We take a whirlwind look at three fantastic cities – Lübeck, Hamburg and Bremen – in northern Germany. Visit them individually or as a trio of destinations and enjoy their historical cobbled streets, sprawling parks and an abundance of restaurant choices. 

Also read: Cycling Trip through Lubeck, Hamburg and Luneberg 

Bremen – Best for families

A city shaped by both tradition and innovation, Bremen is a modern metropolis with a famous fairy-tale background. The most popular inhabitants, the town musicians – can be found outside the city hall which is now a world heritage site.

The donkey, dog, cat and rooster c. Nicole Pankalla

Created by the Brothers Grimm, the donkey, dog, cat and rooster represent courage, friendship, confidence and drive: something the cities residents also embody.

Bring along your family for some fairytale fun as it is said to be lucky to touch the feet of the donkey (immortalised in the famous bronze statue by Gerhard Marcks) and make sure to throw a penny down the famous ‘Bremer Lech’ drain and take a moment to listen.

Brugerpark c: Holly Lacey-Freeman

The small idyllic gardens of Bürgerpark and the municipal forest are also scattered with story-like elements- think picturesque windmills and birdhouses that instead look like they were created for pixies.

The Kunsthalle art museum on Glockengießerwall also offers fantastic family-friendly exhibitions on everything from world-renowned masterpieces to local town history.

Top tip: Don’t miss the Virtel area of Bremen- full of quirky colourful cafes, cobbled backstreets and fantastic arts and craft shops- it is the perfect place for that unique city break souvenir. It is also home to an amazing Bon Bon candy shop where you can have a go at making your own.

Lübeck- best for couples 

There is a distinctive romantic vibe as soon as you enter Lübeck with its distinctive Gothic red brick architecture.

Gothic Holstentorplatz
Gothic Holstentorplatz c: Holly Lacey-Freeman

You enter through the Holstentor – a red-brick city gate that dates back to the medieval Hanseatic League. With its gothic turrets, it resembles something from Rapunzel. 

Also read: 24 hours in Lubeck

On entering the city, expect picturesque courtyards such as Fuchtings Hof established in the 17th century to ensure widows and orphans of sailors and merchants were cared for. It is today still home to many of the cities residents.

After taking a stroll around the historic lined streets it is well worth venturing riverside for a boat ride along Holstentorplatz. The riverside comes alive in the early evening with pop up bars, live music and a characteristically summery vibe.

Top tip 1: Lübeck is a great option if you are looking for a suitable date night, offering an abundance of fantastic restaurant and bar choices.

We recommend The Newport Restaurant & Marina on Willy-Brandt-Allee 31A for dinner and finishing the evening at Dietrich’s cocktail bar on An der Untertrave 108 where you can sample one (or two) from the 300 strong gin selection.

Top tip 2: Lübeck is known for its world-famous marzipan. Be sure to visit Niederegger if you or your sweetheart has a sweet tooth.

Hamburg – best for friends and solo couples

Hamburg is perhaps unfairly overshadowed by its big brother Berlin. But this maritime city is located at the top of the estuary of the River Elbe. It makes for a lovely saunter taking in the famous port area, the Elbphilharmonie building and Speicherstadt district.

Speicherstadt district c: Holly Lacey-Freeman

For those after a more relaxed approach, perhaps visit the Kaffeemuseum for a unique coffee tasting or head over to the more ‘urban’ Schanze district: perfect for bohemian boutiques, independent cafes demonstrating German creativity. Even better in the summer, it is home to several pop up beaches which provide the perfect spot for an afternoon Aperol spritz while the sun shines.

Top tip: For solo travellers, we recommend escaping the modern cityscape for the stunning Planten Un Blomen, a tranquil oasis in the heart of Hamburg. It is the perfect place to take a Sunday stroll and appreciate the great outdoors. The beautiful Japanischer Garten is particularly tranquil.

Japanischer Garten c: Holly Lacey-Freeman

Top tip 2: For a central location that is easily accessible both to the harbour city and the warehouse districts, as well as Hamburg Hauptbahnhof for intercity train connections we recommend the Innside Hotel by Meliá – stylish with a sundeck on the Mittelkanal and helpful on-site bike rental.

Also read: Travel Guide to Hamburg, Germany’s second largest city