City trips / History + Culture

Weekend Trip from Berlin: Things to Do in Stralsund in Winter

Whenever I get a chance to see my sister, which isn’t all too often seeing that we live 16,000km apart, we go away for a few days. Our last trip was a long weekend trip to Stralsund.

It seems strange to think that this was pre-COVID and we didn’t have anything to worry about.

Stralsund, beautifully situated along the shores of the Baltic Sea, was once one of the most important cities in the Hanseatic League, an incredibly powerful merchant and trade guild of northern German towns.

These days, Stralsund is much less powerful but its former wealth and power is still on display as you wander around the Altstadt (Old Town). You’ll find the characteristic classic redbrick gabled roofs everywhere.

There are so many things to do in Stralsund that you can easily spend a couple of days here. Or more if you want to explore beyond the city centre.


Dating back to at least 1234, Stralsund became an economic and political power in the Hanseatic League in the 14th century.

In its heydays, the Hanseatic League included more than 200 towns and cities, not only along the Baltic and North Seas but across northern Central Europe.

It was essentially a merchant and trade association that wielded enormous political power and dominated sea trade, involving anything from French and Spanish wine, English wool, Flemish woven fabrics, Norwegian fish to German beer. Even engaging in warfare to protect economic interests wasn’t beyond the League.

Alongside Wismar and Lübeck, Stralsund became one of the leading merchant seats of the Hanseatic League, resulting in prosperity beyond measure for its citizens.

With the decline of the Hanseatic League in the 16th century though, Stralsund entered a centuries-long period of being ruled by foreign powers, first Sweden, later by France and ultimately by Prussia. Following WWII, Stralsund became part of East Germany.

Despite its loss of economic status, to this day you can find architectural evidence that Stralsunders once had plenty of disposable income, from towering church buildings, city gates, warehouses to elaborate townhouses.

All in the typical redbrick Gothic gabled style.

Giant merchant warehouses in the typical redbrick architectural style at the harbour

And for that reason, Stralsund, together with its sister city Wismar, has been listed as a UNESCO world heritage site since 2002.


  • Stralsund is easily accessible by train from Berlin, Rostock or Hamburg. From Berlin, the trip takes about 3 hours. You can get various saver ticket options, including group tickets. More details at Deutsche Bahn.
  • The Altstadt is very walkable. Grab a map and start wandering. The Tourist Information is at Alter Markt 9, right in the heart of Stralsund.
  • Admission to museums isn’t cheap but buying Kombitickets (combination tickets) will help lower the total cost if you want to visit more than one.
  • Stralsund is great year round, though obviously you’ll be able to enjoy the cafés, parks, lakes and seashore far more in summer than in winter. But even for a weekend in mid-January, we found enough to do to occupy our time.


As a seaside town that came to prominence as a Hanseatic power house, Stralsund is a) all about redbrick Gothic architecture (or Backsteingotik, Brick Gothic), and b) all things nautical, from ships, boating, industrial-scale fishing to marine life.


The best way to see Stralsund’s Brick Gothic buildings is, not surprisingly, by walking.

I like getting up early and wandering around the streets before the hustle and bustle starts (not that there was much hustle and bustle in wintery Stralsund…). You get to appreciate buildings without squares or streets being crowded, and I feel I can take my time taking a few more than necessary photos.

Pick up a map at the tourist information (yeah, I’m old school), just wander around or use Google Maps. You’ll find plenty of plaques on buildings telling you about their history.

Here are a few iconic buildings you shouldn’t miss on your stroll.


The town hall simply dominates the Alter Markt (Old Market Square).

Dating back to the 13th century, the outer façade has been restored to its former bright redbrick glory and now towers magnificently above the square.

The Town Hall with its gabled façade and St. Nicholas Church in the background


Stralsund isn’t exactly short on monumental church buildings.

The Nikolaikirche looms large behind the Town Hall, and naturally impresses by its sheer size. It’s the oldest church building in Stralsund, and is of a scale that seems ridiculous now given Stralsund’s population (roughly 60,000).

While it’s nowhere near as ornate as Roman Catholic churches tend to be, it’s not exactly barren on the inside either. The colourful murals point to its medieval past, not something I fell in love with but interesting nevertheless.

