Beach in Travemunde
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There's one word that springs to mind when you visit Travemunde -- delightful.
This pretty little German beach resort is set between the Baltic Sea and fragrant pine forests and is bordered by shimmering blonde (and gloriously empty) beaches. It was the 19th century's version of St. Tropez, a place where the beautiful people of the Belle Epoque -- including the writers Thomas Mann and Dostoevsky -- came to enjoy a restorative whiff of sea air and play the tables at the stylish casino.
Travemunde is perhaps best known to cruise passengers simply as the gateway to medieval Lubeck, only 18 km and a 25-minute drive away. The great Hanseatic League city and UNESCO World Heritage Site of Lubeck is, indeed, close by and tremendously inviting if you love medieval architecture. Its Old Town is home to more than 1,800 listed buildings and a lovely riverfront.
But Travemunde is actually well worth getting to know in its own right, as it's a lovely spot for a lazy day at the beach, a little gentle shopping and an excellent lunch. The cruise ships that call there, mainly small to medium-sized vessels, visit during the summer months as part of Baltic and Northern Europe itineraries.
If simple relaxation is high on your agenda, this charming town with its lovely and stylish seafront shops, elegant hotels and quaint fishermen's cottages could well suffice as the perfect setting for a stroll and a swim.
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If you do head into Lubeck, pick up some marzipan. The city claims to have invented the aromatic delicacy in the 15th century (though some argue that the ancient Persians got in first).
Staying in Travemunde? The craft shops that line the street down to the beach are well stocked with pretty seaside memorabilia (wooden lighthouses, comical statuettes of bathing belles and fishermen, etc.), which make lovely souvenirs or gifts for the folks back home.
The official language is German. Travemunde is a traditional German town, and while most of its (very friendly) inhabitants have a reasonable grasp on English, a few German phrases will be a big help in meeting them halfway. Consider stashing a travel phrasebook in your day pack.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
The currency is the Euro; see www.oanda.com or www.xe.com for the latest conversion rates. There's an ATM at the Commerzbank, just opposite the passenger terminal.
Where You're Docked
Travemunde's small cruise terminal is well located for getting to the heart of the action. It's near the bus station (where you can pick up transport to Lubeck) and within walking distance of the main town and the beach.
The small but smart passenger terminal at the cruise berth is equipped with a cafe and phone booths. When ships are in, a helpful local volunteer hands out maps of both Travemunde and Lubeck and offers advice on what to do and how to get about.
On your right as you exit the terminal is a pavement cafe, selling light salads and splendid ice creams -- a good place to stop off for a refresher en route back to your ship after a stroll ashore. Go straight ahead, and you'll get into town; head left, and you'll find the bus station for Lubeck. Also to the left are shops, an attractive promenade and some lovely white-sand beaches.
If you're happy to spend a day in Travemunde, you'll find it's easily explored on foot. Head left from the passenger terminal, and you'll find an attractive main street that's lined with some unusual china, clothes and knick-knack shops.
Keep going, and you'll stumble across the bus station, where 2.50 euros will buy you a return ticket to Lubeck (bus number 30). It's about a 25-minute ride, but allow up to 45 minutes, as traffic conditions can vary and slow down the journey.
If you prefer to travel the classy way, taxis at the terminal will take you one-way to Lubeck for between 30 and 40 euros. You will need to negotiate the price, but the higher fare is for a multipassenger mini-bus, so it's actually a better value than it sounds.
Watch Out For
Enthusiastic locals will line the promenade to wave off your ship as it sails. It's a very friendly place!
Travemunde's lovely, long beach is the perfect place for a swim. Pack your swimmers, walk past the bus station to the waterfront, and you can wriggle your toes in soft, honey-colored sand and enjoy a dip in the Baltic. The sandy beach stretches more than 4.5 kilometers and is a great place for watching ships, catamarans and motor yachts sail by on the Baltic Sea. Restaurants and cafes are plentiful along the waterfront.
