- Introduction to Greifswald
- Brief History of the City
- Geographical Location
- Culture and Lifestyle
- Getting There: Transportation Options
- Top Sights in Greifswald
- The Pomeranian State Museum
- The Market Square (Marktplatz)
- Northern German Landscape and Coastal Scenery
- The Historic University of Greifswald
- Outdoor Activities
- Boating on the Ryck River
- Biking Trails in and around the city
- Exploring the Nature Reserves
- Beaches along the Baltic Sea
- Food and Drink
- Traditional Pomeranian Cuisine
- Best Local Restaurants
- Recommended Cafes and Bakeries
- Nightlife and Bars
- Accommodation and Local Stays
- Hotels for Different Budgets
- Unique Local Homestays
- Hostels for Backpackers
- Luxury Resorts and Spas
- Shopping and Souvenirs
- Famous Shopping Streets
- Local Markets
- Specialty Stores
- Recommended Souvenirs
- Festivals and Events
- Fishing Day (Fischtag)
- Bach Festival
- Greifswald Long Night of Science
- Greifswald International Students Festival
- Tips and Practical Information
- Weather and Best Time to Visit
- Local Customs and Etiquette
- Travel and Health Insurance
- Currency and Language Information
- Day Trips from Greifswald
- Usedom Island
- Rügen Island
- The Hanseatic City of Rostock
- Why Greifswald is a worthy destination
- Recap of the highlights
- Other helpful sources and travel services
- Endnote and personal reflections
Introduction to Greifswald
Brief History of the City
Founded in 1250, Greifswald is a charming town in Northern Germany, which has an interesting history shaped by the Hanseatic League. Its membership in this trading alliance led to prolific growth and prosperity in the Middle Ages, shaping its distinct architectural landscape. The University of Greifswald, established in 1456, is one of the oldest in both Germany and Europe, adding to the town's historical prominence. Despite the heavy damage during World War II, Greifswald has been lovingly restored, and its history can still be seen in its cobblestone streets and well-preserved buildings.
Located in north-eastern Germany, Greifswald is a charming city perfectly situated right on the Baltic Sea, between the islands of Rügen and Usedom. It forms part of the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, sharing borders with Brandenburg, Lower Saxony, Schleswig-Holstein, and the country Poland. Mostly flat terrains characterise the Greifswald’s landscape, with the beautiful Bay of Greifswald serving as its maritime frontage. The city is also framed by the River Ryck to the east, lending an unforgettable scenic beauty to this historic city.
Culture and Lifestyle
Greifswald boasts a rich amalgamation of culture through its historical architecture, art, and traditions. It's home to one of Germany's oldest universities—the Ernst-Moritz-Arndt University—and a booming student population bestows the city a lively, vibrant ambience. The city's cultural highlight is the Pomeranian State Museum, which showcases remarkable collections of fine arts and cultural history. Greifswald is also famous as the birthplace of the romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich, with various sights around town connected to his life. A walk through the winding alleys will offer glimpses into the chilled-out lifestyle of the locals.
Getting There: Transportation Options
Traveling to Greifswald is seamless thanks to Germany's efficient transportation networks. You can reach this charming city by train, with rail connections from Berlin and Hamburg. Local and regional trains regularly service the Greifswald station, making it easily accessible from anywhere in Germany. Driving by car is also an option as Greifswald is near to the A20 motorway, providing easy road access. Alternatively, if you are traveling internationally, the nearest airport is Rostock-Laage Airport, which is approximately an hour's drive away. From there, you can rent a car or catch a train directly to Greifswald.
Top Sights in Greifswald
The Pomeranian State Museum
The Pomeranian State Museum in Greifswald is a must-see, housing a vast array of art and cultural exhibitions that span centuries. Its collections include pieces from the Middle Ages, the Baroque period, and contemporary works, revealing a fascinating glimpse into the region's rich history. Visitors can also explore artefacts detailing the scientific and natural history of Pomerania. With educational exhibits, stunning dioramas, and various touring exhibitions, the museum offers a comprehensive experience for art lovers and history enthusiasts alike.
