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Three Weeks for Hamburg and the Baltic Coast

I have a big three-month long Europe trip planned for next year and want to use part of it to explore regions of Germany that are not familiar to me. I have been to Germany many times but have never visited the Baltic Coast before, so that is where I am hoping to spend roughly 3 weeks in June and I would love to hear from anyone who has spent time there before.

I'll be travelling solo and will probably be thankful for the independence as I'll have spent the weeks leading up to this bouncing between extended family in Czech Republic and being very social. I'm active and in my mid-thirties so will be looking to get in as many walks as possible - I usually head to the alps when in Europe so the flatlands are going to be something quite different for me!

Because this will be at the heart of such a long trip, I'm hoping to take things slow and will be relying on public transport for getting around (driving is not an option). The bus and train connections look good in this area (I've checked everything already to confirm feasibility) and my German, while far from fluent, is well-honed for tourist-level interactions. I'm hoping to work on it between now and when I leave as I'm assuming that this area, like other parts of former East Germany that I've spent time in, won't have many English speakers.

Here is what I'm thinking of so far:

Hamburg - 4 nights (arriving from Dresden)
Part of my family is from Hamburg, where they were involved with shipping and the musical community. Generations later, those are still keen interests so I'm looking forward to catching a concert or two and taking a cruise of the port, as well as just wandering the city. If I find the city overwhelming (I'm not much of a city person), perhaps a day trip to the Lüneburg Heath, which has been on my to-visit list for years.

Schleswig - 3 nights
A quick stop in a beautiful looking town. I'm intriguing by the picturesque fishing village of Holm and the nearby Viking Museum.

Lübeck - 5 nights
This is meant as a quiet stop, a place with no pressure to go out and do day trips but just to stay in one place and enjoy it. I've heard excellent things from others who have spent time there and am going armed with a few restaurant and cafe recommendations already.

Fischland-Darß-Zingst - 5 nights
I am SO intrigued by this peninsula in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and heavily inspired by this walking tour: https://www.eurohike.at/en/destinations/walking-holidays-germany/mecklenburgers-fischland-7-days I don't want to necessarily spend a full 7 nights in the area, as the walking tour does, so I'm looking at using Prerow as a base and doing day walks with the aid of the local bus for repositioning (everywhere I'd want to go is connected along a reasonably well-serviced route).

Rügen - 5 nights
More walking on this resort island, but also time for beach-side relaxing. I'm a big Elizabeth von Arnim fan, who wrote about the island back in 1904 (The Adventures of Elizabeth in Rügen), and would love to see its sights for myself.

That's it! Three weeks in the north. Does anyone here have any experience with these places and recommendations to share?

(For those who are interested in what the rest of the trip looks like: 3 weeks in Czech Republic, 3 weeks in Slovenia, 2 weeks in Austria, and some filler/transit days in Germany.)

Posted by
22542 posts

All your destinations are in the Schengen zone, so be sure you don't exceed 90 days, including both your arrival day and your departure day.

Alas, I haven't gotten quite as far northwest as you will be. I've only been as far as Schwerin, which is a very pretty, if touristy, town. This sounds like a very interesting trip. I love having time to really explore the towns I stay in.

Posted by
227 posts

First I must say I Iike this a lot :-) Specially Fischland-Darss-Zingst I'm in love with.

If you want you can check out my Mecklenburg-Vorpommern photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/calabrones/albums/72157666105580044
And some more info:
https://www.sommertage.com/en/baltic-sea-fischland-darss-zingst/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KwYYM4wQCGo

On your way to Rügen you are coming across Stralsund anyway. I like it a lot and it is fun to check out as well. Very small and easy to walk - 1/2 day is enough. Coming from Lübeck, Stralsund of course is not that impressive anymore :-) But what Lübeck does not have is this cute little harbor. I truly love this mixture of red brick buildings and the modern architecture. https://www.dw.com/cda/en/a-winter-journey-from-stralsund-to-r%C3%BCgen/av-42795355

Darss is all about nature, tranquility, hiking or even better renting a bike and exploring everything. But in summer it will be very crowded and full of Germans. So make sure that no school holidays anywhere in Germany. Same for Rügen :-)

Prerow is a nice little village but one must know that you are not directly at the sea - there is a forest between the beach and the village.

