Stralsund is a picturesque coastal city located in northeastern Germany (map) in the region of Western Pomerania. I’d heard about Stralsund from friends and decided to include it in my northern Germany road trip route from Hamburg to Berlin. It was my first time in this part of Germany so I was excited to explore Stralsund and learn more about its history. I arrived to find a charming city with a lively harbourfront, striking Gothic buildings and resplendent patrician houses. After a day of exploring, I discovered many interesting things to see in Stralsund and learned quite a bit about its fascinating history. Read on to learn more about the prime attractions in Stralsund.
A brief history of Stralsund
Granted city rights in the 13th century, Stralsund quickly became a prominent member of the Hanseatic League, a powerful trading confederation that dominated the Baltic Sea region during the medieval period. This affiliation with the Hanseatic League fueled the city’s prosperity, leading to the construction of stunning Gothic architecture, including the iconic St. Mary’s Church.
Throughout its history, Stralsund endured numerous conflicts and occupations, notably during the Thirty Years’ War and the Napoleonic era. The city was part of Sweden during various periods between the 17th and 19th centuries (till 1815), the legacy of which can still be seen today.
Stralsund faced severe damage during World War II, with much of its historic centre reduced to rubble. However, meticulous post-war restoration efforts post-war have brought the city’s historic charm back to life. In recognition of its significance during the Hanseatic League period as well as its Brick Gothic architecture, Stralsund’s Old Town, with its well-preserved medieval architecture, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2002.
Brick Gothic architecture
Brick Gothic architecture became a popular style in northwestern Europe in the 13th century. This early type of Gothic architecture is characterised by the use of bricks and lack of elaborate architectural embellishments common in other Gothic styles. Former Hanseatic League towns along the Baltic Sea coast, from Germany to Estonia, adopted the Brick Gothic style in their most important buildings. The most prominent Brick Gothic church in this region, St. Mary’s Church is located in Lübeck, Germany. Stralsund has its fair share of impressive Brick Gothic buildings, from the imposing Rathaus and St. Mary’s Church to more modest examples.
Stralsund’s Old Town is a compact area packed with beautiful streets, impressive squares and picturesque lanes. Surrounding a large part of the Old Town are the remnants of the old city walls and its watchtowers. Start your exploration of Stralsund at the harbourfront and slowly make your way across the Old Town to the Frankenteich, a series of small lakes on the Old Town’s western and southern reaches, before making your way back to the harbour. The Stralsund walking route is marked in the map below. The purple pins denote places or streets of interest, while the yellow pins are suggested eateries and pubs.
The lively harbourfront features a beautiful promenade, a yacht harbour and converted warehouses with a good variety of restaurants and cafés.
The Ozeaneum (Oceanarium), a popular attraction, is also located here. Look out for the fish stalls that sell fischbrötchen or fish cutter sandwiches, a must-try in Stralsund!
From the harbour, regular ferries connect Stralsund with the islands of Rügen and Hiddensee.
From the harbour, I walked up Fahrstrasse, passing Zur Fähre, the oldest pub in the city (since 1332!). Further up the road, in front of two striking red buildings (the Romantik Hotel Scheelehof), I found the intriguing Mägdebrunnen fountain.
From here, I continued to the hauntingly beautiful 13th century Johanniskloster, one of the oldest buildings in Stralsund.
My next stop was the Alter Markt (old market square) in the heart of the old town. This immense square is dominated by the magnificent 13th century Rathaus (old city hall) in Brick Gothic style. Behind it, the 13th century St. Nicholas Church, with its towering steeples, is another impressive sight.
At the Rathaus, I discovered a beautiful arcade, which was used during medieval times as a marketplace. The Rathaus’s cellar is one of Europe’s largest Gothic cellar vaults.
The buildings that line the Alter Markt were built in different periods and feature a variety of architectural styles. The Brick Gothic Rathaus is the immediate attention grabber but you’ll soon spot other styles. Look out for the 18th century Baroque Commandantenhus (the old headquarters of the Swedish military commander).
I explored the maze of streets behind the Rathaus and found a great variety of splendid patrician houses, with their distinctive gables.
I passed the Stralsund Museum of Cultural History that’s housed in a former monastery, and the historic Museumshaus. The Stralsund Museum makes for an interesting visit if you’d like to learn more about the city’s fascinating history as well as the Swedish occupation. From here, I made my way to the old city walls.
A chain of lakes called Frankenteich and parks lie outside the old city walls, a gorgeous area for a tranquil stroll. I walked along the paths before continuing to my next stop, the formidable St. Mary’s Church.
St. Mary’s Church
This 14th century church is the second largest Brick Gothic structure in the Baltic Sea region and, along with the Rathaus, exemplifies Stralsund’s importance during the Hanseatic period. The hexagonal tower is about 100 meters tall. The deck atop the tower offers visitors panoramic views of Stralsund and the surrounding areas.
I continued my walk along the Frankenstrasse, where I discovered more examples of Stralsund’s famous Brick Gothic monuments. The house at no. 28 was especially striking. I popped in and learned about the owner’s labour of love to restore this house.
Further down the street, I found the Heilgeistkloster (Monastery of the Holy Spirit), with its beautiful church.
As I explored this area, I stumbled upon an absolutely charming lane, Badstüberstrasse, which is filled with cute, colourful houses.
I ended back at the harbour where I had a delicious meal at the Dolden Mädel Ratsherrn Braugasthaus.
Stralsund is an absolutely lovely city to explore and I recommend spending at least a night there. It can easily be combined with the beautiful island of Rügen (a bridge just outside Stralsund connects Rügen with the mainland) or be included in a longer northern Germany road trip. Stralsund is about a 3-hour drive or train ride from either Hamburg or Berlin.
Where to stay in Stralsund
There’s a good variety of accommodation options in Stralsund. I stayed at the lovely Hafenresidenz. Located at the harbourfront, the rooms are spacious and some have beautiful harbour views. The adjacent restaurant, Rockeria, is a great place for drinks and a meal, especially at sunset. Search for accommodations in Stralsund.