Berlin, but it’s managed to maintain its laid-back charm.
Bad Doberan Tourist Office. | Severinstr. 6 | 038203/62154 | www.bad-doberan.de.
Doberaner Münster (Monastery Church).
Bad Doberan is home to this meticulously restored redbrick church, one of the finest of its kind in Germany. It was built by Cistercian monks between 1294 and 1368 in the northern German brick Gothic style, with a central nave and transept. The main altar dates from the early 14th century. | Klosterstr. 2 | 038203/62716 | www.doberanermuenster.de | €3 | May-Sept., Mon.-Sat. 9-6, Sun. 11-6; Mar., Apr., and Oct., Mon.-Sat. 10-5, Sun. 11-5; Nov.-Feb., Mon.-Sat. 10-4, Sun. 11-4. Tours May-Oct., Mon.-Sat. at noon and 3; Nov.-Apr., Mon.-Sat. at 11 and 1.
Molli. No visit to this part of the country would be complete without a ride on this narrow-gauge steam train that has been chugging its 16-km (10-mile) route through the streets of Bad Doberan to the nearby beach resorts of Heiligendamm and Kühlungsborn since 1886. The train was nicknamed after a little local dog that barked its approval every time the smoking iron horse passed by. In summer Molli runs 13 times daily between Bad Doberan and Kühlungsborn. | Am Bahnhof | 038203/4150 | www.molli-bahn.de | Same-day round-trip €9.50-€13.50 | May-Sept., daily 8:35-6:45 (last return from Heiligendamm at 7:02); Oct.-Apr., daily 8:35-4:40 (last return from Heiligendamm at 5).
WHERE TO EAT AND STAY
$ | GERMAN | Here’s a mixed setting for you: a 19th-century Chinese-pagoda-type structure in an English-style park. Come for lunch or high tea; regional specialties are featured. In summer the café stays open until 10 pm. | Average main: €10 | Auf dem Kamp | 038203/62326 | No credit cards.
Fodor’s Choice | Grand Hotel Heiligendamm.
$$$$ | HOTEL | Nestled in five meticulously restored, gleaming white structures on a secluded beach, the hotel displays an almost Californian Bel Air charm and offers timelessly furnished rooms decorated in soft colors. Seemingly endless activities are offered, and the spa area is breathtaking. The kids’ club includes supervised activities, their own restaurant, and a three-story villa, kitted out as a play-house, with a tube-slide giving fast access out to a garden with more play equipment. Pros: the only real first-class hotel on the Baltic Coast; wide range of sports and activities; wonderful amenities for children up to age 11. Cons: very large hotel spread out over somewhat long distances; service is formal and stiff at times; books up quickly in high season. | Rooms from: €245 | Prof.-Dr.-Vogel-Str. 16-18 | Heiligendamm | 038203/7400 | www.grandhotel-heiligendamm.de | 118 rooms, 107 suites | Breakfast.
14 km (9 miles) east of Bad Doberan on Rte. 105.
The biggest port and shipbuilding center of the former East Germany, Rostock was founded around 1200. Of all the Hanseatic cities, this once-thriving city suffered the most from the dissolution of the League in 1669. The GDR reestablished Rostock as a major port, but after reunification, shipbuilding all but disappeared. Nevertheless, the city set its sights to the future, retooled its factories and is now a major producer of wind turbines. Ferries from Gedser (Denmark) and Trelleborg (Sweden) come here. The population doubles in the summer due to Baltic cruise ships that dock in Warnemünde. TIP The biggest local annual attraction is Hanse Sail, a week of yacht racing held in August.
Rostock Tourist Office. | Universitätspl. 6 | 0381/32222 | www.rostock.de.
This pedestrian-only shopping street stretches from the Kröpeliner Tor (the old western gate) to the Neuer Markt. Here you’ll find the finest examples of late-Gothic and Renaissance houses of rich Hanse merchants. | Kröpelinerstr.
St. Marienkirche (St. Mary’s Church).
This eight-centuries-old church, Rostock’s greatest example of Gothic architecture, contains a bronze baptismal font from 1290 and some interesting baroque features, notably the oak altar (1720) and organ (1770). The huge astronomical clock, dating from 1472, has a calendar extending to 2017. | Am Ziegenmarkt 4 | 0381/492-3396 | Free | May-Sept., Mon.-Sat. 10-6, Sun. 11:15-5; Oct.-Apr., Mon.-Sat. 10-12:15 and 2-4, Sun. 11-12:15.
Universitätsplatz (University Square).
The triangular University Square, commemorating the founding of one of northern Europe’s oldest universities here in 1419, is home to Rostock University’s Italian Renaissance-style main building, finished in 1867. | Rostock.
