With gabled facades and cobbled streets, this is a small, photogenic city that joined the Hanseatic League in the 13th century, but spent most of the 17th and 18th centuries belonging to Sweden. The entire Old Town is Unesco-listed: check out the carvings in St Nikolai Church, the main square dominated by the 1602 Wasserkunst (waterworks) and the Rathaus Historical Exhibition.
This vibrant city was once the second-most important member of the Hanseatic League after Lubeck. Its square gables, Gothic turrets, ornate portals and vaulted arches make it a leading example of Backsteingotik (classic red-brick Gothic gabled architecture) in northern Germany. Stralsund’s Unesco-recognised Old Town is on its own island, and its historic streets and many attractions make it an unmissable stop.
- BAD DOBERAN
A former summer residence of the Dukes of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, this town’s treasures include the Munster- a church on the site of a once-powerful Cistercian abbey, with an intricate high altar and an ornate pulpit. Organ recitals and choir performances are held May to September, usually at 7.30pm on Fridays.
In 1886, the steam train Molli began puffing to Heiligendamm. In 1910, the line was extended along the coast to Kuhlungsborn. Today, Molli still departs Bad Doberan several times daily, showing off the coastal scenery. For an enjoyable walk, get off at Heiligendamm, walk to Steilkuste station and pick up the train again.
- DARSS-ZINGST PENINSULA
Nature lovers and artists will be captivated by this far-flung splinter of land between Stralsund and Rostock, which hosts 60,000 migratory cranes every spring and autumn. The area is picturesque so, not surprisingly, it’s home to an artists’ colony in Ahrenshoop, which has an especially wild and windblown beach.The tiny town of Prerow is renowned for its model-ship-filled seafarers’ church and lighthouse.
- RUGEN ISLAND
With its white-sand beaches, chestnut, oak, elm and poplar trees, charming architecture and a national park, Rugen offers myriad ways to enjoy nature. Despite the island’s popularity, its 400-square-mile surface area, fringed by 360 miles of coastline, has plenty of quiet corners. You can enjoy Rugen on a day trip from Stralsund, but consider staying. Sail & Surf Rugen hires SUP boards, catamarans and windsurfing gear, and offers lessons.
Food & Drink
Smoked-fish stands dot Stralsund’s harbour area, but this fish bar has the best of the Baltic and beyond. Choose from the glass-fronted counters, get a beer and wait at a picnic table. People love the fish sandwiches. Around town, drink locally brewed beers by Stortebeker Brewing.
Binz is Rugen’s largest and most celebrated seaside resort, full of ornate Victorian villas, white sand and bluewater, and also home to this top restaurant. Seasonal dishes are combined in menus (one veggie) that delight with their creativity. A relaxed vibe and tables outside let you revel in long summer nights.
Gloriously hokey, Karls is a roadside attraction in the cheesiest tradition, eight miles northeast from Rostock. It’s a hodgepodge of petting zoo, playgrounds, cafes, shops and strawberry fields, but what you’re really here for is the fresh strawberry ice cream. Watch staff make preserves, then listen to mechanical bears sing Elvis.