| Undiscovered by many
holidaymakers, the northern region, although relatively flat, offers
pleasant scenery with gently rolling hills, lake country and fine
sandy beaches and dunes in the state of Schleswig-Holstein, bordering
Hamburg is Germany's second-largest city with a population of 1.8
million people. It is a city-state, forming with Lübeck,
Bremen and Rostock and other European
ports the medieval Hanseatic League.
A sightseeing tour, starting at the Hauptbahnhof
(main station) gives a good overall impression of the city.
The Baroque Church of St Michael (der Michel),
the Town Hall with its distinctive green roof, the elegant Hanseviertel,
the Alster Arcades and the Alster Lake,
the biggest lake inside a European city, are principal sights, along
with the Arts Mile, location of most important
museums and galleries.
Museums of interest include the domed Hamburg Art Gallery
(Kunsthalle), the Historical Museum, the Decorative
Arts and Crafts Museum and the Altonaer Museum.
Hamburg has many theatres, including the Hamburg State Opera
(Hamburgische Staatsoper), Germany’s oldest opera house, John
Neumeier Hamburg Ballet, the German Theatre
(Deutsches Schauspielhaus), and the Ohnsorgtheater,
which performs plays in the Low German dialect (plattdeutsch).
In the city’s heart is the Planten und Blomen park
near the Congress Centrum Hamburg, with its spectacular fountain
displays during the summer. During a daytime visit to the park,
the Television Tower is the highlight. For a small
charge, visitors take the lift to the top platform and enjoy a view
of the city, the harbour, the northern districts and the surrounding
countryside. Just below is a restaurant, which turns full circle
in the course of an hour enabling diners to enjoy every vantage
Not far from the Television Tower, next to the Feldstrasse underground
station, the large Dom funfair takes place several
times a year. From Feldstrasse it is not far to the famous St
Pauli district, which includes the notorious Reeperbahn,
with its various ‘adult’ entertainments. After dark
this area comes alive with neon lights, music, crowds, theatres
and door staff trying to attract people into their establishments.
After a long night out, revellers congregate at the Fischmarkt,
which opens at 0630 hrs, and sells fruit and vegetables as well
A wide range of harbour trips are available, and the Speicherstadt
historic Warehouse Quarter is a must. Hamburg enjoys
unrivalled shopping, with pedestrianised shopping streets, elegant
arcades, fine department stores and street cafes concentrated in
the area between the main railway station and the Gänsemarkt.
Refuge from a hectic day’s shopping can be sought by hiring
a rowing boat or a paddleboat and exploring the Alster
and the intricate network of canals (Hamburg has more bridges than
Venice) which extends throughout the city. On Sundays, a stroll
on the banks of the River Elbe is a favourited
pastime or a visit to the Museum Harbour at Övelgönne.
Numerous cafes and restaurants line the route.
Bremen, also a city-state, with over half a million inhabitants
and is the oldest German maritime city, having been a market town
since AD 965. For all its history, though, it boasts two of the
country’s most modern high-tech visitor attractions including
the interactive Universum Science Centre, and the
Space Travel Visitor Centre.
Historic Bremen clusters around the marketplace, featuring the Gothic
Town Hall (1405-1410), in front of which stands the Roland,
the statue of a medieval knight and symbol of the city. The extensive
pedestrian zone includes a sculpture of the Bremer Stadtmusikanten
(Musicians of Bremen), made famous in the fairy tale by Grimm.
Also part of this is the Schnoorviertel, a district
full of medieval charm, with narrow cobbled streets now housing
art galleries and exclusive shops. The nearby port of Bremerhaven
is home to the German Maritime Museum.
In Schleswig-Holstein is Germany’s ‘Little Switzerland’
and the dukedom of Lauenburg, an area of quiet
meadows and wooded hills. Glistening among them are the blue waters
of the many lakes and fjords reaching deep into the interior of
this state. A trip could also include visits to tiny undiscovered
towns such as Ratzeburg and Mölln
or to one of a string of Baltic resorts such as Timmendorfer
Strand, Grömitz and Schönhagen,
whose golden, sandy beaches attract summer crowds.
whose picturesque oval-shaped old town, ringed by water, still has
many reminders of the city’s medieval golden age and is a
UNESCO World Heritage Site, claims to be the most
beautiful town in northern Germany. The Holsten Gate,
the Rathaus and the many examples of northern red
brick town houses are part of the historic heritage. Thomas
Mann set his famous novel, Buddenbrooks, here. Buddenbrook
House contains the Heinrich and Thomas Mann Centre,
giving information on the life and works of both authors.
