Travel review: A gothic fairytale in Lubeck

Looking for Christmas markets but without the crowds? Try the historic German town of Lubeck says Liz Coggins.

Lubeck is particularly beautiful in winter.
Lubeck is particularly beautiful in winter.

Lubeck is the ideal destination for a winter break. One of North Germany’s hidden gems this small medieval city is a hub of culture, history, gastronomic experiences, host to a authentic and magical Kindermarket and only 12 miles from the shores of the Baltic.

Lubeck can trace its history back to 1143. It was the first German city on the Baltic Sea and later became the medieval capital of the Hanseatic League, a powerful trading confederation.

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Situated on the River Trave, Lubeck is known throughout the world as the marzipan city since Johann Georg Niederegger started his firm in 1806 there supplying the almond confection to the crown heads of Europe.

It’s a quaint but exciting place where church spires dominate the skyline. There are cobbled streets lined with gabled medieval homes, hidden squares and a beautiful expanse of waterfront with narrow bridges, all with a tale to tell.

Lubeck is best explored on foot, in fact everything is in walking distance from the modern hotels that overlook the river, but the hiring of a local guide is always a good investment.

Discovering Lubeck begins when you pass through the imposing red brick city gate, built in 1478 to defend the old town. The Latin inscription “Concordia domi foris pax” which means “harmony at home and peace abroad” is the philosophy which explains why the city would not give Hitler permission to campaign there and was punished in 1937 by the ending of its autonomy.

Lubeck’s waterfront has a cosmopolitan feel lined with merchants houses, dating back to the 13th century, and has eclectic collection of bars and restaurants to suit every taste and pocket.

From here you can explore the city by boat and experience Lubeck’s six Salzpeicher or salt warehouses, often used in films and TV dramas, or take a leisurely boat ride to Travemunde, a seaside resort about 20 minutes drive from the city.

Leading from the waterfront are cobbled alleys and streets to explore. Don’t miss the Figurentheater in Petersgrube, which houses the biggest collection of puppets on the continent and stages some incredible puppet shows and festivals.

The streets of Lubeck come alive with the sound of music as every musical style emanates from behind the ancient facades in Grosse Petersgrube. Young musicians come from all over the world to study in the 20 listed merchant houses amalgamated to form The Lubeck Academy.

Music also rings out at the Mulk Music and Congress Centre built in 1994 where around 350 events take place including the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival whilst in November the Nordic Film Festival descends on the city.

Six churches dominate the skyline. St Peter’s Church in the city centre dates back to 1170 and the climb to the top of its 108 metre tower gives great views of the city.

From here you can spot the cathedral – Marienkirche, with its famous organ. J.S. Sebastian Bach walked 100 miles to hear Baroque composer, Buxtehude, play there.

Next to it is the home of Nobel prize winner Thomas Mann whose novel Buddenbrooks was set in 19th century Lubeck. Now a museum it is home to an exhibition dedicated to the book.

The jewel in the Lubeck’s crown is the City Hall, built in 1230. A Gothic masterpiece it is a breathtaking building both inside and out with superb architecture, art works, carvings and a magnificent staircase.

It’s in front of City Hall in the town square where the Lubeck Kindermarket takes place. A stroll around the market was first mentioned in 1648. From November 21 to December 30 over 400 merchants descend on the city. The Christmas Fairytale Forest is like no other with 500 illuminated fir trees and stalls that recreation the tales of the brothers Grimm.

Lubeck has a plethora of eateries for every taste and occasion. A visit to the oldest restaurant in town Schiffergesellschaft is a must. It dates back to 1401 and for almost 150 years it has been serving the finest food in the city.

But don’t leave Lubeck without visiting the famous Niederegger Café, Built around the time the city’s marzipan production took off this is no ordinary café. The ground floor shop resembles a fantasy classic with every type of marzipan confection you could image from sculptured animals to luxurious golden ribboned boxes in every size. Upstairs is the famous café itself with its heavenly cakes. The third floor is home to a museum with some amazing exhibits including marzipan sculptures.

Travelling to Lubeck couldn’t be easier with flights from Leeds and Bradford Airport to Hamburg, and from there it is only a short rail or bus journey to the city.


Liz Coggins visited Lubeck as a guest of J.G.Niederegger Daily flights from Leeds and Bradford with KLM via Amsterdam to Hamburg visit

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