Berlin, Cologne, Munich, and Hamburg usually top the list for most visits to Germany, but considering that half of the 80 cities in Germany have less than 200,000 people, sticking to the big cities means missing quite a lot of what Germany is really like. In the north of Germany, a good jumping-off point for medium to small-sized cities is the Hanseatic League. While now a tourist and goodwill organization, between the 15th and 19th centuries the League stretched from the Baltic and North Seas to points further inland and was the most powerful trading bloc in the world.
What was it?
German cities had their own legal system and armies and, aside from allegiance to the pope, were not actively controlled by any one king. All this trading meant a lot of money, and a lot of money during a time in history meant a lot of buildings.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
The Hansa, as they were known (e.g. Lufthansa means “Air Hansa”), needed to do something with their piles of silver coins. The explosion in construction techniques and availability of materials and skilled tradesmen meant buildings that were bigger than ever. Parish churches, cathedrals, town halls, private houses for the wealthy, city gates, you name it. The Brick Gothic style – so named because lack of stone in the area meant buildings were made of red clay bricks – was bulky and simple as compared to the filigree work done in the south of Germany or Italy, but it lasted and became the signature style of northern Germany, Scandinavia, and the Baltic States.
In its glory days, the Hanseatic League was made up of about 40 main cities, with the largest number being in Germany and what is now Poland. For a taste of life outside the big city, catch an Intercity (IC) or Regional Express (RE) train to:
Lübeck – ground zero for the Hanseatic League, part of the Wendish section, the place from where all rules and customs originated and the cradle of the Brick Gothic style. Lübeck was rebuilt after the war to look like nothing at all had happened and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site that lies 70km northeast of Hamburg.
Also in the Wendish Quarter: Hamburg, Lünenburg, Wismar, Rostock, Stralsund, Demmim, and Anklam, and in present-day Poland: Szczecin, Pasewalk, Kołobrzeg, Darłowo, and Słupsk.
Gdansk –now in Poland, Gdansk was the secondary powerhouse of the HL. Much of western Poland was in German Pomerania and in the League’s heyday, the city was known by its German name, Danzig. 500km northeast of Berlin, Gdansk is another Brick Gothic toy town, but these days, there’s much more to the city than that.
Also in the Baltic Quarter: Stockholm, Gdansk, Elbląg, Toruń, Kaliningrad (Russia), Riga (Latvia), Talinn (Estonia) and Tartu (Estonia).
Braunschweig – the city that produced Princess Caroline, one half of what was definitely one of the most miserable royal marriages of all time, was also a major player in the Hanseatic League. Heavy bombing during the war destroyed much of the city, and reduced economic circumstances afterwards meant the city has only recently reconstructed some of the main buildings. Other cites in the Saxon Quarter, Erfurt in particular, are more intact.
Also in the Saxon Quarter: Bremen, Magdeburg, and Stade.
Cologne – the funnest city in Germany did actually manage to get some serious trading in before getting kicked out as the capital of the Westphalia Quarter due to a skirmish with the Danes. Limestone was reasonably easy to get in the Rhineland, so there’s not much Brick Gothic architecture in town. There are however, a few other things to keep a visitor busy.
Also in the Westphalia Quarter: Dortmund, Münster, Osnabrück, Soest, Kampen, and Grönigen.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.