© Pixabay


UNESCO World Heritage Site Hanseatic City of Lübeck


When UNESCO listed the medieval heart of Lübeck’s Old Town as a World Heritage Site, it was the first time that the honour had been granted to an entire district of a town in northern Europe. Lübeck owed its inclusion to the outline of the town, which was built to a plan and preserved to this day, the original historical buildings and the unmistakeable cityscape with the five Gothic brick churches, with their seven spires. Take a stroll through the Old Town and you will be right in the centre of this unique World Heritage Site. Follow the paths running from North to South and the cobbled streets leading down to the Trave and the canal, like so many thousands before you, who either lived in Lübeck or visited it in past centuries. Discover the treasures of all sizes and find out how people live their lives today behind the old walls.

to keep the earth attached to the sky, people hammered church spires into it: seven copper nails that could never be matched by gold.

Reiner Kunze

© Shutterstock

What forms part of Lübeck’s World Heritage Site?

The World Heritage Site of the Old Town comprises of three areas, which have retained their historical character to this day and give a glimpse into the power and historical significance which Lübeck once possessed as Queen of the Hanseatic League.

1. Zone 1 in the North and East of the Old Town

Zone 1 comprises of the Old Town district in the North and East bounded by Fischergrube, Pfaffenstraße, Königstraße, Mühlenstraße, An der Mauer Straße and the Castle Gate. Here there are numerous individually listed buildings along the historical network of streets, the former Domincan Castle Monastery and the Castle Gate as part of the old town’s fortifications. Another important element is Koberg, an almost completely preserved district from the late 13th century with St. Jacob’s Church and the Hospital of the Holy SpiritSt. Giles' church and St. Catherine's church all belonging to this district.  St. Catherine’s Monastery as well as St. Anne’s Monastery also add historical charm to the area.

2. Zone 2 in the South-West area of the Old Town

The second area lies between St. Peter’s church and the cathedral and contains magnificent patrician houses from the 15th and 16th centuries. The Holsten Gate and the old salt warehouses reinforce the district’s character as one full of renowned monuments. Almost all the structures originate from the time when the Hanseatic League had reached the apex of its power and Lübeck controlled long-distance trade in the whole of Northern Europe. There is also a large, connected area of historical alleyways.

3. Zone 3 around the market

The third zone comprises the area around the market, with St. Mary’s church and the Town Hall , forming the heart of the Old Town.

It contains remnants of the founding district from the 12th century which borders this zone on the West, a district that fell victim to an air raid in 1942. Extensive excavations were carried out for many years before the district was rebuilt on the old walls, based on the historical model. Nowadays the area is represented by modern urban construction projects which work harmoniously with the preservation of historical treasures, which is not to be missed!

The area underground in the three Old Town zones also serve as part of the World Heritage Site, with archaeological excavations being a regular occurrence in this “Troy of the North”.

Did you know?

Preserving the old, creating the new

Today, great importance is attached to the preservation of monuments, however this was not always so. If committed citizens had not fought to save historical buildings in the 1970s and to preserve the medieval character of the town, many Old Town houses in need of restoration would have fallen victim to the urge for modernity. The Citizens’ Initiative Rettet Lübeck (BIRL) [Save Lübeck] - a voluntary organisation formed in 1975 to protest against a wave of demolitions in the Old Town - is still actively engaged in questions of refurbishments and the protection of monuments. Lübeck owes the fact that the Old Town was awarded the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987 to its dedicated citizens!

Things are happening here!

The historic UNESCO Old Town is a living witness to the eventful history of the Hanseatic City of Lübeck. But Lübeck has not stayed static since the Hanseatic times. Lübeck continues to evolve, grow and ready itself for the future. A growing population, changing mobility, the desire for a high quality of life and greater sustainability – all these themes are addressed by “LÜBECK überMORGEN”. Numerous urban projects and opportunities for citizens of Lübeck to play an active role come under this umbrella. The roadmap to the future is conversed here.


Find out more about the various concepts for the development of the Hanseatic city of Lübeck!

> To Lübeck überMORGEN (DE)

From Palm Sunday night to UNESCO World Heritage Site

During the Second World War, 234 bombers from the British Royal Air Force flew over the Queen of the Hanseatic League on the eve of Palm Sunday in 1942. The raid was in retaliation for the German attack on Coventry, dropping a hail of bombs and leaving a trail of destruction behind. The consequences of the attack were disastrous. Individual fires caused by the incendiary bombs quickly developed into widespread fires in the tight spaces. Three of the five churches caught fire, leading to their spires collapsing. 320 people died, one fifth of the Old Town was destroyed and more than 15,000 people in Lübeck lost their homes. The fallen bells of St. Mary's serve as a reminder of that terrible night. It took decades before the first Western town on the Baltic Sea regained its famous skyline. For forty years, the people of Lübeck restored their churches, with the tower of St. Peter's being fully rebuilt in 1987. In the same year, Lübeck became the first old town complex in Northern Europe to receive the award of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, an honour of which the people of Lübeck are still particularly proud of today. A modern residential area imitating the parcel structure of the medieval town is currently being created in the founding district, that was severely damaged on that Palm Sunday in 1942.

Documents of the Hanseatic League now belong to the "Memory of the World

© Olaf Malzahn

A total of 17 documents on the history of the Hanseatic League are now part of the international register of UNESCO's Memory of the World programme.

This is the result of an application submitted by the Hanseatic City of Lübeck in 2017, with the support of the German Commission for UNESCO in Bonn, and submitted to UNESCO in Paris in November 2021. In addition to the archive of the Hanseatic City of Lübeck, the state and city archives of Braunschweig, Bremen, Hamburg, Cologne and Stralsund as well as partner institutions in Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia and Poland participated in this joint application.

Unique documents and records will now be inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage List: trade privileges and alliance treaties, minutes of Hanseatic meetings, customs lists from Hanseatic towns, merchants' letters from Hanseatic merchants and documents relating to the Hanseatic Kontors on the territory of present-day Europe. They illustrate the nature and history of the Hanseatic League, which shaped the history of northern Europe for over 600 years.


There will also be activities in Lübeck to mark World Heritage Day. In the meantime, you are welcome to use the digital content on the World Heritage Day website. Or you could walk in the footsteps of Lübeck's World Heritage Site on our city walk, which is available at any time.

World Heritage Day is organised every year in June by the German UNESCO Commission and the German UNESCO World Heritage Association. Various activities and offerings give a first-hand impression of what makes World Heritage Sites so unique. The 52 World Heritage Sites in Germany offer a glimpse behind the scenes, allowing visitors to experience the history of mankind and the wonders of nature.


Explore what nature and man have created! Germany’s UNESCO World Heritage sites allow you to experience historical Old Town alleyways, stroll through unusual industrial cultures, conquer castles and fortresses and enjoy impressive landscapes. Follow in the footsteps of man’s heritage!


In Schleswig-Holstein you can find two other very special World Heritage Sites. Since 2009, the Wadden Sea with an area of about 11,500 km² has been a World Heritage Site. It stretches along the North Sea coast from the Netherlands through Germany to Denmark. In Schleswig-Holstein, this gift of nature can be explored in many ways: barefoot in the mudflats, on a horse-drawn carriage ride, on a guided hike, at the Multimar wadden sea forum or at the seal centre in Friedrichskoog. - Hereyou can dive deeper into the topic. - Since 2018, the important Viking settlement of Haithabu and the Danewerk border fortification system on the Schlei, which is at least a thousand years old, have also been part of the World Cultural Heritage Family. Follow the footsteps of the Vikings. Information can be found here.

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