The state capital of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and second in the running for largest the fourth largest city in Germany, Schwerin is a delightful and picturesque place, surrounded by sparkling wrap around lakes. In fact, the city is also known fondly as Seven lakes, due to the number of lakes that make up the breeze ruffled waterscapes. Charismatic and striking, the city’s most famous sight – the Schwerin Castle is a definitive landmark dominating the skyline.
The unlikely sister town of Milwaukee in Wisconsin, Schwerin has seen many of their own residents moving over to the United States in the middle of the 1800s, not long after Schwerin was reinstated as the capital after the division of Mecklenburg state.
Map of Schwerin
The city long enjoyed a regal status as many Dukes and Duchesses resided there. Earlier drawings of the city indicate that their roots may go as far back as 965 AD – and fascinating stories of its charismatic past tell tales of mystery, romance, art and war.
Even though the Schwerin Castle is the only medieval site to have survived throughout the following centuries, there are a number of historical delights evident throughout the city showcasing some impressive 850 years of history. Winding cobbled streets, perfectly manicured lanes, lush natural surroundings, glorious galleries showcasing many works of art and a bustling cultural facet will surely astound the most discerning of travellers.
A visit to the Florence of the North, or the City of Seven Lakes, or Cathedral City, as it is variously known, is a sight to behold – full of excitement, culture and history.
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Best Time to Go
The seasons in Germany offer a variety of different travel options that are absolutely fantastic 365 days of the year. The busiest season is summer – the months of June, July and August, when the weather is at its finest and visitors pour into the city. Also, around the end of the year, as the snow is thick and temperatures chilly, the weeks up to Christmas are busy as visitors flock to the city to enjoy the festivals and the Christmas markets.
With summer and Christmas as peak seasons, expect the prices of everything to reflect the same. If you are on a budget, and can’t face the long queues into all of the attractions, the hoards of people and the serious holiday prices, then you will be more suited to visiting during spring or fall. Fall is popular as the days are still nice and warm, but everybody who was visiting has already left. September is a wonderful month, unless you couldn’t bear to miss Oktoberfest the following month.
Winter temperatures often drop below freezing, so be sure that you are geared for the seriously cold weather. Summer daytime temperatures go up way into the 30°C (86°F) mark, and fall is known as their rainy season, so be prepared for frequent rain showers. No matter what, Schwerin won’t disappoint – whether you have packed your snow skis or flip flops.
Getting Around in Schwerin
Many people will tell you that the easiest way to get around the city is by foot. There are lots of trams and busses throughout the city as another option, and you can download maps for the transport and the famous sights right off the tourist website and plan where you want to go.
The main attractions of Schwerin are quite close together and you can hop off a tram and walk down the parks and lakes. Everything is beautiful and it is worth taking a quiet amble along the river side.
Cycling is also another popular way to see the sights of the city, and there are lots of demarcated paths, along rivers, rolling green fields, through quaint Mecklenburg villages with nothing but the call of the birds and the trickling river beside you. You can book a cycling tour or hire bicycles; the friendly staff at the Tourist Info Centre will help you find everything you need.
Major Attractions and Sites
The Schwerin Castle and Park– Not known as the jewel of Lake Schwerin for nothing, the Schwerin Castle is without a doubt the city’s most iconic landmark. Having survived through centuries and wars, whilst still standing tall and regal, the majestic castle is perched on the river’s edge, its incredible reflection back at her in the sparkling waters below. The architecture of the castle has somewhat of a fairy tale theme – a fortress of elegance, romance and delicacy with numerous turrets, vaults and multiple annexes.
With evidence suggesting that the castle has roots as far back as 965, it was once the residence for many Dukes and Duchesses in its royal time. The surrounding parklands are a big part of the dramatic attraction with manicured gardens sweeping across as far as the eye can see. A legacy of one of the world’s most powerful royal empires, the castle is a must see – it would be sacrilege not to – when visiting Schwerin.
The State Museum is the largest art gallery in all of Mecklenburg state. What was once planned as a palace home for a grand Duke, the unfinished building was transformed and completed by an architect who had a passion for art. It’s now home to the largest collection of Dutch art anywhere in Europe – see Hals, Rembrandt, Rubens and many more.
The State Theater of Mecklenburg stands right next to the State Museum on the square of the Alter Garten. A stunning example of Italian Renaissance design, the theater took 3 years to complete. It’s now the glorious venue for drama, ballet, musicals and German festivals and culture – performance are very much part of German culture.
The Cathedral and Market Square is enveloped by the Rathaus – the gothic/tudor style town hall and Lowendenkmal – the Lion Monument, which stands as reminders of the city’s historic past. The cathedral is the oldest building in the city, however sadly is not all original as many parts had to be rebuilt. But, the Paradiespforte – the Gate to Paradise, is completely original and preserved and the oldest part of the cathedral itself. There are some of the most incredible views of the city from the platform here.
