Although Lübeck is now perhaps most famous for its marzipan, for a time in the medieval era, it was one of the most important trading centers in the world. For decades, the island city itself was the main attraction, its pedestrian-friendly streets lined with tidy gabled houses in the brick Gothic style popular at the height of the Hanseatic age. But in 2015, this UNESCO World Heritage site gained a new and important museum sure to fascinate anyone with even a passing interest in European history.
The Europäisches Hansemuseum chronicles the story of the Hanseatic League, which at its height included up to 200 towns and cities from London to Novgorod, with Lübeck at its heart. The league’s members grew wealthy between the 13th and 15th centuries by lowering trade barriers and generally promoting international trade in the region. Over several levels, including a cellar with archaeological remains left in situ, the museum uses both artifacts and innovative technology to explain the league’s engrossing history. Tickets have chips inside, which allow visitors to choose not only their preferred language but also a city of focus and an area of interest. Exhibits present a lot of information, but because they employ a variety of media — text, infographics, audio, video — they never become dry. The museum also comprises a Gothic cloister and a former courthouse.
After your museum visit, have lunch at Ristorante Roberto Rossi im Schabbelhaus (Mengstrasse 48-52), an Italian restaurant with an elegant interior and a pretty back patio, or Schiffergesellschaft (Breite Strasse 2), a touristy but fun and traditional option with a dark-wood interior decorated with stained glass and ship models.
For Kaffee und Kuchen (coffee and cake), Lübeck has two superb options. Café Niederegger (Breite Strasse 89) has an astonishing array of tortes, relatively quiet indoor tables and outdoor seating excellent for people-watching. Marzipan-Speicher Café (An der Untertrave 97-98) has a smaller torte selection but a more atmospheric location in a 12th-century warehouse on the Trave River, with an inviting rear patio. I recommend purchasing souvenir marzipan at the store adjacent to the latter.