The Hanseatic City of Lübeck is a cultural and architectural wonder. Though the region was settled thousands of years ago, the city first rose to prominence in medieval times as the “Queen of the Hanseatic League,” being the largest and most significant member city of this North European trade organization. Even today, it remains one of Germany’s major ports. UNESCO declared the remarkably well-preserved Old Town with its narrow streets and gothic church towers a World Cultural Heritage Site in 1987. Not merely a cultural treasure trove, the city today supports a lively and welcoming community of over 214,000 residents. Combine sightseeing with enjoyment of the modern infrastructure, restaurants, and shopping experiences – and when you’ve had your fill of city life, the waters of the Baltic Sea beckon swimmers and boaters alike.
Location: At the Mouth of European Commerce
Lübeck’s Old Town is actually an island surrounded by the river Trave, though the modern city encompasses land on both sides of the river, including the mouth where it empties into the Baltic Sea. The Elbe–Lübeck Canal joins the Elbe River to the Trave, allowing trade access to one of Central Europe’s major waterways. The city is the second largest in northern Germany’s state of Schleswig-Holstein, and is easily accessible thanks to a number of railways and roadways. Autobahn 1 connects the city to Hamburg as well as Denmark, and the Travemünde sea resort serves as a ferry port to other Baltic cities.
Business: Shipping, Medicine, and Marzipan
While trade remains king, the city is also one of Germany’s leading centers for medical engineering and IT. Over 50 medical companies seat their headquarters here, including internationally known firms like ESKA Implants and Dräger. Four colleges, including the University of Lübeck, support local medicine and life science developments. Interestingly, Lübeck is also renowned for its marzipan industry, a famous export from Niederegger and other companies, very popular with visiting tourists.
Culture: Art and Architecture, Colored by Trade
With famous sites like St. Anne’s Museum, which collects medieval sculpture and religious altar pieces, Lübeck hosts the best of German art. It is also home to the Behnhaus (a gallery of furniture and paintings), the Burgkloster (Castle Monastery), and two remaining city gates (Holstentor and Burgtor) from the old fortifications. Theater lovers should check out the Puppet Theater and the Museum for Theater Figures, while fans of literature can visit a dedicated exhibition of the works of Nobel Prize for Literature winner Günter Grass.
Activities: Medieval History and a Coastal Resort
Lübeck’s Old Town is, of course, a major attraction, and should not be skipped by those with even a passing interest in history or architecture. Stroll down the distinctive streets on your own, or take one of the many guided tours. The waterfront hosts museums, pubs, and restaurants, and provides an incredible view of the cityscape. The sea itself has much to offer as well – enjoy a local beer or sample some marzipan by the beach at Travemünde, or head out on a boat tour.