Land capital KIEL around 90km from Lübeck on the Baltic side is a gritty urban sprawl in this region of coast and cows. Over ninety raids in 1945 alone unleashed such devastation on what was Germany’s principal submarine base that the port at the end of a deep firth had to start from scratch when the smoke cleared. Its lumpen concrete blocks built at speed in the 1950s are not the place to look for history – when brochures flag up the first pedestrian street in Germany (Holstenstrasse in 1525), you know tourist authorities are struggling.

Though lacking the looks of Lübeck – the more obvious candidate for capital – Kiel has instead the port which made its fortune. It became the imperial war-port in 1871, and when the Kiel canal (Nord-Ostsee-Kanal) opened to link the Baltic and North seas in 1895, Kiel controlled what was the biggest man-made waterway in the world. It remains the busiest, and shapes modern Kiel: workaday and resilient, with a knockabout, unpretentious air, especially during international sailing regatta Kieler Woche in late June, a must for any sailing fan if only for the chance to sail aboard historic windjammers (booked via tourist information; note also that accommodation reservations are needed at this time). The town’s few museums will pass a morning, but the self-styled “Kiel Sailing City” is at its best around water: seen from the Kiellinie footpath or on cruises on the Kieler Förde and canal.

The city centre is unlovable but unavoidable along pedestrianized high-street Holstenstrasse two blocks back from the harbour.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Germany features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Video: is Leipzig the new Berlin?

Video: is Leipzig the new Berlin?

There's been a lot of hype about Leipzig lately, with many dubbing Saxony's capital "the new Berlin". But can little Leipzig honestly compete with Germany's la…

11 Jul 2018 • Colt St. George videocam Video
Leipzig reborn: discovering the city by Trabant

Leipzig reborn: discovering the city by Trabant

Leipzig, more markedly than most cities in eastern Germany, has experienced an upswing in recent years. It's now a dynamic university city with a colourful, wel…

05 Jul 2018 • Stuart Forster local_activity Special feature
The 10 best Baltic beach resorts

The 10 best Baltic beach resorts

European beach holidays haven’t always been just about the Mediterranean. A century ago, the resorts along the Baltic Sea were just as likely to attract the E…

16 Mar 2018 • Jonathan Bousfield insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Privacy Preference Center

Necessary

Mandatory - can not be deselected. Necessary cookies help make a website usable by enabling basic functions like page navigation and access to secure areas of the website. The website cannot function properly without these cookies.

PHPSESSID,aelia_cs_selected_currency,cookie_notice_accepted,RS,bp-message,bp-message-type,id,UIDR,w3tc_logged_out,__cfduid
__cfduid

Statistics

Statistic cookies help website owners to understand how visitors interact with websites by collecting and reporting information anonymously.

__utma,__utmb,__utmc,__utmz,_ga,_gid,__atssc,__atuvc,__atuvs,di,dt,ssc,ssh,sshs,uid,uit,xt
__utma,__utmb,__utmc,__utmz,_ga,_gid
__atssc,__atuvc,__atuvs,di,dt,ssc,ssh,sshs,uid,uit,xtc

Marketing

Marketing cookies are used to track visitors across websites. The intention is to display ads that are relevant and engaging for the individual user and thereby more valuable for publishers and third party advertisers.

__gads,PISID, BEAT, CheckConnection TempCookie703, GALX, GAPS, GoogleAccountsLocale_session, HSID, LSID, LSOSID, NID, PREF, RMME, S, SAPISID, SID, SSID,__utmv, _twitter_sess, auth_token, auth_token_session, external_referer, guest_id, k, lang, original_referer, remember_checked, secure_session, twid, twll,c_user, datr, fr, highContrast, locale, lu, reg_ext_ref, reg_fb_gate, reg_fb_ref, s, wd, xs
__gads,PISID, BEAT, CheckConnection TempCookie703, GALX, GAPS, GoogleAccountsLocale_session, HSID, LSID, LSOSID, NID, PREF, RMME, S, SAPISID, SID, SSID
__utmv, _twitter_sess, auth_token, auth_token_session, external_referer, guest_id, k, lang, original_referer, remember_checked, secure_session, twid, twll
c_user, datr, fr, highContrast, locale, lu, reg_ext_ref, reg_fb_gate, reg_fb_ref, s, wd, xs