Neuer Markt (Town Square).
Here, you’ll immediately notice the architectural potpourri of the Rathaus. The pink baroque facade from the 18th century hides a wonderful 13th-century Gothic building underneath. The Town Hall spouts seven slender, decorative towers that look like candles on a peculiar birthday cake. Walk around the back to see more of the Gothic elements. Historic gabled houses surround the rest of the square. | Rostock.
Schifffahrtsmuseum (Maritime Museum).
Tracing the history of shipping on the Baltic, this museum displays models of ships, which especially intrigue children. It’s just beyond the city wall, at the old city gateway, Steintor. | August-Bebel-Str. 1 | 0381/492-2697 | www.schifffahrtsmuseum-rostock.de | €4 | Tues.-Sun. 11-6.
Zoologischer Garten (Zoological Garden).
Here you’ll find one of the largest collections of exotic animals and birds in northern Germany. This zoo is particularly noted for its polar bears, some of which were bred in Rostock. If you’re traveling with children, a visit is a must. | Rennbahnallee 21 | 0381/20820 | www.zoo-rostock.de | €16 | Apr.-Oct., daily 9-7; Nov.-Mar., daily 9-5.
WHERE TO EAT
$$ | GERMAN | Once you’ve crossed the threshold of the Petrikeller, you’ll find yourself in the medieval world of Hanseatic merchants, seamen, and wild pirates such as Klaus Störtebecker. The restaurant’s motto, “Wer nicht liebt Wein, Weib und Gesang bleibt ein Narr sein Leben lang” (He who doth not love wine, woman and song will be a fool his whole life long), a quote from reformer Martin Luther no less, sets the right tone. The largely meat-centric menu reflects the cuisine of the Middle Ages, when meat and roots were the common daily ration. Try duck roasted over an open fire with braised red cabbage, or a host of other delights that can easily be eaten with your hands or from the back of a dagger. | Average main: €16 | Harte Str. 27 | 0381/455-855 | www.petrikeller.de | No credit cards | Closed Mon. No lunch.
Restaurant & Bar Silo 4.
$$$ | ASIAN | This restaurant provides proof that eastern Germany can do sleek and modern. At the top of a waterfront office tower, this innovative restaurant offers spectacular views of the river and a fun and interesting approach to Asian-fusion cuisine. The menu consists of a list of ingredients and seasonings. Guests choose what they like and then leave it to the experts in the show kitchen to work their magic. | Average main: €25 | Am Strande 3d | 0381/458-5800 | www.silo4.de | Closed Mon. No lunch.
$ | SEAFOOD | Looking like the cabin of a Kogge (a Hanseatic sailing vessel), the oldest sailors’ beer tavern in town serves mostly fish. Order the Mecklenburger Fischsuppe (fish soup) if it’s on the menu. The Grosser Fischteller, consisting of three kinds of fish—depending on the day’s catch—served with vegetables, lobster and shrimp sauce, and potatoes, is also a popular choice. Meals are served from 4:30 pm, but it’s open for unremarkable snacks from 11:30. | Average main: €13 | Wokrenterstr. 27 | 0381/493-4493 | www.zur-kogge.de | Reservations essential.
WHERE TO STAY
$ | HOTEL | A 19th-century mansion, this hotel is a genuine part of Rostock’s historic Old Town. It provides smooth service, and the modern rooms are tastefully decorated. Despite its downtown location, it’s a quiet place to stay. Pros: good location; very quiet backstreet. Cons: restaurant isn’t very good; uninspired room design. | Rooms from: €99 | Schwaansche Str. 6 | 0381/49700 | www.pentahotels.com | 150 rooms, 2 suites | Breakfast.
Steigenberger-Hotel zur Sonne Rostock.
$$ | HOTEL | With more than 200 years of history behind it, the “Sun,” within the Old Town, is one of the nicest hotels in Rostock. Guests here relax and enjoy the Hanseatic mansion’s maritime atmosphere, the inviting wine bar, very friendly service, and large, modern rooms. Ask for a top-floor room, cozily fitted under the eaves. Pros: nice view and near many sights; good restaurants, cafés, and bars nearby. Cons: rooms get direct sunlight in summer, and therefore are very warm; a room with open setting of bed in the middle of the room may be unsettling for some. | Rooms from: €102 | Neuer Markt 2 | 0381/49730 | www.rostock.steigenberger.de | 90 rooms, 21 suites | Breakfast.
NIGHTLIFE AND PERFORMING ARTS
The summer season brings with it a plethora of special concerts, sailing regattas, and parties on the beach.
