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Discovering Kiel, Hamburg, and Lubeck: Top Shore Excursions in Northern Germany

Located a short drive away from Hamburg, the city of Kiel is a must-visit destination on any Baltic cruiser’s itinerary. Kiel’s strategic location makes it an ideal starting point for exploring the northern wonders of Germany including the picturesque town of Lubeck. This ancient port city offers travelers an exceptional blend of maritime history, cultural immersion, and scenic views. Its maritime festivals, cultural landmarks, and waterfront allure make it an enchanting destination for those seeking a unique travel experience.

About Kiel, Germany

Nestled along the picturesque shores of the Baltic Sea, the city of Kiel stands as an enticing gem of northern Germany. Its strategic location on the eastern coast has long defined its significance as a maritime hub and its accessibility from cruise ships has transformed it into a prime destination for travelers seeking a blend of history, culture, and maritime splendor.

Cruise enthusiasts are drawn to Kiel’s well-equipped port, welcoming them with open arms to explore the region’s rich nautical heritage and a cultural scene thriving with many museums, galleries, and lively festivals. Whether strolling along the bustling waterfront, savoring local delicacies in charming cafes, or indulging in the city’s dynamic arts scene, Kiel promises a journey into the heart of Baltic beauty and will forever linger in the memories of those fortunate enough to explore its shores.

Did you know?

  • Kiel was originally a Danish village that was annexed to Prussia then became a part of Germany in 1871
  • In the Middle Ages the city was settled by the Vikings and, later, by pirates
  • Kiel was a prominent naval base for the Germans since the late 1800s, and was heavily bombed during WWII
  • Today Kiel is still a major maritime center thanks to its strong ship and submarine construction industry, a thriving ferry and cruise ship port, and being a world leader in maritime sciences
  • The city is home to the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival — one of the world’s largest featuring classical music
  • Kiel hosts the annual Kiel Week Regatta, the world’s largest sailing event that attracts thousands of sailors and enthusiasts from across the globe
  • Holsten Street, in Kiel’s shopping district, is one of Germany’s longest shopping roadways

Things to Do in Kiel

Hop-On/Hop-Off Bus Tour of Kiel

A Hop-On/Hop-Off bus tour is one of the best ways to see the top attractions and gain a great overview of the city! This convenient system provides you with eight Kiel sightseeing stops and the flexibility to see what you want to see, when you want to see it, at your own pace.

Hop aboard the bus to visit Kiel’s must-see landmarks including the Kiel Canal, a 68-mile long canal and monumental feat of engineering finished in 1895 that connects the North Sea to the Baltic. Wander into the heart of the city and discover the enchanting Old Town, where cobbled streets wind their way past quaint buildings, inviting cafes, and boutique shops. The Holtenauer Lighthouse stands as a proud sentinel, offering panoramic views of the city and the sea, casting a nostalgic light on Kiel’s rich maritime history.

Stunning architectural landmarks abound, among them being the Kiel Town Hall, Kiel Castle, and the Kiel Opera House. The Kiel Town Hall, with its 348-foot tall tower and a blend of Gothic and Renaissance styles, is a beautiful testament to the city’s historical significance. The imposing Kiel Castle’s towering, medieval walls guard centuries of stories from Viking invasions. And for aficionados of the performing arts, the Kiel Opera House’s elegant architecture and acoustically refined halls are a tribute to the city’s commitment to cultural and artistic expression.

And for those seeking a little retail therapy, the bustling shopping district is a haven of fashion, design, and local crafts, providing a sensory journey through the many sights, sounds, tastes, touches, and colors.

Private Walking Tour of Kiel

This private, two hour guided walking tour of Kiel is like delving into a treasure trove of hidden gems and local highlights that unveil the city’s rich history and vibrant culture. Leave the Kiel Cruise Port behind as you meander along the pleasant streets and past quaint shops to the Town Hall and the Kieler Hauptkirche, a magnificent cathedral that boasts stunning architecture and holds a special place in the hearts of both locals and visitors. But the journey doesn’t stop there; a short walk leads you to the enchanting Kiel Monastery and its gardens, an often-overlooked jewel or a place that emanates tranquility and spiritual significance.

Conclude your journey at the Alter Markt, or Old Market Square, where centuries-old buildings surround the town’s main center. Then enjoy some free time to explore the area further on your own.

Walking Food Tour of Kiel

Treat your taste buds to an array of regional delights and libations in a city where age-old recipes meet contemporary creativity.

At the heart of your private tour lies the Kiel Monastery where monks have been perfecting their craft for years, brewing exquisite beers to serve their visitors. While here, snack on some Kieler Sprotte, a smoked fish cooked in a wood-burning oven that is a traditional delicacy in the city. Savor the soft fish like a local by feasting on the head, tail, and bones!

