One of Germany's most beautiful squares
The Alte Markt (Old Market) is definitely one of Germany's most beautiful squares: lined by well-preserved stately bourgeois houses, the huge Nikolaikirche as well as the breathtakingly beautiful town hall, this square has everything that one could wish for.
It's mostly the interesting facade of the town hall that will capture one's attention. It combines the austerity of a rather plain tower with the almost playful six-gabled main part. I'm not an architecture expert, so I'll spare you the details of what all these parts are called, but they are truly majestic. Built in the second half of the 13th century, the town hall counts as one of the most remarkable brick Gothic buildings in Germany.
Nikolaikirche, while beautiful and well-preserved as well, is somewhat hidden next to the town hall. It didn't strike me as particularly interesting, but judge for yourselves.
The magnificent bourgeois houses on all sides of Alter Markt are the icing on the cake. Their colourful facades shine brightly in the sun and add to the general atmosphere of the square. The most beautiful among them is probably the Wulflamhaus dating back to the mid-14th century as well as its neighbour which also belonged to the Wulflam family but was renovated in a baroque style in later years. However, it doesn't make sense picking just one of the houses - it's the entirety of facades, the ensemble of them which makes Alter Markt so spectacular. So if you visit Stralsund, make sure not to miss this square!
Climb the spire of St Mary's
Allegedly the former highest building of the world until severely damaged by lightning, St Mary's is not only Stralsund's most prominent landmark but also an incredibly beautiful brick Gothic church. It was the second-last basilica built in that style, so compared with other churches, St Mary's is still quite young. While there are the typical sights of a Gothic church to be found inside St Mary's, I loved climbing its spire most. 366 steps will take you up to a height of almost 100m. From the viewing platform you can enjoy spectacular views over Stralsund, the Strelasund and the island of Rügen. We began our visit to Stralsund with a visit to the spire and were not disappointed - it gave us an overview of the city's beauty. The entrance fee is € 4.
A hymn of praise to the sea: Ozeaneum
Ozeaneum is Stralsund's largest museum. Its theme is easy to guess: the oceans of the world and everything connected to them. Hugely popular by tourists and locals alike, the museum attracts several hundreds of people per day, resulting in long queues at the entrance. Don't let that (and the astronomic entrance fee of € 16) put you off - Ozeaneum is one of the best museums I know. While the informative parts about sea life, geological topics, environmental dangers, trade and many more are interesting and enable you to learn a lot about the Baltic Sea ecosystems, the reason why most people visit Ozeaneum are its aquariums. Ranging from small "boxes" with pulsating jellyfish or timidly hiding seahorses to bigger aquariums the size of a small room with lots of fishes to the giant 2.6 million litres aquarium complete with sharks and stingrays, there's something for everybody. It's a perfect place for a family trip - I've never seen that many children gazing in awe at fishes anywhere else! Yet, their behaviour is perfectly understandable - you'll soon be doing the same. The aquariums, in particular the giant one, enable you to see marine life in all its detail, probably almost as beautiful as when diving through it. We spent a good 4 hours there, but if you read through all the information plaques and admire all creatures on display, you could easily spend a full day there.
- Family Travel
Pfarrkirche St. Nikolai
The distinctive twin towers of the St Nikolai church are what can be seen over the roofs of the gabled harbour houses. Sitting right next to and slightly behind the impressive Rathaus it forms part of a wonderful collection of buildings around the Alte Markt (now ruined by a car park). It's prominent position as seen from the harbour and Stralsund is probably not unrelated to its status as the Church of St. Nicholas, the patron saint of sailors. Construction of the church was first started in 1276.
Sunday after the service until 4pm
Sunday after the service until 4pm
Walking along the marina pier in winter is a chilling experience, but there are great views to be had back across the water to the city. From the pier you can see the gabled harbour houses, the St. Nikolai church across the rooftops, the marina and the docked boats ,and further along to the east the shipbuilding and fishing industries, like in the picture shown. In the other direction, across the Stralsund, you can see the island of Ruegen and the town of Altefaehr, but it will need to be a clear day to see anything of note.
Surrounding the town, and making up a part of its defence, are the freshwater lakes that are separated from the Stralsund strait by two dams. The Frankenteich is split in two by the Weidendamm, with the northern side bear the sea being the prettier of the two. The northern half offers views of the old 19th century school, like in the picture, whereas the southern half has views only of the train station and little else.