Located in the heart of Greifswald, the magnificent St. Nikolai Cathedral is an impressive sight not to be missed. Built in the 13th century, it’s the oldest church in the city, showing off impressive elements of late Gothic architecture. Inside, visitors will be struck by the historic murals, grand altarpiece and intricate stonework. The Cathedral also frequently hosts musical concerts due to its exceptional acoustics. Take a moment to soak in the calm ambiance; the peace and tranquility it offers is memorable indeed.
The Market Square (Marktplatz)
Situated at the heart of Greifswald, the Market Square (Marktplatz) is a bustling hub of activity. Surrounded by charming merchant houses with Dutch Renaissance facades, it forms a picturesque setting. The square is dominated by City Hall, showing off its distinctive red, stepped gable design, and the statue of Caspar David Friedrich, a famed romantic painter and native of Greifswald. Visit on a market day for a dynamic blend of locals and tourists shopping, dining, and immersing in this historic ambiance.
Northern German Landscape and Coastal Scenery
The age-old charm of Greifswald is grandly embellished by the breathtaking Northern German landscape. Enclosed by the sparkling Baltic Sea and the dreamy Szczecin Lagoon, the town makes for a tremendous coastal spectacle. Outdoor enthusiasts can revel in the lush beauty of the “Bodden” landscape or explore the rustic beauty of the Greifswald’s moors. Retaining its medieval heritage, the coastal scenery perfectly blends with modern marinas, turning Greifswald into a true haven for a serene vacation. Whether a nature enthusiast or history aficionado, the picturesque sights in Greifswald offer a delight to every traveller's eye.
The Historic University of Greifswald
Being one of the oldest universities in both Germany and the world, the historic University of Greifswald was established in 1456. The stunning blend of old and modern architecture in its numerous buildings offers a sense of its rich history. Notably, the university’s Rubenow monument and Audimax lecture hall are worth exploring. Close to the market square in the city, it's more than an institution but is deeply integrated into the pulse of Greifswald itself.
Boating on the Ryck River
Spend a delightful day boating along the tranquil waters of the Ryck River. It offers breathtaking sights as it occupies the scenic route from the city centre to the Greifswald Bay. You can rent a motor or sailboat to experience the tranquillity of the river yourself, or, take a guided tour. Don't miss the opportunity to admire the lovely views of university buildings, museums, parks, and the stunning Pomeranian countryside. Remember to bring your camera for capturing the enchanting beauty of nature, birds, and historical architecture along the Ryck River. So, come, unwind and enjoy this beautiful and peaceful escapade.
Biking Trails in and around the city
Explore the scenic beauty of Greifswald by biking through the city's extensive cycling routes. The flat landscape around the city makes for a leisurely ride full of pleasant sightseeing, suitable for bikers of all skill levels. One popular route is the "Hansemann route" which takes you through the historical city center, along the river Ryck, to the port and Eldena beach. For a more adventurous ride, try the Greifswald-Wolgast route, offering a stretch along the coast with breathtaking views of the Baltic Sea. Discover panoramic landscapes and Greifswald’s unique charm by bike!
Exploring the Nature Reserves
Situated in northeastern Germany, Greifswald is the gateway to several stunning nature reserves. The Eldenaer Wald Nature Reserve beckons with its lush forest areas ideal for hiking and diverse flora and fauna. The picturesque Koos Island presents an oasis of tranquility, perfect for bird-watching and taking leisurely strolls. Nearby, the Lower Oder Valley International Park offers a wealth of biodiversity. Its marshlands, floodplains, and meadows are crisscrossed by trails and observation points. Greifswald genuinely offers a wealth of outdoor opportunities for nature lovers to explore.