Kaiserallee is to your right as you walk along the seafront. The street is lined with broad-leafed linden trees and makes for a shady retreat on a hot day. It also contains Travemunde's 18th-century casino, a stylish Belle Epoque building where you can still have a flutter in style and enjoy an excellent lunch at the adjoining Hotel Casino.
Brugmanngarten is a pretty park near the Casino. It hosts occasional daytime and evening concerts and is a lovely setting for a stroll on a summery day.
The atmospheric Fisherman's Harbour down by the sea is one of the oldest parts of Travemunde, dotted with picturesque historic houses. Follow the promenade past an old lighthouse and the marina, and you'll eventually reach the impressive Brodten cliffs.
Been There, Done That
Many cruise travelers use the Travemunde call to visit Lubeck. Local buses will drop you at Lubeck's Holsten Gate, the entrance to an enchanting city with a rich medieval heritage and lively, restaurant-lined riverfront (located five minutes' walk left from the Gate). Here's a preview of the city's many attractions.
The 15th-century Holsten Gate, set in the old city walls, contains a delightful park (which was hosting a medieval market during my visit) and a museum charting Lubeck's early history. Admission is free. (Holstentorplatz. Open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., April through December.)
Literature buffs will enjoy a visit to Buddenbrookhaus, the house where Thomas Mann lived and wrote his prize-winning novel, Buddenbrooks, set in Lubeck. (Mengstrasse 4.)
Gunter Grass-Haus is another must-see for the cultured, as it celebrates the famous author of The Tin Drum and includes his sculptures and graphic art. (Glockengiesserstrasse 21.)
For the sweet-toothed, a visit to JG Niederegger will provide a marzipan fest. Niederegger is the biggest producer of Lubecker Marzipan, still made according to a secret recipe dating from the 15th century. At this shop, cafe and museum, you can learn everything about the treat -- except the recipe, obviously! (Breite Strasse 89.)
The Heiligen-Geist-Hospital is the world's oldest alms hospital, dating from the 12th century. The Langes Haus, where pensioners lived in tiny wooden chambers -- one row for men, the other for women -- is a fascinating place to visit. (Kapuzinerstrasse 15-17.)
The Puppet Theatre Museum holds one of the largest collections of puppets, stages, props, graphics, posters and barrel organs dating back 300 years. Next door is the Lubeck Marionette Theatre, where you can watch puppeteers at work. (Kolk 16. Tel +49 (0)451/7 86 26. Open daily, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., April to October and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., November to March.)
Like many parts of the world, Germany's Schleswig-Holstein region is quickly adapting to the influence of international cuisine. However, if you like to try food traditional to the area you're visiting, you'll find that Hanseatic League cities like Lubeck offer some delicious specialities, like Hamburger Aalsuppe (so called because it contains alles -- everything!).
Recipes vary, but expect a base of ham or chicken broth, dried fruits, various vegetables and a host of herbs that include parsley, thyme, marjoram, sage, chervil, mint, dill, sorrel and basil. Some recipes add dumplings, while a fishy version may contain monkfish.
Prefer something simpler? Try herrings, a popular dish around these parts, particularly when salted, marinated and then fried as Bratheringe. And, to finish, try Rote Grutze, a delicious blend of red berries with sago pudding, sometimes made using Sauerkirschen (sour cherries). Or Plettenpudding -- a trifle made from macaroons, raspberries, sponge cake and custard -- which was immortalized in Thomas Mann's novel Buddenbrooks.
Remember that, when in Travemunde, you're at the seaside -- so fish and seafood should be excellent. And, if you've got a sweet tooth, bear in mind that Lubeck is world famous for its marzipan.
A good option for a light lunch or tapas, Weinwirtschaft is a bistro-style restaurant, offering international dishes prepared in an open kitchen and a wide selection of wines, which are also for sale from its wine shop. (Aussenallee 10. Tel. (04502) 3070747. Closed Tuesdays and open only for dinner October to April.)
