The large port city of Hamburg may be pivotal to Northern Germany but many towns and beauty spots nearby feel a world away from big city life. So removed that the region is best known for its Baltic and North Sea coastline. For it’s size Germany’s seaside is relatively small, so much cherished, particularly since the end of the 19th century, when beach fronts began to sprout spas, elegant villas, promenades and piers. Strandkörbe – huge wickerwork beach chairs – soon became the regional icon.
Whatever your regional itinerary, Hamburg is always worth a visit. Considering it’s size and great wealth, it’s a surprisingly easy-going, likeable place. And, despite a history of great fires and heavy bombing it’s urban landscape still contains plenty of impressive architecture which often benefits from the presence of many parks and even more canals – so many that the city boasts some 2,300 bridges. These constantly remind of the city’s role as a port, which also explains the origin and success of it’s Reeperbahn red light district, which still attracts many gawping visitors, though fewer are sailors these days. Otherwise the other big draws are the city’s excellent museums and lively and bustling places such as the Fischmarkt, a huge Sunday morning flea-market.
Under an hour from Hamburg by train, Lübeck is another great trading city and a place whose history has been so well preserved (or rebuilt after extensive wartime bombing) that it’s been rewarded for it’s efforts with a UNESCO World Heritage Site designation.
Bremen too is not far from Hamburg and engaging not only for its historic buildings and monuments – a particularly impressive Gothic town hall among them – but also for an independent-mindedness that made it become the Germany’s smallest state by far.
Outside the cities the coast is the obvious place to tour and many offshore islands particularly intriguing. In the North Sea the touristy island of Helgoland, with its soaring red cliffs and the well-loved sea aquarium, attracts visitors in numbers. In the east the Baltic Sea harbours Travemünde, the region’s main seaside resort, and the island of Rügen, where giant chalky white cliffs contrast appealingly with the blues and greens of the sea. In this region too is Usedom, an island known for terrific beaches.
But Northern Germany has great natural beauty inland too: the low-slung moraine hills of Schleswig-Holstein have their moments as do the moorlands of the Lüneburger Heath, yet the highlights are probably the atmospheric Harz mountains, to which the attractive old imperial city of Goslar provides a gateway. Further east the countless lakes in Mecklenburg are also appealing for those in search of a freshwater getaway.
We will start to add Northern Germany itineraries and attractions when we find the right person to cover them (email us if that’s you), but why not drop us a line to tell us what you’d like to see covered?