Hamburg is the most obvious pick on our list. It’s the city where glitz and glamour clash with the edgy vibe of the world-renowned St. Pauli neighbourhood. A day’s worth of sightseeing is just as versatile – ranging from the busy port and the historic red-brick neo-Gothic Speicherstadt, top-notch art galleries, and a picturesque waterfront promenade to excellent seafood restaurants, markets and the notorious red-light district. A great way to get a feel for the city is starting the day with a boat tour of the port, the many canals and the Alster lake.
A 45-minute drive or train ride gets you up to Bremerhaven at Germany’s North Sea coast. A trip to see the town’s historical, cultural and maritime sights can easily fill a day. One of the highlights is the Deutsches Auswanderhaus museum which commemorates the stories of more than seven million emigrants who boarded ships at the city port en route to the US between 1830 and 1942. The futuristic Klimahaus Bremerhaven 8° Ost takes you on an around-the-world trip and allows you to experience the varying climatic zones along the way.
Fans of castles should look into a day trip to Celle. Documents from 1318 first mentioned Celle Castle which serves as residency for the Dukes of Brunswick-Lüneburg. Over centuries, the construction was continuously expanded to today’s four-wing complex. Guided tours take you around the chambers, the Baroque theatre, the kitchen and the castle chapel, which is the only church north of the Alps entirely furnished with authentic Renaissance decor.
If you want to get out of the city and explore the nearby rural areas, have a look at the Teufelsmoor region. The landscape encompasses bogs and moorlands around the town of Worpswede and is traversed by cycling paths and hiking trails. You can also join a boat tour or rent a canoe and set off on your own.
If you catch a sunny day, a drive up north to spend the day at the beach is a good option. Cuxhaven is only an hour away and boasts long sandy beaches and grassed waterfront promenades. You can chill out in the yellow canopied beach chairs of Duhnen beach or take kitesurfing lessons in Sahlenburg. The UNESCO-listed Wadden Sea is just off the coast, and guided tours take you on the mudflats and give a round-up of the unique ecosystem and its inhabitants.
Much of Oldenburg’s historic charm was destroyed by the 1676 fire, but the small city is left with a handful of noteworthy sights. Over the course of history, both Danish and German rulers claimed Oldenburg as their territory, and the city museum explores the turbulent past. Other highlights are a tour of the State Apartments and the Landesmuseum exhibition of the Renaissance Oldenburg Palace and the modern art exhibition at the Prinzenpalais palace.
Approximately 90-minutes east of Bremen is Luneburg. The town has come out of World War Two nearly undamaged and boasts a town centre of cobblestone streets and medieval gabled townhouses. Countless cafés, pubs, boutiques and restaurants have moved into the historic buildings and draw people to the Luneburg, but it’s worth looking past the city borders and explore the vast meadows and heathlands of the surrounding landscape if you have the time.