The Volkstheater presents plays, from the classics to more contemporary works, and concerts. | Patriotischer Weg 33 | 0381/4600 | www.volkstheater-rostock.de.
Echter Rostocker Doppel-Kümmel und -Korn, a kind of schnapps made from various grains and flavored with cumin, is a traditional liquor of the area around Rostock. Fishermen have numbed themselves to the cold for centuries with this 80-proof beverage. A bottle costs €8-€11; Lehmmet is the best brand of this local moonshine.
14 km (9 miles) north of Rostock on Rte. 103.
Warnemünde, officially a suburb of Rostock, is a quaint seaside resort town with the best hotels and restaurants in the area, as well as 20 km (12 miles) of beautiful white-sand beach. It’s been a popular summer getaway for families in eastern Germany for years.
There is little to do in Warnemünde except relax, and the town excels brilliantly at that. However, Warnemünde is a major cruise-ship terminal. Whenever there is more than one ship at dock, the town explodes with a county fair-like atmosphere, and shops and restaurants stay open until the ships leave at midnight. The city celebrates the dreifache Anlauf, when three ships dock simultaneously, with fireworks.
Getting Here and Around
Thanks to its proximity to Rostock and the A-20, Warnemünde is easily accessible from any major city in the region. Traffic between the seaside district of Rostock and the downtown area can be heavy on summer weekends. The best way to explore the city is by riding a bike or walking.
Warnemünde Tourist Office. | Am Strom 59, Ecke Kirchenstr. | Rostock | 0381/381-2222 | www.rostock.de.
Alter Strom (Old Stream).
Inland from the lighthouse is this yacht marina. Once the entry into the port of Warnemünde, it now has bars, plenty of good restaurants, and touristy shops. The fishing boats lining the Strom sell the day’s catch, smoked fish, and bags of fried mussels. | Rostock.
Children enjoy climbing to the top of the town landmark, a 115-foot-high lighthouse, dating from 1898; on clear days it offers views of the coast and Rostock Harbor. In summer, adults can enjoy a cold beer from the Marlower Brauhaus trailer at the base of the lighthouse. | Seepromenade | Rostock.
The beach fronting the resort town of Warnemünde is one of Germany’s most popular and it can get fairly crowded in summer. The expansive beach, with its soft, clean sand, is fabulous for sunbathing, relaxing, or walking. The pleasant sea breeze invites kite flyers and you can purchase different kinds of kites from the open-air market along the promenade. Food and drinks are available from many vendors and at several supermarkets in the town itself. Amenities: food and drink; parking; showers; toilets; water sports. Best for: sunrise; sunset; swimming; walking. | Seepromende 1 | Rostock.
WHERE TO EAT AND STAY
$ | SEAFOOD | Sailors have stopped in at this restaurant’s bar for more than a century. The smoked fish sampler, served on a lazy Susan, is delicious, and the house specialty of fish soup is best washed down with some Rostocker Doppel-Kümmel schnapps. An accordionist entertains the crowd on weekends. | Average main: €11 | Am Strom 123 | Rostock | 0381/52516 | Reservations essential.
$ | RESORT | This family-owned hotel, in a thatch-roof farmhouse outside Warnemünde, blends contemporary style with rural architecture. The refurbished apartments all feature a kitchenette and separate sitting or living areas. The standard rooms are smaller—some have a maritime flair with dark, heavy furniture and large beds; others, which are even smaller, have a country feel with bright pinewood furnishings. The hotel is 500 yards from the beach. Pros: quiet; green setting not far away from the sea; friendly and personalized service; very private apartments. Cons: old-fashioned interior design in need of updating in some rooms and public areas; outside Warnemünde proper. | Rooms from: €95 | Stolteraerweg 34b | Rostock | 0381/519-1848 | www.ostseetraum.de | 18 rooms | Breakfast.
Yachthafenresidenz Hohe Düne.
$$$ | RESORT | The star on the Baltic Coast is this huge, modern resort, comfortably residing on a peninsula between the yacht harbor, a sandy beach, and the port entrance. Setting a new standard of luxury in the region, the smartly designed Hohe Düne offers maritime-themed rooms and suites with names reminiscent of ship quarters, such as “Boatman’s Cabin” or “Captain’s Suite.” A real catch is the spa, taking up a full three floors with a pool, several saunas, and plenty of massage rooms. Pros: very well run; stylish hotel with a great ambience and amenities; impressive wellness and spa area. Cons: outside Warnemünde; accessible only by ferry from the town center and not along the central promenade; only a few attractions and restaurants in walking distance; pretentious staff. | Rooms from: €215 | Am Yachthafen 1-8 | Rostock | 0381/5040 | www.yhd.de | 345 rooms, 23 suites | Breakfast.
