The Hanseatic City of Lübeck (Hansestadt Lübeck) is the largest German port on the Baltic Sea and the second-largest city in Schleswig-Holstein, situated at the mouth of the river Trave (hence the name of its port suburb Travemünde). The city has been an important port since the 12th century and, together with nearby Hamburg, has founded what became the powerful Hanseatic League of ports and trading towns. Unlike fellow Hanseatic Cities of Hamburg and Bremen, it has lost its "Free" (Freie Stadt) status and has been incorporated into the surrounding federal land, but history also has a sweeter side for Lübeck - it is globally known for the finest marzipan.

The old town (Altstadt) of Lübeck , although considerably damaged during the Second World War, survived from medieval times in a pretty much unchanged or truthfully rebuilt form. It is now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city centre's medieval skyline, mainly composed of seven Gothic-style church towers, is still intact. Lübeck is surrounded by parts of the old city walls with two of the original four city gates left. Most notable is the Holsten Gate (Holstentor) which was the motif on the German banknote of 50 Deutsche Mark prior to reunification, when the bills were redesigned.

The Holstentor in Lübeck, the city's most prominent symbol


The imposing town hall (Rathaus) of Lübeck

Historically, Lübeck was an independent city state (in fact they only lost that status due to a Nazi decree in 1935 that the German constitutional court was unwilling to nullify in the 1950s) and accumulated considerable wealth as the primus inter pares of the Hanseatic League from the 11th to the 17th century. Many merchants made a fortune on shipping salt to other Baltic port cities in exchange for valuable goods needed in Germany. Many impressive warehouses are located at the old harbour and can be accessed by tourists since they host museums, shops, restaurants or pubs today.

After sea trade substantially shifted away from the Baltic Sea to the Atlantic in the 17th century, Lübeck was slowly marginalized as a trading city against the North Sea ports of Bremen and especially Hamburg. This led gradually to a noticeable decay in wealth and eventually inspired contemporary writers to draw a resigned picture of the city's residents, most famously in the novel Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann, who earned a Nobel Prize for it in 1929. In the second world war Lübeck - not unlike Hamburg - was a target for allied (primarily British) bombings and in one particularly "successful" raid much of the densely built old town burned down. While most of the landmark buildings have since been restored, the New Lübeck has a lot less wood (for obvious reasons) and historic style residential buildings (mostly for financial reasons).

After World War II, the city was ultimately marginalized due to the nearby "Iron Curtain" which impeded access to many trading partners in the eastern Baltic and even cut off two minor urban districts of the city itself. As a traveller you might notice two effects of the Cold War still visible today: First some bridges have something that looks like undersized manhole covers at either end. These were in fact holes that could be filled with explosives to destroy the bridge, should the Soviets ever attack. The other thing you might notice is that there is a lot of (for Central European standards at least) untouched wildlife just outside the city to the east. While it was preserved by happenstance and the GDR's attempt to shut its border airtight, there are now efforts to preserve this "green band" of wildlife all through Germany. A curiosity in this area are Nandus, flightless birds native to South America that escaped in the early 2000s and roam free since. Despite efforts to boost commerce in the Baltic region, the city is still struggling from the cold war era with a fragile economy that leads to a comparatively deteriorated infrastructure outside the picturesque city centre. Ironically the very fact that the cold war ended dealt a further blow to the city, as it lost its "border town" status that made it eligible for big subsidies. Add to that a nearly total wipeout of the once huge ship building industry in the 1990s and you have an economic crisis the city hasn't quite shaken off to this day.

Lübeck used to control the trade in salt, and a group of Salzspeicher (salt stores) can still be seen right next to the Holstentor

Get in

By plane

The Lübeck Airport (IATA: LBC) is a minor international airport struggling to attract carriers after Ryanair dropped it in favor of Hamburg Airport. As of March 2015, the only regular carrier serving the airport is WizzAir with daily flights to Gdańsk and less frequent to Kiev, Riga and Skopje.

The airport is a few kilometers outside the city center but can be accessed by car and public transport. The airport bus travels twice in the morning from Hamburg to the airport. The public bus number 6 connects the airport to Lübeck's main railway station (Hauptbahnhof) every 30 minutes, journey time is about 20 minutes. There is also a local train connection from the station "Lübeck Flughafen", the station is about 200 meters away from the terminal building, the train runs every hour and needs no more than 10 minutes to the main railway station.

