Lübeck, once the former 'Queen of the Hanseatic League', is today a modern city enclosed by historic walls. There is good reason to be proud of it, as the UNESCO has declared the intact ensemble of churches, merchants' houses, warehouses and small narrow alleys in the Old Town part of the world's cultural heritage. 'World literature and the world´s cultural heritage'—this slogan nicely combines Lübeck´s cultural treasures with one another. Not only can the old spirit of the Hanseatic League still be sensed in the Old Town, but you can also imagine the protagonists of such famous novels as Professor Unrat, Tonio Kröger and Buddenbrooks walking by. Apart from Thomas and Heinrich Mann, who certainly belong amongst the city's best known sons, many artists have lived and worked here over the centuries: the painter and sculpturer Bernd Notke, the organ player Dietrich Buxtehude, the author Ida Boy-Ed, the poet Emanuel Geibel and Günter Grass, who has only recently been awarded the Nobel prize for literature. The politician and Nobel peace prize winner Willy Brandt was born in Lübeck in 1913. He used to say 'I always carried a piece of Lübeck inside me, wherever I had to go'.
The heart of Lübeck is its Old Town, surrounded by the river Trave in the west and by the river Wakenitz in the east. The many narrow lanes and alleys are lined by old town houses with red brick facades and impressive stepped and other artistic gables, and there is a pleasant everyday bustle here. The Old Town is no decorated showcase for tourists, but the cultural, political and social centre of Lübeck. The impressive Town Hall is still in use—this is where the senate meets and where the citizens' conferences take place. A pedestrian area starts here, where the city's popular shopping streets are lined with town houses from the Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Classic period, which have been put under a preservation order. All the main churches can be found in the Old Town: St. Marien , the Dom (cathedral), St. Petri , St. Aegidien , St. Jakobi . Their 7 naves already represented Lübeck´s wealth in the early Middle Ages, and they still dominate the city's skyline. The Stiftshöfe , which were founded by the rich merchants, also belong to the townscape and are popular just as before. Apart from elderly single ladies, young students have taken to staying here, although the annual "tourist epidemic" is sometimes considered a bit of a nuisance. All the major museums are spread across the Old Town: St. Annen museum , Behnhaus , Museum church St. Katherinen , Buddenbrook house , the Ethnological Collection , Scientific and Environmental museum , Museum of Puppetry and the Holsten Gate .
Lübeck's many schools of further education are gathered here and there are also plenty of good reasons for the locals to go to the Old Town in the evenings—not only are the best known theatres located here, like the old Stadttheater with its art nouveau façade, the Theater Combinale and the Theater Partout , but Lübeck's cinemas and several discos such as the Red Zone , Body & Soul or Hüx can also be found here. Many old town houses have popular pubs and restaurants within their walls, ranging from the traditional Schiffergesellschaft at the Old Seafarers´ Guild House to the plain old pizza place.
The Koberg in the north of the city also belongs to the Old Town. It is surrounded by impressive buildings like the Heiligen-Geist-Hospital , St. Jacobi, some beautiful renovated town houses and the Schiffergesellschaft. Despite all efforts and a new but somewhat 'controversial' decoration, it has not been accepted by the locals which explains why it is not very lively.
The Malerwinkel below the cathedral is much more popular. There are many narrow alleys and renovated courtyards in this area, and the pubs and restaurants along the Upper Trave are particularly busy during the summer months. The visitors appreciate these sheltered locations and know that they can catch the first rays of sun in the spring here. The College of Music moved here a few years ago, and you can frequently listen to nice concerts when the windows are open. Friends of architectural highlights praise the Große Petersgrube , as it has beautiful examples of northern European townhouses from the Gothic, Baroque, Rococo, late Baroque and Classic period standing close together. At Holsten bridge, opposite the old Salzspeicher (salt warehouses), ships depart for tours of the Harbour , the canals and the city.