The pubs in the marina Alter Strom are fun gathering places.
This bar is open until 3 am Friday and Saturday. Roof access gives you the chance to sit under the stars and watch ship lights twinkle on the sea. | Neptun Hotel, Seestr. 19, 19th fl. | Rostock | 0381/7770 | www.hotel-neptun.de/sky-bar.html.
EN ROUTE: Ribnitz-Damgarten.
Ribnitz-Damgarten, 30 km (19 miles) northeast of Warnemünde, is the center of the amber (in German, Bernstein) business, unique to the Baltic Coast. Amber is a yellow-brown fossil formed from the sap of ancient conifers and is millions of years old. Head for a beach and join the locals in the perennial quest for amber stones washed up among the seaweed. | Ribnitz-Damgarten.
EN ROUTE: Deutsches Bernsteinmuseum (German Amber Museum).
In the Deutsches Bernsteinmuseum, which adjoins the main factory, you can see a fascinating exhibit of how this precious “Baltic gold” is collected from the sea and refined to make jewelry. The museum has pieces of amber that are between 35 and 50 million years old. | Im Kloster 1-3 | Ribnitz-Damgarten | 03821/2931 | www.deutsches-bernsteinmuseum.de | €8.50 | Mar.-Oct., daily 9:30-6; Nov.-Feb., Tues.-Sun. 9:30-5; last entry 30 mins before closing.
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Stralsund | Rügen Island | Usedom Island
The best description of this region is found in its name, which simply means “before Pomerania.” This area, indeed, seems trapped between Mecklenburg and the authentic, old Pomerania farther east, now part of Poland. Its remoteness ensures an unforgettable view of unspoiled nature, primarily attracting families and younger travelers.
68 km (42 miles) east of Rostock on Rte. 105.
This jewel of the Baltic has retained its historic city center and parts of its 13th-century defensive wall. The wall was built following an attack by the Lübeck fleet in 1249. In 1815 the Congress of Vienna awarded the city, which had been under Swedish control, to the Prussians.
Getting Here and Around
Stralsund is well linked to both Rostock and Berlin by A-20 and A-19. The city is an ideal base for exploring the coast via the well-developed network of Bundesstrassen around it. Inside the city, walking or biking are better options, though, as the dense, historic downtown area makes it difficult to drive.
Stralsund Tourist Office. | Alter Markt 9 | 03831/24690 | www.stralsund.de.
Alter Markt (Old Market Square).
The Alter Markt has the best local architecture, ranging from Gothic to Renaissance to baroque. Most homes belonged to rich merchants, notably the late-Gothic Wulflamhaus, with 17 ornate, steeply stepped gables. Stralsund’s architectural masterpiece, however, is the 14th-century Rathaus, considered by many to be the finest secular example of redbrick Gothic. The Rathaus is a mirror image of its counterpart in Lübeck, Stralsund’s main rival in the Hanseatic League | Stralsund.
Deutsches Meeresmuseum (German Sea Museum).
The Stralsund aquarium of Baltic Sea life is part of this three-floor museum, which also displays the skeletons of a giant whale and a hammerhead shark, and a 25-foot-high chunk of coral. | Katharinenberg 14-20, entrance on Mönchstr. | 03831/265-021 | www.meeresmuseum.de | €9 | June-Sept., daily 10-6; Oct.-May, daily 10-5.
St. Marienkirche (St. Mary’s Church).
This enormous church is the largest of Stralsund’s three redbrick Gothic churches. With 4,000 pipes and intricate decorative figures, the magnificent 17th-century Stellwagen organ (played only during Sunday services) is a delight to see and hear. The view from the church tower of Stralsund’s old city center is well worth climbing the 349 steps. | Neuer Markt, Marienstr., entrance at Bleistr. | 03831/293-529 | Tour of church tower €4 | May-Oct., weekdays 9-6, weekends 10-noon; Nov.-Apr., weekdays 10-noon and 2-6, weekends 10-noon.
Katherinenkloster (St. Catherine’s Monastery).
In this former cloister, 40 rooms now house two museums: the famed Deutsches Meeresmuseum, and the Kulturhistorisches Museum. | Bielkenhagen.
Kulturhistorisches Museum (Cultural History Museum).
This museum exhibits diverse artifacts from more than 10,000 years of this coastal region’s history. Highlights include a toy collection and 10th-century Viking gold jewelry found on Hiddensee. You reach the museum by walking along Ossenreyerstrasse through the Apollonienmarkt on Mönchstrasse. | Mönchstr. 25-27 | 03831/28790 | €6 | Tues.-Sun. 10-5.
St. Nikolaikirche (St. Nicholas’s Church).
