The writer outside of the Willy Brandt Haus museum, where a piece of the Berlin Wall still stands // © 2014 Megan Brickwood
Feature image (above): Situated on the Trave River, Lubeck is a picturesque town full of historic attractions. // © 2014 Thinkstock
A prominent city in the Middle Ages that is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Lubeck, Germany, has a long and varied history. Founded in 1143, Lubeck reigned for more than 400 years as a major commercial center and the capital of the Hanseatic League, a confederation of market towns and merchant guilds that dominated trade along the coast of northern Europe.
While World War II bombings destroyed 20 percent of Lubeck, including some of its most historic sites, the city’s basic structure remained intact. Today, many of its buildings have been carefully restored, giving visitors a vivid picture of the thriving merchant city at the height of its success in medieval Europe.
Lubeck offers visitors a lively shopping area, picturesque neighborhoods and restaurants tucked into old facades and buildings — not to mention refreshing sea breezes. Every landmark, monument, shop and restaurant has an interesting story, making Lubeck a fascinating city to explore. Here are some of its top attractions.
This is one of the oldest hospitals in Europe. Thanks to the city’s prosperity as a trade center, it was established during the Middle Ages to provide care for the sick and elderly, and it remained in use as a hospital until the 1960s. Today, it houses a large arts and crafts market where craftsmen from various parts of the world sell their wares and specialties.
Saint Mary’s church was destroyed by World War II bombings in 1942, but the church stands no less tall or magnificent since its reconstruction. In memory of the violence that destroyed the church, one of the bells that fell during the attack is on display. The many stories and legends associated with Saint Mary’s are depicted on the walls and the grounds of the church.
Literary fans will enjoy a trip to Buddenbrookhaus, the family home of author Thomas Mann. Visitors can experience a three-dimensional representation of Mann’s novel “Buddenbrooks” in one exhibition. The novel drew heavily on Mann’s own family history. Another exhibit chronicles the lives of the Mann family members in Lubeck.
Willy Brant Haus
For history aficionados, a trip to Willy Brandt Haus is a must. Dedicated to an extraordinary and historic figure who hailed from Lubeck, the museum’s exhibits chronicle Brant’s life and career — his resistance to the Nazi movement, his exile from Germany and his efforts to procure peace in Europe — through pictures, video, newspaper clippings and other artifacts from the time. A piece of the Berlin Wall sits in a courtyard outside the museum.
Lubeck features a number of traditional houses that have been converted into restaurants. Schabbelhaus is one of the best and most renowned of these, with beautiful, authentic decor and a variety of dishes, including both traditional and international fare.
The former meeting house of ship captains during the Hanseatic period, Schiffergesellschaft was established in 1535. With elaborate Rococo architecture and heavy oak furnishings, the restaurant has a distinct old-world atmosphere. Ship models and chandeliers hang from the ceilings, murals and paintings cover the walls and other maritime and medieval elements are displayed throughout the restaurant, including a full suit of armor. The restaurant serves traditional German fare with an emphasis on fresh seafood.
For a slice of Lubeck history — or a slice of hazelnut-marzipan cake — head to Niederegger Lubeck, the headquarters of the world’s top marzipan production company. Lubeck became the capital of marzipan in 1806, when Johann Georg Niederegger, the company’s founder, established the confectioner business that made his brand of marzipan famous. Visitors can pop into the cafe for breakfast or book a tour of the factory, which includes a marzipan figurine-making tutorial.