Recently, people have become aware of Lübeck´s beautiful Harbour between Holstentorbrücke and Hubbrücke again, where the Oldtime sailing ships recall the old days when the ships of the Hanseatic League used to lie here to take on freight or deliver goods into the nearby warehouses. This is where the Queen of the League's heart used to pound, this is where the city's wealth and power had their origin. The trading business has moved to other parts of the harbour, but the lovely old warehouses remained and they create a special ambience here. At Drehbrücke berth the ships to Travemünde depart. The harbour serves as a setting for both the Old Town Festival and the youngest daughter of the Berlin love parade: Lübeck´s Friendship-Party.
Facing the Old Town in the west is the Wallhalbinsel between Stadtgraben and Stadttrave. It is cut into two parts. In the southern part large hotels like the SAS Radisson Senator Hotel and Mövenpick Hotel have found ideal locations behind the embankments with the open-air stage , and the Music and Congress Hall has pushed aside the alternative scene 'Walli'. In the northern part the old red storage sheds can be found at Wallhafen and Hansahafen. Wood is mainly loaded here, and the future of the ideally situated harbour vis-à-vis the Old Town is being carefully discussed at present.
The neighbourhood of St. Lorenz is located beyond the embankments. It is divided into St. Lorenz North and St. Lorenz South. St. Lorenz North spreads to both sides of the motorway behind the railway station. It is a plain residential area with industrial estates near the Trave and the western city port (Nordlandkai). The former Küsel summer cottage stands out like a relic from long gone days. It was built in 1756, when there used to be exclusive summer residences at this former suburb. Near the Lohmühle, many large DIY hypermarkets and the sports grounds can be found. The more significant local football matches take place here.
St. Lorenz South has a similar structure to the northern part. It is situated where in former times Lübeck's nurseries used to grow vegetables and shrubs. The Dräger factories have had their main branch here since 1982. Many insurance companies have settled around the main railway station and the central bus station. The IHK Lübeck also moved here recently.
The next neighbourhood further south is Buntekuh—it got its name from the brown and white cows which used to graze here until World War II. Today, multi-storey houses, major shopping centres and a large industrial estate with a motorway exit are situated on the former agricultural grounds.
The Lübeck neighbourhood Moisling is mainly an industrial estate between the river Trave and the Elbe-Lübeck-canal. It includes the villages of Genin, Niendorf (with a 1760 manor), Moorgarten and Reecke. The Jewish cemetery, which survived the Nazi regime relatively unharmed, proves that this area used to be inhabited by Jewish families.
St. Jürgen, one of Lübeck´s most popular and most sophisticated neighbourhoods, is situated in the south-east of the city, between the Wakenitz and the Elbe-Lübeck-canal. Near Hüxtertor and Mühlentor, but especially between St. Jürgenring and Ratzeburger Allee there is a relatively complete line of suburban villas, which were built here after the city gates were opened in 1884. Thanks to the save St. Jürgen and St. Georg initiative, the beautiful houses could be preserved. Their classic facades resemble the architectural variety of the period when many industrial firms were founded in Germany. The palais-like summer house , which the Danish architect Joseph Christian Lillie built for the art patron Dr. Max Linde in 1804, can also be found here. It serves as a registry office today. Across the street from here, the little St. Jürgen chapel is located with lots of trees in its cemetary. One of Lübeck´s most famous weekly markets takes place at the Brink. It also attracts customers from other neighbourhoods. The Medical University is situated at Ratzeburger Allee in the southern part of St. Jürgen, and not far away from there, at Mökhofer Weg, Lübeck College can be found. The Krankenhaus Süd (southern hospital) is also close by. St. Jürgen includes the villages of Oberbüssau, Kronsforde and parts of Krummesse.
