This is my third visit to Kiel, one the smaller German cities that sits on the coast of the Baltic sea. It’s the capital city of Schleswig-Holstein, the most northern of Germany’s sixteen states and although it’s not the most popular destination for UK tourists it is a real hub for visitors heading up from Southern Germany and those travelling over on ferries from the Scandinavian countries.
Many tourists from elsewhere in Europe miss Kiel possibly in the mistaken belief that it is either a/generally cold and not the place for a beach holiday or b/ that it is simply the gateway to Scandinavia (it has the main ferry terminal offering overnight trips to Oslo, Gottenburg and Klaipeda in Lithuania) and is very close to the Danish border. Plus its a stop off point for cruise ships travelling the Baltic countries. To think that this is all it has to offer is a long way from the truth.
Kiel may not have the most historic or beautiful buildings (it had the shit bombed out of it during the war) but it does have a rich and interesting history and an air of culture and heritage. It has always been one of the major maritime centres of Germany, home to the German Navy’s Baltic Fleet and a centre for high-tech shipbuilding (hence it becoming a target for allied bombers). It’s sailing culture remains strong as Kiel plays host to many international sailing events, these include the Kieler Woche (Kiel Week) the biggest sailing event in the World which usually takes place during the last week of June. But there are lots of smaller events popping up at one time or another throughout May and June (which is often when the weather is at its best)..in fact the weekend I visited saw a childrens festival on the harbour, a sailing festival and a kids football championship (out where I was staying)
Kiel makes a great base for exploring Northern Germany and the Baltic sea beaches, which have much to offer. There are plenty to choose from as they flank both sides of the Kieler Forde, the inlet from the Baltic that runs down to the city. All are very clean and sandy, have extremely safe waters (shallow, calm and no with big choppy waves) and are very popular with families (especially those with small kids). Of course they tend to be busy around the sailing weeks, so double-check before visiting if you don’t fancy tangling with the sailing set.
I actually stayed about 15 kilometres outside Kiel with hosts living on the West side of the Forde. The village of Danischenhagen is very convenient for the beaches of Strande and Schilksee (only 5 kilometres), while on the East side the beaches of Monkeberg, Schoenberg and Laboe (where you can visit the Laboe Naval Memorial and the U-995; the world’s only remaining Type VII U-boat) a must-see for kids and adults alike
As the Kieler Forde opens out to the open sea more beaches line with flanked by numerous little campsites that run up and down the coastal area.
This part of Germany was once owned by Denmark (hence some of the village names) and is so close to the border that there are some similarities in the food, but whether this is due to Scandinavian influences or simply because it is so close to the sea is unclear. Whatever the influences this is a great place for seafood lovers. With regular fish markets, stalls and great restaurants there is plenty of choice.
Here are a few impressions from in and around Kiel …
Tall ships in the harbour for a sailing festival
Bunker 19: Left over from the war…spot the shrapnel and shell holes in this air raid bunker, turned cinema/theatre/art venue on Kiel University campus
Sails and rigging
13th century St. Nicholas’ church
U-995 at Leboe
Rathaus and the Opera House
Sandy beach at Schilksee…you see the wicker chairs everywhere in the summer
street food German style
There are various cheap flights to be found if you search around. I flew Easyjet from Manchester airport. They also fly from Gatwick and various other UK airports.
From Hamburg I travelled to Kiel by Kielius bus. It conveniently pulls up right outside Terminal 1 arrivals, and the journey ends at the main bus terminal in Kiel. It costs 19 euro one way and stops close to plenty of budget and mid priced hotels. Basic Hotel on Muhliusstrasse has three stars and is a popular choice, but there is a greater selection of accommodation to be found here. If you prefer to book an apartment there are several in and around Kiel including two overlooking the sea at Laboe (see HouseTrip)
For those travelling onwards and into Scandinavia, ferries can be booked online or directly at the ferry terminus which is impossible to miss as its on the harbour, close to the railway station and many of the hotels.
Look out for next post which is all about FOOD!