Since there are not many hotels you must book ahead - this is actually a topic for all of Fischland-Darss-Zingst. Renting an apartment is a good idea but during high season they often just rent for a full week.

My favorite village there is Ahrenshoop - it is amazing because you are very close to the Bodden (lagoon) and on the other side the Baltic Sea is close as well.

Weststrand (west beach) is amazing and a great 14 km (one way) hike from Ahrenshoop to Darsser Ort where the lighthouse is:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zcgD2Nw_Oxs&t=65s
Not much going on but this is exactly what it is all about :-)

Staying close to the Bodden you of course have to book a tour with a Zeesboot https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zeesenboot

At the end whether you are choosing Wustrow, Ahrenshoop, Prerow or Zingst as your home base you can't do anything wrong. Rent a bike and you easy can explore the whole peninsula.

It is something about this area which no video or photography able to show but I'm sure the Fischland-Darss-Zingst virus will catch you as well :-)

And I promise you will love Rügen too.

Posted by
12233 posts

In Hamburg, I suggest a visit to Miniatur Wunderland. It may not be everyone's cup of tea but it was the reason I visited Hamburg.

The place is massive and the details of every exhibit were amazing.

Posted by
226 posts

I have already posted extensively on Hamburg, so I won't repeat all of that. There are SO MANY cool places in Germany's north, and none of them are far if you have a car. Schwerin, for example, has a great castle, as does Glücksburg. You've got history all along the coast, German vacation resorts (Fehmarn, Timmendorfer Strand), cute towns like Stralsund or Wismar, the landscape around Plön . . . . In short, you could spend months exploring the region and barely scratch the surface. And if you add in the North Sea coast, you get even more--places like Helgoland or St. Peter-Ording or the seal station at Friedrichskoog.

A few things to look at are festivals. June is smack dab in the middle of festival season. Kieler Woche is in the middle of June, for example. So a bit of homework on those and whether they are your cup of tea or to be avoided will help you make the most out of your trip---either missing or attending neat events.

Given your itinerary I am guessing you are the type to enjoy obscure sites and lots of nature. If that is the case, something like the Sand Sculptures in Travemünde might be your speed. And going inland to the Elbtalaue might also be your speed. Beautiful nature, very much off the beaten track.

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13530 posts

Great that you're focusing on North Germany with its numerous fascinating towns. Three of the places you listed I have visited, especially Hamburg and Lübeck, Schleswig too but limited. Keep in mind Hamburg, 2nd largest city, is the culture center of North Germany.

Schleswig is just one of the smaller towns I would recommend, from Hamburg if you intend to do day trip or better still, a couple of days, then I heartily suggest Lüneburg. The historic site in Schleswig is Schloss Gottorf.

In the greater Hamburg area and in Lüneburg are esoteric museums dealing with Prussian-German history should you be interested in that, ie, Pinneberg, Friedrichsruh im Sachsenwald, and Lüneburg. Schleswig too.

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227 posts

"Given your itinerary I am guessing you are the type to enjoy obscure sites and lots of nature. If that is the case, something like the Sand Sculptures in Travemünde might be your speed."

I doubt that this is the right spot for a person wants to hike Fischland-Darss-Zingst. The Schleswig-Holstein coastline of the Baltic Sea (Travemünde up to Fehmarn Island) is pretty of course but lost a lot of its naturalness - my personal opinion. I know both sides, Schleswig-Holstein and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, and the difference could not be bigger in terms of nature.

I really hope that the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern villages not making the same mistake and building houses on almost every empty spot. An elderly gentleman in Kühlungsborn told me that immediately after the German reunion people from Travemünde (Schleswig-Holstein) came to Kühlungsborn (Mecklenburg-Vorpommern) to help get the tourism going. And one idea was to build much more houses/hotels with several high-rise buildings. Luckily the community of Kühlungsborn did not follow that. I think this ugly high-rise building in Warnemünde/Rostock (Mecklenburg-Vorpommern) is enough but it is a relic from the former DDR.

Having this variety on the German coastline (Baltic- and North Sea) is great. For sure you are finding your favorite spot regardless of your personal liking - pure nature, cities or villages with a sort of a party vibe.

