When I plan my journeys, I look for variety. A little of this… a little of that. Lubeck and Hamburg, Germany make a great pairing, like the perfect wine for a great meal. Lubeck is small and quaint, while Hamburg is big with lots to see and do. The best part is that they are only an hour apart by train. Lubeck or Hamburg can be a day trip from one or the other depending on your taste. I chose to stay several days in each. I feel I was richly rewarded.

Lubeck, Germany

Church Towers in Lubeck

I started with Lubeck, to which I journeyed by train from Copenhagen (another great city). Lubbock is a small city or large town depending on your definition. It’s a mix of old and new buildings sprinkled with green-copper church towers. My hotel was the Classic Altstadt Hotel, a really cute boutique hotel with a great breakfast buffet. I cannot recommend this place highly enough to do it justice. It was great. The first night I asked for a dinner recommendation from the front desk and the attendant hit it out of the park. She sent me to Schiffergesellschaft, a restaurant in the historic mariner’s guild building just a few blocks away. The place has a really dark and historic atmosphere with large ship models hanging from the ceiling. You sit at family style, long tables comfortably sitting twenty or more. Good way to make new friends. I gratefully accepted my waiter’s recommendation for both the house beer and the main entre, a pork roast with prunes, red cabbage and new potatoes. Outstanding!

Next morning, the hotel served a very nice buffet breakfast. You can always tell a quality buffet by the type of eggs served and the different cheeses offered. They did well on both counts. After breakfast, I tightened my boot laces and took off in search of church towers. As I mentioned, Lubeck is known for its church towers. It’s like some public official five hundred years ago woke up one day and said, “Hey, let’s have a contest and see who can build the tallest steeple. And if you build two, side-by-side, you get bonus points!” They really are spectacular and don’t disappoint. Only problem is fitting them in your camera’s frame. These things are tall. The interiors of the churches leave little to be desired, but the exteriors make up for any deficiency. The historic town hall is definitely worth a visit, as well as the restaurants, bars and parks down by the river bordering the city. You can see everything in one full day. I bookended my day with two nights with an early morning train to Hamburg the next day.

Waterfront in Hamburg, Germany

Waterfront in Hamburg

Now Hamburg is a different animal all together. It’s big city with the largest port in Germany. The port and harbor area are worth a visit with lots of restaurants, bars and amusement centers, like Miniatur Wunderland and Hamburg Dungeon. Its central boulevard runs through the Jungfernstieg area which is based around Binnenalster Lake. A boat ride around the lake and through the canals and port is definitely worthwhile and gives you a good overview of the city. Nearby is the city’s town hall which is incredibly majestic and features a stunning courtyard with fountain. St. Michael’s church with its tall baroque tower is a local favorite and a must-see for visitors. Reeperbahn in Hamburg’s St. Pauli district is a red light district surrounded by famous nightclubs and bars that have hosted some of the world’s greatest bands including the Beatles.

I think what makes these two cities the perfect couple is that they are totally different. Lubeck, a quaint town with lots of personality where the streets roll up after nine and Hamburg, a big city with lots to do and see, filled with nightlife that can stretch into the wee hours of morning. Hamburg is a big city requiring three full days, while Lubeck can be seen in just one day. Both worth a visit.