Kiel, the state capital of Schleswig-Holstein, is located about 50 miles north of Hamburg. Gateway to the Baltic and to Scandinavia, Kiel is one of Germany’s most important cruise ship ports, home to the country’s Navy's Baltic fleet and its center for shipbuilding and naval tradition. Here’s what you can do and see in Kiel, from an original war submarine to the busiest man-made ship canal in the world.
1. Kiel's Harbor
Kiel’s heart beats at the waterfront, so start your visit at the harbor. Watch the giant ocean liners and container ships glide by, walk along one of Germany’s longest harbor promenades, or take a boat tour and experience the port from the water. Every June, Kiel’s harbor gets especially busy, when the city hosts its annual "Kiel Week" (Kiel regatta), the largest sailing event in the world. Expect no less than 5,000 sailors, 2,000 ships, and more than three million visitors. Kiel Week dates back to 1882 and offers hundreds of regattas, historic ship parades, and a cultural program that transforms the city center of Kiel into the largest summer festival stage in Northern Europe (Last week in June, annually).
During the war, Kiel was the home base for the German submarine fleet, and if you are a history buff or a fan of the movie “Das Boot”, get the real deal in Kiel-Laboe (on the east-side of the fjord); at the shore, you can see and even walk through the only surviving Second World War U-995 submarine; there is also a "Marine-Ehrenmal" (Navy Memorial) from 1936 with a 280-foot-high tower and an observation deck, which offers wonderful views of the region. An underground memorial hall, dedicated to sailors of all nationalities who died in the World Wars, and a museum detail the history of the German Navy.
Strandstraße 92, 24235 Laboe (from Kiel harbor, you can take the ferry to Laboe)
3. Kiel Canal
Kiel is home to the world's busiest man-made canal, the 100-kilometer long Nord-Ostsee Kanal (Kiel Canal), which connects the Baltic with the North Sea. You can cycle along the canal in its entirety or take a day trip; the bike path goes right along the water so you can ride side by side by side with giant container ships. There are lots of restaurants, observations points and hotels along the bike route, which is very bicycle friendly: it's flat and for the most part car-free!
Set on Kiel’s waterfront, the Stadt und Schifffahrtsmuseum (Maritime Museum) documents the city’s rich maritime history. Housed in the historic fish auction hall, the museum shows everything from models of ships, nautical instruments, naval paintings, and figureheads; Don’t miss the "Kaiser panorama", which shows 3D stereoscopic pictures and the panoramic picture of the harbor. It measures 27m² and is the largest ever painting of the city. You can also visit the three historic museum ships that are moored next to the museum, the "Hindenburg" lifeboat, the "Kiel" fire-fighting ship, and the "Bussard" from 1905.
Wall 65, 24103 Kiel
The Kunsthalle zu Kiel, the city’s largest museum, houses one of northern Germany's best collections of modern art; you can see Russian art from the 19th and 20th century, German expressionism, and contemporary international art after 1945.
Christian-Albrechts-Universität, Düsternbrooker Weg 1, 24105 Kiel