The Hanseatic League (Image: TMV/Tiemann)

Modern times

The Hanseatic League has become legend. How it emerged as an alliance of northern European merchants and trading towns to become a political superpower is a story in itself. The typical brick architecture reveals the former importance of the Hanseatic League: the buildings are monuments to success, symbols of power and reminders of an idea that remains highly relevant to this day.

The Hanseatic League was an association of merchants who ensured safe trade between the mid-12th century and the mid-17th century, bringing great wealth to many cities. During this period, trade was conducted on ships called cogs, which became a Hanseatic symbol. The colours of the Hanseatic League were red and white, and they can still be seen on the coats of arms of many Hanseatic cities. At the time of its greatest expansion, it united almost 300 coastal and inland towns and cities in northern Europe.

Wismar old town

Wismar old town (Image: TMV / Grundner)

Clear traces of Hanseatic heritage can also be found in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, home to six Hanseatic cities. In Rostock, Stralsund, Wismar, Greifswald, Anklam and Demmin, traces of the construction boom that took place between the 13th and 16th century can still be discovered today. What buildings from 2021 will still stand 500 years from now? Bricks are the foundation of the golden Hanseatic age. They make slender columns possible and evoke the illusion of weightlessness, while also opening up new decorative possibilities for building facades. A cultural heritage honoured as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and enjoyed by people from around the world.

Urban life inside old walls

Plenty to see in Rostock: the gothic gabled houses stand closely packed, surrounding the idyllic Abbey of the Holy Cross with the Museum of Art History. Nearby you will find northern Europe’s oldest university as well as the baroque city hall with its seven towers on the market square.

Rostock

Sightseeing from an extraordinary perspective: Rostock (Image: TMV / Krauss)

Rostock joined the Hanseatic League in 1283, and in the centuries that followed, free trade brought prosperity to the city. Many brick-gothic buildings from this period are preserved to this day. Rostock features plenty of old buildings and a relatively self-contained historic city centre. Its most beautiful church, St. Mary’s, is considered a major example of the northern German brick-gothic style with its grand west wing. The city hall, dating back to the 13th and 14th century, boasts an impressive baroque façade which was built in 1727. Hausbaumhaus, Kerkhoffhaus, Ratschow-Haus or Krahnstöverhaus on Große Wasserstraße are characteristically extravagant merchant houses. Other sights include the Botanical Garden, the Rostock Heath with its healthy mix of sea and forest air, as well as Rostock Zoo in Barnstorfer Wald recreation area, which was given a special attraction in 2012 in the form of the Darwineum. A popular district in Rostock is the maritime seaside resort of Warnemünde, with its fine beach spanning up to 200 metres in width, the many little sailor houses along the Alter Strom canal and a lighthouse built in 1898.

The Venice of Northern Germany

The “Venice of Northern Germany” lies in Stralsund. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is architecturally impressive with its two city gates and three brick monuments: the Churches of St. Nicolas, St. Mary and St. James. Stralsund received its city charter under Lübeck law in 1234, making it the oldest city in Pomerania. As a founding member of the Hanseatic League, the city achieved great prosperity through international trade, which is still evident today in the old town with its numerous architectural monuments and evidence of brick-gothic architecture, including many former merchants' houses, churches, alleys and squares.

Stralsund Town Hall

Red bricks for eternal monuments: Stralsund Town Hall (Image: TMV / Tiemann)

Of the more than 800 listed buildings in Stralsund, more than 500 stand as individual monuments in the old city district. Many historical buildings here were completely renovated in the period following German reunification. Stralsund attracts visitors not only as an idyllic resort, but also because of its museums and events. The German Oceanographic Museum OZEANEUM as well as Stralsund Museum and events like the annual Wallenstein Festival and the Rügenbrücken Marathon bring many people to the city. Due to its location on Strelasund, a strait on the Baltic Sea between the mainland and the island of Rügen, the city is also called the “gate to the island of Rügen.”

A piece of Sweden in the heart of Germany

Wismar Buildings

Wismar is characterised by its harbour and brick-gothic charm. (Image: iStock)

The Hanseatic period remains alive in Wismar. The city’s layout has scarcely changed. Buildings adorned by yellow and blue flags are a reminder of the period under Swedish rule from 1648 to 1803. The old town has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2002. Wismar is located on Mecklenburg-Vorpommern’s Baltic Sea coast, on the southern end of Wismar Bay protected by the island of Poel. Its townscape and location by the Baltic Sea make it a popular holiday destination. Wismar became a member of the Hanseatic League relatively early and the city flourished in the Late Middle Ages, which is reflected in the townscape by the many gothic monuments. The annual “Sweden Festival” is a reminder of former Swedish dominion.

Museum harbour in Greifswald

Germany’s largest museum harbour in Greifswald (Image: iStock)

Time-honoured Hanseatic and university city

Inspired by the beauty of Greifswald’s skyline, the Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich – the Hanseatic city’s most famous son – often chose the brick buildings as motifs in his paintings. At the time of Romanticism, Greifswald was already one of the oldest university towns in Europe. Today, the townscape is distinguished by the university’s baroque main building as well as the brick townhouses and oxblood-red town hall. Seafaring enthusiasts will find 50 ships with detailed descriptions on display in Germany's largest museum harbour. A visit to the Pomeranian State Museum in Greifswald is particularly worthwhile with its original works by Caspar David Friedrich.

Pioneer of modern aviation

The dream of flight leads to Anklam. Flight enthusiasts can learn about the aviation pioneer in the Otto-Lilienthal-Museum. The town is famous as the birthplace of Otto Lilienthal, who is considered the first person who successfully and repeatedly carried out gliding flights with a flying contraption. Just a short stroll away are the town walls in the historic centre with the market square and fountain, elegant merchant houses and the brickwork church. Due to its location, Anklam is also known as the “gate to the island of Usedom”.

Otto-Lilienthal-Museum

From Anklam towards the skies (Image: Wittig, Otto-Lilienthal-Museum)

Demmin

Embedded in beautiful countryside: Demmin (Image: Thomas Grundner)

Where three rivers meet

One of a kind: Demmin today belongs to the New Hanseatic League, although it doesn’t lie directly on the Baltic Sea. Demmin is a landmark of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern; the high tower of St. Bartholomae Church shapes the rural skyline from all directions. With a height of 92.5 metres, the church tower was extended during a restoration and represents an icon of neogothic architecture. Demmin is among the oldest towns in Pomerania and is popular particularly among nature lovers for its beautiful surroundings. Demmin is also where the three rivers Peene, Trebel and Tollense meet.

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