The romantic courtyards and mews secreted behind the street fronts are one of Lübeck’s most charming features. Though much of this housing was – and some still is – charitable, many developments were a ploy by landlords to develop the space between houses as the population exploded in the 1600s. By the end of the century, Lübeck’s streetscape was riddled with 190 passageways like woodworm holes, into which were shoehorned tiny Buden (literally, booths) for artisans and labourers; the smallest in Lübeck, at Hartengrube 36, was 3.5m wide, 5m high and 4.5m deep. Charity seemed lacking even in some almshouses: during meetings in Haasenhof, widows enjoyed soft chairs while spinsters were only permitted wooden stools.
Today ninety or so courtyards remain. The most picturesque in the Altstadt are Hellgrüner and Dunkelgrüner Gang off Engelswich in the northwest, and Der Füchtingshof and Glandorpsgang off Glockengiesserstrasse in the east. Tourist information organizes the occasional courtyard tour – useful as entrance gateways can be locked – and some houses are available as idyllic holiday lets, again sourced via tourist information.