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13530 posts

On choosing Mecklenburg-Vorpommern as the destination to spend one's vacation time: I remember few years back (summer of 2017 or 2018) seeing on the top floor of Berlin Hbf a large floor advertisement on that topic, ie, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern has lovely spots worthy of one's holiday time.

Not only are its Schloesser famous in the two towns pointed out above but also that in Ludwigslust/Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, the picture of which is on the 80 cent stamp, which was the postage amount needed to send postcards from Germany to the USA some years ago.

I've only seen just a bit of Ludwigslust (very superficially) as the bus went from Schwerin to Ludwigslust in order to board the train back to Berlin.

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227 posts

@Fred

Let's say the other side of Rügen - Greifswald (member of the Hanseatic League as well), Ludwigsburg and of course the island of Usedom are amazing as well.

What makes Usedom so special for me are the famous Kaiserbäder (Imperial Baths): https://www.kaiserbaeder-auf-usedom.de/en/geschichte/#
I like the fact that Germany is sharing this island with Poland. On a small piece of land one can easily switch between Germany and Poland.
And of course Peenemünde which was playing a sad role in WWII is a place one should visit: https://museum-peenemuende.de/?lang=en
It is an important site and I'm always surprised that Americans interested in WWII are not having it on their agenda.

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13530 posts

@ Mignon....Those places you listed are all travel destinations for me, maybe not so much Rügen, but certainly the others, just requires some detailed planning. Aside from Peenemünde , Greifswald and Ludwigslust are future destinations because of singular cultural historical reasons. The Pomerania Museum is located there in Greifswald as well as its university, the 2nd oldest in North Germany.

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226 posts

@Mignon -- You seem to have misunderstood me. It wasn't Travemünde itself I was recommending. It was the Sand Sculpture exhibit, a sort of obscure museum. To be fair, when I saw it, it was the Sand World festival rather than a summer museum. But it was cool back then. But I fully agree on Peenemünde.

@Fred -- I would in no way recommend Pinneberg. The town is flat out ugly and not at all historic. If that type of museum / history appeals, one is far better off going to Glückstadt, which was the seat of the Duchy of Holstein. It is a cute town, has a fantastic harbour that is a bit like Copenhagen's Nyhavn, and boasts a great old town square. It has a similar museum, but inside an old ducal palace. One should note, however, that Glückstadt's biggest festival is also in June, so visits should be planned accordingly.

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13530 posts

@ Howling Mad....I listed Pinneberg and Friedrichsruh because of their 2 esoteric museums on Prussian history, otherwise I would not have gone there. I am recommending these two places for that specific reason. You must know the museums there I am referring to. My first time to Friedrichsruh was in 1973, one of my main reasons for going back to Hamburg. Pinneberg I didn't find out about (unfortunately) until the 1989 trip.

True about Glückstadt, also well recommended, as well as Eutin/Holstein and Greifswald too. Simply put, North Germany (Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern) has lots of sites, towns well worthy of visiting culturally and historically , those esoteric sites.

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227 posts

@Fred

I had to visit Greifswald quite often because of my job and first time shortly after the reunion. It was really sad seeing how during DDR times all the buildings slowly collapsed. I even read that the DDR government wanted to tear down the old city of Greifswald. It was last minute that this could have been stopped.

Now it's worth paying Greifswald a visit. Of course can't compete with the other great Hanseatic League cities but it has its own charm.

What I and many many other Germans love about the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern coast and islands is this 'down to earth' feeling. Still today sometimes a bit outdated but lovely. I hope it will exactly stay this way.
One good example is that of course Fischland-Darss-Zingst today looks very cute and you hardly find any buildings which are not renovated. But the minute you are leaving the peninsula and heading in the direction of Stralsund you pass by villages where time seems to stand still :-)

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227 posts

I know this is actually not part of this topic but maybe one is interested checking out this video. It shows what Stralsund was looking like in 1990: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4VuTvxlq4bE
When I saw this the first time I though must be a movie from the 50s.

The only good thing was that many old buildings were still existing because there was no money to build new ones during DDR times. I think this fact was helping Stralsund and Wismar to achieve the UNESCO status. I read that renovating the old buildings often was a burden because of the preservation of historic sites rules but it was worth it. Still today when you stroll the streets of Stralsund and Wismar you could find a few buildings which are not renovated. But overall it looks much much better today :-)

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13530 posts

@ Mignon.....Thanks for the information on Greifswald, which gives me more incentive to see that city, aside from the two main reasons given above, that of the Pomerania Museum and the Uni. Several years ago the city was recommended to me to see, even as a superficial day trip from Berlin, ...still haven't done that yet.

