As I researched things to do in the Schleswig-Holstein region of Germany in preparation for our trip, the city of Lubeck seemingly always topped the lists of ‘top places to see’ and ‘the best day trips from Hamburg.’
Only a 45-minute train ride from Hamburg, this city became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987– the first time an entire Old Town in Northern Europe was given the designation.
I went back and forth on which day trips I should tackle solo and which I should wait and do with Brian when he got through with his conference. I mapped out each city for him to see if he had any preferences (he didn’t) so I decided to visit Schwerin, Bremen and Lubeck on my own. While I really enjoyed Schwerin and wished I had more time to wander the city, I thought Brian would have most enjoyed visiting Bremen and Lubeck.
I arrived in Lubeck early in the morning and followed the people and signs from the train station, through the bus station, and toward a busy road leading to a roundabout and the Old Town.
My first stop was the tourism office for a city map, which was right outside the Holstentor, or Holsten Gate, which was built in the mid-1400s as the western boundary of the old Hanseatic city. It has a museum inside but it wasn’t open for the day yet so I followed my walking map’s directions and crossed over the river to get a better view of the Salzspeicher, or salt warehouses.
Built over old herring houses, the salt warehouses were constructed around the 16th century to store salt brought from Luneburg. The line of glowing red brick storehouses runs along the water, and I followed the promendade to a small alley before turning toward St. Peter’s Church.
St. Peter’s church was built in the early 1200s but was expanded over the years and is no longer used as a place of worship. I was able to peer through a few glass windows into the old nave, but the whole place is undergoing construction and is more of a museum or exhibit space.
While I didn’t go through the exhibits, I did pay to go up in the spire for an impressive view of the city. The sun was trying to break clear of the clouds and continued to do battle all day, but my morning view of the surrounding area, and the nearby spires of the other churches, was pretty incredible.
After making my way down and out onto some of the nearby alleyways I wound my way back toward the water and over to a peaceful corner of the city to see the Lubeck Cathedral, which is the oldest structure in Lubeck. During air raids on the city in 1942, nearly all of the original structure was destroyed, necessitating reconstruction in the late 1960s.
The interior is beautiful and I loved the stained glass window overlooking the sanctuary–it was one of the more simple and beautiful windows I’ve seen.
I took a short break from churches to continue following my city map along the eastern shore of the Old Town and then back toward Huxstrasse, which is a larger street filled with cafes and shops.
The town seemed to still be asleep. There were a few people shopping, but I had only run into a handful of people at either church or in the alleyways as I was walking around.
I didn’t mind the solitude. I was busy taking in the distinctive architecture of the buildings lining the streets. I loved the interesting shapes of the rooflines and all of the bright red brick and roofing tiles.
I didn’t feel like shopping and I knew where I wanted to eat lunch so I continued exploring the streets and buildings until I arrived at St. Catherine’s church. As I approached, I noticed a ton of people outside and in the surrounding square. It didn’t take me long to realize it was a funeral party and that services were about to begin. I made a large loop around the area to view the church from a respectful distance.
The church bells rang and everyone began heading inside for services so I continued north until I reached the Castle Monastery and Gate. There were a few plaques nearby with information about the gate, which has been in place since the 13the century, and the monastery, which has had multiple uses over the years, including as a poorhouse, courthouse and prison.
I walked through the gate out to the bridge so I could look back toward the structure and into the city just as the wind picked up and it started to rain. I quickly headed back into the city and toward Schiffergesellschaft, the Seafarers’ Guild.
I had read about the Schiffergesellschaft ahead of time and knew I wanted to eat there for lunch. It was a little awkward going in and requesting a table for one in this large and intimidating hall, but I was quickly seated along a wooden bench running the length of one of the longer walls with a perfect view of the entire room.
I ordered the ofenkartoffel, which was a giant baked potato with a bowl of creamed herring and vegetables that you could scoop onto the baked potato. Absolutely delicious–one of my favorite meals of the trip!
While I enjoyed my lunch I took time to look around the hall. It was dark and low lit, which created a bit of a mysterious atmosphere. There were nautical decorations all over, including large wooden ships hanging from the ceiling. Some of the lamps had ships sailing around their shades thanks to rotating designs that circled the bulbs.
A few couples were eating nearby and one of the window seats was occupied by a group of older men. It was very low key, and I thoroughly enjoyed my meal.
I timed my lunch perfectly because the rain began to let up just as I finished and the clouds were being blown away by the time I stepped outside for a few pictures.
I was starting to get tired, likely from my large and late lunch, but I continued with my walking tour toward the main city square and Marienkirche.
St. Mary’s Church is the third largest church in Germany and was also impacted by the air raids in 1942, though to a lesser extent than some of the other buildings and churches in Lubeck.
One of the more interesting remnants of the air raids are the church bells, which crashed to the ground during the bombing and which have remained where they landed ever since. I was rather moved standing and looking into the small chapel area, taking in the destroyed bells and the broken bricks from where they smashed into the ground.
I was also intrigued by the macabre stained glass windows. I have never seen stained glass designs like that in any other churches or buildings in all of my travels.
As I came out of the church the rain started up again. My day full of walking was catching up with me so I took a break under an umbrella while I admired the rathaus and figured out the best way to get to Cafe J.G. Niederegger without getting soaked.
I wound my way over the to shop and went inside to check out the marzipan. The shop was completely full of people. Some were purchasing items from the store, some were climbing upstairs to visit the marzipan salon and others were enjoying marzipan flavored ice creams from the shop near the front entrance.
The 200+ year old confectioners shop was incredible and I ended up buying several different items for Brian and I to try and as gifts for family and friends at home, many of whom hadn’t heard of, let alone tried, marzipan before. I was blown away by all of the different flavors and shapes and sizes, especially the pieces shaped like fruits and other inanimate objects.
After loading up on marzipan treats I was ready to return to Hamburg for dinner with Brian. It was the last evening of his conference and he was fairly certain most people would be leaving at some point in the afternoon to catch their flights and trains home, allowing us to finally have dinner together!
I got a little turned around trying to find my way back around to the Holsten Gate, but thankfully my confusion led me to a path along the water that circled back around to the gate and train station. The path gave me a beautiful and unexpected view of the city from the outside, and as the clouds cleared, I was able to take in Lubeck, this beautiful city, one last time.