Often underestimated: in northern Germany there are small towns that are real pearls. With fewer than 20,000 inhabitants, these are often not as well known and only become noticeable at second glance. But then they convince with their historic buildings, waterways, marinas or unique museums.
It doesn’t matter if you want to cross a river by boat or explore the area by bike – we’ll show you a selection of the most beautiful towns in the north. Here are our ten often underrated favorites.
1. Plau am See, Mecklenburg Lake District
On the western shore of the Plauer See lake, the health resort of Plau am See is characterized by lots of greenery and culture. But also pretty alleys and well-preserved half-timbered and brick buildings await you, inviting you for a stroll.
Atmospheric sights include the brick town hall or the distinctive 13th-century town church building of Santa Maria. After climbing the 120 steps of the bell tower, you will be rewarded with an impressive view of the city.
Boat trips are also worthwhile: Plau not only stands out for its location on the third largest lake in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, but also for the Müritz-Elde waterway. You can relax, for example, by sunbathing directly on the Elde or at the harbor on the lake. You can also swim, paddle or sail here.
The town of Pasewalk, which has 10,000 inhabitants, lurks against the Uecker. Known many years ago as a railway and garrison town, there are now some interesting buildings to discover here. These include red brick churches, the medieval wall with the two wall doors or the two towers of the Powder Tower and the Kiek in de Mark Defense Tower.
The oldest church in the north German city in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania is Sankt Nikolai, rebuilt in brick after it was destroyed in World War II. Also worth a visit is the market square with the Sankt-Marien-Kirche, one of the most important brick churches in northern Germany, as reported by the “NDR”.
If you want to learn more about the charming town and its history, the Municipal Museum in Prenzlauer Tor or the old car shed is a good idea – among other things, there are insights into Pasewalk’s railroad past. In GDR times, one in three households earned their living on the railways.
3. Bad Bentheim
The spa town of Bad Bentheim in Lower Saxony has a lot to offer besides a relaxing salt water spring: for example the imposing 90-meter-high castle, which is one of the oldest castle complexes in northwestern Germany. A 30-meter high platform offers impressive views of the city and surrounding area.
In the Sandstone Museum you can find out all about the “Bentheimer Gold”, or sandstone, which has been quarried here for more than 800 years and from which numerous buildings and walls have emerged.
Along the 17-kilometer sandstone path, travelers can learn more about the region’s surrounding towns while hiking or biking. Meadows and forests, such as the slopes of the Teutoburg Forest, line the numerous hiking trails. The Dutch border is also not far away: it can be reached after about ten kilometers.
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In the middle of Holstein Switzerland, between two lakes, lies the city of Eutin. Not only relaxation on the banks of the large and small Eutiner See, but also the well-preserved old town can score here.
Here, among other things, stands the Church of San Michele with its 13th century leaning tower. Eutin Castle, which is located directly on Great Eutin Lake, is now partly a museum where you can learn a lot about the history of the city.
Also noteworthy is the town hall on the market square and the court pharmacy from 1704. From the 39 meter high water tower you have a splendid view of Eutin. Here you can get an idea of why the poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is said to have even described the small town, which today has 17,000 inhabitants, as the “Weimar of the North”. In addition to the old town, you can also see the Baltic Sea from the tower.
5. Hitzacker on the Elbe
The town of Hitzacker is located directly on the Elbe in the beautiful Wendland. With the Elbe cycle path and a rustic old town with half-timbered houses, the town, which had to deal with the last flood in 2013, is now worth a visit again. If you are in Hitzacker, it is worth making a detour, for example, to the vineyard or the open-air museum.
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The location on a river island in the Jeetzel estuary is both a curse and a blessing: on the one hand, the water makes the old town particularly maritime and brought prosperity back into the Middle Ages through trade routes through rivers, on the other. hand, there were frequent floods.
The 2006 Elbe flood was particularly devastating. Since then, however, protective measures have been strengthened. A highlight of your visit to Hitzacker is a raft excursion. You can get to know the area better by sailing comfortably across the Elbe.
Located directly on the Elbe, the small town of Glückstadt impresses with its maritime charm, not least thanks to the inner harbor with its colorful historic rows of houses. Old Renaissance buildings from the founding period invite you to take a trip to the city of 17,000 inhabitants, which bears Fortuna, the goddess of fortune, in her coat of arms.
Glückstadt is also known for its ferry connection across the Elbe to Wischhafen in Lower Saxony and for a special fish specialty: herring, which is produced according to a traditional recipe and to which the herring weeks are also dedicated. The market square with the Nordic Renaissance-style town hall is also worth a visit.
In Ludwigslust, visitors get the sense that time has stood still. Paved streets, brick houses and the imposing Baroque castle tell stories of yesteryear. After its completion in 1776, Duke Friedrich von Mecklenburg-Schwerin lived in the impressive palace, which is currently undergoing restoration. The works are expected to be completely completed in 2024.
Until then, it is worth visiting the castle park, which at 120 hectares is the largest in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. In addition to a lot of greenery, there are also waterfalls, bridges and canals. The 35 meter wide and symmetrical Schlossstraße runs through the entire city. You can find out more about the city by visiting the Natureum Museum.
The town of Mölln is situated in a panoramic position on the edge of the Lauenburg Lakes Nature Park and on the Elbe-Lübeck canal. Mölln is also known by the nickname “Eulenspiegelstadt” – according to tradition, the Eulenspiegel route ended in Mölln in the year of the plague of 1350.
Many historic half-timbered houses are lined up around the market square, and from there you can follow in the footsteps of the famous thief on a tour of the old town. The historic town hall from 1373 houses the city museum. Opposite, in a half-timbered house from the 16th century, is the Eulenspiegel Museum.
On the Eulenspiegel fountain, which opened in 1950 and has a bronze statue of the fool, you should rub your thumb and toes on the figure at the same time, then a wish is said to come true.
The small town of Heiligenhafen is located on the eastern tip of the Wagrien Peninsula, just off the island of Fehmarn. In the foreground here are the wide beaches and the sea. The adventure pier with loungers and seating or play areas for the little ones is a must on your visit!
When hiking or biking, you can choose between the coastal paths or the inland paths, where you will find idyllic avenues, old manor houses or small original villages and country shops.
10. Sassnitz on Rügen
An extraordinary underwater museum is located in the port of the island of Rügen – this and much more awaits vacationers in Sassnitz. The resort with the Jasmund National Park convinces with hiking trails through beautiful beech forests and past the famous chalk cliffs with the Königsstuhl, which offers impressive views of the Baltic Sea from its visitor platform.
You can also learn about the national park’s geology and visit temporary exhibits at the on-site visitor center. The Alaris butterfly park in Sassnitz is also worth a detour.