Since the mid-16th century, the Nikolaikirche has been an Evangelical Lutheran church.


While you’re at the Alter Markt, take a look at the Wulflamhaus (House of Wulflam, an influential family at the time), a patrician townhouse from the 14th century that mirrors the gables of the Town Hall. These days, it houses a restaurant.

Along Mühlenstrasse (right next to the Alter Markt) you’ll find more gabled townhouses that survived the times and have been restored amazingly. One of them is the Dielenhaus that was owned by a merchant back in the 14th century.

The upper stories of these houses were often used as silos for storing merchant wares.

Head towards Mönchstrasse and you’ll see even more gabled houses.

Gabled houses in Mönchstrasse

For a comprehensive list of gabled townhouses in Stralsund, check out this map of gabled houses in Stralsund (if the map doesn’t show, click on “Karte” in the top left corner and the map will open up).


If the size of the Nikolaikirche didn’t impress you sufficiently, try the even more imposing Marienkirche at the Neuer Markt (New Market Square). With a steeple that’s 104m tall, the church literally towers over Stralsund.

The views from the tower are supposed to be stunning but sadly, it was closed when we were there as the light in the tower staircase wasn’t working. I would have gladly climbed the 366 steps!

Marienkirche on a cheery morning in January

Inside it’s somewhat more spartan than the Nikolaikirche, thanks in part to French troops using the church as barracks and stripping it bare in the early 19th century.


If these sites aren’t enough to still your architectural hunger, you could keep wandering the streets of Stralsund, and in particular take a look at these buildings:

  • St. Johanniskloster (St. John’s Monastery): Only ruins remain of the church vault of the cloister (largely destroyed by American bombers during WWII) but other parts are still used for archives
  • Jakobikirche (St. James Church): Dating back to 13th century as well, much of the church was destroyed in October 1944; the church is now mainly used for exhibitions and events
  • Kütertor (Küter Gate) and Kiepertor (Kieper Gate): Only two of the 10 medieval city gates have survived but they’re both beautifully restored


The German Oceanographic Museum is Germany’s largest natural science museum and, somewhat confusingly, made up of four sites: The Meeresmuseum, the Ozeaneum, the Nautineum and the Natureum.

Only two of them are in central Stralsund (Meeresmuseum and Ozeaneum), the other two are close to Stralsund, on Kleiner Dänholm Island (Nautineum) and the Darß Peninsula (Natureum). Both of them are more of the outdoor museum kind and generally closed over the winter.

While I did the early morning strolls around Stralsund by myself, my sister was very keen to come and explore more of Stralsund’s oceanographic side with me. 😀


{The Oceanographic Museum is currently closed for extensive renovations and is expected to re-open in 2024. Current exhibits will be modernised and extended but the overall focus is expected to remain the same.}

Housed in the former Katharinenkloster (St. Catherine’s Convent), yet another classic redbrick building, it showcases various aspects of the underwater world and marine life.

We spent at least a couple of hours here, there’s a fair bit to see. The highlight for me was the giant skeleton of a fin whale suspended from the vaulted ceiling in the former church choir of the convent.

The museum also has plenty of exhibits on the local fisheries industry, features tropical aquariums full of corals, moray eels, rays and seahorses, and has a shark tank and turtle display.

Find it: Katharinenberg 14; closed until 2024. More details at Meeresmuseum Stralsund.


While you can’t beat the location of the Meeresmuseum within a former convent, the Ozeaneum is the real standout aquarium. In fact, it was voted European Museum of the Year back in 2010.

Focused predominantely on marine life of the northern seas (Baltic and North Seas, and the Atlantic), it’s a fascinating space to explore, whether you have kids along or not.

From its unusual architecture, giant whale models and sharks suspended from high ceilings, aquariums featuring marine life in Stralsund’s harbour bay (and far beyond), to a penguin colony living on the roof, it’s a fun (and warm) place to spend a few hours.

Plus, you can’t beat the views of Stralsund from the roof!

Find it: Hafenstrasse 11; open daily 9:30-6pm. More details at Ozeaneum Stralsund.


If all things ships and fisheries are more your thing, you could start with a ship museum.


Built in the 1930s, then sank, then restored, the now retired Gorch Fock was used as a sail training ship by the Soviets from the 1950s onwards until it was finally brought to Stralsund in the early 2000s.