The treasures of the 13th-century Gothic church include a 15-foot-high crucifix from the 14th century, an astronomical clock from 1394, and a famous baroque altar. | Alter Markt | 03831/297-199 | Free | Apr.-Sept., Mon.-Sat. 10-6, Sun. 11-noon and 2-4; Oct.-Mar., Mon.-Sat. 10-noon and 2-4, Sun. 11-noon and 2-4.
WHERE TO EAT AND STAY
$$ | SEAFOOD | This restaurant is on the ground floor of the Wulflamhaus, a 14th-century gabled house on the old market square. Steaks and fish are the specialties; in late spring or early summer, get the light and tasty Ostseescholle (grilled plaice), fresh from the Baltic Sea. In winter the hearty Stralsunder Aalsuppe (Stralsund eel soup) is a must. | Average main: €16 | Alter Markt 5 | 03831/291-533 | www.wulflamstuben.de | No lunch | Reservations essential.
Zum Alten Fritz.
$ | GERMAN | It’s worth the trip here just to see the rustic interior and copper brewing equipment. Since the restaurant is owned by the Stralsunder Brewery, all Stralsunder and several Störtebecker beers are on tap, including the rare Störtebecker Roggen-Weizen, a wheat beer made with rye, and Germany’s first India Pale Ale. In summer the beer garden gets somewhat rambunctious. | Average main: €13 | Greifswalder Chaussee 84-85, at B-96a | 03831/25550 | www.alter-fritz.de.
Hotel zur Post.
$$ | HOTEL | This redbrick hotel is a great deal for travelers looking for a homey yet first-class ambience. It’s on the market square near the Old Town. The hotel’s interior is a thoughtful mix of traditional north German furnishings and modern design. The trick with this hotel is to book far in advance when the rooms can be up to 50% off the published rate. Pros: very good location in the heart of historic downtown; good deals offered on hotel website. Cons: very small rooms with too much furniture; some rooms in need of updating. | Rooms from: €122 | Am Neuen Markt, Tribseerstr. 22 | 03831/200-500 | www.hotel-zur-post-stralsund.de | 104 rooms, 2 suites, 8 apartments | Breakfast.
$$ | HOTEL | Don’t let the weathered facade fool you; this hotel is in good shape, even if the lobby and restaurant were not as tastefully redecorated as the guest rooms. You get the basics at a fair price. Pros: friendly service; perfect downtown location. Cons: very basic. | Rooms from: €105 | Neuer Markt 22 | 03831/293-161 | www.norddeutscher-hof.de | 13 rooms | Breakfast.
Wyndham Stralsund HanseDom Hotel.
$$ | HOTEL | This hotel, part of the Wyndham brand, is a modern property with winning amenities and great hospitality at an unbeatable price. The high-rise hotel doesn’t look appealing at first glance, but the spacious rooms (featuring many extras such as a baby bed, satellite TV, and a work desk) are furnished in bright colors and ensure a most pleasant stay. The biggest attraction, the hotel’s Vital Spa, is a huge wellness facility. Pros: top spa; solid and reliable services and amenities; breakfast until 11 am. Cons: for Stralsund, this is a large, busy hotel; far away from city center (15 minutes). | Rooms from: €129 | Grünhofer Bogen 18-20 | 030/9780-8888 | www.wyndhamstralsund.com | 109 rooms, 5 suites | Breakfast.
Bar Hemingway lures a clientele mostly in their thirties with the best cocktails in town. | Tribseerstr. 22 | 03831/200-500.
Fun und Lollipop.
A young crowd dances here. | Grünhofer Bogen 11 | 03834/399-039.
For a genuine old harbor Kneipe (tavern), head to the Störtebeker-Keller, named for an infamous pirate. | Ossenreyerstr. 49 | 03831/292-758.
Buddelschiffe (ships in a bottle) are a symbol of the magnificent sailing history of this region. They look easy to build, but they aren’t, and they’re quite delicate. Expect to pay more than €70 for a 1-liter bottle. Also look for Fischerteppiche (fishermen’s carpets). Eleven square feet of these traditional carpets take 150 hours to create, which explains why they’re meant only to be hung on the wall—and why they cost from €260 to €1,200. They’re decorated with traditional symbols of the region, such as the mythical griffin.
4 km (2½ miles) northeast of Stralsund on B-96.
Rügen’s diverse and breathtaking landscapes have inspired poets and painters for more than a century. Railways in the mid-19th century brought the first vacationers from Berlin and many of the grand mansions and villas on the island date from this period. The island’s main route runs between the Grosser Jasmunder Bodden (Big Jasmund Inlet), a giant sea inlet, and a smaller expanse of water, the Kleiner Jasmunder Bodden (Little Jasmund Inlet Lake), to the port of Sassnitz. You’re best off staying at any of the island’s four main vacation centers—Sassnitz, Binz, Sellin, and Göhren.
