Hanseatic Town of Luneburg
Continuing on our second part of this short but busy weekend trip and using the most of the day we can by waking up rather early, we drove from Bremen all the way heading towards the northeast, near the Baltic coast to one of the most beautiful Hanseatic cities in Germany, Luneburg. Likewise any of the cities that formed part of the Hanseatic League becoming wealthy and rich due to their trading, in Luneburg’s case was the result of mining the abundance of salt that was then traded across the Baltic and North Sea.
Mining of salt in fact ended quite recently here, in 1980; bus it was already in a steep decline the decades before. Nevertheless, it remained as an important port in the region and through the industrial era; reason why it was severely bombed and destroyed during WWII. Only the cities of Wismar and Stralsund escaped war with minimal damages, a luck that not even the Hanseatic League capital city, Lübeck, did have, and so Hamburg and nearby Luneburg. Fortunately in the other hand, all these cities were immaculately restored, with its historical core reconstructed and/or refurbished in an exemplary way following the principles of anastylosis by using as much of the original materials and fittings that were thankfully in place and stored back then for accomplishing reconstruction in the years to follow.
It is quite surprising that the city has not been inscribed in the list of World Heritage Sites by the UNESCO! It is probably the only large Hanseatic city in northern Germany left without this title. Else Lübeck, Wismar and Stralsund are all World Heritage Site.
Back in 1945 in the nearby city’s hill of Timeloberg, there was an event that made worldwide history. The German Instrument of Surrender was signed, meaning the end of the Second World War. It is therefore that Luneburg shall be remembered forever.
Visiting in full won’t take you longer than a day. In fact and depending how fast you are or how relaxed/or fast pace you want to be, you could combine the same day to also include visiting the smaller city of Celle. It is 90 kilometres to the south of Luneburg, but if you have a rental car with you or anyone driving then go for it as it is perfectly possible. Or if you get into one of the tours from Hamburg or Bremen, check if Celle is included in one of them. In our case we used this same day for visiting both cities and ending up in Bremen’s airport for our late departure flight back to London. Perfectly possible with enough time to see them both and sparing good time for eating, having an ice coffee and ice cream.
Not much more to add in this brief introduction to the city, but surely you will have a great time and enjoy the many beautiful Gothic brick buildings everywhere in the old town core. After all, this is one of the most common day trips from either Hamburg or Bremen and that’s the main reason why.
For more information about Luneburg check the Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites. Germany’s currency is the Euro (EUR). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Luneburg
- Marktplatz The Market Square as it translates is one of the most important square in the city Located in the Inner Altstadt area (Old Town). Centre of social and commerce since Medieval times. All the buildings around it are perfectly restored to their former glory.
-Rathaus The Town Hall, with parts of the building dating back from 1230 when construction started, has been expanded through the time until 1720 when the masterpiece of baroque façade was added. The carillon is composed of 41 bells made of Meissner porcelain that sound few times a day.
-Luna Fountain In the middle of the square depicts the statue of Diana, goddess of hunting with a moon ornament, hence the name Luna.
-Rathsapotheke This old chemist dating from 1598 is quite a singular building and tourist sight on its own. Not precisely in Market Square, but meters away, in the street connecting this square with Am Sande.
- Am Sande This long square is the most beautiful in Luneburg and major sight, once used by the merchants to display and sell their wares. Entirely surrounded by Medieval brick houses, with the oldest dating from 1400.
-Chamber of Industry and Commerce Is one of the most iconic buildings in the square in the sense of being the only one with black glazed bricks. Its nickname Black House comes from this fact.
–Saint John’s Church Constructed in 1370, leads one of the sides in the square. Within its many treasures inside is a 14th century gold tabernacle.
-Water Tower Not in the square itself but next to St John’s Church. It is now an observation tower.
-Glockenhaus The Bell House as it translates is on the parallel street from the square. Was a bell foundry also used in emergencies to cast cannons.
- Old Port Along the Ilmenau river is a nice area of fully refurbished and restored beautiful old and historical buildings.
-Am Stintmarkt The Fish Market as it translates from German is often called the longest pub mile in Luneburg because of the many restaurants and bars that align this quayside of the Ilmenau river.
-Old Crane Originally erected in the Middle Ages the current one dates from the 18th century.
–Lüne Mill A 16th century half-timbered old mill by the river. Not to be missed.
-Old Fire Station Nowadays serving as a top hotel.
- St. Michael’s Church Built atop the foundations of an abbey dating from 956, the current building was completed in 1412, with the tower in 1434. In the year 1700 a choir for boys coming from poor families was created, being the most famous and prominent student was Johann Sebastian Bach who was at the school for 3 years. Notice from both outside and inside how crooked the structure is due to the mining of salt that led to the building to sink 70 centimeters through the centuries.
- German Salt Museum As salt was the main reason why the city became so rich, many facilities for the extraction were built around the city. The Luneburg Saltworks were in operation until 1980 becoming nowadays the main museum dedicated to the salt mining industry in Germany.
- Lune Abbey Built in 1172 was a Benedictine nunnery. Beautifully restored it is now housing some museums. It is located to the north of the city on a good walk from the old town.
The nearest airports to the city are Hamburg at just few kilometres to the north serving a wide range of international destinations including some transcontinental, and the smaller and farther to the northeast, Lübeck, which is served by all low cost carriers with many flights across Europe at really competitive prices. To get from both airports to the city there are several buses a day yet those involve having to travel to Hamburg and Lübeck city centres to the main bus station from where you can then take a direct fast bus, or take a direct train at the respective airport train stations. From Lübeck it is possible to use 2 different routes, the one via Hamburg or the one bypassing it.
Within the city and due to the small size of its historic city centre there is no need to take any public transportation. Furthermore, most of the historic area is pedestrianized. However, should you be needing to move farther from the city centre the only public transport available are buses.
Being an important tourist destination in northern Germany the amount of hotels is actually quite good compared to other cities of the same size elsewhere. In any case, I cannot give any further recommendations in here since I was not staying overnight in the city, but instead in Bremen from where we came on a day tour. A good and reasonable point to start your search is by checking some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engine such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo, LateRooms or Ebookers.
The hotel we stayed was the Courtyard by Marriott, in Theodor Heuss Allee number 2. Next to the main train station and meters away from the Burgerpark. Not more than 15 minutes walking to the old town, could not be at any better location. Also with direct tram line to the airport round the corner, you cannot ask for any better and easier convenience. It was very comfortable, with large rooms in great shape and friendly and helpful staff. We selected the option to have breakfast included which was also really nice and great choice and variety of food. Definitely comes highly recommended.
Should you wish to take a look at Bremen’s travel guide, check here for more information.