Lübeck in a Day

On my way up north to Scandinavia, I tried to squeeze in as much as possible into 24 hours in the old German harbour town of Lübeck. At the end of the day, I was surprised how much that actually was…

So here are my suggestions. If you’re in Lübeck for only one day, you could…

Sleeping Lübeck Lion
Sleeping Lübeck Lion

… learn all about Lübeck’s powerful past!

From about 1200 to 1600, the merchants of the North and consequently almost the whole of Europe came closer together by founding the so-called Hanseatic League – a trading union, which in many ways is similar to today’s EU. Well, let’s hope anyway that the EU doesn’t one day crumble apart as “the Hanse” did…

A lot of cities belonged to this union, such as Hamburg and Bremen, which up to this day bear the name “Free Hanseatic City”. Lübeck, however, was the Hanse’s most powerful and prominent member!

The medieval Town Hall of Lübeck
The medieval Town Hall of Lübeck

You can find out all about the exciting historic facts at the European Hansemuseum (entry 12,50 €, less with concession). The brand new museum opened its doors in 2015 and manages to bring history to life with interactive rooms that are filled with ships, trade markets or dressing-up-clothing.

I was told at the hotel reception that it takes more than one day to explore all the Hansemuseum has to offer, but I was fine with about 2 hours. If you can, though, leave about 2-3 hours for your visit.

The Hanseatic League
The Hanseatic League

The other museum I visited was the Willy Brandt House (FREE!) – Here you can learn all about the former Mayor of Berlin and Chancellor of Germany. Born and bred in Lübeck, Brandt spent the years of the Nazi dictatorship in exile in Norway and Sweden. In 1971, he was even awarded the  Nobel Peace Prize.

Willy Brandt as a 16-year-old lad in Lübeck.
Willy Brandt as a 16-year-old lad in Lübeck.
Willy Brandt's famous fall to his knees 1970 in Warsaw
Willy Brandt’s famous fall to his knees 1970 in Warsaw

… have a wander around and take in the atmosphere of Lübeck’s beautiful landmarks and houses!

On my walk through the city, I also encountered the city’s most famous landmark, the Holstentor (probably built in the 15th century) as well as many gorgeous old medieval houses…

The gateway to Lübeck: Holstentor
The gateway to Lübeck: Holstentor

… take in some culture!

Life in 19th century Lübeck became a major focus after the famous German writer Thomas Mann published a novel about the decline of a wealthy north German merchant family over the course of four generations and roughly the years from 1835 to 1877. Mann’s own background was that of a wealthy Hanseatic family and even though he never explicitly mentions the city name in his 1901 novel, it is without doubt Lübeck that he is referring to.

The Buddenbrooks House
The Buddenbrooks House

As such, the house where Thomas Mann and his family lived in Lübeck has become known as the “Buddenbrookhaus”. There are several film adaptations of both the Mann family (Thomas’ brother Heinrich Mann was also a famous writer) as well as the fictional Buddenbrooks family. The most recent film dates to 2008 and features internationally well known German actors such as Iris Berben (Eddie, the Eagle), August Diehl (Inglourious Basterds), Alexander Fehling (Labyrinth of Lies), or Justus von Dohnányi (Monuments Men).

2008 film adaptation of The Buddenbrooks with Iris Berben, Jessica Schwarz and August Diehl © Warner Bros. Pictures / Bavaria Film
2008 film adaptation of The Buddenbrooks with Iris Berben, Jessica Schwarz and August Diehl © Warner Bros. Pictures / Bavaria Film

… save your travel budget for later!

You won’t need a big budget for a short trip to Lübeck. There are plenty of hotels just opposite the main train station (the FlixBus stops and departs here, too). A basic budget hotel, like the Hotel Hanseatic, where I stayed, will set you back around 50 Euros per night for a single room.

From here, you can walk everywhere in the city as the Holstentor and Lübeck’s old town are very close by. No need at all to spend a cent on public transport. Check.

… taste Lübeck’s sweetest attraction!

Another thing that is quintessentially Lübeck is Marzipan. The Niederegger (Breite Str. 89) is a famous café, where you can get marzipan in all forms and shapes. They also have a FREE Marzipan museum on the top floor and having your coffee and cake here isn’t as expensive as you may think. A marzipan cappuccino and a marzipan cake set me back 7 Euros, I think that’s quite ok actually…

Marzipan cake at Café Niederegger
Marzipan cake at Café Niederegger

In the wintertime, a must-do is the traditional Lübeck Christmas Market, which certainly has a lot of marzipan-flavouried christmas treats in store, too…

… relax at the beach!

If you’re staying longer and happen to be in Lübeck during the summer months, why not relax at bit at the Baltic Sea beaches of Travemünde? Still belonging to the city of Lübeck, Travemünde is only a short train ride away.

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What are your favorite places in Lübeck? Are your ancestors from here and you are planning a trip? What would you like to see?

I’m curious to hear about your plans in the comments below!

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