I’m not super interested in ships so seeing it from the outside was enough for me but for anyone interested in seafarers and maritime history, I’m sure it’s fun.

Find it: At the harbour (An der Fährbrücke); open daily 10-6pm (winter to 4pm). More details at Gorch Fock I.

You could also visit the Marine Museum (website in German only) or the Nautineum (both open in the summer months only), which focus on maritime history and industry-scale fishing.


If this hasn’t been enough history and marine biology education for you yet, I’ve got some more! 🙂


One of the oldest gabled houses in Stralsund, the Museumshaus now gives insight into how these medieval gabled houses were constructed.

I was keen to explore it but we ended up spending so much time at the oceanographic museums that we ran out time. So instead, I walked out of the bookshop housed in the same building (and open at night) with more books than I had planned on buying (which was none).

Find it: Mönchstrasse 38; open Tue-Sun, 10-5pm.


These days, my sister and I have fun trying to find places to eat at. She’s vegan, I’m strictly gluten-free, and regional Germany is not known for providing a wealth of “hip food” (like, say, Berlin is).

That said, Stralsund was a breeze for us, in no small part due to us catering for ourselves (and making sure we had access to a kitchenette when we booked our accommodation).

This is what it looks like when my sister and I go away for three nights… we are hungry people!


The Bio-Insel health food shop is right outside the central train station, and not only offers tons of gluten-free snacks (and other food) but it also has a cozy café attached. Menus change daily.

The food was delicious, and we had no issues with food handling. Staff were careful and knowledgable.

Find it: Am Hauptbahnhof 75; open daily 7am-7pm; More details at Bio-Insel (the café may be closed at present).


There’s also a health food shop in the Altstadt that offers a great range of gluten-free food. They sell some ready-to-eat gluten-free snacks and biscuits but nothing more substantial than that.

Find it: Heilgeiststrasse 14; open Mon-Fri 8am-7pm, Sat 8am-4pm.

I don’t have a lot of recommendations if you don’t have to worry about any food restrictions, except that you should definitely try one of the Fischbrötchen (fish rolls) that are so typical for this region. You can find fish mongers and little food boats in the harbour area selling them.

I feel a bit nostalgic about them as I remember loving these fish rolls as a child.

Floating “food trucks” in the harbour area


Visiting Stralsund in winter means that outdoor options are limited, and in any case, you’ll want to spend time indoors to warm up from the stiff northern breeze!

Wandering around Stralsund admiring some of the Brick Gothic architecture and exploring the Ozeaneum will fill up a day easily. If you have more energy or time, visit one of the other museums or simply relax in one of the many restaurants and cafés.

I’d love to return in the warmer months and do some cycling around the local lakes, along the seashore, and maybe even across the enormous Rügenbrücke (Rügen Bridge) to Rügen Island.


Learn more about Roman times in Trier in southwest Germany, or Prussian history at Palace Sanssouci in Potsdam. For more recent history, find out more about East/West historical sites in Berlin.



  • Spophy
    8 April 2021 at 11:56 PM

    Ich glaube das war wirklich mein letzter Trip. Dann kam Corona und nix mehr.
    Oha, da hatten wir ja richtig Glück mit dem Meeresmuseum! Wobei es wirklich mal Zeit wird mit der Renovierung, ich hoffe sie nehmen sich vor allem die Schilder und Plastikdekorationen vor xD Ich denke immer wieder an die zwei Museen zurück, fand die echt cool und das hat total Spaß gemacht, da alles anzugucken.
    Unser Food Haul war natürlich auch sehr erinnerungwürdig x)

    • Kati
      12 April 2021 at 3:28 PM

      Ja, das kann ich mir gut vorstellen (letzter Trip). Wenn Corona sich wieder beruhigt hat, muessen wir auf jeden Fall den naechsten Trip planen!

      Haha, das stimmt mit dem Meeresmuseum, ich kann mich noch an einige Schilder erinnern, die nicht mehr so ganz auf dem neuesten Stand (und vermutlich nicht mal mehr auf einem “aelteren” Stand waren)…

      Ja, und das Foto vom food haul musste einfach mit rein, schon verrueckt, was wir alles verdrueckt haben!! 😀


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