What You Need To Know
Lübeck is a city in Schleswig-Holstein, northern Germany, and one of the major ports of Germany. On the river Trave, it was the leading city of the Hanseatic League, and because of its extensive Brick Gothic architecture is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. In 2015, it had a population of 218,523. The old part of Lübeck is on an island enclosed by the Trave. The Elbe–Lübeck Canal connects the Trave with the Elbe River. Another important river near the town centre is the Wakenitz. Autobahn 1 connects Lübeck with Hamburg and Denmark. Travemünde is a sea resort and ferry port on the coast of the Baltic Sea. Lübeck Hauptbahnhof links Lübeck to a number of railway lines, notably the line to Hamburg.
Area: 214.1 km²
Population: Estimate 211,713
The Euro is the Official Currency.
Food and drink
Lübeck is famous for its marzipan industry. According to local legend, marzipan was first made in Lübeck, possibly in response either to a military siege of the city or a famine year. The story, perhaps apocryphal, is that the town ran out of all food except stored almonds and sugar, which were used to make loaves of marzipan “bread”. Others believe that marzipan was actually invented in Persia a few hundred years before Lübeck claims to have invented it. The best known producer is Niederegger, which tourists often visit while in Lübeck, especially at Christmas time. The Lübeck wine trade dates back to Hanseatic times. One Lübeck specialty is Rotspon, wine made from grapes processed and fermented in France and transported in wooden barrels to Lübeck, where it is stored, aged and bottled.
German is the Official language.
Old traditions, new challenges
Franz Tunder was the organist in the Marienkirche. It was part of the tradition in this Lutheran congregation that the organist would pass on the duty in a dynastic marriage. In 1668 his daughter Anna Margarethe married the great Danish-German composer Dieterich Buxtehude, who was the organist at the Marienkirche in Lübeck until at least 1703. Some of the greatest composers of the day came to the church to hear his renowned playing. In the course of the war of the Fourth Coalition against Napoleon, troops under Bernadotte occupied the neutral Lübeck after a battle against Blücher on 6 November 1806. Under the Continental System, the State bank went into bankruptcy. In 1811 the French Empire formally annexed Lübeck as part of France; the anti-Napoleonic Allies liberated the area in 1813, and the Congress of Vienna of 1815 recognised Lübeck as an independent Free City. In 1937 the Nazis passed the so-called Greater Hamburg Act, which merged the city of Lübeck with Prussia. During World War II (1939–1945), Lübeck became the first German city to suffer substantial Royal Air Force (RAF) bombing. The attack of 28 March 1942 created a firestorm that caused severe damage to the historic centre. This raid destroyed three of the main churches and large parts of the built-up area; the bells of St Marienkircke plunged to the stone floor. Germany operated a POW camp for officers, Oflag X-C, near the city from 1940 until April 1945. The British Second Army entered Lübeck on 2 May 1945 and occupied it without resistance. On 3 May 1945 one of the biggest disasters in naval history occurred in the Bay of Lübeck when RAF bombers sank three ships: the SS Cap Arcona, the SS Deutschland, and the SS Thielbek – which, unknown to them, were packed with concentration-camp inmates. About 7,000 people died. Lübeck’s population grew considerably – from about 150,000 in 1939 to more than 220,000 after the war – owing to an influx of ethnic German refugees expelled from the so-called former Eastern provinces of Germany in the Communist Bloc. Lübeck remained part of Schleswig-Holstein after World War II (and consequently lay within West Germany). It stood directly on what became the inner German border during the division of Germany into two states in the Cold War period. South of the city, the border followed the path of the river Wakenitz, which separated the Germanys by less than 10 m (32.81 ft) in many parts. The northernmost border-crossing was in Lübeck’s district of Schlutup. Lübeck spent decades restoring its historic city centre. In 1987 UNESCO designated this area a World Heritage Site. Lübeck became the scene of a notable art scandal in the 1950s. Lothar Malskat was hired to restore the medieval frescoes of the cathedral of the Marienkirche, which were discovered after the cathedral had been badly damaged during World War II. Instead he painted new works which he passed off as restorations, fooling many experts. Malskat later revealed the deception himself. Günter Grass featured this incident in his 1986 novel The Rat. The house after the attack. On the night of 18 January 1996 a fire broke out in a home for foreign refugees, killing 10 people and severely injuring more than 30 others, mostly children. Most of the shelter’s inhabitants thought it was a racist attack, as they stated that they had encountered other overt hostility in the city. The police and the local court were criticized at the time for ruling out racism as a possible motive before even beginning preliminary investigations. But by 2002, the courts found all the Germans involved not guilty: the perpetrators have not been caught.
The Hanseatic city
Around 1200 the port became the main point of departure for colonists leaving for the Baltic territories conquered by the Livonian Order and, later, by the Teutonic Order. In 1226 Emperor Frederick II elevated the town to the status of an Imperial Free City, by which it became the Free City of Lübeck.
From a sight-seeing point of view, it is best to go around Lübeck by foot. In fact you may find posters around Lübeck with a caption like “Lübeck: The place of short distances” There is a local bus service hub at the Hauptbahnhof/ZOB (central rail station) with services to all parts of the town and nearby towns. Taxis are available nearly everywhere but have got their price. Within the city centre walking is by far the best way to get around. Tourist information can be obtained in the city hall (Rathaus, Breite Straße) or at the “Welcome Centre”, opposite Holstentor. You can take a virtual tour to view the points of interest on City Panoramas Lübeck.