The same reason applies to going to Stralsund, that of a specific historic museum (Marine Museum) plus seeing the Zentrum of the city.

Posted by
42 posts

Claire,
this is a fantastic itinerary. I feel so happy just reading it!

You may have already heard about the German Emigration Museum in Bremerhaven; if not, it's marvelous. A lovely day trip by train from Hamburg. Beautifully set up to illustrate what the emigration experience was like for the more than 5 million German immigrants to America in the 1800's. I also have ancestors from the area who likely emigrated from this port at the turn of the century, so this really awakened my appreciation for their journey.

https://www.bremerhaven.de/en/tourism/museums-adventure-worlds/german-emigration-center-bremerhaven.16186.html

I'm glad you're considering a concert at the Elbphilharmonie. We did this and it was very worthwhile to be inside that amazing building. Guided tours are also available...

I am also trying to improve my German language skills and find that Audible has very good resources, some of which are free, on their site.

Viel Spaß!

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227 posts

Julie I fully agree on Bremerhaven and the mentioned museum. In fact one could easily spend some days in Bremen and Bremerhaven.

Posted by
226 posts

Agree that Bremen is well worth a visit. I was at their markets yesterday, but even in summer it's a great city--the beautiful old town, the Schnoor, the harbor . . . .

@Fred : I was not trying to fault the recommendation of the museum, and if it came across that way, I apologise. There are esoteric museums everywhere; the one in Glückstadt is less about Prussian history and more about the religious freedom (Glückstadt still has a Catholic cemetery, a Protestant cemetery, and a Jewish cemetery, the latter being recently restored) and the maritime culture (herring fishery and whaling) as well as Glückstadt's role in the 30 Years' War and the Napoleonic times. But of course to each his own, and if Prussian history is your thing, by all means go to Pinneberg's museum. But if you care less about the content of the museum and more about the town, for sure Glückstadt is the way to go. Or a whole lot of other places.

@Claire : If you get overwhelmed with Hamburg, head to the beach at Blankenese or Rissen or to the Boberger Sand Dunes or one of the many parks. No need to leave the city. If you like Holm, you would like Glückstadt and a great many other places. Stade and Jork come to mind. In fact the Altes Land is amazing. In Schleswig, check out the Wikingerschänke restaurant. And of course check the schedule of events for Haithabu. Near Lübeck is Bad Segeberg, which has a great bat cave and of course the Karl May festival and outdoor set. Worth a visit.

Oh, and Helgoland. This place is underestimated. The bunker tour is all in German, but they are often willing and able to help you out. And it's lovely for walking. The day trip is fine, but better to spend the night, do the bunker while the day trippers are there, then explore the island in the late afternoon once the day trippers are gone. And the ferry out is wonderful.

Again, the trick is timing your festivals during this time of year.

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227 posts

@HowlinMad

Glad you've mentioned Helgoland. Most visitors making the mistake and only day trip. Still on my agenda as well to spend at least 2 nights there.

Well well my travel agenda is full of German cities and regions in the North but time unfortunately is short. And I'm not the only one deciding about holiday destinations ... my husband likes traveling North but he loves going South :-)

I've been to Hamburg quite often but you've reminded me that it is a long time since my last visit.

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13530 posts

@ HowlinMad....thanks for your explanation. Pinneberg merely happens to be the location of that museum. That museum deals with the Samland peninsula, other than that Pinneberg looks like another ordinary suburb.

Posted by
68 posts

Wow! Thank you everyone for all of the feedback and ideas. There is clearly no shortage of things to keep me busy while I'm in the area - in fact too much to fit in to just this one trip. I'll just have to plan to go back :)

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226 posts

@Fred—I actually find Pinneberg (and nearby Elmshorn) particularly ugly, in fact. 😂😂

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13530 posts

@HowlinMad....For that category I can easily suggest a number of cities which are fitting candidates, which I've been to....Duisburg, Hagen, Gelsenkirchen, Essen among the worst... aside from Pinneberg.