Lüneburg (also Lueneburg or Lunenburg) is an attractive and historic town on the River Ilmenau, surrounded by the Lüneburg Heath in the North German state of Lower Saxony. The town lies about 50 km southeast of Hamburg and is the capital of the district of Lüneburg with a population of around 73,000.
Archaeological finds show that the area was known to Neanderthal hunters and, later, Bronze Age settlers. The town may have been that referred to as Leuphana by Ptolemy, but it was officially founded in 956.
Lüneburg was built on a salt dome which made the town important and wealthy in the Middle Ages until 1600 when it started to decline. Tradition has it that salt was first discovered by a hunter who shot and killed a wild boar bathing in a pool of water. When he hung its skin up to dry, he discovered it was full of white crystals – salt.
Lüneburg was originally overshadowed by the village of Bardowick to the north, which was a Slavic trading post. When Bardowick was destroyed by Henry the Lion in 1189, Lüneburg was granted town rights and took over the mantle as a trading centre. Its monopoly on salt production in Northern Europe quickly led to membership of the prestigious Hanseatic League – Lüneburg's salt was in great demand to preserve herring caught in the Baltic and North Seas. Initially salt was carted up the Old Salt Road to Lübeck, but was later transported by cog along river and canal. Lüneburg became very wealthy and, in 1371, threw out its princely ruler, the Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg and destroyed his castle on the Kalkberg. In 1392 Lüneburg became a free imperial town, a status which lasted until 1637. Much of the wealth stemming from the salt trade can still be seen in the town, which boasts many buildings from Lüneburg's medieval heyday.
The demise of the Hanseatic League and the overfishing of herring during the 16th century led to Lüneburg's decline. New building ceased and Lüneburg survived relatively unscathed by war, which is why the town centre has largely managed to preserve its medieval character.
Lüneburg lost its independence in 1708, becoming part of the Electorate of Hanover, and then passed through a succession of states, before becoming part of the Prussian province of Hanover in 1866. During the 19th century it became a Prussian garrison town, but otherwise faded from the limelight.
In 1945, Lüneburg stamped its mark on history again when Field Marshal Montgomery took the German surrender on the Timeloberg hill, just south of the town. The spot is currently out-of-bounds in a military training area. Lüneburg also hosted the Belsen trial against perpetrators of the crimes at Belsen and Auschwitz concentration camps. Heinrich Himmler, infamous leader of the SS, committed suicide in Lüneburg and was subsequently buried in an unmarked location in a nearby forest.
Unlike many towns in Germany, Lüneburg was spared during the Second World War and none of its historical buildings was damaged. But its historic buildings had fallen into dangerous decay. Since the 70's the town has been gradually restored to the tourist attraction it is today.
In 1980 the saltworks finally closed ending a millennium of salt mining tradition in the town. In 1990 3 of the 4 barracks were closed and the university moved to the site of one of them.
Today, Lüneburg is thriving again as the economic and administrative centre of the region, with a strong tourist industry as the northern gateway to the Lüneburg Heath – a popular holiday and weekend destination, especially for the citizens of Hamburg, Hanover and Bremen. It also has a popular university, its 10,000 students bringing a vibrancy to the town, balancing nicely its historical setting.
Although salt has not been mined industrially since 1980, you can still enjoy its benefits in the two large salt baths in the Salü (see below). Small quantities of salt are still extracted and sold, for example, as souvenirs.
The nearest international airport is Hamburg which is about 50 minutes' drive or 45 minutes train ride away. Other international airports include Hanover (1 hour 20 minutes) and Bremen (1 hour 25 minutes). Lüneburg Airport is only used by light aircraft, ultralights, gliders and balloons.
Lüneburg is on the main Hamburg-Hanover railway worked by both Deutsche Bahn and metronom. The journey to Hamburg Central only takes 35 minutes. Intercities and the occasional ICE stop here. There is also a line to Lübeck on the Baltic Coast via Lauenau. Another line – the Wendland Railway – runs to Wittenberge. The cities of Lübeck and Hanover are about one hour away by rail.
