Updated 10.01.2013: A walkable European city with cobblestone streets, historic half-timbered buildings and a castle that sits in the middle of a lake—does this sound like a fairytale setting to you? On a walking tour in Schwerin, Germany, you’ll discover this charming scene complemented by cultural festivals and plenty of active travel opportunities.
Located in Western Pomerania between Hamburg and Berlin, Schwerin is surrounded by seven lakes. One of its beauties is that the city did not suffer damage from World War II bombings, although many historic buildings fell into disrepair during the years it was part of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany).
I was introduced to Schwerin on a road trip from Gdansk, Poland, to Berlin. The moment I saw the view of Plaffentiech Lake from the window of my room at the 1840’s era Hotel Niderländischen Hof, I knew that Schwerin would be my kind of place and that walking would be the best way to experience it.
It’s a short, but scenic, stroll along the lakefront across from the hotel to Schwerin’s Market Square where the gothic-era Cathedral dominates the skyline. Active travelers will want to climb the 220 steps of the cathedral’s bell tower for a birds-eye view of the city.
Although World War II spared Schwerin’s historic architecture, only a few half-timbered buildings from the city’s earliest times remain due to fires in the 16th and 17th centuries. You’ll find these charming buildings in the Schelfstadt district of the old town.
But it’s the Schwerin Palace that steals the show of this walking tour. Built over 1,000 years ago as a Slavic fortress on an island in the Schwerin See (lake), the buildings eventually morphed into a castle worthy of Cinderella.
The former home of the Dukes of Mecklenburg, the palace currently houses the State Parliament of Mecklenburg-Vorpommem as well as a 28-room Palace Museum that’s worth a visit (English descriptions are included on exhibits)—don’t miss the throne room. The gardens overlooking the lake are particularly lovely with canals, fountains, sculptures and flowerbeds that have been restored through the use of historical records.
Alter Garten Square (unofficially known as the Place of Good Hope for the 1989 demonstrations held there) sits across from Schwerin Palace. It houses the State Museum and State Theater buildings. Opera lovers should plan their visit for the Open-Air Opera Festival (Schlossfestspiel) that runs from mid-June to mid-July.
Of course, no walk would be complete without stopping for a bit of people watching accompanied by coffee and pastries in a local coffee shop. At Café Prag, I lingered over the display case before finally settling on a custard-filled cake and a cafe au lait.
For a traditional meal in a historic setting complete with leaded windows, spend an evening at Weinhaus Wöhler.
I’d like to return to Schwerin on an April visit for a 1-hour lake tour on the White Fleet. The season starts with a fleet parade that includes coffee, cake and a city view. Or maybe Alan and I will follow Marlys and Michael’s advice at Easy Hiker for hiking in Schwerin.
Disclosure: This travel experience was provided by Visit Berlin and Air Berlin but the opinions are my own.