The tasteof the Hanse

Seafarer's Guild Lübeck

Restaurant with Gotteskeller bar and a 500 year-old tradition

If you would like to experience seafaring tradition up close, you can’t do better than the Seafarer's Guild building. This proud, gabled house opposite the seafarers’ church St Jacob's has been a home to mariners and captains for 500 years and today it invites guests from all round the world to enjoy maritime society and hospitality. The Seafarer's Guild seems to have been spawned by the St. Nicholas fraternity which – like all fraternities – had to dissolve after the Reformation. A visit to the Seafarer's Guild is an ideal opportunity to try the typical seaman’s dish “labskaus”. This is a potato dish with salted meat, pickled herring, fried egg and beetroot. Delicious! Our tip: In summer, the “sundeck” in the idyllic inner courtyard is open! A wonderful oasis of green with a view of the impressive spire of St. Jacob’s.

Visit the Seafarer´s Guild virtually

You can’t please everyone!

Wise saying written in large letters on Gotland limestone at the entrance

Valuable cargo

The history of the building and the foundation of the Seafarers’ fraternity stretches far back into Hanseatic times. Even today, numerous traces of the past can be discovered here. For example, when you sit down to eat, you will be sitting at long tables made of old ship’s planks, called Gelagen in German.  Gelage has come to mean a drunken get-together. But originally it was the name for the narrow oak tables with high-backed benches where the Hanseatics always enjoyed rubbing shoulders together (and drinking which explains how it comes to mean a drinking session). These were the regular places occupied by merchants who were organised in “companies” – depending on where their trading routes in the Baltic Sea led them. The Novgorod traders brought furs, wax and honey by ship from Russia, the Scania traders herring which was of special significance as Lenten fare. Traders to Sweden had ores on board and those going to Bergen supplied dried cod, the coveted stockfish from Norway. Fabric and finished metal goods came from England and Flanders. Even 500 years ago, the coats of arms on the sides of the benches already determined the seating order, and every seaman had his seat.

Help for those in need

Not only benefactors from the ranks of councillors and merchants took care of the needy; fraternities of tradesmen and seafarers also looked after their brothers and their families who had fallen on hard times. For example, the Seafarer's Guild in Lübeck which was founded in 1401 as the St. Nicholas Fraternity “to help and comfort the living and the dead and all those who seek their honest living in seafaring”. For example, the seafarers’ fraternity created living space for old, needy people in the neighbourhood of the house where they congregated, and took care of their living costs. At the beginning of of the 20th century, a seafarers’ courtyard was constructed in Engelsgrube which to this day offers widows of captains a comfortable home.

Bon appetit at the Geibel table!

Anyone who would like to sit at a special table in the Seafarer's Guild asks for the “Geibel table”. Somewhat elevated, with a view of Jacob’s church, the Lübeck poet Emanuel Geibel is said to have often sat there and written poems. According to the story, he was once allowed to pay his bill with a poem – when he was short of cash when he was young. Much of his work is forgotten today. But not his poem “Der Mai ist gekommen” (May has arrived) which has been set to music.

For God’s reward – basement with bar

The Gotteskeller is a popular bar in the basement of the historical Seafarer's Guild building. Quite a few Lübeck burgher houses in the Middle Ages had “God cellars”. In such rooms, needy people with no roof over their heads could eat free of charge and stay the night – in return for God’s reward. Today the Gotteskeller with its well-stocked bar invites visitors to party, enjoy rum tasting and have a good time. Smoking is explicitly permitted here!



Breite Straße 2
23552 Lübeck

Phone: 0451 76776
Fax: 0451 73279

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