From the orient to Lübeck

On marzipan’s trail

Where does marzipan come from?

How did marzipan come to Lübeck from the orient where almonds and sugar were traded? Or did the people of Lübeck invent it themselves? Does the word come from marci panis or from the Byzantine coin called mauthaban?  Legend or fact? We can’t say for certain. But that makes the story of marzipan all the more exciting. Follow its trail and find out more about Lübeck’s most famous candy!

How did marzipan come to Lübeck?

If we are to believe the local legend, marzipan was even invented in Lübeck. In 1407, there was a danger of famine as Lübeck’s granaries stood empty, and the Senate is said to have tasked the bakers with making bread from almonds: Marci-panis (almond bread) – was this the origin of today’s famous marzipan loaf?
In fact, marzipan had probably already travelled a long way before becoming so popular in Lübeck. In the orient, the sweet almond paste became famous as “harem confectionery”, and according to legend, every piece of candy bore the image of a ruler. In Arabic, “mauthaban” means “sitting King” – is this the origin of the word marzipan? In fact, the secret of how to make marzipan probably travelled to Europe in the baggage of the Crusaders, finally arriving in the bakeries of Lübeck’s confectioners. But we can’t say for certain ...

Marzipan as a curative?

Before marzipan managed to acquire its reputation in Lübeck as a sweet, it was traded exclusively in chemist shops – as a medicinal drug. As early as the year 900, the Persian doctor Rhazes mentioned it in Arab medical texts. Its beneficial effects were mentioned in medieval cookbooks. Marzipan was supposed to have a positive effect on the stomach and gut as well as on potency. In 1571, marzipan was still a fixed element of a so-called “Karlsbader Spa”.


One of the oldest houses of the Old Town is a pharmacy.

> Read the story

Nobles snack on marzipan

After marzipan found its way into Lübeck’s chemist shops in the Middle Ages, the new guild of confectioners discovered it for themselves. Although sugar was definitely an expensive commodity, it could be freely traded. However, at first, it was only the nobility and well-to-do citizens who were able to enjoy this sweet delicacy. Covered in genuine gold leaf, marzipan was given to the highest dignitaries of the Empire. The royal table and festive events during the Renaissance were not complete without marzipan for dessert. In those days, it was still tiring and time-consuming to produce. It took until the beginning of the 19th century before ordinary citizens were able to enjoy the finest marzipan as it became more affordable to make using sugar from sugar beet.

Relive the exciting history of marzipan in Lübeck’s Marzipan Museum.

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