Stralsund was once the second-most important member of the Hanseatic League, after Lübeck, and its square gables interspersed with Gothic turrets, ornate portals and vaulted arches make it one of the leading examples of Backsteingotik (classic red-brick Gothic gabled architecture) in northern Germany.
With its gabled facades and cobbled streets, this small, photogenic city looks essentially Hanseatic. But although it joined the Hanseatic trading league in the 13th century, it spent most of the 16th and 17th centuries as part of Sweden. There are numerous reminders of this era all over town. The entire Altstadt was Unesco-listed in 2002.
Warnemünde is all about promenading, eating fish, sipping cocktails, and lazing in a Strandkorb (sheltered straw ‘beach basket’ seat) on its long, wide and startlingly white beach. Walking from Warnemünde’s train station along Alter Strom, the boat-lined main canal, you’ll pass a row of quaint cottages housing restaurants.
Baltic Coastal Resorts
Heiligendamm and Kühlungsborn are among the atmospheric beach resorts along the starkly beautiful coast west of Rostock. Molli is a popular tourist train that travels along the coast from Bad Doberan. Alternate between taking the train and walking between stops for a gorgeous day out along the often wild Baltic shore.
Nature lovers and artists will be captivated by the Darss-Zingst Peninsula. This far-flung splinter of land is home to 60,000 migratory cranes every spring and autumn. The area is, well, picturesque, so not surprisingly it’s home to an artists colony in Ahrenshoop (www.ostseebad-ahrenshoop.de), which has an especially wild and windblown beach.
Jasmund National Park
The rugged beauty of Jasmund National Park (www.nationalpark-jasmund.de) first came to national attention thanks to the romanticised paintings of Caspar David Friedrich in the early 19th century. His favourite spot was the Stubbenkammer, an area at the northern edge of the park, where jagged white-chalk cliffs plunge into the jade-coloured sea.
Nicknamed Badewanne Berlins (Berlin’s Bathtub) in the prewar period, Usedom Island is a holiday spot sought-after for its 42km stretch of beautiful beach. Its average of 1906 annual hours of sunshine make it the sunniest place in Germany. Usedom (Uznam in Polish) lies in the delta of the Oder River about 30km east of Greifswald.
Rügen ends at the rugged cliffs of Kap Arkona, with its famous pair of lighthouses: the square, squat Schinkel-Leuchtturm, completed in 1827, and the cylindrical Neuer Leuchtturm, in business since 1902. A few metres east of the lighthouses is the Burgwall, a complex that harbours the remains of the Tempelburg, a Slavic temple and fortress.
‘Dat söte Länneken’ (the sweet little land) is much mythologised in the German national imagination. This tiny patch off Rügen’s western coast measures 18km long and just 1.8km at its widest point. What makes Hiddensee (population 1100) so sweet is its breathtaking, remote landscape.
The former summer ducal residence of Bad Doberan, about 15km west of Rostock, was once the site of a powerful Cistercian monastery. Today, it boasts its fabulous and mighty Münster. Construction of this magnificent Gothic church started in 1280 but the scale of the building meant it wasn’t consecrated until 1368. Its treasures include a lovely high altar and an ornate pulpit.
Putbus appears like a mirage from the middle of modest farming villages. At its heart lies a gigantic circular 19th-century plaza, known as the Circus, which has a 21m obelisk at the centre. Sixteen large, white neoclassical buildings surround it. You can still get a whiff of the GDR here. Some buildings are in better shape than others.