Beaches along the Baltic Sea
Greifswald, nestled along Germany's Baltic Sea Coast, offers access to numerous sandy beaches perfect for summer outings. Eldena Beach, with its broad coastline, is popular among families. Its volleyball courts and barbeque spots make for a fun-filled day while enjoying panoramic sunset views. For a serene experience, head to Wampen Beach, noted for its seclusion. The azure waters and dense coastal forest background provide a picturesque setting. These beaches, with their crystal clear waters, invite visitors to unwind, sunbathe, and swim, truly encapsulating Greifswald's charm.
Food and Drink
Traditional Pomeranian Cuisine
When in Greifswald, indulge in traditional Pomeranian cuisine, a delightful blend of seafood and meat dishes. Unique to this area, you’ll find hearty entrees like Herring in Cream Sauce and Königsberger Klopse, meatballs served in a white caper sauce. Don't forget to savor regional favorites like Peene fish soup, a local specialty made from an assortment of fish caught in nearby rivers. Complete your meal with some Pflaumenmus (plum jam) pancakes, a staple dessert. Pomeranian cuisine promises a rich, comforting gastronomical journey that's deeply rooted in its seaside and agricultural heritage.
Best Local Restaurants
Located in the heart of Greifswald, the Beckmann’s Restaurant offers authentic German food in a delightful environment. The cosy, small restaurant is famous for its delicious flammkuchen and mouth-watering venison. Strandschlepper is a gem on the banks of the Ryck River, well-loved for its fresh seafood and incredible views. Don't miss their famed fish soup. Finally, for scrumptious Italian cuisine, Trattoria & Pizzeria da Michele hits the spot with wood-fired pizzas and homemade pasta. The traditional Utkiek restaurant offers a unique nautical-themed setting with a terrace that overlooks the Greifswald marina. Its speciality is hearty regional cuisine, making it perfect for a taste of genuine German flavours.
Recommended Cafes and Bakeries
A visit to the quaint city of Greifswald isn't complete without a pastry from Konditorei Junge, a bakery with long-standing traditions. Their delectable range of cakes and bread roll specialties are perfect for breakfast or an afternoon snack. If you're in search of coffee, make your way to Café & Restaurant Hartlief. This café offers freshly ground coffee and a charming interior. Alternatively, drop by Café Schoening for their local coffee specialties and pleasant outdoor seating. These places reflect Greifswald's penchant for laid-back delights and make for a heartwarming culinary experience.
Nightlife and Bars
The nightlife in Greifswald centers around its aesthetically pleasing bars and pubs. Popular spots like Tag Werk and Ge:Liebt are local treasures where you can enjoy a nice cocktail or local beer in a relaxing and welcoming environment. In addition to that, Koeppenhaus, a cultural center, offers events like concerts and poetry slams which form part of the town's vibrant night culture. The St. Spiritus, another cultural center, offers a diverse program, featuring everything from stand-up comedy to disco parties. Hence, Greifswald offers an irresistible blend of both traditional and modern nightlife experiences.
Accommodation and Local Stays
Hotels for Different Budgets
Located in the heart of Greifswald, Hotel Kronprinz offers spacious rooms and suites. The luxurious hotel, which is a little pricey, is worth the splurge for its gourmet dining and personalized services. For mid-range accommodation, consider Hotel Galerie. This hotel features crisp, modern decor and a central location at more reasonable prices. Budget-seekers should head to DJH Jugendherberge Greifswald, a youth hostel with cozy rooms and a welcoming community atmosphere. Even on a tight budget, you won't miss out on the charm Greifswald has to offer.
Unique Local Homestays
Discover the warmth of Greifswald’s community by staying in a unique local homestay. These private residences offer visitors a truly authentic experience. You can spend the day exploring the city then come back to a cozy home, often with locally cooked meals available. From renovated medieval houses in the historical centre to modern homes located in the scenic outskirt areas, homestays in Greifswald cater to varied tastes. Interactions with the hosts can offer insider tips to hidden city gems. Staying in a local homestay is the perfect blend of comfort, culture, and community.
