Explore the northern shores, Schleswig-Holstein and Mecklenburgh
The southern Germans are a bit dismissive of this corner of their own country: “Want to know who’s coming for dinner?” they joke, “Look out of the window at breakfast.” It’s true this is flatter than much of the rest of the country, but that doesn’t mean there’s no good riding – just that it generates a more relaxed kind of route than you find in hillier areas.
Rather than peaks, this area is all about the great coastline – two great coasts, in fact. As well as the North Sea, there’s the Baltic. If you like big skies and a windswept landscape, this is for you. With plenty of history in the older towns and ports, it’s a great destination. Part of the attraction of this north-eastern corner of Germany is the slight sense of time travel. Much of this was East Germany, until the Berlin wall came down. A lot of money has gone into modernising it, minimising the differences to the old West… but there’s still a quirky feel to some towns. It’s unlike any other part of the country.
Where to stay
This quiet town in the centre of Schleswig-Holstein makes an ideal base for exploring the land between the North Sea and the Baltic. Handy for Kiel, but half as busy. Hotel tip: Neues Parkhotel
Need a base from which to ride the Mecklenburg lake district? Look no further than the baroque town of Neustrelitz, on the shores of Kierkersee. The old ducal palace may have been destroyed but visit the palace gardens while you’re in town. Hotel tip: Öko Hotel
With a fabulous old town, this Hanseatic port facing the island of Rugen makes the perfect place to stay when riding the Baltic coast. While you’re there, visit Gorch Fock, the three-masted floating museum and the amazing town hall. Hotel tip: Hiddenseer Hotel
Things to see
Take a ferry from Cuxhaven to the island of Heligoland – in walking boots rather than bike boots, as the big draw is the clifftop walk (about two hours). Look out for Lange Anna – a tall sea stack at the northern end of the Island.
Glücksburg Castle is a fascinating castle in the far north of Schleswig-Holstein, near the Danish border. As beautiful as anything in France’s Loire castle region but distinctly German.
Amazing brick-built Hanseatic town (well, small city). Look out for the two ancient city gates: the Citadel Gate and the Holsten Gate – there’s a good museum in the latter (the Holstentor).
Historic town shoehorned onto a tiny island in a lake (the Grosser Ratzenburger See). Fascinating brick-built Gothic buildings and a lovely cathedral – all easy to appreciate im a relatively short sight-seeing stop.
Werner von Braun and his colleagues pretty much invented rocket science at Peenemünder, on the Baltic coast, as they developed the V2 for Hitler. There’s a fascinating museum dedicated to rocket science in the heart of the small town now.
Once East Germany’s largest port, going further back Rostock was one of the richest cities in the Hanseatic League – with one of the world’s oldest universities. Lots to see, from the old city walls and the Nikolaikirche (St Nicholas Church) and Mariankirche (Maria Church). Took a battering from the RAF in WWII but was lovingly restored.
An attractive lakeside town… but the real attraction is the fabulous castle built on its own island, surrounded by beautiful gardens. Now the Schwerin Museum, with a huge collection of art plus visiting exhibitions.
The Mollibahn is a perfectly preserved narrow-gauge railway running between Bad Doberan and Ostseebad Kühlungsborn outside Rostock.
Plenty more war interest in this region – with several U-boats or U-boat stations now converted to be museum. The Fehmarn U-Boat Museum, with U11, is good or visit U461, which is moored in Peenemunde.
6 Rügen and Peenemunde
A full day’s ride exploring Germany’s largest island, Rügen, before heading down the coast to Peenemünde. NB: requires two ferry crossings.
Distance: 230 miles
Riding time: 7 hours
7 Swiss Holstein
Who says it’s all flat in north-east Germany? This route takes in the region of lakes and gentle hills south of Kiel that’s known as 'Swiss Holstein'. Also heads out to the Baltic island of Fehmarn.
Distance: 160 miles
Riding time: 4.5 hours
8 Müritz miles (Lakeland)
There’s lovely, relaxed riding in the Mecklenburg lake district. It has scenery, quiet roads and villages for regular stops.
Distance: 170 miles
Riding time: 5 hours
9 Elbe room
There’s great riding in the countryside around Hamburg – but why stay in the city? It’s just too big. Much better to decamp to charming Luneburg and explore the roads around the River Elbe.
Distance: 140 miles
Riding time: 4.5 hours
10 Holstein goodness
A short but sweet route around the western coast of Schleswig-Holstein – more about smiles per mile than miles per hour. Relaxed enough to be done in an afternoon or after a very late start.
Distance: 100 miles
Riding time: 3.4 hours