Since the building of the A 250 motorway in 1996, the town is only 40 minutes drive from Hamburg. To approach from the south and west, head for Hanover and take the A7 motorway to Hamburg. Come off at the Garlstorf exit and pick up the L 216 which reaches Lüneburg after 26 km.
Lüneburg is also on the B 4 federal road, 36 km north of Uelzen.
The Old Town (Altstadt) is quite compact and can easily be explored on foot.
There is a town bus network with 13 routes that all pass through the railway and central bus stations and all bar two pass through the central town square of Am Sande. Most routes run buses every 20 or 30 minutes between 5 am and 7 pm on weekdays and then half-hourly to 9 pm. Buses operate from 6 am to 8 pm on Saturdays and from 1 pm to 8 pm on Sundays and public holidays every hour or half-hour. Otherwise there is a so-called ASM i.e. mobile phone service. Some buses run out to the surrounding villages of Adendorf, Bardowick, Mechtersen/Vögelsen and Reppenstedt.
Lüneburg is also the departure point for many regional bus routes to, for example, the outlying villages of Deutsch Evern, Wendisch Evern, Embsen, Melbeck, Scharnebeck and destinations in the districts of Amelinghausen, Bleckede, Dahlenburg and Neetze. Other connexions run to the neighbouring districts of Winsen, Lüchow, Hitzacker, Lower Marschacht and Salzhausen. The regional bus service is part of the Hamburg Transport Association (HVV) and is operated in the northern and western sectors by the CCG and in the southern and northeastern sectors mainly by the Osthannover transport company (VOG).
Car access to the town centre is very limited, but there are numerous, well-signed, car parks just outside it. In particular, the Sülzwiese car park just north of the centre is free and from there it is an easy walk into the town centre.
Most of the inner Altstadt is a pedestrian area and is home to many of Lüneburg's historic sights. The main attractions here are:
- Am Sande, Am Sande. Am Sande is Lüneburg's most beautiful square and where merchants used to lay out their wares in medieval times. It is framed by a host of high ornate brick houses, a testimony to Lüneburg's wealth and status in centuries gone by and almost perfectly preserved. The oldest stepped gable on House 53 dates to around 1400. The voluted gables were generally erected in the late 16th to 17th centuries. One particular jewel is the Schütting or the "Black House" on the western side of the square with its glazed black bricks. Originally a brewery, it is now the Chamber of Industry and Commerce
- Brewery Museum (Brauereimuseum), Heiligengeiststraße 39, ☎ . Tu-Su 13:00-16:30. The Brewery Museum is housed in the old mashhouse (Sudhaus) of Lüneburg's Kronen Brewery. The museum describes the history of brewing and has a wonderful collection of beer mugs. Entry free.
- Town Hall, Am Markt 1, ☎ . 10-17. The construction of the Rathaus, or town hall, began in 1230 and grew until 1720 when its baroque façade was constructed. The hall's Clarion contains 41 bells made of Meissner porcelain and rings several times daily. The Lüneburg Rathaus is said to be one of the most beautiful in Germany, only rivaled by Lübeck's city hall. Daily tours.
- St. John's Church (Sankt Johanniskirche), Bei der Johanniskirche. The construction of St. John's Church started in 1289. Now a Lutheran church, it used to be Roman Catholic until the Reformation in the 15th century. While its spectacular interior justifies the visit, the church also possesses many treasures and works of art from the past, for instance a gold tabernacle from the 14th century and many precious paintings. Many concerts are offered year-wide including several short organ concerts 2 evenings a week. If you look at the tower, you will notice that it is not straight. Over time the tower has shifted 200 cm to the west!
- Fish Market (Am Stintmarkt). The fish market or Am Stint is known as the longest pub mile in Lüneburg. In the summer, the many pubs and restaurants of this area transform into large terraces and beer gardens. The fish market is also where visitors can board boats to ride on the Ilmenau river.
- Market Square (Marktplatz). Markets are held here every week of the year, including the christmas markets during Advent. In the middle of the marketplace you can see the Luna Fountain (Lunasaeule) with its figure of Diana (the goddess of hunting), a work by the sculptor, E. Bruggemann. Its name comes from the its moon ornament.
