Lübeck is a charming 12th-century German town that packs many wonders—soaring churches, a picture-perfect harbor, adorable gabled houses, delicious food and unique architecture. However, its compact size means that it’s delightfully easy to navigate and a leisurely day is enough to allow a great introduction to this UNESCO-listed city. We chalked out an itinerary for you to spend a memorable day in this historic harbor town.
Kickstart your day with a breakfast that is quintessentially Lübeck. The 212-year-old Café Niederegger serves a range of irresistible marzipan-infused delectables, in keeping with Lübeck’s famed marzipan industry dating back several centuries. Forget about your waistline for a day and dig into melt-in-your-mouth cakes, tarts and chocolates, and wash it down with a marzipan cappuccino. Don’t worry, you will walk it all off during the day.
On the second floor of the café, a marzipan museum walks you through the fascinating origin and history of marzipan. The highlight of the museum is the series of 12 life-sized figures made entirely out of marzipan. Entry to the museum is free. Both the café and the museum open at 9am.
Café and Museum Niederegger, Breite Straße 89, Lübeck, Germany, +49 4515 3011 27
With a full tummy and a happy mind, hop to the medieval Rathaus a few steps away from the café. This ornate medieval structure is unanimously agreed to be among the most beautiful town halls in all of Germany.
A two-minute walk from the Rathaus will bring you to Marienkirche (St. Mary’s Church). This 13th-century Gothic church is steeped in local myths and legends. It is believed that the Devil himself unwittingly helped in the construction of the church, thinking it was a tavern. Today, you can click a selfie with a smiling bronze statue of the Devil at St. Mary’s.
If you look up at the Epistle Chapel, with a little bit of imagination you can see a stone shaped like an old man. Legend has it he refused to die, but finally turned to stone on the church roof as he waited for death. Don’t miss the massive church bells lying broken in a heap on the cracked church floor. They have been left there as a stark reminder of the devastation of World War II.
St. Mary’s Church, Marienkirchhof 1, Lübekc, Germany, +49 451 3977 00
A few steps away from Marienkirche lies one of the most interesting museums in the city, Buddenbrookhaus, which will especially appeal to Thomas Mann fans, as this lovely Baroque building was once the family home of the Nobel laureate. Today, the museum not only educates visitors on the life and family of Thomas Mann through various interactive exhibits, but also lets you ‘walk through’ the setting of his famous novel Buddenbrooks. Budget at least one hour for this unique museum.
Buddenbrookhaus, Mengstraße 4, Lübeck Germant, +49 451 1224 190
A short stroll way, just about 450 meters (0.3 miles), from Buddenbrookhaus is another literary museum, Günter Grass-House. It is dedicated to Nobel laureate Günter Grass, another famous son of the soil. In this museum, you can learn all about this legendary writer, painter, sculptor and graphic artist, and see over 1300 examples of his work.
Günter Grass-House, Glockengießerstraße 21, Lübeck, Germany, +49 451 1224 230
For a superb gastronomic experience, we highly recommend Schiffergesellschaft. Housed in a crow-stepped gabled house from 1535, this restaurant serves authentic North German cuisine in a unique setting. The décor pays homage to the rich maritime history of Lübeck and has 200-year-old ship replicas dangling from the ceiling. This has been a top-notch restaurant in town since it opened its doors in 1868, so advance reservations are strongly recommended.
Schiffergesellschaft, Breite Str. 2, Lübeck, Germany, +49 451 76776
Lübeck is the best place to learn about the Hanseatic League, and there’s no better place in town for this lesson than the European Hansemuseum, which is our next stop. After a tour of the original artifacts and interactive exhibits of this museum, you are sure to emerge more knowledgeable on the rise and fall of the Hanseatic League.
European Hansemuseum, An der Untertrave 1, Lübeck,Germany, +49 451 8090 990
Next stop, Holstentor—bet you thought we were never going to go there—the most famous and iconic landmark of Lübeck, just 1.7 kilometers (one mile) from the European Hansemuseum. This 15th-century, red-brick, Gothic gate in a lush garden is a truly unique sight, with its rounded structure, twin towers and arched entrance. Afternoon is the best time to photograph this monument, and a vantage point to get a great shot of its architecture is from the Welcome Center next door. The Holstentor houses a small museum where you can see swords, armor and other original Medieval artifacts. The Holstentor also offers a panoramic view of the harbor and the city.
Pass through the gate to end up at the riverside. Here, you will see Salzspeicher, a row of six brick houses that were used as salt warehouses back in Hanseatic times, and a beautiful sight to behold, even today. A five-minute walk will take you to Petrichurch (St. Peter’s Church). This 800-year-old former-church is used today as a venue for events, and for a small fee offers the best views of Lübeck from its viewing platform 50 meters (164 feet) up. It also has a small coffee shop.
Petrichurch, Petrikirchhof, Lübeck, Germany, +49 451 397 730
At this point, you are only a few minutes away from Lübeck’s town center (Altstadt). The rest of your evening can be spent pleasantly getting lost in the myriad alleys meandering off around the old town. With a cluster of colorful Medieval homes, hidden picture-perfect courtyards, romantic benches and glimpses of the river, you never know what surprise might be waiting for you at the next turn. When hunger pangs strike, trace your steps back to the town center for dinner.
To end your night on a high note, head to one of the lively bars along Hüxstrasse and Fleischhauerstrasse, a few minutes from the town center. Alongside refreshing drinks, here you can expect to find lively music and an international crowd.