Located at the mouth of the river Trave in Lübeck Bay, Travemünde began life as a 12th-century fortress before becoming part of the free city of Lübeck in 1329. Today this former fishing village doubles as a major port—with ferry connections to Sweden, Russia, Finland, Latvia and Estonia—and a charming seaside town complete with almost two kilometers of pristine white-sand beach. With a population of around 13,000 people and a more or less constant stream of tourists, it’s a fairly buzzy place that blends an aura of tradition with a contemporary atmosphere. Streets like the Vorderreihe and those around the atmospheric Old Town (Altstadt) offer plenty of traditional pubs and restaurants, plus cafés and shops—as well as the opportunity to watch large ships sail by.
Head out along the coast of Schleswig-Holstein for pristine dunes, forests and more beaches. And not far away lies the lovely city of Lübeck, home to a wealth of 15th- and 16th-century patrician residences, red-brick churches and Buddenbrook House, the former home of famous authors Heinrich and Thomas Mann. Lübeck's medieval sights include the 15th-century Holstentor, or Holsten Gate (a marvelous double-turreted city gate); the Rathaus (the town hall that blends Gothic and Renaissance architecture); and the Lübecker Dom (cathedral).