Set in a seaside hotel (appropriately called the Hotel Maris), Muschel is a jolly conservatory-style restaurant that serves up beach views alongside a mix of international and regional dishes. Seafood is a particular speciality. Muschel is a popular place, so it's best to book ahead. (Strandallee 10. Tel. (04563) 422803. Closed Tuesdays.)
For a real treat, Travemunde's splendid Belle Epoque-style beachfront hotel, the Columbia Hotel Casino, has three restaurants -- including one with two Michelin stars. Country house-style Holstein's is the hotel's coziest eatery and is known for dishing up local ingredients like fresh-caught Baltic flounder. It also has a pretty garden terrace for alfresco lunches in summer. (Kaiserallee 2. Tel. + 49 4502 308-385. Open for lunch Thursday to Sunday.)
For a truly traditional Lubeck experience, lunch in the Ratskeller restaurant, which is in the cellars beneath the Rathaus, Lubeck's medieval town hall. The Ratskeller features local specialities like pork ribs with caraway sauce, prunes, potatoes, rutabaga and carrots, or Lubecker pickled knuckle of pork with sauerkraut, pea puree and bacon sauce. (Markt 13. Open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.)
For a fine view of the Holsten Gate -- and a varied fish menu -- try the Yachtzimmer. Its Marzipan Parfait is said to be spectacular. (An der Obertrave 4. Tel. 0451 7 72 82. Open daily, noon to 11 p.m.)
For a casual lunch with a river view, simply head left when facing the Holsten Gate, and you'll find plenty of cafes and restaurants set right on the River Trave, which circles Lubeck's old town almost like a moat. These serve everything from local pork-and-sauerkraut speciality dishes to pizza and sandwiches. There are plenty of choices, so just pick a sunny spot and enjoy.
Staying in Touch
From the passenger terminal, head straight ahead up Rosa Strasse, and you'll find an Internet cafe on the corner of its junction with Vogliestrasse.
Best for First-Timers: On the four-hour "Hanseatic Lubeck and Niederegger Marzipan" tour, a coach transfer will take you from Travemunde to Lubeck. A two-mile walking tour of the city will feature UNESCO World Heritage highlights like the 13th-century Town Hall, the Heiligen-Geist Hospital (Europe's oldest almshouse, founded in 1286) and St. Mary's Church, whose soaring 40-meter-high stone aisle is the world's tallest stone vault. The tour ends with a visit to the Niederegger marzipan factory and museum.
Best for Scenic Touring: The 4.5-hour "Five Lakes and Eutin Castle" tour travels by coach through the lush Schleswig-Holstein countryside to Plon, where you join a boat for a scenic cruise to Malente through the picturesque Five Lakes district, which was created during the last Ice Age and contains Lakes Hoft, Edeberg, Behl, Lange and Diek. In Malente, you rejoin the coach for a drive to nearby Eutin and a tour of its little castle, created over the centuries from a small house built in 1270. It now has a small museum, art gallery and pretty gardens.
Best for Beer Aficionados: The four-hour "Lubeck & German Brewing Culture" tour begins with a walking tour of Lubeck (similar to the one detailed above), but the tour ends at one of the city's oldest breweries, the Brauberger, which dates from 1223. There, passengers can hear how German beer is brewed and try different types to pick their favorites.
For More Information
On the Web:
Lubeck-Travemunde Marketing: www.luebeck-tourism.de
Official Tourism Website of Germany: www.cometogermany.com
Tourist Office Travemunde (Bertlingstr. 21 -- inside the Strandbahnhof/train station, firstname.lastname@example.org, +49 (0)451 88 99 700)
Tourist Office Lubeck (Holstentorplatz 1, +49 (0)451 88 99 700)
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--by Maria Harding, Cruise Critic Contributor