- Old Crane (Alter Kran), Am Stintmarkt. *☎ . The Old Crane is on Am Stintmarkt by the quayside in Lüneburg's old river port. The original crane was erected in the Middle Ages, although the current design dates to the 18th century. Its last duty was purportedly offloading the first steam engine for the Hanover and Brunswick railway.
- Lüne Mill (Lüner Mühle), Bei der Lüner Mühle. The Lüne Mill is an impressive, half-timbered, richly decorated old mill that dates to the late 16th century, but has been extensively restored.
- Bell House (Glockenhaus), Glockenhof. The Bell House and its courtyard, Bell Court (Glockenhof) make for an attractive little sideshow off Lüneburg's main square. The building was a bell foundry dating to 1482, but was also used in emergencies to cast cannon for the defence of the town.
- Hospital Zum Roten Hahn, Roterhahnstraße. The Hospital Zum Roten Hahn is a picturesque building just north of the main pedestrian area that has three attractive, half-timbered gables and a charming inner courtyard surrounding by the poorhouses from the 16th and 17th centuries. The view of St. Nicholas Church from the courtyard is a classic photo shot.
The outer Altstadt, outside the main pedestrian precinct, also has many treasures. Chief among these are:
- German Salt Museum (Deutsches Salzmuseum), Sülfmeisterstraße 1. Apr-9 Sep 0:00-17L:00, Sa/Su 10:00-17:00 daily. The German Salt Museum is a journey through the history of salt mining and trading within the walls of the former saltworks that only closed in 1980, bringing to an end the town's centuries-old association with the industry that made its name. As well as displays and artefacts there is the opportunity for visitors to make their own salt in small pans, reminiscent of the way it was once done. €2.20.
- St. Michael's Church (Michaeliskirche), Auf dem Michaeliskloster 2b. St. Michael's Church in the Altstadt once hosted a choir for boys with outstanding treble voices who came from poor families. Its most famous student was Johann Sebastian Bach who attended St. Michael's School from 1700 to 1703 and sang soprano in the church's choir. When his voice broke around 1703, he switched to playing the harpsichord to accompany the choir.
The church is worth visiting for its interesting architecture. Although some of the foundations came from an earlier abbey and date to 956, work on the rest of the foundations for the current church began in 1376 and was finished in 1379. The building itself was completed in 1412, while the tower followed in 1434 and has one of the oldest bells in Europe.
Since the church was built on salt mines, over time, and due to over mining, the ground under the church dropped by 70 cm, which also tilted the structure of the church in a very interesting and strange way. Although strong steel braces now support the building, one cannot help but notice that most of its main supports and Gothic columns are very crooked. Even the orchestra section is crooked.
- Senkungsgebiet. The Senkungsgebiet is the area of Lüneburg that has suffered from subsidence as a result of mining. The salt was found below this part of the town. As it was fetched by floating the salt gallery (that was not supported sufficiently afterwards) the town sank over the years. Nowerdays it is about 5 meters lower than it was in the beginning of the salt mining. If you stand on the Marienplatz and look into the direction of the Michaelis Church, you get a good impression of this. Being the oldest part of the medieval town, there are a lot of small, beautiful houses, many of them having been carefully restored.
- Kalkberg. The Kalkberg is a limestone hill and one of the town's landmark. The limestone won from this hill was used for building houses. In Katzenstraße, there is a house with a huge buckle in the wall. This was caused by the limestone in the mortar that absorbed water from the air and hence lost its stability. Other houses collapsed due to this loss of stability, but this one remained. The hill itself is an easy climb and offers good views over the town.
In the suburbs
- Lüne Abbey (Kloster Lüne), Am Domänenhof, ☎ . Lüne Abbey is located about 2 km from the town centre There has been an abbey on the site since the 1100s, but the present day Lüne Abbey – now a convent – was founded in 1372.