Hostels for Backpackers
If you're a backpacker looking for affordable accommodation in Greifswald, the DJH Youth Hostel is a great choice. It offers comfortable dormitory style sleeping quarters and also private rooms for those wanting extra peace and quiet. The hostel includes free WiFi, breakfast, and even offers bike rental for guests who prefer to explore on two wheels. For a more unique experience, StayInn Hostel und Gästehaus is another excellent choice. It’s located in the heart of Greifswald, giving you easy access to local attractions. The rooms are budget-friendly and this hostel too provides free WiFi. Both spots offer a warm embrace to globetrotters while ensuring a unique stay in Greifswald.
Luxury Resorts and Spas
While Greifswald isn't known for luxury resorts, it does have exceptional boutique hotels. The Hotel Galerie offers stylish suites with state-of-the-art amenities in a grand 19th-century building. Located in the heart of Greifswald, their superb service is unsurpassed. Unwind at the Ryck Spa, a hidden gem offering a range of wellness treatments for ultimate relaxation. It's located near the Ryck river bank, providing a sensational view while you indulge in their services. If you're willing to travel a bit, Usedom Island's high-class resorts are just an hour drive away.
Shopping and Souvenirs
Famous Shopping Streets
Greifswald's prime shopping streets are in its city center. Lange Strabe and Domstrabe are known for their unique boutiques, bookstores, and local artisans' shops. The historic settings and stunning architecture add extra charm to the shopping experience. Fleischerstrabe contains an assortment of shops and cafés, offering everything from fashion to gifts and souvenirs. Don’t miss the weekly farmers market where you can buy fresh regional products. Overall, Greifswald's shopping streets offer a memorable blend of history, unique retail therapy, local products, and delicious food under the charming backdrop of this old university town.
Greifswald is home to numerous traditional markets which provide a unique shopping experience in the city. The Wochenmarkt, held every Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday, is a popular destination. It's the best place to buy fresh products including local fruit, vegetables, and flowers. For lovers of antiques and quirky trinkets, the Flea market, taking place every third Saturday of the month, is a must-visit. Don't forget to check out the Christmas Market during the festive season for traditional German handicrafts, sweet treats, and mulled wine.
In Greifswald, take the chance to shop at unique specialty stores. Boasting a rich maritime heritage, you'll find charming shops offering intricate ship models, fine-quality maritime memorabilia, and other nautical handicrafts. Immerse yourself in local culture by visiting stores specializing in traditional German crafts and East German nostalgia items including toys, books, and home décor. Don't miss out on the exquisite, hand-crafted amber jewelry shops, where you can buy unique pieces as a memorable souvenir of your visit.
Take a piece of Greifswald home with you in the form of ceramics. The town is known for its pottery; particularly wine goblets, vases and plates. Stylish and functional, they're a tangible piece of Greifswald craftsmanship. Don't leave without picking up a bottle of local German beer or wine. Reflecting the rich brewing and winemaking tradition of Greifswald, alcoholic souvenirs also make great gifts. Locally produced honey is another good choice. The concoctions from the region's bees have a unique flavor, often tied to specific bloom seasons of local flowers. A sweet reminder of your visit.
Festivals and Events
Fishing Day (Fischtag)
Experience traditional maritime culture at the annual Fishing Day, or Fischtag, in Greifswald. This autumn event celebrated in September embodies the essence of this Hanseatic city's long-standing fishing tradition. Festivities kick off with participatory fishing trips out into the Baltic Sea, with everyone welcomed to join. The catch is later cooked and served in the communal feast. With a colorful program of music, entertainment, and kid-friendly activities, Fischtag offers a delightful glimpse into the Baltic maritime culture.
