North Sea and Baltic Sea: Germany's maritime side

Clear blue sea and sandy beaches – a trip to the north German coast is always worthwhile. Whether you're kite-surfing, horse-riding or swimming in the sea, north Germany's "stiff breeze" never fails to invigorate. While you can enjoy nature at its best in Eckernförde, Sylt is the place to go for long party nights.

by Sinah Vonderweiden

Beach chairs © DAAD/Sinah Vonderweiden
Beach chairs . © DAAD/Sinah Vonderweiden

Federal state: Schleswig-Holstein
Suitable for students in: Hamburg, Kiel
Ticket: Schleswig-Holstein-Ticket

About the region

Trips to the beach or a walk through coastal woodland are ideal ways of relaxing. The best times of the year for visits to the coast are spring and summer. In the autumn and winter, it's usually too stormy and cold. In the fresh, salty wind, referred to by north Germans as a "steife Brise", or stiff breeze, you can recharge your batteries or burn off excess energy exercising on the beach. If you want to spend the whole weekend on the coast, there are plenty of inexpensive campsites where you can pitch your tent even at short notice. The beach parties in the evening are something you shouldn't miss.

Getting there

You can get to the beach near the Baltic Sea resort of Eckernförde by Regionalexpress train in half an hour from Kiel. If you get off at ZOB/Bahnhof Eckernförde, you'll find yourself in the centre of town. From there, almost all places of interest are within walking distance.

Eckernförde  © DAAD/Sinah Vonderweiden
Eckernförde . © DAAD/Sinah Vonderweiden

From Hamburg's Altona station, it's a three-hour train journey to the main town of Westerland on the North Sea island of Sylt.

Eckernförde: Nature at its best (Tour 1)

The pretty town of Eckernförde is situated right on the coast, and the beach is a special attraction with its clear water and fine quartz sand. In Eckernförde, both beach and promenade are around five minutes from the station. A brisk Nordic walk in the fresh sea air or a horse-ride through salt meadows is an ideal way to enjoy the countryside. Eckernförde boasts two riding stables offering guided rides. To get to the Stall Rossee stables, take bus no. 1 bound for Grasholz, Eckernförde from Eckernförde station and get out at Karlshöhe. A guided ride takes around two hours.

My opinion

Having grown up in the Hanseatic city, I'm a true Hamburg girl. I associate the sea, ships and coast with home. The constant roar of the waves and the bracing sea air are good for body and soul. You can be active or simply unwind. It's a great place to recover from the everyday stress of university life.

For lunch in Eckernförde, treat yourself to a fish roll on the promenade near the town centre. This is a popular and traditional take-away snack which is also a favourite with the locals. Refreshed and revived, you can now explore the countryside on foot. Maps and information about the best hiking trails on the Baltic coast are available from the tourist information offices in the town centre or at the station. The routes start in Eckernförde and are clearly signposted.

After a lengthy hike or walk, the coffee shop Capilano, Kieler Strasse 74 (next to the Subway snackbar) is a good place to stop off for coffee and cake. Located directly between the sea and the station, the trendy café is the ideal place to visit before and after a trip to the beautiful sandy beach.

Sylt: Sport and party (Tour 2)

The island of Sylt is famous not only for its typical North Sea atmosphere with lighthouse, sand-dunes and fish rolls but also for its flirt factor, especially when it's party time.

Hörnum boasts an attractive lighthouse. You can cycle from Westerland to the lighthouse in approximately one hour, bikes can be hired from the bike rental store Sylter Pedale, Kirchenweg 15, close to the station, from six euros a day.

Harbour in the north of Germany © Vonderweiden/DAAD
Harbour in the north of Germany . © Vonderweiden/DAAD

The best parties take place on balmy summer evenings after the “Windsurf World Cup Sylt” on Brandenburger beach near Westerland or at “SunsetBeach” beach bar (Brandenburger Straße 15). Both a 15-minute walk from Westerland station.

The nightlife is best in the holiday season, and the island boasts over 25 locations where you can enjoy a drink with friends and dance. A popular venue with many visitors is the Wunderbar bar in the centre of Westerland not far from the station on Paulstraße. After partying the night away, enjoy views of the sun rising over the sea.

At the beach  © Vonderweiden/DAAD
At the beach . © Vonderweiden/DAAD

Other activities

  • In summer the Kieler Woche sailing regatta is an absolute must.
  • Sports fans like to take advantage of the "stiff breeze" and long sandy beaches to keep fit. In St. Peter-Ording, you can watch professionals in action and try out traditional beach sports such as beach sailing or kiting yourself. To make sure you have enough time, plan to stay for a whole weekend. For inexpensive accommodation, camp at the Biehl campsite (six to nine euros per person per night).
  • The beach volleyball championships on Timmendorf Beach on the Baltic Sea are always worth a visit. You can get to Timmendorf Beach in two hours by regional train from Hamburg via Lübeck or from Kiel via Bad Schwartau. From Timmendorferstrand station, it takes less than 15 minutes to walk to the signposted beach promenade.
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