The “Schelfstadt” was originally the brain child of Duke Friedrich Wilhelm way back in 1705. He commissioned this ‘New Town’ to be built, in the hope that it would attract craftsmen and merchants to come and settle here. But it only became part of the city in the middle of the 1800s. Stunning timber houses, charming cobbled streets, a baroque church, cultural centre and many historical buildings are just some of the things to be experienced here.
The Alter Garden Square is located right opposite the palace island and used to be the fruit orchards and vegetable garden for the Duke. Without question the square is the most beautiful and dramatic area in Schwerin – surrounded by the State Museum, the Theater of Mecklengburg, the old palais and the Kollegiengebaude – all 19th century buildings and all with the resplendent backdrop of the palace and the lake.
Lake Pfaffenteich can be found right in the heart of the city. You can take tours of the lake on the Petermannchen ferry or meander along the lime tree boulevard visiting historic places like Demmler’s Home, the Arsenal, the Kuken House, and if you are there at the right time of the year, experience the Alstadtfest and the Dragon Boat Races.
Shopping in Schwerin
If you are a shopping enthusiast, then Schwerin is the place to be. No matter what your shopping style – whether you are into farmers markets, exclusive fashion boutiques, antiques and bargain hunting or a mall rat, there is everything here.
Head out to Puschkinstraße, Schusterstraße, Schmiedestraße and Enge Straße for everything you could possibly imagine along the streets – arts and crafts, antiques, jumble sales, fashion, clothing and jewelry.
There are some big shopping centers like Wurm, Schlossparkcentre and Burgseegalerie and the ultimate year round farmer’s food and craft markets in the Old Town Market Square – Schlachtermarkt. In November, there is a hugely popular medieval / Christmas market – Martensmakrt which must not be missed.
Eating Out in Schwerin
The food in Schwerin is real comfort food – rich with meat, potatoes, and of course generous helpings of German beer; throw your diet out of the window when you get here, there is nothing slimming about it.
Bacon, butter, ham, roasts, wurst, raisins, apples, dumplings and Himmel und Erde are just some of the local staples you can expect to stumble upon on your culinary journey feasting in Schwerin.
Fish is also high on the list as the surrounding lakes provide the city with a wealth of the freshest fish. Lots of traditional Mecklenburgian dishes can be found on menus as well as more modern, lighter fare.
Café Antik is a popular local hangout that is a bit tucked away from the busy tourist areas, which is why it is a welcome retreat.
Chill out on antique furniture, grab a coffee or a beer, put your feet up and enjoy some great food, good company, friendly staff, a fantastic host and stay there all night if you want.
Generally open from 3pm, although depending on how late events ran the night before, you may have to wait a bit until they get sorted.
Cafe Prag is very popular for their friendly service, great food and good value for money. Leave some room after a hearty meal for their incredible cakes and don’t miss a chance to try their apple streusel – just take a takeaway if you can’t manage it there.
Nightlife in Schwerin
The nightlife in Schwerin is effervescent – don’t miss a chance to take a tour of the city with the night watchman and his bright lights. There is everything here, enjoy cocktails, a theatre show, dancing until dawn or a good night out at the pub.
Beer is a huge national favorite and it is not uncommon to find the quaint little pubs and bars opening only much later in the afternoon, and then staying open until the very early hours of the morning.
Biergartens are popular in the summer, and it is great to sit outdoors with a beer and a pretzel overlooking the lakes, lush gardens and surrounded by a happy vibe of locals and visitors alike.
The local people in Schwerin are friendly and the staff at many of the establishments speak English, and are happy to help you order, or give you directions to the next party place.
Summer is a very busy time as the weather is nice and everybody wants to get outside and enjoy a beer, so be sure to get there early or if you can book in advance, otherwise you will end up being disappointed.
There are a couple of casinos, as well as bowling if you don’t feel like going out on a pub crawl. Check out the local list of events and shows, you could find yourself in luck with last minute tickets left for a great show.
Zum Freischütz is a hugely popular pub that has a fantastic drinks and food menu – go early, as it is always packed and don’t forget to try the Fladenbrot; it’s huge so you can share it with 2 people.
Tapas Bar Weinhaus Wöhler is good for cocktails, wine, food in a great vibey atmosphere.
Octagon is where to chill out at a club with many different faces. Wander into the Casabalanca room, groove at the House and Black floor and grab a cocktail at the Bayernbar.
Of Local Interest
Schwerin’s Open Air Opera Castle Festival
Every year for more than a decade the State Theatre of Mecklenberg has been putting on an Open Air Opera Festival at the Castle.
Opera under the stars quickly became a popular trademark and has evolved into one of the premier international events on the opera calendar.
Book in advance and get tickets to La Traviata, Rigoletto and Nabucco – to name but a few. There cannot be a more dramatic backdrop to such sensational events – as the Castle.
Emotional and moving, to see performances here are most certainly a once in a life time experience.