Getting Here and Around
Rügen is an easy two-hour drive from Rostock and a 15-minute drive from Stralsund via the B-96. As there is only one bridge connecting the island to the mainland, the road can get clogged occasionally in summer. On the island, a car is highly recommended to reach the more-remote beaches, but watch out for island teenagers and their infatuation with muscle cars; give them a wide berth.
Sassnitz Tourist Office. | Bahnhofstr. 19a | Sassnitz | 038392/6490 | www.insassnitz.de.
Tourismusverband Rügen. | Bahnhofstr. 15 | Bergen auf Rügen | 03838/807-780 | www.ruegen.de.
The largest resort town on Rügen’s east coast, it has white villas and a beach promenade. Four kilometers (2½ miles) north of Binz are five massive facist resorts of Bad Prora, where the Nazis once planned to provide vacation quarters for up to 20,000 German workers. The complex was never used, except by the East German army. Redevelopment of the site began in 2003 and by 2014 refurbished apartments were available for purchase; there’s also a youth hostel. Museums and galleries here today do their best to document the history of the site. | Strandpromenade 1 | Binz.
Standing on the highest point of East Rügen, 2 km (1 mile) south of Binz, is the Jagdschloss Granitz, a hunting lodge built in 1836. It offers a splendid view in all directions from its lookout tower and has an excellent hunting exhibit. | Binz | 038393/663-814 | www.jagdschloss-granitz.de | €6 | May-Sept., daily 9-6; Oct.-Apr., Tues.-Sun. 10-4.
Marking the northernmost point in eastern Germany is the lighthouse at Kap Arkona, a nature lover’s paradise filled with blustery sand dunes. The redbrick lighthouse was designed by Karl Friedrich Schinkel, the Prussian court-architect responsible for so many of today’s landmarks in Berlin. | Putgarten.
This small fishing town is the island’s harbor for ferries to Sweden. Sassnitz is surrounded by some of the most pristine nature to be found along the Baltic Coast. Ten kilometers (6 miles) north of Sassnitz are the twin chalk cliffs of Rügen’s main attraction, the Stubbenkammer headland. From here you can best see the much-photographed white-chalk cliffs called the Königstuhl, rising 350 feet from the sea. A steep trail leads down to a beach. | Sassnitz.
From Sassnitz, it is an easy walk to the Jasmund Nationalpark, where you can explore the marshes, lush pine forests, and towering chalk cliffs. | Johanniskirchstr. | Sassnitz | www.nationalpark-jasmund.de.
This small town is the island’s administrative capital, founded as a Slavic settlement some 900 years ago. The Marienkirche (St. Mary’s Church) has geometric murals dating back to the late 1100s and painted brick octagonal pillars. The pulpit and altar are baroque. Outside the front door and built into the church facade is a gravestone from the 1200s. | Bergen.
The heart of this town, 28 km (17 miles) southwest of Binz, is the Circus, a round central plaza dating back to the early 19th century. The immaculate white buildings surrounding the Circus give the city its nickname, “Weisse Stadt” (White City). In summer the blooming roses in front of the houses (once a requirement by the ruling noble family of Putbus) are truly spectacular. | Putbus.
Rügenschen BäderBahn - Rasender Roland (Racing Roland).
From Putbus you can take a ride on the 90-year-old narrow-gauge steam train, which runs 24 km (16 miles) to Göhren, at the southeast corner of Rügen. Trains leave hourly from Göhren to Binz and every two hours from Binz to Putbus; the ride takes 70 minutes each way. | Binzer Str. 12 | Putbus | 038301/8010 | www.rasender-roland.de | Day ticket €22 | Apr.-Oct., daily 7:48 am-7:46 pm, with two departures per hr from Putbus; Nov.-Mar., daily 7:48 am-5:44 pm, with departures every 2 hrs.
OFF THE BEATEN PATH: Hiddensee.
Just 5 km (3 miles) off the northwest corner of Rügen is a smaller island called Hiddensee. The undisturbed solitude of this sticklike island has attracted such visitors as Albert Einstein, Thomas Mann, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Sigmund Freud. As Hiddensee is an auto-free zone, leave your car in Schaprode, 21 km (13 miles) west of Bergen, and take a ferry. Reederei Hiddensee (03831/268-116; www.reederei-hiddensee.de) makes the 45-minute trip from Schapröde on Rugen to Vitte on Hiddensee eight times a day, with other departures from Stralsund. They also serve the towns of Kloster and Neuendorf on Hiddensee. Fares start at €15.50. Vacation cottages and restaurants are on the island.
