Lübeck, the Queen of all the Hanseatic cities, was founded in 1143 as 'the first western city on the Baltic coast'. Today, its appearance is still characterised by a medieval ambience and by cultural and historical attractions, such as the Holsten Gate, that date back to Lübeck's glorious past as a free imperial and Hanseatic city.
The uniqueness of the Hanseatic City of Lübeck was proved by UNESCO in 1987, when the existing cityscape was declared to be a World Cultural Heritage Site. This was the first time that an entire Old Town (including an archaeological underground) in Northern Europe ever received this award.
Lübeck – the former capital and Queen City of the Hanseatic League – was founded in the 12th century and prospered until the 16th century as the major trading centre for northern Europe. It has remained a centre for maritime commerce to this day, particularly with the Nordic countries. Despite the damage it suffered during the Second World War (Lübeck was the first German city to be substantially attacked by the RAF), the basic structure of the old city, consisting mainly of 15th- and 16th-century patrician residences, public monuments (the famous Holstentor brick gate), churches and salt storehouses, remains unchanged. That is why Lübeck is the only city in the north of Germany that still has an extensive medieval old city (Altstadt) comparable to some of southern Germany.
Over the centuries, Lübeck's name has stood for freedom, justice and prosperity. Lübeck law was, for its time, a progressive set of land and maritime regulations and inspired the establishment of over 100 towns near to the Baltic Sea, paving the way for theHanseatic League's dramatic rise to become the biggest trading power of its age.
Lübeck was historically an independent city state and came to considerable wealth as the capital of the Hanseatic League from the 11th to the 17th century. Many merchants made a fortune on shipping salt to other Baltic port cities in exchange for valuable goods needed inGermany. Many impressive warehouses are located at the old harbour and can be accessed by tourists as they host museums, shops, restaurants or pubs today.
Dwarfing everything is St Marien Church, with its two colossal green spires. Inside the church, where Bach is said to have failed an interview to become the organist, are the original bells, lying where they fell after the city was bombed in1942. Ajewel of brick-Gothic architecture, theChurchofSt. Maryis Lübeck's finest sacred building, a model for around 70 churches around the Baltic and of great architectural merit thanks to the highest brick-vaulted roof in the world
Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival and serves as an international congress centre, philharmonic concert hall and municipal venue.
Other significant buildings in the old town are the ensemble around the town hall, the castle abbey, Koberg – a district that has remained unchanged since the late 13th century – with the Church of St. James, the Hospital of the Holy Ghost, the grand old patrician town houses between St. Peter's Church and the cathedral, of course the famous Holsten Gate, which is the city's most famous landmark.
Medieval Lübeck is a fascinating place for a stroll, especially as it has plenty of modern attractions as well. When the sun goes down, the numerous pubs, restaurants, clubs and discos come to life.
Günter Grass, who along with Thomas Mann and Willy Brandt is one of the three Nobel laureates associated with Lübeck. The Forum for Literature and Fine Arts, known as the Günter Grass House, contains a permanent exhibition of his art and illustrates the close connections between literature and art in his works. The Forum also has a garden with sculptures by Grass, an archive, a library and a shop. Just behind the Forum is the Willy Brandt House, a museum and memorial dedicated to the Nobel Peace Prize winner and former German Chancellor.
Also situated in the old town, the Heinrich and Thomas Mann Centre has provided an insight into T. Mann's famous novel about the decline of the Buddenbrooks family and explored the life and works of the illustrious literary brothers.
Lübecker Marzipan is the most famous export from the City. The excellent Cafe Niederegger has outlets throughout the city. It's main store on the Alter Markt is a tourist attraction in its own right. It includes a museum dedicated to the Manufacture of Marzipan as well as many Marzipan sculptures.