Once a significant Hanseatic trading city, Rostock today attracts visitors with almost a millennia of intriguing history, an appealing white-sand beach and a picture-perfect harbor. Top it with unique activities, like a ride on a historic train or a tour of a former prison, and you have a holiday that is anything but ordinary. Here’s why you should start making plans to visit Rostock, the charming town by the Baltic Sea.
There are endless opportunities to bond with nature in Rostock. The massive Rostock Zoo is home to 4500 animals from 320 species that live in an almost-natural environment. The highlight of this zoo is the Darwineum, a living museum housing 80 species of creatures, which aims to educate visitors on the phenomenon of evolution. Rhododendronpark is another wonderful place to visit, especially in summer, when the park blooms with multicolored rhododendrons. Also, the Botanischer Garten Universität Rostock boasts nearly 10,000 plants, ponds and a huge herbarium and greenhouse, adding up to a pristine setting.
A mere hop from the city center of Rostock will take you to the beautiful Warnemünde Beach, Rostock’s very own seaside resort. The beach promises 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) of fine, white sand, peppered with barbecue areas, naturist zones, playgrounds, and beach sports areas. The beach is always manned by lifeguards and known for being among the safest and cleanest in the country.
The North German Brick Gothic church of Marienkirche defines the Rostock skyline, and houses many treasures within its walls. The 13th-century church Petrikirche, with its soaring tower, was once a beacon for seamen and today is an observation deck for travelers. About one kilometer (0.6 miles) of Rostock’s original medieval fortifications are still in place, punctuated by guardhouses and four surviving gates. One of these is the 13th-century Gothic Kröpeliner Tor, which houses historic artifacts and offers lovely views of the city and the sea from its observation deck.
Also, don’t miss the pretty, pink Rathaus with seven turrets in Rostock city center, while the Warnemünde Lighthouse adds immense charm to the seaside resort and welcomes visitors to climb to the top. The Doberan Minster, towering over the town of Bad Doberan just outside Rostock, is also a sight not to be missed. It is deemed to be the most significant religious heritage of the European Route of Brick Gothic.
Some of the best photos you will click on your Rostock holiday will be from along the harbor (Alter Storm) in Warnemünde. A pleasant stroll to the west of the harbor brings you to a cluster of picturesque fishermen’s houses, which have now been turned into shops and restaurants. You will also see colorful boats lined up along the quay, many of which are floating restaurants. Also, the center of the city, Neuer Markt, lined with gorgeous, Renaissance-era gabled merchants’ houses, oozes palpable historic charm.
Rostock offers a generous dose of culture to your holiday. The Gothic Abbey of the Holy Cross houses a brilliant cultural history museum. Visitors here get to see coins from the 14th through to the 19th century, antique toys, sacred art from the Middle Ages, priceless Dutch Renaissance and Baroque artwork, and contemporary art, among other interesting exhibits. The famous Shipbuilding and Maritime Museum is housed in a massive docked ship, and walks visitors through Rostock’s rich shipbuilding history. Art enthusiasts should make a beeline for Rostock Art Gallery, a museum of contemporary art known for its admirable collection.
It’s probably not what one would normally associate with a relaxing seaside holiday, but a tour of the Stasi-Knast former prison sheds light on a dark chapter of history that is rarely talked about. The Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) illegitimately governed the German Democratic Republic (GDR) for 40 years. The SED maintained its power through the Ministry for State Security (Ministerium für Staatsicherheit), colloquially known as Stasi, founded in 1950 under the guidance of the Soviet Secret Police.
The Stasi was known for random arrests (often bordering on kidnapping), deliberate brutality, false trials and outrageous sentences. As many as 4900 people were imprisoned in the Stasi-Knast prison’s tiny cells, for small or non-existent crimes before Reunification. A tour of the former prison will walk you through creepy corridors, show you desolate cells and a prison vehicle, and help you understand the horrors of the Stasi. Those of you suitably intrigued and wishing for a deeper understanding of the Stasi, might want to check out the Stasi Museum in Berlin.
Stasi-Knast, Hermannstraße 34, Rostock, Germany, +49 381 498565 15652
When in Rostock, you have the chance to go on a nostalgic train ride on a narrow-gauge steam locomotive from the 1880s, Molli Rail. To get on the train, head to the town of Bad Doberan, a short drive or bus-ride away from Rostock. This is the eastern terminal from where the train leaves on a 45-minute journey toward Kühlungsborn West. As the train chugs along, you get to enjoy beautiful views of the Baltic Sea and picturesque farmlands, hamlets and woods.