Lüneburg (also Lueneburg or Lunenburg) is an attractive and historic town on the River Ilmenau, surrounded by the Lüneburg Heath in the North German state of Lower Saxony. The town lies about 50 km southeast of Hamburg and is the capital of the district of Lüneburg with a population of around 73,000.


Lüneburg's Town Hall

Early history

Archaeological finds show that the area was known to Neanderthal hunters and, later, Bronze Age settlers. The town may have been that referred to as Leuphana by Ptolemy, but it was officially founded in 956.

Lüneburg was built on a salt dome which made the town important and wealthy in the Middle Ages until 1600 when it started to decline. Tradition has it that salt was first discovered by a hunter who shot and killed a wild boar bathing in a pool of water. When he hung its skin up to dry, he discovered it was full of white crystals – salt.

Lüneburg was originally overshadowed by the village of Bardowick to the north, which was a Slavic trading post. When Bardowick was destroyed by Henry the Lion in 1189, Lüneburg was granted town rights and took over the mantle as a trading centre. Its monopoly on salt production in Northern Europe quickly led to membership of the prestigious Hanseatic League – Lüneburg's salt was in great demand to preserve herring caught in the Baltic and North Seas. Initially salt was carted up the Old Salt Road to Lübeck, but was later transported by cog along river and canal. Lüneburg became very wealthy and, in 1371, threw out its princely ruler, the Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg and destroyed his castle on the Kalkberg. In 1392 Lüneburg became a free imperial town, a status which lasted until 1637. Much of the wealth stemming from the salt trade can still be seen in the town, which boasts many buildings from Lüneburg's medieval heyday.

Modern period

The demise of the Hanseatic League and the overfishing of herring during the 16th century led to Lüneburg's decline. New building ceased and Lüneburg survived relatively unscathed by war, which is why the town centre has largely managed to preserve its medieval character.

Lüneburg lost its independence in 1708, becoming part of the Electorate of Hanover, and then passed through a succession of states, before becoming part of the Prussian province of Hanover in 1866. During the 19th century it became a Prussian garrison town, but otherwise faded from the limelight.

In 1945, Lüneburg stamped its mark on history again when Field Marshal Montgomery took the German surrender on the Timeloberg hill, just south of the town. The spot is currently out-of-bounds in a military training area. Lüneburg also hosted the Belsen trial against perpetrators of the crimes at Belsen and Auschwitz concentration camps. Heinrich Himmler, infamous leader of the SS, committed suicide in Lüneburg and was subsequently buried in an unmarked location in a nearby forest.

Unlike many towns in Germany, Lüneburg was spared during the Second World War and none of its historical buildings was damaged. But its historic buildings had fallen into dangerous decay. Since the 70's the town has been gradually restored to the tourist attraction it is today.

In 1980 the saltworks finally closed ending a millennium of salt mining tradition in the town. In 1990 3 of the 4 barracks were closed and the university moved to the site of one of them.

Lüneburg today

Today, Lüneburg is thriving again as the economic and administrative centre of the region, with a strong tourist industry as the northern gateway to the Lüneburg Heath – a popular holiday and weekend destination, especially for the citizens of Hamburg, Hanover and Bremen. It also has a popular university, its 10,000 students bringing a vibrancy to the town, balancing nicely its historical setting.

Although salt has not been mined industrially since 1980, you can still enjoy its benefits in the two large salt baths in the Salü (see below). Small quantities of salt are still extracted and sold, for example, as souvenirs.

Get in

By air

The nearest international airport is Hamburg which is about 50 minutes' drive or 45 minutes train ride away. Other international airports include Hanover (1 hour 20 minutes) and Bremen (1 hour 25 minutes). Lüneburg Airport is only used by light aircraft, ultralights, gliders and balloons.

By train

Lüneburg is on the main Hamburg-Hanover railway worked by both Deutsche Bahn and metronom. The journey to Hamburg Central only takes 35 minutes. Intercities and the occasional ICE stop here. There is also a line to Lübeck on the Baltic Coast via Lauenau. Another line – the Wendland Railway – runs to Wittenberge. The cities of Lübeck and Hanover are about one hour away by rail.

