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Sandy beaches, jaunty red-and-white striped lighthouses, deep fjords carved by glaciers, sandpipers and seals have made this sweeping peninsula between the North and Baltic Seas Germany’s most elite summer retreat.

Much of the peninsula’s interior is made up of of seemingly never-ending expanses of flat, green farmland interrupted only by wind farms and grazing black-and-white-splotched cows. But its coastline – and especially the North Frisian Islands off Schleswig-Holstein’s western coast – remains the country’s answer to the Côte d’Azur. Of course, the fickle northern European climate makes it a funny sort of answer, as cold winds and dark clouds periodically drive even the hardiest holidaymakers from their Strandkörbe (sheltered straw ‘beach basket’ seats).

Don't miss Lübeck, the magnificently preserved medieval headquarters of the Hanseatic League. Flensburg, too, is a lively harbour town

Schleswig-Holstein belonged to neighbouring Denmark until 1864 and you’ll find Scandinavian overtones throughout the region, particularly in Flensburg and Schleswig.

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Schleswig-Holstein.