Flensburg, the most northerly town in Germany,
has architecture dating back to the 16th century and for many years
of its history was part of Denmark. Just south of Flensburg is Kappeln
an der Schlei, a picturesque small town between the Fjord
and the Baltic. Every hour during the summer the traffic comes to
a halt when the rotating bridge allows sail and fishing boats to
pass. At the beginning of the season in May the Heringstage lure
visitors to taste the town’s speciality, herring.
Along the Schlei lies the old Viking town of Haithabu,
with its interesting museum.
Further south, still on Schleswig-Holstein’s east coast, is
state capital Kiel, a modern city with a large
university. It stands on the Nord-Ostsee (Kiel)
Canal, which connects the North Sea with the Baltic. In June, yachting
and sailing enthusiasts flock to the Kiel Week.
One of Germany’s biggest passenger ports, Kiel’s highlights
include a Maritime Museum, the Molfsee
Open Air Museum and the Oceanographic Institute
Large systems of dykes protect the low-lying western coast of Schleswig-Holstein
from constant pounding by waves. Sea breezes, a wealth of bird species
and nature reserves make the North Friesian Islands of Sylt,
Föhr and Amrum a favourite for nature holidays. Ferries
connect with the numerous Halligen, small flat
islets off the coast.
Westphalia extends from the Rhine to the Weser
Valley. For many, Westphalia conjures up images of the
industrial Ruhr Valley, but the region is also one of outstanding
natural beauty and historical interest. Highlights include the Teutoburger
Forest with its nature reserves, the ancient episcopal
see of Münster and whose attractions include the newly opened
Pablo Picasso Graphics Museum containing nearly
800 original lithographs, and the Sauerland Region, an area of lakes,
forests and hills, providing good skiing in winter and walks at
any time. Major cities along the Rhine in the west of the state
are described in the Rhineland section.
South of Münster is the heavily industrialised Ruhr.
Made up of several large cities merging to form one huge conurbation,
the Ruhrgebiet is, however, also a vibrant centre of culture with
many museums, theatres, art galleries and opera houses. The region
also has many parks providing refuge from the industrial landscape.
Many older buildings survive from the days when this was an agricultural
area dotted with small towns.
The main cities of the Ruhr are (from west to east): Krefeld,
Duisburg, Germany’s largest internal port,
Mühlheim, Essen (in the heart
of the region, and home to Germany’s newest UNESCO
World Heritage Site, the Zollverein Coke Plant), Bochum,
and Dortmund, centre of Germany’s brewing industry. South
of the Ruhr and bordering the beautiful Siegerland and Sauerland
regions is Wuppertal, which, stretched out along
its own valley, is home to a unique suspension railway urban transit
system, the Schwebebahn.
East Friesland, on the North
Sea coast of Lower Saxony, consists of a wide plain interspersed
by ranges of tree-covered hills known for their health resorts and
modern spa facilities, as well as their fine sandy beaches. The
car-free East Friesian Islands also offer relaxing
health-oriented holidays. Sea air and scenery along the coast guarantee
a happy and restful holiday atmosphere.
In contrast is the large nature reserve between the rivers Elbe
and Aller further inland. The countryside comprises
moorland with large expanses of heather, grazing sheep, clumps of
green birch trees and junipers. Of interest in this area are the
half-timbered houses of Celle and Lüneburg,
historic centre of Germany’s salt industry.
Further west is the town of Oldenburg, economic
and cultural centre of the region between the Ems
and the Weser, to the north is the spa town of
Wilhelmshaven, which has as its speciality relaxing
and therapeutic mud baths. It is also the starting point for many
tours along the East Friesland coast and the off-lying islands.
Romantic Germany can be found in the Weser Valley,
near Hanover (see below), where there are fairytale towns such as
Hameln (Hamlyn), famed for the tale of the Pied
Piper. A play about the infamous piper is re-enacted during the
summer months every Sunday at noon. The town has several buildings
in Weser Renaissance style. Here is also the romantic area of the
Weserbergland with numerous hill ranges and deep
In the east of the state is Wolfsburg, home of
Volkswagen cars. Autostadt (Car City), an unusual
and major new visitor attraction dedicated to cars, opened recently
on a 10 hectare (25 acre) site in the heart of the city.
The state capital of Lower Saxony hosts the renowned Hanover
Trade Fair. The ‘Big City in the Park’ is also
an important tourist draw, with many interesting sights. Attractions,
linked for visitors’ benefit by a 4.2km (2.5 mile) route marked
by a red line on the pavements, include the Herrenhausen
Castle with its baroque gardens incorporating a new rainforest
house. The annual music and theatre festival, which is performed
on open-air stages within the garden, attracts many visitors during
the summer. The city also has a 14th-century market church, the
Marienkirche, several museums and a 15th-century
town hall with the famous gable. There are also numerous museums,
such as the Sprengel Museum near the Masch Lake,
which is becoming an important centre for modern art.