The Bach Festival is an annual classic musical event, highly anticipated in Greifswald by locals and tourists alike. It spotlights the music of renowned composer Johann Sebastian Bach, ensuring music lovers have a treat. The festival hosts a roster of celebrated international artists and teams up with the local university choir to deliver stunning performances. Spectators often gather at significant historical churches and university grounds for free concerts. It's imperative not to miss this enriching musical experience when you visit Greifswald.
Greifswald Long Night of Science
Greifswald Long Night of Science offers both locals and guests a night of insight and enlightenment. Happening annually, this event transforms the quiet city into an exciting sea of knowledge, where all science facilities, including the University of Greifswald, open their doors to the public. Promising a dynamic blend of entertaining and educational activities, from engaging lectures, experiments, and exhibits to guided tours. Whether you're a science enthusiast or a curious visitor, let this extraordinary event give you a unique glimpse into the world of science in a refreshing and unconventional manner.
Greifswald International Students Festival
The Greifswald International Students Festival is a much-celebrated annual event, drawing students worldwide. The festival focuses on fostering dialogue and aiding understanding between diverse cultures to promote global cooperation and peace. Students exchange ideas through lectures, workshops and cultural activities, designing creative solutions for pressing global issues. The evenings end with social events and parties that showcase international music and dances. Indeed, the festival is not just an academic experience but also an opportunity for visitors to immerse themselves in a culturally spectacular environment. This wonderful combination is part of what brings back participants year after year.
Tips and Practical Information
Weather and Best Time to Visit
Greifswald enjoys a temperate maritime climate with moderate to heavy rainfall throughout the year. Summers, June through August, are warm yet quite pleasant, while winters can be cold. The best time to visit Greifswald is from May to September when the weather is mild and outdoor activities are most enjoyable. However, for those interested in winter sports, December to February is ideal.
Local Customs and Etiquette
In Greifswald, it's common in social situations to shake hands upon meeting and leaving - remember to maintain eye contact. Avoid loud or boisterous behavior, particularly in public places or transportation. Also, while tipping is voluntary, it's customary to leave about 10% of your bill at restaurants. When invited to a home, it's polite to bring a gift for the host. Punctuality is respected and expected in Germany, so try to be on time for any appointments. And finally, keep in mind that Sundays are considered a rest day, so many shops may be closed.
Travel and Health Insurance
Germany has a robust healthcare system but it's always advisable to secure travel and health insurance to cover any unforeseen mishaps or illnesses during your stay in Greifswald. It's important to ensure the plan includes emergency medical evacuation and repatriation. Check the fine print to confirm the insurance covers possibly expensive medical costs incurred due to any pre-existing conditions. Also make sure it includes trip cancellation or curtailment coverage. Remember, prevention is better than cure. So, protect yourself financially while you explore the beautiful city of Greifswald.
Currency and Language Information
The official currency in Greifswald, like the rest of Germany, is the Euro (€). Credit cards are widely accepted, but carrying cash is recommended for smaller establishments or outdoor markets. ATMs are also readily available. The primary language spoken is German, but English is commonly understood and spoken to a certain extent, especially in hotels, restaurants, and other tourist-friendly places. It would still be helpful to learn a few basic German phrases for easier communication, particularly in more local and rural areas.
Day Trips from Greifswald
Just 90 minutes away from Greifswald, Usedom Island is an enticing day trip destination. Known as the 'sunshine isle', Usedom boasts over 40km of splendid sandy beaches bordered with traditional wooden beach huts, creating picturesque scenery that's perfect for relaxation or beachside strolls. The island also offers the charm of Baltic spa architecture in its resort towns of Ahlbeck, Heringsdorf, and Bansin. Whether you're enchanted by history, charmed by old-world architecture, or simply a sun enthusiast, a trip to Usedom Island is well worth your time while visiting Greifswald.