- Salü Spa, Uelzener Strasse 1-5, ☎ . M-Sa 10-23, Su and PH 8-21 (admission desk closes 1 hr before closing time). The Salü Spa is a thermal bath complex comprising indoor and outdoor pools, saunas, massage and gym facilities, a bar and restaurant. It's a nice place to relax after a long day especially in winter. The complex features a large wave pool, several whirlpools, a children's pool with huge slide, a heated indoor/outdoor pool open all-year round and a salt floating pool. All the pools are saline. The sauna complex features a steam bath, an outdoor sauna with fireplace, a Finnish sauna, a eucalyptus sauna, a light sauna, in addition to a rose aromatherapy room. But remember, it's Northern Europe so everyone is naked (don't worry, not in the pool area...) and the facilities are mixed. Upon reservation, the place offers massages of all types, private floating baths, a relaxarium, and other cosmetic services.
- Spa Park (Kurpark). Every town has its green area where people flock on sunny days for sports and barbecues. The Kurpark is Lüneburg's central park, with large green areas for sunbathing, a large fountain, ponds, and walking trails.
- Lüneburg In Bloom (Lüneburg blüht auf) and the spring market take place in April on the Sülzwiesen.
- Town Festival (Stadtfest) – the town festival is in June.
- Lunatic Festival – a charitable music festival on the university campus also in June.
- Frommestraßenfest – festival in July.
- Oktoberfest – on the Sülzwiesen in September.
- Master Salter Days (Sülfmeistertage) at the beginning of October.
- Historic Christmas Market around St. Michael's Church and Christmas Market with fairytale mile and gable lights on the market place in front of the town hall, in Grapengießerstraße and Am Sande square.
- Market (Markt). The market is held directly in front of the town hall every Wednesday and Saturday from 7am to 1 pm, all year round. Each year the Christmas Market also sets up on this location, beginning in the first week of Advent.
- Salt Bags. These small bags are filled with Lüneburg salt. Some have printed on them the verse "Brot und Salz, Gott erhalt's" ("Bread and salt, may God preserve it"). In Germany, it is a tradition to present bread and salt to people when they move into a new home. As bread and salt were considered to be the most precious things for a family's living, the wish is that they should never be without it.
- Feinzeug, Waagestr. 1 a, ☎ . Tu-F 10:00-13:00 Uhr & 14:00 -18:00, Sa 10:00-13:00. An unusual shop, Feinzeug is next to the town hall. Here, Margarete von Alemann makes original ceramic artefacts and everday items. Angela Kotzurek designs and sells "his and her" fashion items made of fine fabrics.
- Ratzsch Coffee Roastery (Kaffeerösterei Ratzsch), Am Berge 19. Ratzsch sells coffee beans from all over the world including such exotic places as "down under", Hawaii and the Galapagos Islands. If you're not sure, you can even taste them first... for a fee of course!
- Lüneburg Chocolate Factory (Lüneburger Schokoladenmanufaktur), Am Sande 44. A relatively recently-established business in the main square, the Lüneburg Chocolate Factory makes fine chocolates and delicious pralines in its own glass sweet shop. A must for chocoholics or those stuck for present ideas!
- Malzer Brau-& Tafelhaus, Heiligengeiststr 43, Luneburg, ☎ . This restaurant is very reasonably priced and has an excellent menu. Breakfast and lunch buffet are specialities. very reasonable.
- Das Restaurant in Luneburg - Elrado-House, Am Markt 4, Luneburg, ☎ . This is a very reasonably priced traditional steak house with meals for under €10
- Lanzelot Restaurant-Cappuccino-bar, Wandfarberstrasse 7, 21335 Luneburg, ☎ . Restaurant and coffee bar with an excellent atmosphere. The menu is low to medium prices to be enjoyed by all.
- Cafe Krone (KRONE Bier- & Event-Haus), Heiligengeiststraße 39–41, ☎ . M-Sa from 8:00, Su from 10:00. Atmospheric cafe reminiscent of an English pub, located in an old brewery not far from the main town square with its own beer garden. Don't miss the medieval hallway with its painted, wooden, Renaissance ceiling. Try their Lüpas – tasty North German titbits for just a few euros. Great place to have breakfast at a reasonable price before heading off to the shops or sights. Budget prices.
