Places to visit at the Baltic Sea
In 2014, I moved all the way to the north-east of Germany to make the small-town of Stralsund my new home for the next three years as I embarked on my university journey.
was very different from the German region I grew up in but I fell in love with the sea, the fresh air and northern architecture as well as the fact that everybody rode their bikes everywhere.
Here's some of my favorite places in Mecklenburg Vorpommern, the most north-east state of Germany.
pictured: Greifswald townsquare
Located by the Baltic sea in the north-east of Germany, Stralsund is a Hanseatic small town with around 60,000 inhabitants. Its historic old town is beautiful and has been part of the UNESCO world heritage since 2002. I would recommend just strolling around the little cobblestone streets and sitting on the „Alter Markt“, the square where you will find the city hall, cafés and restaurants. Make sure to walk down to the Harbor, with its inoperative school ship from the German Reichsmarine prior to World War II. Walk along the “Sundpromenade“ and indulge on one of the “Fischbrötchen“; german bread rolls served with fresh local fish.
For the good views, climb to the top of the Marienkirche that (fun fact) once used to be the tallest building in the world.
Here's one of my favorite memories of Stralsund: In the winter 2015, the temperates dropped to -15°C and the Baltic Sea froze. It was amazing!
The Island of Ruegen
Germany’s biggest island is easily reached once you’ve arrived in Stralsund. It is not even necessary to take a ferry over because it is connected to Stralsund via a big bridge. Rügen offers a variety of activities especially for outdoor lovers. The never-ceasing wind offers a paradise for practicing water sports, such as sailing or kite surfing.
The Jasmund National Park is a beautiful and not very crowded spot for hiking and marveling at the white chalk cliffs. My favorite time to go is definitely the fall, when the colorful beech groves transform the forest into a setting straight out of a fairy tale. Continue on to one of the sleepy beach towns. I recommend Binz or Sellin. Especially in the off-season, it is the perfect spot to charge the batteries. There really is not a whole lot to do but taking a walk along the sea and eating some good food, fresh baked goods and warming up with a hot cup of coffee is sometimes really all you need.
The Island of Hiddensee
This island is one of my favorite spots in the area. It is a small 17-kilometer-long (10.5 miles), car-free island that is located off the western coast of Rügen. With only 1300 inhabitants, it invites for a relaxing day or weekend away from the worries of the world. Rent a bike (you can easily bike the entire island in a day), hike to the lighthouse, or walk on the long sand beaches, that stretch along the coastline. If you are brave enough, you can even take a dip into the Baltic Sea, or just have a picknick or nap on the beach. Since the island is only (relatively) crowded in the peak season of July and August, and there is so much beach for such a small amount of land, it is easy to find a spot that you will have completely to yourself.
End the day by eating fresh fish in one of the harbor restaurants and maybe even stay the night in one of the charming hotels or guesthouses.
You can get to Hiddensee by ferry, either from Stralsund, which will take 2-3 hours or from Schaprode located on the island of Rügen, that offers up to 16 ferry rides a day and only takes about 30 minutes. Prices for a roundtrip ticket are around 20€.
Greifswald is a beautiful university town just 30 minutes away from Stralsund. It has a charming market square (see title picture of this post) and a beautiful old town. Greifswald has no direct access to the sea but you can easily bike along the Ryck river to the harbor in Wieck. If you're lucky, you'll get treated with a sunset like the once pictured below (absolutely no filter was needed).
This coastal region is a 45km (28mi) long peninsula located west of Stralsund. It is part of the Western Pomerania Lagoon Area National Park (german: “Nationalpark Vorpommersche Boddenlandschaft“), which means that it borders on the Baltic Sea and very shallow lagoons that separate the peninsula from the mainland. From the five little villages on the island, Ahrenshoop stands out through its thatched houses, dunes and beautiful big beaches. When I went with my friends, for a quick getaway from university obligations, we just hiked the cliffs and ended the day with a picknick on the beach. To this day, this is one of my favorite memories from studying up north.
Germany is a relatively small country, and coming from the federal state of North Rhine- Westphalia, I was never used to having to drive for several hours through pure nature in order to reach a big city or international airport. This is very different in the lovely state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Here, you only have few towns and not many places that I personally would consider a big city. But one of them is Rostock. Home to one of the oldest universities in the world, that was founded in 1419, the beautiful Hanseatic city by the sea has a lot to offer. From colorful houses in the city center, to the big cruise ship harbor in Warnemünde, there is so much to see and do. What I love most about this city, is how close it is to the ocean. Fresh air and the sound of seagulls instantly put me into vacation mood, every time I am there.
I would recommend walking through the old town and stopping for a piece of cake at one of the small picturesque cafés. Afterwards, head over to Warnemünde for a stroll along the beach and some ice-cream and watch the (mostly) Scandinavian ferries and sometimes even cruise ships leave or arrive at the harbor. If you have more than one day to spare and it happens to be strawberry season, go to one of the strawberry fields and pick a basket of the fresh goodies. You only pay what you take so I recommend what we did: Stuff your faces!
How to get there
If you are coming from outside of Germany, it is easiest flying into Hamburg or Berlin and taking the train or a rental car from there. There are non-stop train connections with Deutsche Bahn to Stralsund and Rostock from both cities but I would recommend getting a rental car, because it will make it a lot easier to explore the places listed above. Hiddensee is a car-free-zone, but the car can be left at the harbor in either Stralsund or Schaprode.