Guide to the Island of Ruegen

Guide to Germany's Largest Island

Abruption of chalkstone at Kieler Ufer, Chalk cliff at Jasmund National Park, Island of Ruegen, Mecklenburg Western Pomerania, Germany, Europe

 Thomas Grundner/LOOK/Getty Images

Rügen, Germany’s largest island, is located in the northeast of the country off the Baltic Sea. Rügen has been one of Germany’s most popular travel destinations for centuries; Bismarck, Sigmund Freud, Thomas Mann, and even Albert Einstein all vacationed here. During the GDR, the island became the favored spot of the government’s top politicians like Erich Honecker.

Once the location of quiet fishing villages, Rügen is famous for its romantic seaside resorts and spas which date back to the 18th century and spectacular landscape. On the coast, there are mile-long beaches, many of them historically clothes-free. Rising above the sand, the chalk-white cliffs, Kreidefelsen, are a major draw.

In the heart of the island, you can follow the scenic drive on Alleenstrasse along cobble-stoned avenues lined with century-old trees. Another great way to get around the island is by taking the Rasender Roland (Racing Roland), a historic steam train that connects the towns and sea resorts.

The following slides will cover the many highlights of Rügen, the largest island in Germany.

01 of 07

Beaches of Rügen

Ruegen beach
GettyImages / mnfotografie

Miles and miles of pristine beaches, many of them more than 130 feet wide, make Rügen a summer destination for Germans and foreigners alike. Rügen’s beaches also attract water sports fans from all over Germany; surfing, kiting, and sailing are especially popular here.

Among its many beaches, you’ll find many designated nude beaches (look for the signs that say FKK). For a map of Rügen's family-friendly nude beaches (yes - really), check out the Rügen Tourism Website.

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02 of 07

National Park on Jasmund Peninsula

White Chalk Cliffs of Rugen
GNTB/Joachim Messerschmidt

The Nationalpark Jasmund is the smallest national park in Germany but its impressive snow-white chalk cliffs, Kreidefelsen, are a major attraction. Königsstuhl, the tallest, rises 118 meters straight out of the Baltic Sea.

Founded in 1990 - just before reunification - the cliffs were popularized by Germany’s Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich and they continue to enthrall as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

For the best views of the majestic cliff, take a boat tour around the peninsula and enjoy the spectacular perspective from the water.

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03 of 07


Hiddensee Germany
Martin Hey

On this little island west of Rügen, ​cars are banned and the only way to get around is by bike, horse carriage or on foot – the ultimate cure for the city blues.

Large parts of Hiddensee are designated nature conservation areas. Unique flora and fauna outnumber the 1,300 permanent residents. Cranes, mussels, and migratory birds can be found all over the island.

Between rugged cliffs, white sandy beaches, salt marsh, and fishing villages, you’ll find the perfect refuge from the hustle and bustle of the mainland.

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04 of 07


Sellin Seaside Resort Rugen
DZT/Norberg Krüger

Sellin is a beautiful seaside resort with elegant architecture which dates back to the beginning of the 19th century. Many villas and hotels feature Art Nouveau elements like turrets, steeples and wooden loggias.

The highlight of Sellin's is its historic reconstructed seebrücke (pier) from 1901. It is the longest pier on the island with a restaurant over the water and has a tauchgondel (diving gondola).

Other resort towns include Lauterbach, Putbus, Binz, and Göhren.

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05 of 07

Kap Arkona

Ruegen's Kap Acrona
GettyImages / mnfotografie

The northernmost tip of Rügen on Kap Arkona is famous for its lighthouses. They dot the coastline with one of the most famous, Leuchtturm Kap Arkona, built by Friedrich Schinkel in 1826. It is the oldest lighthouse on the Baltic Sea coast and now holds a museum with an exhibition on lighthouses and sea rescue. The tower has an observation platform with unparalleled views of the sea all the way to the Danish island of Møn.

Also in the area is the picturesque fishing village of Vitt plus the remains of a Slavic castle that was conquered and destroyed by the Danes in 1168.

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06 of 07


Ruegen's Sanddorn
GettyImages / Thomas Grundner

This orange berry is not well known outside of Europe. It is a specialty of Rügen and grows on shrubs all over the dunes of the island. It contains 15 times more Vitamin C than an orange.

Look for local Sanddorn products like jams, honey, juices, oils, and fruit wine. Sample the many goods and buy some to take home as a tasty souvenir.

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07 of 07


GettyImage / Hans-Peter Merten

Hanseatic Stralsund is usually just a gateway to the island of Rügen (or Tor zur Insel Rügen auf Deutsch), but it has a lot to offer on its own.

Once a Swedish administrative district, its design is strongly influenced by local brick and its Nordic neighbors. Before you head on to the island, note the attractions in this seaside town like the harbor, aquarium, and altstadt (old town).