- Sandkrug (Cafe Restaurant Sandkrug), Am Sande 27. M 8:15-16:00, Tu-F 08:15-17:00, Sa 09:30-16:00. Romantic, leafy setting next to St. John's Church. Breakfasts from €2.80 and set meals for about €5-7. Budget prices.
- Lüneburger Nudelkontor, Auf dem Kauf 1 (NE part of the Altstadt). M-F 7-18, Sa 7-16. Italian breakfasts and home-made noodle dishes throughout the day. Budget prices.
- BaJuCa, Schwarzer Weg 2, Bardowick. Eat lunch for €3-4 at this low-priced restaurant outside the town in the village of Bardowick. Budget.
- Alte Gaststube Bremer Hof, Lüner Str. 12-13, ☎ . This small hotel-restaurant offers North German cuisine and good service with many seasonal specialities and daily-changing menu. It also has its own guests' car park. Mid-high prices..
- Shanghai Chinese Restaurant (China-Restaurant Shanghai), Schießgrabenstr. 1, ☎ . 11:30-14:30 and 17:30-23:00 daily. Closed Tu.. Chinese restaurant on the riverside. Low to medium prices..
- India House (Indiahaus), Heiligengeiststr. 9, ☎ . M-F 11:30-15:00 + 17:30-23:00, Sa-Su 11:30-23:00. The Indian restaurant in Lüneburg's historic Altstadt. Small restaurant with friendly atmosphere. Excellent food and quick service. Low to medium prices..
- Lüner Mühle im Hotel Bergström, Bei der Lüner Mühle, ☎ . Pricey but very good restaurant in the old mill by the river. Good wine selection and smart terrace by the river where you can relax with a coffee or glass of rose on those balmy summer days. Priced on the high side..
Beer is an often brewed locally in Germany. Most towns and regions have their own distinctive beers often only available in pubs, thus the importance of sampling local products when visiting different German towns and cities.
Although it is now brewed in Hamburg, Lüneburg's official beer, Lüneburger Pilsner, can be enjoyed in the many restaurants, bars and pubs of the town. However its production is relatively low, so it is not possible to buy bottled versions of this beer. Another star of the town is Moravia Pils produced at the Kronen-Brauhaus zu Lueneburg since 1485 . Kronen (see "Eat" section) is a nice traditional pub which also has a brewery museum in the centre of the town. Unlike Lüneburger Pilsner, this beer can be bought in bottles in shops. Some pubs like Mälzer, right next to the Kronen brewery, also brew their own delicious beer served in ceramics mugs.
The Stint (Am Stint) used to be the street where all the nightlife was. This has changed as other pubs in the town established themselves, but is still a good place to go for a drink.
Schroederstraße is packed with terraces and is a central meeting point in the summer. Pubs include: Maxx, News, Toro, Comodo (brand new)
- Kronen, Heiligengeiststr. 39-41. Nice pub with historic atmosphere west of the main square. See "Eat" section above.
- The Old Dubliner, Am Stintmarkt 2. 6PM onwards. An Irish pub in the Water Quarter near the Ilmenau.
- Pons. The oldest pub in town is the Pons, which sells delicious bio beer!
- Vamos. Vamos, the university bar, is a bit outside the town but sometimes hosts interesting concerts as well as its fair share of student parties.
- Comfort Hotel, Am Alten Werk, ☎ , fax: 907789. Double rooms: €74-79.
- Hotel Heidpark, Vor dem Neuen Tore 12, ☎ . Only 500 metres from the Altstadt the hotel has traditional style with modern facilities including a free WAN and parking. Its restaurant, the Bierstein, serves catfish and Argentinian steaks. €56-82 for a double room.
- Kutscherstube (Hotel garni), Heiligengeiststr. 44-45, ☎ , fax: 733429. Small hotel near the town square in Lüneburg with just 9 rooms on 3 floors, some with air conditioning. Double room €85.
