The grandeur and riches of the Hanseatic League in the 14th century could hardly be more vividly illustrated than in the historic centres of Stralsund and Wismar. Both towns boast virtually unchanged medieval layouts and extensively preserved architectural heritage from the brick Gothic period.
A total of six brick parish churches alone in Stralsund and Wismar, on the Mecklenburg-Western Pomeranian coast, offer a representative cross-section of Gothic church architecture in the late Middle Ages. A permanent exhibition in Wismar's Church of St. Mary explores the techniques of Gothic brick building and medieval craftsmanship as part of the European Route of Brick Gothic Architecture. Wismar is the best-preserved Hanseatic town of its size along the southern Baltic coast and, like Stralsund, it has an abundance of charm, quaint harbourside pubs and picturesque spots. Wismar's historical harbour basin gives an accurate portrayal of the once mighty trading town, while the Alte Schwede, the town's oldest mercantile house and now a restaurant of the same name, is a compelling reflection of the proud townspeople's wealth and creative drive. It also serves as a reminder of the Swedish rule under which both towns stood in the 17th and 18th century. There are some exceptional baroque buildings dating from this time, such as the armoury in Wismar and the Swedish government palace in Stralsund. On Stralsund's harbour island, the Ozeaneum aquarium offers a fascinating glimpse of what lies beneath the waves of the Baltic, North Sea and Atlantic Ocean and even the waters of the Polar seas. With its modern architecture, the Ozeaneum building forms a captivating contrast to the medieval beauty of the town centre – yet it bears testimony to the great passion for all things maritime in the historical Hanseatic towns.
World Heritage exhibition on Stralsund and Wismar's historical town centres on the ground floor of the building at Ossenreyerstrasse 1, daily from 10am to 5pm, free admission (languages: German and English)
Guided tours (1 April to 31 October): guided walk around the old town: daily at 11am; a journey back in time with a genuine Stralsund character: every day at 2pm except Tuesdays
Stralsund Hanseatic Convention (June)
'Wallenstein fair' medieval spectacle (July)
Baltic Festival in Stralsund and Greifswald.
Guided tours: 29 March 2014 to 2 November 2014 daily at 10.30am
22 March to 6 April 2014: Wismar Herring Festival
13 to 15 June 2014: Wismar Harbour Festival with trips on historical sailing ships
14 to 17 August 2014: Sweden Festival
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