The river Wakenitz marks the borderline to St. Gertrud, a very green neighbourhood which looks a bit like the villa district at St. Jürgen, especially around the Stadtpark. The classic and art nouveau houses here were also built beyond the town gates, when living space became scarce and the wealthy people moved to the green regions. Around the time of the industrialization, villas were grouped around the City Park and along Roeckstraße and Burgfeld. The district court is located here, which explains why many lawyers offices can be found in the surrounding streets. They caused the rent to rise considerably in this district. St. Gertrud is not just a residential but also a recreational area—the Schellbruchnature preserve, Wesloer Tannen, Lauer Holz, parts of the Wakenitz, Drägerpark and Gothmund belong to this neighbourhood. The Volksfestplatz, where the annual fair takes place and the circus sets up its tent is situated in the north-east of the City Park.
Schlutup, originally a fishermen's village, follows further to the north-east, where the border to the former German Democratic Republic used to be. Today, it is a residential area with an industrial estate. The old town centre is grouped around the St. Andreas church built in 1436, and fish processing businesses have settled at the fish dock. Due to the former border, this neighbourhood had been slightly neglected until the reunification. Since then, it has been possible to implement plenty of new projects here, but on the other hand the area suffers from an increase in traffic. In 1993, the port around the Sweden terminal was enlarged for forestry products.
Kücknitz with the Flender shipyards (shipbuilding and repairs) and the Villeroy & Boch ceramics factory at Dänischburg is situated on the other side of the Trave, opposite Schlutup harbour. Large construction sites have been a striking characteristic of Kücknitz since World War II. This way, the formerly surrounding villages of Rangenberg, Herrenwyk and Dummersdorf became part of this neighbourhood. Recommended sights in Kücknitz are the Geschichtswerkstatt Herrenwyk and the Dummersdorfer Ufer nature preserve.
Travemünde, the city's most northern neighbourhood, is often called Lübeck's most beautiful daughter. Thomas Mann also appreciated its advantages in his days. The Gate to the North consists of Old Travemünde with historic houses around the St. Lorenz brick church, as well as the Fish Dock, and the health resort district Travemünder Strand. A promenade leads along the shores of the Trave, past the old lighthouse and the marina with its wooden bridges all the way to the beach of the Baltic Sea and further along to the impressive Brodten cliffs. Walking on the promenade in the breeze, you will pass by the Kurhaushotel, the exceptionally beautiful casino and the Brügmann gardens with the bandstand. It is never boring in Travemünde, as you can always enjoy the full view of the Trave from the promenade or a basket chair, and watch the giant ferries pass by on their way to the Scandinavien Quay right in front of you. Facing Travemünde is the Priwall peninsula with its nature preserve and the Passat, a sailing ship built in 1911. Its four masts point to the sky and can be seen from a great distance.
Lübeck has a fine choice of cafes, restaurants and pubs, which caters for both early-birds and night-owls—the variety ranges from in-scene and student pubs to sophisticated traditional establishments, bistros, restaurants and coffee houses.
If you are looking for typically 'lübsch' specialities, you will definitely come across two famous delicacies: one of them is Lübecker Marzipan, a first-class creative sweet in many variations. In order to try it, a visit to Lübeck's cafes, particularly the Cafe Niederegger is highly recommended. Here at the marzipan paradise you can indulge in and purchase all thinkable creations. And don't miss the Lübecker Nusstorte, a delicious gateau with a rich nut brittle cream and a thin coat of marzipan.
The other slightly less fattening Lübeck speciality is Lübecker Rotspon, a wine, which does not exactly come from Lübeck, but is nonetheless associated with the city. It is available at almost every restaurant.
Many of the traditional restaurants are located inside historic buildings, like the wine cellar under the Heiligen-Geist-Hospital , where you can go dining and drinking in a Medieval fashion or take part in a nice wine-testing session. If you prefer more tasty and less expensive food, the Kartoffelkeller with lots of potato dishes in the original gothic vaults might be a good place to try.
Lübeck's most famous historic restaurant, the Schiffergesellschaft , rings a bell with people from the entire state of Schleswig-Holstein. For 450 years already, seamen have gathered here, and not just to enjoy various fish and meat dishes at the Gelage (feasts) or the Beichtstuhl (confessional). The excellent cuisine has more than once been awarded honours for the 7-naves-dish. The bon viveur with a fine palate can find other sophisticated places of hospitality with a historic ambience at the Cornelsen , the Schabbelhaus , Wullenwever , Lachswehr or at the Kleine Restaurant .
