Updated: Jan 3
Have you enjoyed your visit to Hamburg? That`s great! Let`s go to explore other former Hanseatic member cities which are reachable from Hamburg.
The Hanseatic League was an organisation of countries at which has a maritime commercial network that had been widespread in present-day Northern Europe (the Netherlands, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Latvia, Estonia, the UK etc) and Western Russia (Novgorod). Hansa merchants took advantage of this network to access luxurious goods like spices via Asian merchants posted in Novgorod and sell out their special items such as salt from Lüneberg and marzipans from Lübeck.
As time went by, Hansa members were starting to lose status to other non-Hansa cities due to a lot of factors including climate changes. Some of them had been heavily bombarded with air raids at the end of WWII and had lost its precious collection from the Hansa times.
However, residents in the former Hanseatic cities had tirelessly worked to rebuild damaged and collapsed buildings to restore the league to former glory and maritime flair. As a result, the restoration makes those cities not just fancy but also a remarkable product of effort and time put in cultural heritage conservation. Also, this project also makes the cities a must-visit when moving around Northern Germany.
All the cities listed here have good transportation system from central Hamburg. It is even better if you can access a car. In addition, if you are a holder of the HVV Proficard, you are allowed to travel to the Hamburg greater region. Either way, this article has got you covered! If you are planning your own trip to Germany, check out this perfect 3-day itinerary to Hamburg.
Explore the medieval fairytale city, Stade
It is included in the Hamburg E ring, which means you can enjoy a discounted rate (about 8.20 EUR one-way) from central Hamburg (if you are a Hamburg Proficard holder, you can travel there for free on weekends).
On the waterfront
The first impression of Stade makes you feel like venturing into a medieval fairy town amusement attractions, but it is a real medieval town, not a model. Get inside the old city to face a canal featuring a maritime trading ship on Am Wasser (on the water in German) street.
To get to know more about the city`s background from a glorious port city to a quiet port village, make full use of a combi-ticket for Schwedenspeicher and Kunsthaus. The former was intended as a military armoury for Swedish soldiers as the main client was a Swedish king. Eventually, the building also housed weapons from the military of Danish, the Kurhannoverian and Prussian. It was only in the mid-’70s when Stade citizens and local museum association members opposed to the government`s plan to demolish the military building, laying the groundwork to be a today`s museum. The Kunsthouse museum was formerly a merchant house built in 1667 and its facade and attached crane beams recalls the old time. Now, it is home to classical modern and contemporary art and expositions swap periodically.
Lüneberg, the old crane and the water tower
It is also included in the Hamburg E ring (about 54km from central Hamburg), meaning a free train ride for the Proficard holders. Of course, discounted public transportation is available for non-Proficard holders (about 8.20 EUR one way as well).
Just up north of the train station and bus depot is Lüneberg`s signature, the old crane in the Lüneberg water. It is a representative of local history as a salt mining city, the 2-adult men running crane had been in use for facilitating logistics of salt and other goods for about 500 years since 1346, the first time the crane was mentioned in the local documents. If you want a postcard view of the city, be sure to hop in here:
The historical market quarter has been surrounded by plenty of sagged houses due to the excessive salt mining back in the golden days. It might be collapsing towards your direction in any seconds, but don`t worry. It is safe to walk around the old-merchant-house-turned shopping arcade.
If you pass through the market quarter and walking over to the south passing the small public park, you will see the tip of the tower adorned with a collection of red brick columns. That is the Lüneberg`s Water Tower which is a newer building (completed in 1907 by the architect Franz Krüger) as compared to other tourist attractions in the city. Like what happened to Stade`s Schwedenspeicher, it was the citizen group that was instrumental in saving the tower from demolition and in transforming it into the educational hub. On the rooftop of the tower, you will get the 360° view of the city itself and even Lüneberger Heide (a land of idyllic heaths 56km away from Lüneberg). The rest of the tower is dedicated to showcasing water management in household and regional scale, water usage in the world and Germany, as well as current city partnerships with a Japanese town and German POWs jailed by the former Japanese Army.
Lübeck, the glorious former Hansa HQ
From now on, we will feature the city outside the areas the HVV Proficard could cover. But don`t get too discouraged, you may take cheap buses (Flixbus rates starts from 4EUR one way) to Lübeck from Hamburg central station. Alternatively, you may also take a train from the Hamburg region which is about 20 EUR one way.
Lübeck is different from any other cities lined up here as it was the capital of all the Hansa members. Due to its strategic location, even the Holy Roman Emperor used to live in the city centre but it started falling after the medieval period. It was one of the heavy air raided German cities by the Allies in WWII, but it was also majorly restored in the postwar period. Thanks to that, we can peacefully stroll through tiled streets filled with brick houses and brick warehouses as well as red-roof churches.
The must-see is a Europäisches Hansemuseum opened in 2015: languages of exhibitions at this museum are Swedish, Russian, English and Germany, of which were commonly spoken languages in the ancient Hanseatic league. The route starts from the ruins of church crypt which display a beginning of Lübeck and the museum complex. The expositions shed light on the expansion of the Hansa, business ethics supported by religion and diplomatic relationships. Also, you can take a “wefie” with medieval merchant outfits and join a mock tribunal case to resolve conflicts amongst other Hansa cities. Of note is that not only does the museum corrects your city of origin for statistical purposes, but also script the exhibition to it. For example, if you set your city of residence to “Hamburg” at the beginning of the route, the subsequent stuff to see will tell you what historical events were associated with Lübeck and Hamburg.
Don`t ever forget that marzipan comes from this city: the Niederegger parent store is just opposite the town hall, located in the heart of Lübeck old city where your tour will take place. Getting a break with irresistible and comforting marzipan delicacies and drinks is the main purpose of coming there but make sure to go upstairs for the small marzipan museum. That is all about Marzipan from the origin of almonds, Niederegger`s traditional marzipan recipe from the 19th century, and even life-sized figures made from marzipan.
Holstentor at night
Kiel, the living and breathing Schleswig-Holstein capital
It is the capital city of the Schleswig-Holstein state and is a hub to various regional trains and buses from/to Hamburg (the trip will take 1-1.5 hrs, depending on the bus or train). Unlike the previous three Hanseatic cities, the focus is more on cherishing its distinctive panorama looking over Kiel Fjord and Nordic style elevated shophouses influenced by its proximity to Denmark.
North-Baltic Sea Canal is north of the central Kiel and sits on its opening to the Kiel harbour and offers a therapeutic view over the coastal villages and water. It could be hard for you to imagine, but it is the third busiest canal in the world, only after Panama and Suez. On request, you may take a boat trip from one side of the canal to the other for a super discounted fee of approx. 1 EUR (bookings can only be done in German).
From there, take a bus 91 back to the city centre to see the Warleberger hof state museum. It is a free museum that stresses on its references to foreign princesses that married the ruler of Kiel (e.g. Anna Petrovna, a mother of the Russian Emperor Peter III) and also the pre-war period city landscapes as well as local feminism movements.
All the cities mentioned here have been incorporated into a state (either Schleswig-Holstein or Niedersachsen) but have done a great job preserving its Hanseatic identity just as the old times those cities were independent of any other head of states. That keeps visitors coming and even revisiting from time to time and leaves you to love the ambience and histories that shaped the present.
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