The rule of the Baltics’ most exclusive beach is “see and be seen.” The 5-km-long (3-mile-long) and 54-yard-wide beach is the perfect place to sunbathe and swim, as well as stroll—there’s a 150-year-old beach path promenade. The somewhat rocky beach is punctuated by the Seebrücke, a boardwalk that extends into the sea, and the nearby Smart Beach Tour Stadium, which regularly hosts parties, beach volleyball tournaments, and other events. Amenities: food and drink; lifeguards; parking; showers; toilets; water sports. Best for: partiers; surfing; swimming; walking. | Strandpromenade | Binz.
This is one of the finest beaches on Rügen, and there’s probably not another place like it in the world—think fine white beach bordered by a dense pine forest sitting in the shadow of the ruins of a monstrous Nazi beach resort. Prora actually sits in the Prorer Wiek, a pleasant cove with shallow water and plentiful sandbanks. Amenities: food and drink; lifeguards; parking; showers; toilets; water sports. Best for: nudists; sunset; swimming; walking. | Binz.
Tucked away on the west coast of Hiddensee near Vitte, is a 5-km-long (3-mile-long) beach with shimmering turquoise waters and sand so fine that you might mistake it for the Caribbean. The 50-yard-wide beach is ideal for families with children, but is only accessible by bicycle. The water is quite shallow and it’s easy to walk out to the sandbanks. Vitte is divided between a nudist section to the south and a “textile” section to the north. Locals decorate the beach with baskets of flowers in summer. Amenities: showers; toilets; water sports. Best for: partiers; nudists; swimming; walking. | Süderende | Vitte.
WHERE TO EAT
$$ | GERMAN | Dinner at this restaurant dubbed “Rügen’s balcony” offers some of the most beautiful views on the island. While enjoying fresh fish from local waters, prepared with a light Italian touch, you can watch the sunset over the cliffs of Kap Arkona. Fresh produce comes from local farmers, and the superb vintages are from small private wineries. Make a reservation, and insist on a table in the Fontane-Veranda (in winter) or the Arkonablick-Terrasse (in summer). | Average main: €17 | An der Steilküste 8 | Lohme | 038302/9110 | www.panorama-hotel-lohme.de | No credit cards | No lunch.
WHERE TO STAY
$$ | B&B/INN | This small hotel offers food and lodging at very reasonable prices. In addition, the hotel rents small cottages and apartments around the island, which are a good value if you intend to stay for more than a few days. Godewind’s restaurant is known on the island for its regional dishes. Pros: quiet setting; very cozy rooms with nice furniture. Cons: almost no amenities or services offered. | Rooms from: €105 | Süderende 53 | Vitte | 038300/6600 | www.hotelgodewind.de | No credit cards | 23 rooms, 19 cottages | Breakfast.
Hotel Villa Granitz.
$ | RENTAL | This mostly wooden mansion is a small and quiet retreat for those who want to avoid the masses. All rooms are spacious and have a large terrace or balcony; pastel shades of soft white and yellow add to the tidy, fairy-tale look of the building. The apartments have small kitchenettes. Pros: cozy hotel in traditional style of the area; very competitive prices for the size and comfort of rooms. Cons: off the beaten track at the outskirts of the city; a distance from the beach. | Rooms from: €84 | Birkenallee 17 | Baabe | 038303/1410 | www.villa-granitz.de | No credit cards | 44 rooms, 6 suites, 8 apartments | Breakfast.
Travel Charme Hotel Kurhaus Binz.
$$$$ | HOTEL | The grand old lady of the Baltic Sea, the neoclassical 19th-century Kurhaus Binz is reviving the splendor of times past, when Binz was called the Nice of the North. The four-star Kurhaus is right on the beach, with a breathtaking sea view from most of the spacious and elegantly furnished rooms. The huge Egyptian-themed spa and wellness area is a real treat. Of the two restaurants, the Kurhaus-Restaurant is the better choice—it serves traditional seafood but adds exotic fusion-cuisine touches. Pros: great breakfast buffet; extremely clean; highly trained and friendly personnel; all the amenities. Cons: lacks the feel of a typical Rügen hotel; not very personal or intimate. | Rooms from: €228 | Strandpromenade 27 | Binz | 038393/6650 | www.travelcharme.com | 106 rooms, 20 suites | Breakfast.
$$ | HOTEL | This first-class beach resort in Binz is a sophisticated blend of historic seaside architecture and modern elegance. Behind the ornamental white facade the hotel boasts spacious rooms decorated with 19th-century reproduction furniture, as well as more secluded apartments. A great plus is the nearly 6,000-square-foot spa and wellness center, one of the best in the region. Pros: varied cultural and entertainment programs; stylish spa with great massages. Cons: small rooms; few places to relax in the hotel; aged shuttle service to the train station. | Rooms from: €149 | Zeppelinstr. 8 | Binz | 038393/500 | www.vier-jahreszeiten.de | 69 rooms, 7 suites, 50 apartments | Breakfast.