Hamburg Airport (IATA: HAM) is just one hour away, and offers many international connections. From the airport you can take the S-Bahn to Hamburg main station with an hourly train connecting to Lübeck main station.

By road

Lübeck is about 60 km northeast of Hamburg and easily accessible by car through the Autobahn A1. With the opening of the new highway A20 (Baltic Sea highway) to Rostock the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pommerania is only a very short distance away. Note that the A1 is the backbone of the cargo transport from the Hamburg to the Travemünde port, there will be heavy (and rather slow) traffic on the right of the three lanes.

Central station

By rail

On working days, commuter trains from/to Hamburg go every 30 minutes (on weekends and on holidays every 60 minutes). Additionally, InterCity trains via Hamburg leave/arrive every 2 hours. A few trains continue to Berlin, München, Cologne or Frankfurt. Local trains to Lüneburg, Kiel, Schwerin and the beach resorts Travemünde and Timmendorfer Strand depart on an hourly basis. Other regular trains for Copenhagen, Szczecin and the Island of Fehmarn leave every 2 hours.

By boat

There are many ferry connections to and from Lübeck. Passengers ferries arrive and depart from Skandinavienkai, a quay in Lübeck's borough Travemünde Most of the ferries run 1 or 2 times every day. Current connections are:

Skandinavienkai is served by buses 40, 30, and 31 (timetable), which travel between Travemünde Strandbahnhof and Lübeck ZOB. There is also a train station called "Travemünde Skandinavienkai"; it is about 1 km from the ferry terminal building. However, the only way between the ferry terminal and the train station is by those same buses. It is not possible to walk.

By bus

The liberalisation of the national long distance bus market benefits Lübeck. Companies like MeinFernbus offer routes to Berlin for as low as 15 Euro four times a day. Several other companies and lines are in the planning process. for detailed information on the (still young and volatile) market and other companies see Long distance bus travel in Germany Buses stop at or close to the ZOB, which is also the hub for local buses and just a few hundred meters from the main train station.

Get around

As most of the attractions are within or close to the compact Altstadt, you can get everywhere quickly on foot. There is a local bus service hub at the Hauptbahnhof/ZOB (central rail station) with services to all parts of the town and nearby towns. For medium to long distances within the city cycling is also an option and becoming more and more popular with the locals. Taxis are available nearly everywhere.

Because local bus tickets are quite expensive in comparison to other German cities, a taxi is generally cheaper for a group of three and up if your destination is less than 10km away. You have to go by taxi at night anyway, because there is no nightly bus service.

Tourist information can be obtained in the city hall (Rathaus, Breite Straße) or at the "Welcome Centre", opposite Holstentor.

View of the river Obertrave and city


Bellevue, a baroque palace in Lübeck

The main attraction is the medieval Altstadt (old city) located on an island surrounded by the Trave river and its various channels. Listed as an UNESCO World Heritage site, it offers an astonishing variety of different architectural styles. The streets of Lübeck are a delight for a connoisseur of architecture.

Bear in mind that Lübeck's Altstadt is not an open-air museum but a living city centre, so don't expect a complete medieval site. You'll find many beautiful old buildings intertwined with modern ones and a modern infrastructure. A particularly well-preserved 13th century part of the Altstadt is the Koberg area at the island's northern end. And don't miss the Gänge, small streets off the bigger roads, with small houses and a peculiar atmosphere.

A frontage made up of listed buildings at An der Obertrave

Noteworthy historical buildings include:

There are two houses dedicated to Lübeck's two literature nobel prize laureates: The Buddenbrookhaus is dedicated to the brothers Thomas and Heinrich Mann, who spent their youth there, and contains many of their works. It's near Marienkirche, in Mengstraße. Then there is the Günter-Grass-Haus (of The Tin Drum fame) in Glockengießerstraße.

The Museumshafen (museum port) between Beckergrube and the Musik- und Kongreßhalle building features some old-fashioned ships, among them a rebuilt Hanseatic kraweel ("Lisa von Lübeck")—more so in winter, because many of these ships are still in use during summer.

The borough of Moisling has a special Jewish history. An old Jewish cemetery is still to be found there.