Just 40 minutes from Greifswald, teeming with northern German charm, sits the UNESCO-listed Hanseatic town of Stralsund. Filled with striking Brick Gothic architecture, it's famous for its well-preserved medieval Old Town. A must-visit is the Ozeaneum, showcasing mesmerizing displays on marine life. Alternatively, the imposing St. Nicholas' Church or the striking City Hall and market square are historically captivating. Treasures of Baltic history abound in the Stralsund Museum. Your day isn't complete without savoring local dishes such as fish rolls or hearty Strelasund beef. This seaside gem offers a delightful contrast to the university vibes of Greifswald.
A must-visit location is Rügen Island, Germany’s largest island. This stunning seaside gem, just an hour's drive from Greifswald, offers sandy beaches, rugged chalk cliffs, and lush forests. Historical resorts, like Binz and Sellin, showcase picturesque architecture, while the renowned Jasmund National Park houses the iconic Königsstuhl cliffs. Don't miss the chance to admire island's wildlife and blooms during a leisurely hike. Whether you prefer relaxing beach days, active exploring, or a touch of history, Rügen Island provides a memorable day trip.
Peenemünde, located on the island of Usedom, is an intriguing day trip from Greifswald. Known for its Historical Technical Museum, it showcases the birthplace of modern rocketry and space exploration during WWII. Here, you can glimpse the V-2 rockets and learn about the groundbreaking work of scientist Wernher von Braun. Also, don't miss the chance to explore the nature reserves surrounding the area to enjoy the Baltic Sea's picturesque views.
The Hanseatic City of Rostock
Only a short train ride from Greifswald is Rostock, another hanseatic city filled with rich history. Famous for its university, the oldest in Northern Europe, Rostock's combination of historic charm and youthful energy makes it an engaging day trip destination. Take a leisurely stroll around its well-preserved city center, filled with gothic architecture, or explore its picturesque harbor with diverse dining options. Make sure to visit the Marienkirche, a stunning 13th-century church, home to one of the oldest astronomical clocks in the world. From history buffs to food enthusiasts, Rostock offers something for everyone.
Why Greifswald is a worthy destination
Greifswald, with its unique blend of medieval architecture and modern academia, promises an enriching experience for every type of traveler. Wandering in its cobblestone streets lined with historic buildings, or spending a leisurely day at the charming harbor is a delightful journey through time. This quaint town also offers vibrant living with a lively student population from the University of Greifswald. Coupled with scenic beauty of surrounding landscapes and the Baltic Sea adds an element of tranquility. Greifswald is, therefore, not just a destination, but an enchanting experience worth exploring.
Recap of the highlights
Greifswald, with its rich history and picturesque landscapes, is undeniably a German gem that is worth a visit. Its University, one of the oldest and most respected in world, along with Eldena Ruins, add to its historic charm. A tour around the city center brings exposure to remarkable brick-Gothic architecture. The Pomeranian State Museum and the Botanical gardens are must-see spots. And not to be missed is a stroll around the city’s harbor, overlooking the stunning Baltic Sea. Indeed, Greifswald packs an abundance of allure for every traveler.
Other helpful sources and travel services
For comprehensive travel advice, the official website of the German National Tourism Board is an invaluable resource. It offers extensive information about Greifswald and other tourist spots in Germany. Online travel sites like Tripadvisor, Expedia, and Booking.com provide a wide range of travel services like accommodation bookings, restaurant recommendations, and customer reviews. Lastly, the local tourism office in Greifswald offers tour guides and brochures for first-time visitors. Check their website for latest updates and news about the city.
Endnote and personal reflections
Charming with a vibrant university atmosphere, Greifswald is a jovial blend of heritage and youthful energy. Its historic architecture, enthralling nature, and pulsating local culture make it a truly unique traveling experience. Reflecting on my time here, Greifswald embodied more than just the quintessential German charm. The city's spirit, inspired by a potent mix of academic dynamism and a deeply embedded cultural heritage, is enriching and infectious. In conclusion, Greifswald is an unpolished gem - small and intimately familiar, yet packed with enough surprises to make you want to see more. This charming corner of Germany is a treasure trove waiting to be explored.
Have a good trip!