The northern Germany town of Lübeck has a rich history. It was once the most important city in the Hanseatic League when it was known as ‘Queen of the Hanse.” It was then, and is now, an important port on the Baltic Sea. Lübeck was so great that in 1375 Emperor Charles IV compared it to Venice, Rome, Pisa and Florence, which he referred to as the “glories of Europe.” The city has a fascinating historic center just begging to be explored on foot. Some of the historic center was destroyed by World War II bombs, but enough tourist attractions in Lübeck remain to give visitors a hint of the city’s former greatness.
Burgtor is the northern city gate in Lubeck. Built in 1444, it is one of two remaining from the four towered gates that were built in medieval times. It takes its name from the castle that stands across the Trave River. Located in old Lübeck, the castle gate has buildings constructed on top and around it. A Romanesque tower was added to the Late Gothic gate. This medieval gate is quite impressing, though the paved streets carrying automobiles somehow seems incongruous to its historic past. A plaque on the gate walls commemorates Napoleon entering the city in 1806.
This tall sailing ship was built in 1911 in Hamburg and sailed between South America and Europe. Although she no longer carries heavy freight across the world’s seas, this elegant sailing ship reminds visitors of the time when the Passat defied high waves under full sail and has become the maritime symbol of the Baltic resort of Travemünde. It is now a well-established meeting place and contains a museum and a youth hostel.
Buddenbrookhaus is an elegant townhouse at Mengstrasse 4 in Lubeck. Built in 1758, it was the boyhood home of writers Thomas and Heinrich Mann. Located across from St. Mary’s Church, the house was almost totally destroyed during World War II bombing; only the façade remained standing. The house was not rebuilt as it once was, but the façade was left and a museum honoring Thomas Mann was built behind it. The house was a setting for the family saga Mann wrote about in his book Buddenbrookhaus. This museum is a must-see for Mann’s fans.
Lubeck Cathedral dates back to the 12th century when Henry the Lion had the Romanesque structure built for the bishop of Lübeck. The imposing structure is one of the oldest monuments in Lübeck. The Lutheran cathedral was partly destroyed during an air raid in World War II. An altar dating back to 1696 and a priceless organ were destroyed, though a large crucifix and many medieval polyptychs were saved and can be seen today. Reconstruction of the church ended in 1982. Restoration efforts included adding an elevator to take visitors to the top of the bell tower.
Lübecker Rathaus is one of the most spectacular and important town halls in Germany. It is particularly splendiferous when lit up at night. The town hall started out in 1230 as three gabled houses built on the market place. It expanded over the years until it was large enough to hold Hanseatic meetings. The interior of the town hall can be visited on daily guided tours. Once inside, visitors should note the different heights of the courtroom doors. Persons found innocent of crimes left by the higher door, while criminals left the courtroom via the shorter door.
From the outside, Heiligen-Geist-Hospital doesn’t look much like a hospital with its pointed roofs and spires reaching into the sky. But, the Holy Spirit Hospital has been caring for the sick and aged since the 13th century. Parts of it are still in use as a hospital today. Today‘s visitors rave about the beautiful chapel and original frescoes; they say the church-like building is one of the must-see attractions in Lübeck. The city’s Christmas market is held here every year, giving shoppers the chance to see cubicles where retirees lived. Located in the old town, the hospital also hosts a November crafts fair featuring items made by senior citizens.
Marienkirche (St. Mary’s Church) dominates the Lübeck skyline with towers reaching more than 120 meters (400 feet) toward the sky. Built more than 700 years ago, this Brick Gothic church was the model for many other churches in the Baltic region. Located in the old Hanseatic merchants quarter, Marienkirche is the most important church in Lübeck. With the tallest brick vault in the world, the church resonates with music, from organs to 11 historic bells to the Lübeck boys choir, famous for singing St. John Passion on Good Friday. The church and many important pieces of art were destroyed in the 1942 air raid. Many paintings, however, were saved and can be seen in the reconstructed church.
The St. Petri is the place to go to see great views of Lübeck. Heavily damaged by World War II bombing, restoration work on this 12th century church is still underway, mainly on the interior now. Reconstruction efforts include an elevator to whisk visitors to the top for impressive 360-degree views of this medieval city; the best time to make the trip is sunset. Regular church services are not held yet but this stately church is used as a venue for cultural and art events.
Travemünde is an old seaside resort at the mouth of the Trave River that ends in Lubeck Bay on the Baltic Sea. Founded in 1187, this picturesque sleepy section of Lübeck was once important in the Hanseatic League and is also a port where visitors can catch ferries to Scandinavia and other Baltic states. The community has less than 15,000 permanent residents, with thousands of tourists flocking to the area on weekends. The sandy beach is its most popular attraction. The old town, with its nautical-named streets, is worth exploring on foot. Travemunde was the setting for many scenes in Nobel laureate Thomas Mann’s novel, Buddenbrooks.
The Holstentor is one of the two remaining city gates of the city of Lübeck. Built between 1464 and 1478, it is regarded as a symbol of Lübeck due to its two captivating round towers and arched entrance. Oddly enough, in 1863 it was decided by a majority of just one vote not to demolish the gate but to instead extensively restore it. The gate was in very bad condition, since every year it had sunk a few centimeters further into the ground. The Holsten Gate was thoroughly restored and the movement was halted. Today, the museum inside sheds light on the history of the gate and on Lübeck’s medieval mercantile glory days.