Afterward, make your way to the Old Town’s bon-bon factory, a quirky establishment that transports you to a sugary wonderland. Here, you witness the magic behind the scenes as skilled artisans craft these colorful confections by hand, filling the air with the tantalizing aromas of chocolate and caramelized sugar. Enjoy a bon bon — or two, or more — then spend some time walking around the town on your own.

Day Trips from Kiel, Germany

Day Excursion to Hamburg

Along the banks of the Elbe River stands Hamburg, a shining example of a cosmopolitan city that effortlessly blends history, culture, and modernity.

One of its most riveting features is the iconic Speicherstadt, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and historic warehouse district with charming red-brick facades and intricate network of canals that will transport you to a bygone era of maritime trade.

Adjacent to this historical section lies the HafenCity district. This futuristic area showcases contemporary architecture with gleaming glass structures that reach for the sky. Take a walk through this district on your private tour and feel the pulse of a city embracing the future while still honoring its roots.

The Trost Bridge, an architectural masterpiece spanning the Elbe River, was originally constructed in the 19th century.  It has been meticulously restored over the years, preserving its elegant design while incorporating contemporary engineering operations.

Just a stone’s throw away from Trost Bridge stands the magnificent St. Nikolai’s Church, a stunning Gothic structure that, at 483 feet, was once the tallest building in the world during its peak. Sadly, it was severely damaged in World War II but has been carefully restored as a memorial to the horrors of war.

No exploration of Hamburg would be complete without a visit to the architectural masterpiece that is the Elbphilharmonie. This awe-inspiring concert hall perches atop an old warehouse, its glassy facade reflecting the ever-changing sky and the shimmering waters of the Elbe River. The Elbphilharmonie not only offers world-class acoustics for music aficionados but also boasts a public viewing platform that gifts visitors with panoramic views of the city’s skyline.

Beyond its architectural marvels, Hamburg offers an abundance of shopping and dining experiences to enjoy with your two hours of free time. Shopaholics can explore high-end boutiques on Neuer Wall or pop into the trendy vintage shops and cozy restaurants of Sternschanze. Foodies will relish the bustling Fish Market with its wide array of seafood delights. Don’t forget to savor the local specialty, the Hamburger Labskaus, a hearty dish that combines salted meat, potatoes, and onions.

Day Excursion to Lubeck

With this private day excursion to Lubeck you’ll feel like you are stepping into a time capsule and transported to the heart of medieval Europe. Every corner turned reveals another piece of history, making the city and its UNESCO World Heritage Sites a haven for history buffs and wanderers alike.

As you walk through the labyrinth of cobbled streets, quaint squares, and intricate façades, you’ll find yourself immersed in a world where towering brick Gothic architecture and half-timbered houses reveal tales about its past. The massive Holstentor 

Gate with its twin towers and red brick facade stands as an iconic reminder of Lubeck’s Medieval times, inviting you to explore further. Nearby, the 12th century Lubeck Cathedral reaches for the sky with its intricate Gothic design, fascinating both art enthusiasts and history buffs alike.

The city is also home to the Buddenbrookhaus, a thoroughly preserved mansion that inspired Thomas Mann’s novel Buddenbrooks. This literary treasure offers a glimpse into the life and times of the city’s prosperous merchant families, allowing visitors to step into the pages of history. Adjacent to the Buddenbrookhaus is where you will find the historic salt storehouses lining the riverbanks. These red bricked towering structures with their distinctive stepped gables are the remnants of Lubeck’s once-thriving salt trade.

Tips for Planning Shore Excursions in Northern Germany

When exploring the intriguing region of Northern Germany, planning your shore excursions effectively can make a world of difference in your travel experience. Remember to consider your interests, the local culture, opening hours of attractions, and travel times between cities if you want to venture out past Kiel.

Transportation within and outside the city is convenient. Trains operate frequently between Kiel, Hamburg, and Lubeck, and taxi and car rentals provide time flexibility. Our organized tours offer a hassle-free experience for those who prefer a structured approach; we’ll sort out the logistics and guarantee your return back to ship — all you’ll need to do is show up for an incredible day in Kiel, Hamburg, or Lubeck.

A few things to be aware of:

  • It can be a challenge to exchange money in the city; it is best to exchange money for small Euro notes in advance. Fortunately many places do accept credit cards
  • The city frowns upon improper trash disposal and walking on the grass; if caught, you can be fined
  • If you plan on doing a lot of walking, wear hiking boots or comfortable shoes with flat soles as many of the streets have cobblestones or other uneven surfaces
  • Bring an umbrella or light rain jacket in the summer months, and gloves — along with hand and foot warmers — in the wintertime

In Conclusion

Whether it’s a walking tour through historic districts or a culinary adventure sampling regional delicacies, these Kiel shore excursions will ensure that you uncover the heart and soul of this captivating region. Let the charisma of northern Germany’s history, cuisine, and landmarks call you to action – book your cruise shore excursion now and get ready for the voyage of a lifetime.

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