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Schwerin: the city of the seven lakes and artistic flair.

Schwerin has just short of 100,000 residents, making it Germany's smallest state capital. It enjoys a picture-perfect location among a series of lakes that reflect both the passing clouds in the northern sky and the city's most famous landmark, Schwerin Castle. A fitting landmark: light, airy, bright and welcoming – just like the city itself.

Records dating back as far as 965 AD show evidence of a castle built on a freshwater lake in what historians believe to be Schwerin. However, it was only after 1160 that the city was actually established and the castle rebuilt in the shape of the now eminent Schwerin Castle. Just a few years later saw the completion of the first cathedral, the only medieval building in Schwerin to have survived the centuries, albeit in various guises. This first cathedral soon had to be torn down due to lack of space, with only its tower spared. The Romanesque episcopal church consecrated in 1248 also soon proved inadequate after Count Henry of Schwerin returned from the Crusades alleged to be carrying a drop of Jesus Christ's blood – the Holy Blood relic. The church eventually needed a holding area to cope with crowds of pilgrims. This gave rise to the new cathedral in 1270, which subsequently became one of the foremost pilgrimage churches in the north-east of the German empire. Today, Schwerin is known by many names: city of the seven lakes, Florence of the North, cathedral city and royal seat. All are apt because Schwerin successfully combines nature and architecture, artworks great and small, plus reminders of its long history. As visitors cross the cobbled market square, explore the narrow lanes, admire the historical buildings in the central Schelfstadt quarter or let their gaze fall on the incredibly beautiful castle, they will soon realise that there is plenty to see and do in Schwerin.

The castle is the city's most famous landmark and perches on an island between Lake Schwerin and Lake Burgsee as if taken from the pages of a fairytale. Besides the castle gardens, the best places to visit nearby include the State Museum, the Victory Column, the Old Palace, the royal stables and the neo-classical State Chancellery. The city also has plenty to offer by way of culture, with a wide range of performances staged at the Mecklenburg State Theatre – an establishment that comprises numerous venues including the Konzertfoyer, E-Werk, the werk3 theatre bar and, last but not least, the puppet theatre. But the highlight of the cultural calendar has to be the magnificent castle theatre festival, an opera festival of international acclaim. Year after year, tens of thousands of culture lovers flock to Schwerin to enjoy works from Puccini through to Verdi performed against the magical backdrop of the castle gardens or inside the castle courtyard.

The Schwerin State Museums are also worthy of a capital city. The Gallery of Old and New Masters houses collections of Flemish and Dutch paintings from the 16th to the 18th century, as well as conceptual artworks by Marcel Duchamp.

The city boasts a prestigious calendar of events. Schwerin is the proud host of the Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania Festival, as well as the Filmkunstfest film festival and the Parade of the 'Weisse Flotte' boats that take place in May. The pottery market, Five Lakes Run, Christopher Street Day and dragon boat festival are held in June or July, and are followed by the Old Town festival, the wine festival and the Schwerin literary festival. The year ends on a high note with the Mäkelborg Christmas market. Schwerin packs a lot in for such a small city, and everyone is looking forward to the start of the next season – and to the many visitors who come back year after year. Hopefully next time you'll be one of them.