Along the ancient streets of Lübeck’s Altstadt you’ll find more buildings from the 13th to the 15th centuries than in any other city in northern Germany—more than just about anywhere else in Germany or in Europe, for that matter, since it’s said that within an area of 5 sq. km (2 sq. miles) around the Marktplatz stand 1,000 medieval houses. The overall effect of all these high-gabled houses, massive gates, strong towers, and towering steeples is outrageously picturesque, providing a dip into the past when Lübeck was one of the founding cities of the mighty Hanseatic League, a confederation that controlled trade along the Baltic as far as Russia.
The Hanseatic merchants decorated their churches with art treasures and gilded their spires to show off their wealth. Much of this remains, earning the city a place on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage list of international monuments. You’ll want to work a day trip to Lübeck into your Hamburg itinerary, but the city is so captivatingly picturesque, with quite a bit to see and do, that you might want to spend the night.