- Bremer Hof, Lüner Str. 12-13, ☎ , fax: 224224. Traditional hotel in a restored merchant's house near St. Nicholas' Church and a modern building. €93-132 for a double room.
- Das Stadthaus, Am Sande 25, ☎ , fax: 404198. Small hotel opposite St. John's Church. Central situation, but quiet. €88-98 for a double room.
- Kunsthotel Residenz, Munstermannskamp 10, ☎ , fax: 7599175. Three star hotel in the historic town centre. Own ClamArt restaurant specialising in Alsace cuisine. €112 for double room.
- Park-Hotel Lüneburg, garni, Uelzener Str. 27 (Next to the SaLü spa centre; just follow the Hotel-Touristik-Route (yellow house on a brown background)), ☎ , fax: 407141. Small hotel by the Kurpark with cafe and terrace. €89-92 for double rooms.
- Hotel Bargenturm, Vor der Sülze 2, ☎ . A small, modern, 4 star hotel near the pedestrian precinct. Friendly restaurant. €119-129 for a double room.
- Hotel Bergström, Bei der Lüner Mühle, ☎ , fax: 308499. Four star hotel in the historic port district in the heart of the town. Swimming pool, sauna, solarium and fitness centre in the 800 year old abbey mill. Three suites in the 500 year old water tower on an island in the Ilmenau. €140-160 for a double room.
- Castanea Resort, Scharnebecker Weg 25, Adendorf, ☎ , fax: 22332233. Modern 5 star hotel about 5 km N of the town at Adendorf with a 27 hole golf course. €135-215 for a double room (no breakfast).
- Seminaris Hotel Lüneburg, Soltauer Str. 3, ☎ , fax: 713727, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. €128.50-€155.50 for a double room.
The national dial code for Lüneburg is 04131.
- Anno 1900 Restaurant, Auf der Altstadt 8, ☎ .
- Tel-Internetcafés, Lünertorstraße 5, ☎ .
- Salon Struwwel-Peter Internet Cafe, Pieperstraße 22, Bardowick, ☎ .
- Lüneburg Hospital (Klinikum Lüneburg), Bögelstraße 1, fax: 772777, e-mail: http://www.klinikum-lueneburg.de/kontakt/. Lüneburg's main hospital offers a modern and comprehensive range of health care services and information available around the clock. It also has intensive care and special treatment facilities. It is a teaching hospital that is part of the Georg August University at Göttingen. Do ensure you have your health insurance and, if an EU citizen, your EHIC health card or equivalent. Note that the accident emergency number is 112.
- Lüneburger Rundschau. The Lüneburger Rundschau is the local news section of the regional paper, the Hamburger Abendblatt ("Hamburg Evening News")
- Landeszeitung für die Lüneburger Heide. The Landeszeitung für die Lüneburger Heide is the local paper for the Lüneburg Heath and has its head office in Lüneburg.
- Police. The central contact number for the police is 04131 290 and they are located at Auf der Hude 1 near the River Ilmenau, north of the Altstadt in Lüneburg. The emergency number is 112.
- Amelinghausen, 25 km southwest, is a great base for exploring the Lüneburg Heath on foot or by bicycle. There is a leisure park around the lake of Lopausee for campers, caravanners or day trippers who want to chill out on the beach or hire boats on the lake.
- Bardowick is a heath village just north of the town and home to the only cathedral on the Heath.
- Bispingen is also a hub for Heath explorers and has the added attraction of the nearby Ralf Schumacher Go Kart track.
- Celle, just over 1 hour south, is a charming timber-framed town with an impressive castle and British royal connexions.
- Lübeck, around an hour to the north on the Baltic Coast has a medieval Altstadt and boat rides to Travemünde and elsewhere.
- Hamburg, just 30–40 minutes away is Germany's second city and biggest port. Apart from the River Elbe, it has an extensive network of waterways and more bridges than Venice!
- Walsrode, some 50 minutes away, is famed for its amazing Bird Park (Vogelpark). Don't miss the incredible and amusing flight displays