67 km (42 miles) to Wolgast bridge from Stralsund.
Usedom Island has almost 32 km (20 miles) of sandy shoreline and a string of resorts. Much of the island’s untouched landscape is a nature preserve that provides refuge for a number of rare birds, including the giant sea eagle, which has a wingspan of up to 8 feet. Even in summer this island feels more or less deserted, and is ready to be explored by bicycle. Due to a fluke in the postwar division of Germany, about one-fifth of the island is actually in Poland.
Getting Here and Around
From the west, Usedom is accessed via the causeway at Wolgast. The bridge closes to traffic at times to allow boats to pass through. From the south, the B-110 leads from Anklam to Usedom. In summer, particularly before and after weekends, traffic can be very heavy on both roads. Trains of the Usedomer-Baderbahn traverse the island every 30 minutes; the company also runs an extensive bus network.
Bus and Train Contact
Usedomer Bäderbahn. | Am Bahnhof 1 | Heringsdorf | 38378/27132 | www.ubb-online.com.
Usedom Island Tourismus. | Waldstr. 1 | Seebad Bansin | 038378/47710 | www.usedom.de.
The island’s main town is also one of its best resorts. The tidy and elegant resort is one of the three Kaiserbäder (imperial baths)—the two others are Heringsdorf and Bansin—where the Emperor Wilhelm II liked to spend his summers in the early 20th century. Noble families and rich citizens followed the emperor, turning Ahlbeck into one of the prettiest summer retreats on the Baltic Coast. Ahlbeck’s landmark is the 19th-century wooden pier with four towers. Stroll the beach to the right of the pier and you’ll arrive at the Polish border. | 1 Kurstr. | Ahlbeck.
At the northwest tip of Usedom, 16 km (10 miles) from land-side Wolgast, is the launch site of the world’s first ballistic missiles, the V-1 and V-2, developed by Germany during World War II. You can view these rockets as well as models of early airplanes and ships at the extensive Historical-Technical Museum Peenemünde. | Fährstr. 10 | Peenemünde.
Das Historisch-Technische Museum Peenemünde (Historical-Technical Museum Peenemünde).
At this museum housed in the former factory power plant, one exhibit in particular covers the moral responsibility of scientists who develop new technology by focusing on the secret plants where most of the rocket parts were assembled, and where thousands of slave laborers died. Explanations of the exhibits in English are available. | Im Kraftwerk | Peenemünde | 038371/5050 | www.peenemuende.de | €8 | Apr.-Sept., daily 10-6; Oct., daily 10-4; Nov.-Mar., Tues.-Sun. 10-4.
The Kaiserbäder Strand stretches for more than 12 km (7½ miles) along Usedom Island’s northeast coast from Bansin to Herringsdorf to Ahlbeck. A promenade connects the three towns and the Imperial Bathing Beaches are a mix of 19th-century beach architecture on one side and beach-chair relaxation on the other. A stroll through the windy sea air is said to have magical recuperative powers and locals claim that when the conditions are right, the sand actually sings when the grains rub together. The wide beach bustles with weekend Berliners and long-term visitors in summer. Amenities: food and drink; lifeguards; parking; showers; toilets; water sports. Best for: partiers; sunrise; swimming; walking. | Strandpromenade | Heringsdorf.
One of the best-kept secrets on Usedom, this 12-km-long (7½-mile-long) beach is quite busy in the north but almost deserted farther south. The area is quite rustic and it’s the perfect place to feel like you have the beach to yourself. Amenities: food and drink; parking Best for: solitude; nudists; sunrise; sunset. | Uferpromenade | Ückeritz.
WHERE TO STAY
Romantik Seehotel Ahlbecker Hof.
$$$ | HOTEL | The grande dame of Ahlbeck, this four-star hotel calls to mind the island’s past as a getaway for Prussian nobility in the 19th century. The restored building sits right on the beach, just a few steps from the pier. It offers spacious, elegantly appointed rooms overlooking the water. Pros: has one of the area’s best spas; two gourmet restaurants; near beach. Cons: no elevator. | Rooms from: €201 | Dünenstr. 47 | Ahlbeck | 038378/620 | www.seetel.de | 70 rooms | Breakfast.