Germany’s northernmost state is composed of historically important commercial hubs, beautiful sandy beaches, dramatic landscapes, islands and adorable towns – making for a versatile destination. We’ve come up with this list of the best things to see and do in Schleswig-Holstein.
Lübeck is somewhat of an underdog, relatively few international visitors venture out here. The city is known for Gothic architecture, marzipan treats, gabled townhouses and a fascinating history that tells of Germany’s mercantile days and the Hanseatic League. The Holstentor gate is a must-see, and you could spend hours getting lost in the picturesque courtyards that are scattered across the old town. If you have the time, you might want to consider taking a trip to one of Germany’s most beautiful seaside spots. The famous Timmendorf beach is only 30 minutes from here.
Between June and September, the historical Stockenstieg trail opens for tourists who want to explore the rural extremes of the Eiderstedt peninsula. Since 1929, the narrow, tiled path and several bridges cross the vast salt marshes, eventually ending up at the iconic Westerhever lighthouse. Tourists have been drawn to the solitary scenery ever since the red-and-white striped tower appeared in a popular German beer commercial in the 1970s. Join a guided tour, climb the 157 steps to the top and you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of the peninsula.
Sylt is often referred to as the playground for the rich and famous and A-list celebrities are known to come here to unwind, relax and to party. With its Michelin-starred restaurants, wellness retreats, endless sandy beaches, dreamy grass-clad dunes and the surrounding Wadden Sea it’s a popular refuge for honeymooners, celebrities and those who just want to treat themselves to a couple of days of luxury. If you need other activities to mix things up, you can always take windsurfing lessons or rent a bike to explore the small towns of Keitum and Tinnum.
The beaches and islands of northern Germany attract not only spa and wellness lovers but also water sports enthusiasts too. In the last few decades, more and more kite and windsurfing shops have opened up catering to all levels from beginners to professionals, who flock to the area for international competitions. A German TV series revolving around the lives of local surfers put St Peter Ording on the map about twenty years ago, and the island of Fehmarn is set to host the Kitesurf World Cup again this year.
The Heligoland archipelago lies approximately 70 kilometres off the coast of Bremerhaven and daily ferry services connect the islands to mainland Germany between May and September. Famous for its steep sandstone cliffs and bizarre rock formations that protrude from the choppy waters of the North Sea, the island offers some spectacular scenery. It’s worth spending an entire weekend exploring the beaches and lighthouses, watching the resident seal colonies and indulging in delicious seafood dinners.
The Wadden Sea is the world’s largest system of intertidal mudflats and poses a unique habitat for a multitude of seabirds, marine mammals and plants. The World Heritage Site encompasses more than just Germany’s Wadden Sea National Parks and also cover areas of the Dutch and Danish coastlines. Guided mudflat tours run from several north German hubs and educate visitors on the intricate ecosystem of sandbars, seagrass meadows, marshes, mudflats, mussel beds, beaches and their inhabitants.
A permanent attraction in Kiel is the German Submarine U-995 which sits on Laboe beach on the eastern side of the fjord. Used by the Nazis in World War II, the u-boat was damaged and transferred to Trondheim, Norway after the war ended. The Norwegian navy fixed it up and used it until the 1960s but eventually handed it back over to Germany. These days, the U-995 is home to a museum and allows a glimpse into the claustrophobic interior of the cabins, engine room, control stations and torpedo tubes.
German Submarine U-995, Strandstraße 92, Laboe, +49 (0) 4343 4948 4962
The coastal city of Kiel makes international headlines once a year when the Kiel Week regatta and festival kicks off. The Kielline promenade really comes to life when the world’s largest sailing event hits the town in June, and millions of watersports fans from across Europe rush to the city for the week-long festival. Over the years, the racing event has developed into one of Germany’s biggest festivals with live music, cultural events, food markets and a tall ship convention.
Glücksburg Palace ranks among the most popular attractions of Schleswig-Holstein and occupies a spot at the Flensburg Fjord, right on the border with Denmark. Considered one of the most significant Renaissance palaces in northern Germany, the palatial building looks back on several turbulent chapters of European history and in its time served as a residence for the Ducal families of Schleswig-Holstein, as well as Danias kings who all left their mark. Today, you can tour the rooms as part of a guided tour.
The small town of Friedrichstadt in Schleswig-Holstein’s northwest displays a bit of Dutch flair with several canals which cut through the city centre and the gabled houses which line the cobbled alleys. Whether you explore the town via boat or on foot, you’ll pass lost of postcard-perfect sights along the way. If you’re interested in learning more about the history of this quaint town, check out the museum in the ‘Alte Münze’ house.