Surrounding the town, and making up a part of its defence, are the freshwater lakes that are separated from the Stralsund strait by two dams. The Knieperteich is on the west side of the town, in the shadow of the last remaining fortifications. It is cut in half by the Kuterdam, from which the picture is taken.
Pfarrkirche St. Marien
Sitting in the drab car park of the Neuer Markt is Stralsund's largest church, the Pfarrkirche St. Marien. It was once, for a hundred years, the tallest building in the world. The construction of this church started in the 14th century, and you can climb the original medieval wooden staircase all the way to the top for some great views of the city and the island of Ruegen. Unfortunately it wasn't open for me when the day I was there, the day after Christmas, but you can access it at the following times:
Rest of Year
Appreciate your aquatic element in Stralsund
The Meeresmuseum is the ideal place to retreat from inclement weather - which is how we found ourselves there one rainy afternoon!
The museum is rather oddly housed in a 13th century former convent and makes excellent use of the display space - the skeleton of a whale suspended from the roof is guaranteed to impress visitors, particularly little ones! The subject matter is fairly predictable, but the exhibits are imaginative and a cut above the average marine museum - for example, see my photo of the octopus exhibit, where the animal is represented in an aggressive pose which also allows visitors to see its underside.
The upper levels are reserved for models and inanimate exhibits, whereas the lowest level is devoted to a small aquarium. What is interesting here is that they devote attention to some animals that don't usually get to experience the limelight: for example, my most enduring memory of the aquarium section is of the cuttlefish, which were frantically flashing different colours at each other (territorial or mating behaviour perhaps?). Another absolute highlight was an amazingly effective display of shark eggs ('mermaids purses') which was lit from behind so that you could see the developing shark foetuses wriggling in their eggs - brilliant in its simplicity. There are also a couple of extremely wise looking turtles which I found mesmerising as they effortlessly glided (glid?) around their tank.
There is a small but well stocked souvenir shop, and for once, you don't have to walk through the gift shop to exit the museum - this is a first for me in terms of my experience with aquariums, and was a very welcome relief from the usual 'hard sell' mechandising!
The Ozeanum in Stralsund - which is a much larger aquarium complex - was named European Museum of the Year in 2010, and there is a link between this and the Meeresmuseum (although we unfortunately only had time to visit the latter). It is possible to buy a combined ticket that will let you visit both at relatively little additional cost - follow the weblink below for more information (unfortunately only the section of the website devoted to the Ozeanum is currently available in English).
The Ozeanum sounds pretty amazing: this is what the website has to say about it:
"Float through the broad glass foyer on Europe's longest self-supporting escalator into the fascinating world of the seas. On the exhibitions in the OZEANEUM you will discover the water planet earth.
"The OZEANEUM presents five permanent exhibitions. The towards the sea orientated structure presents the first three exhibitions of the museum.
"The escalator takes you up to a lucid gallery. Before you start your discovery of the world oceans you may enjoy the splendid view from the gallery through the glass facade. Germany´slargest island - Rügen - is only 3 km away. The panorama view starts with the harbour of Stralsund and the new Rügen-Bridge all the way to Stralsunds´ship yard."
Having visited the Sea Life aquariums in Konstanz and Konigswinter (which I consider to be perilously close to theme parks), I would save your money up and come here instead to see the real thing!
Appreciate Stralsund's lovely Gothic architecture
The centre of Stralsund has been given UNESCO status on the basis of both its outstanding Red Brick Gothic architecture and Swedish occupation heritage and it's not hard to see why. The city centre bears powerful testament to the might and wealth of the Hanseatic League. However, it appears to be a city that attracts little publicity - at least in the English-speaking world - and despite its rich architectural heritage, it is disappointingly difficult to find much information on this.
Stralsund has many beautiful historic buildings, but what is perhaps what I find most appealing is the coherence of the whole. It is an atmospheric place to wander around, and there is a strong sense of stepping back in time which I find most evocative. I strongly suspect that if a merchant from the 16th century were transported forward to the present day, he wouldn't have too much trouble navigating his way around the current city centre!