Arcades of the former Chancellery House


Entrance of the Kunsthalle St. Anna



Luebeck.de > Aktuelles > Kinoprogramm keeps an updated programme for all cinemas in town.

Note that almost all films are dubbed in Germany, including Hollywood productions. Kommunales Kino is an exception, showing many subtitled films.

If you are visiting Lübeck during autumn, you might want to check out the Nordische Filmtage (Nordic film days), a festival where films from Northern Europe (especially Scandinavia) are shown in all cinemas, most of them in the original languages with German or sometimes English subtitles. Get a festival programme in one of the cinemas.

Clubs and discotheques

Normally, they don't cater to a special scene, but have themes and playlists changing on a daily basis. Have a look at the respective web pages or at Piste Lübeck for a programme. If you are in Lübeck, you can get a free printed copy of Piste magazine in newspaper shops or some restaurants.

In Germany, the normal age to be admitted into a club/disco is 18 years or older. Teenagers over 16 years may be allowed to enter clubs (and stay longer than 0:00pm) when presenting a filled out form (usually found on the internet) saying that a person over 18years is caring for them for the time of their stay in the club and on their way home.

Some of the biggest/most frequented clubs in Lübeck are:

There are also infrequent goth parties in different locations.

Other regular events

A brick wall with an entrance sign in the Altstadt


Lübecker Marzipantorte


There are several restaurants within the city centre which will satisfy most tastes. At the pinnacle is the Michelin starred Wullenwever. Other good options include Markgraf and Schabbelhaus while the most popular spot for tourists is the Schiffergesellschaft. If you're in for locally brewed beer, check out the slightly Bavarian-themed Brauberger in Alfstraße. Lübeck is well known for its high density of cafés and "Kneipen" (pubs), so peep into some of the smaller streets as well and see if you can find something that fits your taste.


There are many traditional bars in Lübeck, but if you're after a bit of international "big city" vibe, Cole Street - Bar Cafe Gallery - on Beckergrube 18, right next to the theatre, is a great find. Cool design, music and regularly changing contemporary art exhibitions. Check colestreets site for their latest info. You might also want to check out NUI, the great Thai & Japanese Restaurant at the bottom of Beckergrube.

A sleeping lion at Holstentor





Go next

There are several options to spend your time around Lübeck.

  • Travemünde Still part of Lübeck and only a 15-20 minute drive away. The railway station Travemünde Strand is right next to the beach and its big clock tower displays the departure time of the next train.
  • Timmendorfer Strand /Niendorf about 20-30 minutes and a more stylish resort and very popular with people from Hamburg

Somewhat north of Travemünde is a cliff (Brodtener Ufer) that has a hiking way from Travemünde to Niendorf (1-1,5 hrs walk) with good views on the Baltic coastline. Niendorf/Ostsee is somewhat more cosy and family oriented with its fishery port and a new renovated public swimming pool and a well-known bird zoo (Vogelpark Niendorf, situated in a small nature resort).

The Baltic coast resorts in Mecklenburg Pommerania are about 1-2 hrs drive on the Autobahn A20 away and might be worth a day trip

For nature lovers a trip to the lakes south of Lübeck may be of interest as there are great opportunities for bird-watching (e.g. the Ratzeburger See and the Schaalsee). Ratzeburg (with its Ernst-Barlach and A.-Paul-Weber museums) and Mölln are also worth a visit, especially as they are easily accessible by train. Near Ratzeburg is also one of the rare places to see the nearly extinct European bison—not a very spectacular facility, just some buffaloes on a pasture, but if you're in the area and have never seen one you might want to look out for the "Wisentgehege".

If you're travelling on northwards to Kiel, consider a (train) stop in one of the three small towns of Eutin, Plön, and Preetz. Among other sites, each of them boasts a "Schloss" or former aristocratic mansion. The towns are situated in a lake district which is popular for rambling and canoeing in summer (you can e.g. rent a canoe in Plön and go to Preetz by Schwentine River and through various lakes, then the canoe-centre people will get you and your canoe back to Plön by car).

And don't forget that it's just a mere 50 minutes by train to Hamburg (they go each hour).

During the summer the Schleswig-Holstein music festival is one of the largest events in northern Germany. An abundance of concerts with world-famous artists and orchestras attracts many people every year.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Monday, March 28, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.