In Medieval Times, Lübeck used to be famous for its beer, and despite the fact that the last brewery closed down in 1998 and the local 'Lück-Pils' is now brewed in Hamburg, the 'lübsch' brewing tradition is kept alive with home-brew at the Brauberger , where you can watch how the beer is brewed and enjoy a fresh draught along with tasty rustic meals. Lübeck's Old Town has a lot of cosy pubs and restaurants, among them the Luisen 56 , the Hieronymus, Heinrich Böll , Metro and the Feuerstein—all of them with a modern and partly very original ambience or a charming Medieval interior even. Here you can meet friends for a pint and/or an inexpensive little snack.
A more intellectual and even partly cultural atmosphere can be found at the cafe-bars. Thoughts and opinions are exchanged here, sometimes on literature as well, like at the Kandinsky or the Sternschnuppe . Changing exhibitions can be found at establishments such as the Cafe Art or the Affenbrot , and once in a while there is nice live-music at places like the Alten Zolln . A cheerful atmosphere can also be found at the Flubdub , where so-called mini-events such as throw-the-dice-and-win-a-drink are frequently organised. Small snacks and hot meals are also available in some of these locations.
Nice Old Town pubs like the Theaterquelleor Papperlapapalso serve little snacks to the hungry guests, especially at a time when most restaurants are already closed. But the emphasis remains on a fresh draught beer, a large mug of coffee with lots of milk and the friends one meets here while various musical styles are played.
Friends of foreign cuisine will also find many different variations and nationalities in Lübeck. At the Seoul, sushi is offered in little testing portions. Turkish specialities are available at the Ali Baba , and at the Maredo fresh and tasty Southern American meals are served along with a hearty buen provecho (enjoy your meal!). Hot Spanish meals are available at Sherry & Port, while the Donna Teresa offers Italian and French specialities. The Italian restaurant Ristorante Padre Pio is located a bit off the beaten track. In addition to the usual pizza and pasta variations, gourmet guests can taste rather exquisite specialities here. Try the duck in strawberry sauce, for example!
Every Lübeck visitor should visit the city´s most beautiful (and a bit more expensive) daughter—Travemünde. Not only the beach, the sea and the impressive ships are worth seeing, but the town also offers nice cafes, pubs and restaurants. Freshly caught fish is cooked, smoked and baked here, for example at the take-away at Travemünder Fischereihafen. Many stalls offer filled rolls with matie herring, fish meatballs and shrimps, which you should try. If licking your fingers is not your kind of thing, you can choose between several fish restaurants like the Pesel and Zur Sonne, for example. But the pub and restaurant Seebär also serves plaice, cod and the infamous Labskaus, a potato-and-corned beef mixture with herring, fried egg and beetroot. And if you don´t like to be careful around tricky fishbones or use fish cutlery and thus prefer a tasty beef steak, the El Torro steak house offers the best steaks around and you can watch the chef at work here! The Spanish variation is available at the Bodega. The spacious restaurant spreads across several rooms and offers everything a stomach with an appetite for Spanish specialties could wish for.
Large helpings of inexpensive meals can also be found at the Greek restaurant Olympos. With a solid base for a tour de pub you can now dive into Travemünde's nightlife, which doesn´t really get going before 11pm. Bars and pubs get busy towards midnight, and the quiet places get lively and cheerful. The Hofklause is the most popular and funny among the Old Town pubs. Travemünders of all age group come together here, where they can dance to oldies, hits and chart breakers from the jukebox on 'Europe's smallest dance floor'. The Seesternbarwith a night-club flair is a bit more comfy and stylish. You can dance a bit slower here or enjoy a nice cocktail.
All in all, Lübeck is a valuable, traditional cultural Hanseatic city where you can also have lots of fun enjoying the traditional northern German dishes, drinks and the nightlife within one of the world´s cultural heritage centres.