Guide to Luebeck

Lübeck, Germany
••• Holstentor. © Hanseatic City of Lübeck

Another Hanseatic city (like Bremen, Rostock and Stralsund), Lübeck is one of the major ports of Germany and everything seems to revolve around its connection to the water.

Brief History of Lübeck

The city was founded in the 12th century as a trading post on the Trave River leading to the Baltic Sea. The oldest section of Lübeck is on an island, completely encircled by the river.

Its strategic location allowed the city to flourish and by the 14th century it was the largest and most powerful member of the Hanse (Hanseatic League).

Emperor Charles IV placed Lübeck on par with Venice, Rome, Pisa and Florence as one of the five "Glories of the Roman Empire".

World War II had a damatic effect on Lübeck, just as it did the rest of the country. RAF bombs destroyed about 20 percent of the city including the cathedral, but miraculously spared many of its 15th- and 16th-century residences and the iconic Holstentor (brick gate).

After the war, as Germany was divided into two, Lübeck fell in the West but lay close to the German Democratic Republic (East German) border. The city grew rapidly with the influx of ethnic German refugees from former Eastern provinces. To accommodate its growing population and reclaim its importance, Lübeck rebuilt the historic center and in 1987 was rewarded by UNESCO designated the area as a World Heritage Site.

World Heritage Center of Lübeck

Today's Lübeck appears much as it did in medieval days and it has regained its throne as the Königin der Hanse (Queen City of the Hanseatic League).

The World Heritage site is the best place to start exploring.

The Burgkloster (castle monastery) contains the original foundations of the city's long-lost castle. Next, the Koberg area is a fine example of a late 18th-century neighborhood including Jakobi Church and the Heilig-Geist-Hospital. More churches, Petrichurch in the north and the Dom (cathedral) to the south, surround Patrician residences from the 15th and 16th centuries.

There are actually seven church steeples punctuating the city skyline, with the Marienkirche (Saint Mary's) one of the oldest from the 13th century. The Rathaus (town hall) and Markt (market place) are also here and though they display the effects of WWII bombings, are still quite spectacular.

On the left bank of the river there remains elements of Lübeck's working past with Salzspeicher (salt storehouses). Also on this side of the river is Holstentor, one of the most identifiable structures of the city. Built in 1478, it is one of only two remaining city gates. The other gate, Burgtor, is from 1444.

A visit to Lübeck is not complete without taking some time to enjoy the waterfront. Historic ships, Fehmarnbelt and the Lisa von Lübeck, are moored in the harbor and welcome visitors. To get in the water, visit one of Germany's best beaches at nerby Travemünde.

If the weather is more parka than swimsuit, Lübeck has an enchanting Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market) from late November to Silvester (New Years Eve) 

Lübeck Specailty

After a classic German meal of sausage and sauerkraut, satisfy your sweet tooth with an original Lübeck treat. Proud Lübecker claim marzipan as their own (although contrary theories place its beginnings somewhere in Persia).

No matter its origin story, Lübeck is famous for its marzipan with renowned producers like Niederegger. Eat some now, and buy some for later.

Getting to Lübeck

The closest international airport is in Hamburg, about an hour and a half away. The city is well connected by motorway and train. If traveling by car, take the Autobahn 1 which connects Lübeck with Hamburg and all the way up to Denmark. If traveling by train, the Hauptbahnhof is located within the city to the west of the island and offers commuter trains to and from Hamburg every 30 minutes on weekdays, plus connections around the country and abroad.