By road

Since the building of the A 250 motorway in 1996, the town is only 40 minutes drive from Hamburg. To approach from the south and west, head for Hanover and take the A7 motorway to Hamburg. Come off at the Garlstorf exit and pick up the L 216 which reaches Lüneburg after 26 km.

Lüneburg is also on the B 4 federal road, 36 km north of Uelzen.

Get around

The Altstadt

By foot

The Old Town (Altstadt) is quite compact and can easily be explored on foot.

By bus

There is a town bus network with 13 routes that all pass through the railway and central bus stations and all bar two pass through the central town square of Am Sande. Most routes run buses every 20 or 30 minutes between 5 am and 7 pm on weekdays and then half-hourly to 9 pm. Buses operate from 6 am to 8 pm on Saturdays and from 1 pm to 8 pm on Sundays and public holidays every hour or half-hour. Otherwise there is a so-called ASM i.e. mobile phone service. Some buses run out to the surrounding villages of Adendorf, Bardowick, Mechtersen/Vögelsen and Reppenstedt.

Lüneburg is also the departure point for many regional bus routes to, for example, the outlying villages of Deutsch Evern, Wendisch Evern, Embsen, Melbeck, Scharnebeck and destinations in the districts of Amelinghausen, Bleckede, Dahlenburg and Neetze. Other connexions run to the neighbouring districts of Winsen, Lüchow, Hitzacker, Lower Marschacht and Salzhausen. The regional bus service is part of the Hamburg Transport Association (HVV) and is operated in the northern and western sectors by the CCG and in the southern and northeastern sectors mainly by the Osthannover transport company (VOG).

By car

Car access to the town centre is very limited, but there are numerous, well-signed, car parks just outside it. In particular, the Sülzwiese car park just north of the centre is free and from there it is an easy walk into the town centre.


Inner Altstadt

Am Sande with St. John's Church
The Old Harbour with its crane and warehouse

Most of the inner Altstadt is a pedestrian area and is home to many of Lüneburg's historic sights. The main attractions here are:

Outer Altstadt

The outer Altstadt, outside the main pedestrian precinct, also has many treasures. Chief among these are:

The church is worth visiting for its interesting architecture. Although some of the foundations came from an earlier abbey and date to 956, work on the rest of the foundations for the current church began in 1376 and was finished in 1379. The building itself was completed in 1412, while the tower followed in 1434 and has one of the oldest bells in Europe.

Since the church was built on salt mines, over time, and due to over mining, the ground under the church dropped by 70 cm, which also tilted the structure of the church in a very interesting and strange way. Although strong steel braces now support the building, one cannot help but notice that most of its main supports and Gothic columns are very crooked. Even the orchestra section is crooked.

In the suburbs









Beer is an often brewed locally in Germany. Most towns and regions have their own distinctive beers often only available in pubs, thus the importance of sampling local products when visiting different German towns and cities.

Although it is now brewed in Hamburg, Lüneburg's official beer, Lüneburger Pilsner, can be enjoyed in the many restaurants, bars and pubs of the town. However its production is relatively low, so it is not possible to buy bottled versions of this beer. Another star of the town is Moravia Pils produced at the Kronen-Brauhaus zu Lueneburg since 1485 . Kronen (see "Eat" section) is a nice traditional pub which also has a brewery museum in the centre of the town. Unlike Lüneburger Pilsner, this beer can be bought in bottles in shops. Some pubs like Mälzer, right next to the Kronen brewery, also brew their own delicious beer served in ceramics mugs.

The Stint (Am Stint) used to be the street where all the nightlife was. This has changed as other pubs in the town established themselves, but is still a good place to go for a drink.

Schroederstraße is packed with terraces and is a central meeting point in the summer. Pubs include: Maxx, News, Toro, Comodo (brand new)






Dial code

The national dial code for Lüneburg is 04131.

Internet cafes




Stay safe

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