The Marienkirche is the largest church in town and is absolutely vast even by the standards of Red Brick Gothic churches (which were seemingly never built on modest proportions) - it's quite an eyeopener to realise that this was the tallest building in the world between 1625 and 1647! It appears squatter than some of the other churches in the region (perhaps because of the Baroque dome) and its hulking presence dominates the skyline. We tried to go into the Marienkirche on a couple of occasions, but on both occasions it was closed for services. This was a little frustrating, but it was also encouraging to see that it was being used for its original purpose, and on balance, I think that it's far more important for a cathedral to service the needs of the faithful rather than the tourist population! Interestingly enough, there is a Soviet war memorial outside the church, which provides an interesting juxtaposition of cultural influences!
Perhaps the most distinctive building is the 13th century Rathaus (Town Hall), which stands on the Main Square, which plays host to a rather interesting looking Christmas market (see the weblink). The Rathaus features distinctive arcades and has a curious facade featuring arches and what I can only describe as 'portholes' (I am quite sure that there is a correct architectural term - if so, please let me know).
The old town walls and several of the gates are still intact. Because of the town's strategic location, it has had quite a turbulent history, and although the fortifications look substantial, the town was still overrrun by invading forces - most notably the Swedes in the 17th century - on a number of occasions.
Because the town centre is so ancient, virtually all the buildings have undergone several phases of reconstruction and remodelling. I was intrigued to see the evidence of these different configurations in an internal wall that was exposed when the neighbouring property was demolished (see photo).
I'd been looking forward to this, but in the end I found that it didn't quite deserve its 5.50 entry fee, especially when most other museums charge the more standard 3 euros. I even paid the extra 50 cents photography fee, but struggled to find enough worthy of snapping. It's not a bad museum, and has some wonderful live exhibits on the first floor, but I struggled to find any connection between me and the story of fishing in the GDR that dominated the second floor. For 5.50 euros I expected something a bit more than other museums, but in the end felt that I received a bit less. An enjoyable hour spent, but nothing particularly special.
Jun - Sep 10am - 6pm
Oct - May 10am - 5pm
Closed Christmas Eve, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.
Entrance fee is 5.50 euros for adults (even if the website says different).
St. Marien Church
Started to built in 1298 the church was completed in 1416. The 104 m (341 ft) high tower is accessible and offers a superb view over Stralsund. It ranks among the masterpieces of North German Gothic brick construction. The church is nearly 100 m (330 ft) long and over 32 m (105 ft) high and is therefore one of the largest on the Baltic coast.
The monastery is not open during the winter months, but you can still visit the charming houses that are attached to the Franciscan friary, as seen in the picture. Construction started on the Johanniskloster in the 13th century, but fire in the 17th century and finally an American bombardment in the Second World War left the friary in ruins. The friary contains a Baroque library with thousands of Swedish books, a Raeucherboden (which I didn't get to see) and a memorial to the Jewish people who died in the Pogroms (as seen in the picture).
May to October
Entrance costs €1.50,
Stralsund's Town Hall was started in the 13th century, and its 14th century Gothic facade remains to this day to give it an extremely distinctive look, and make it a beautiful example of Gothic architecture. My guide book describes it as a "masterpiece" and the local tourist blurb advertises it as one of the most beautiful brick Gothic buildings in Northern Germany. It certainly stands out from the crowd, but it has stiff competition in a country full of excellent town halls. I think I prefer the frescoes and phenomenal river location of Bamberg's Rathaus, but this one is definitely one of the most memorable I have seen so far.
One of the things that unfortunately ruins the effect of the Rathaus is the way the town council has turned the Alte Markt where it stands into an ugly car park.
The Heilgeistkloster consists of the Hospital Church of St Spiritus, seen in the picture, and the cluster of houses for the ill to the rear of the building. According to the tourist blurb this 13th century church hospital was one of the first hospitals ever to include on site accommodation for its patients. The church, perhaps more so than others in the town, also suffered the ravages of war. Its location on the edge of town made it easy prey for the war engines of medieval sieges.
Mon-Sat 10am-12pm and 3pm-5pm
- Save money, Book now!
- Booking.com Excellent choice, Low rates
- Save up to 50% off Hotels Everyday
- Expedia.com Photos, Reviews and the Guaranteed Lowest Prices