Day Trip to Lüneburg, Germany: Visiting the Medieval Town That’s Famous for Salt!

If you’re planning a trip to Northern Germany and you want to experience a medieval town that’ll transport you back through time, then you need to plan a day trip to Lüneburg!

Lüneburg is a town of red brick Gothic architecture that rose to prosperity during the middle ages thanks to the salt found directly beneath the town. The salt, also known as white gold, was extracted for more than 1,000 years and it shaped the town’s landscape and history, but more on that later.

In this blog post, we’ll give you some ideas of things to do in Lüneburg on a day trip. We’ll show you where to get the best panoramic views of the old town, we’ll teach you why many of the town’s buildings are slightly crooked, we’ll tell you where to enjoy some hearty German dishes, plus we’ll share plenty of fun activities for your day trip to Lüneburg, Germany!

Exploring the red-brick Gothic buildings on day trip to Lüneburg, Germany.

Visiting the town of Lüneburg, Germany

How do you get to Lüneburg?

The best way to get to Lüneburg is by train. It is a 36-minute train ride from Hamburg Hauptbahnhof to Lüneburg on the RE (Regional Express). Or, alternatively, it’s a 1-hour train journey from Hannover on the ICE (Inter City Express). 

Can you visit Lüneburg on a day trip?

Lüneburg is situated between Hamburg and Hanover, so it makes for a very easy day trip for anyone travelling around Northern Germany. The town is small enough that visitors can cover most of the tourist attractions in one day. However, for travellers with more time, it’s a great 2-3 day destination.

Is Lüneburg Germany worth visiting?

Yes! If you’re looking for a charming, walkable, medieval town with lots of history, then Lüneburg is worth the visit!

What is Lüneburg known for?

Lüneburg is best known for its salt, which during the Middle Ages allowed the town to rise to prosperity. At the time, salt was in great demand in order to preserve herring caught in the Baltic and North Seas, and Lüneburg’s monopoly on salt production in Northern Europe allowed it to join the Hanseatic League and thrive.

Medieval buildings line the banks of the Ilmenau River in Lüneburg, Germany.

Now let’s talk about some things that you can do in Lüneburg during your one day visit:

Climb the water tower

Our first stop of the day was Wasserturm Lüneburg, or the Lüneburg Water Tower, which is the place to go for panoramic views of the town.

This is a neo-Gothic, red-brick structure situated in the old town and it’s impossible to miss. The tower stands 55 metres tall and it’s the tallest building in Lüneburg’s old town that is not a church. Just wait until you see all the church steeples on the horizon once you reach the top of the tower!

The water tower in Lüneburg, also known as the Wasserturm.

We rode the elevator to the top, but then on the way down, we took the stairs which lead through the old water tank that sits inside the tower. The tank is ​​500 cubic metres and it was all lit up with blue lights and shifting water patterns – it’s an immersive work of art.

Panoramic views of Lüneburg’s old town as seen from the water tower.
Views of the medieval rooftops from Lüneburg’s water tower.
Views of Lüneburg’s old town featuring Gothic architecture.

Get lost in the Old Town

We then continued over to Platz am Sande, which is one of the oldest squares in Lüneburg and also one of the most important medieval squares in all of Germany. Medieval trade routes used to run through here so if you were to travel back in time several hundred years, you’d find merchants bringing their goods by cart to trade and haggle in this very spot.

Street art of herring in Lüneburg, Germany.
Walking the narrow red brick lanes of Lüneburg, Germany.
Medieval timberframe houses in Lüneburg’s old town.

From this point, we started our mapless walk around the old town, going down whatever random streets piqued our interest. It was a very slow walk as we stopped to admire the architectural details of these medieval homes and storefronts that look straight out of a fairy tale. 

Visit the main churches

I mentioned earlier that there are a lot of churches in Lüneburg, and we managed to make it to three of the main ones. 

Basilica of St Nikolai

The first was the Basilica of St Nikolai, which was built between 1407 and 1440 in the Gothic style. This was the church of the boatmen and salt barrel makers, two very important jobs during the Middle Ages. This is the smallest of the three main churches in Lüneburg, but it’s worth the visit.

Don’t forget to look up at the star rib vault which is a pretty unique design for Northern Germany!

The red brick arches of the Basilica of St Nikolai in Lüneburg, Germany.
The red brick architecture of the Basilica of St Nikolai in Lüneburg.

St John’s Church

We also visited Johanniskirche, or St John’s Church, which is the oldest Lutheran church in Lüneburg. What stands about this church is that its 108-meter tower rises crookedly into the sky!

During its construction around the year 1384, the tower was 2.20 meters out of plumb. The thing is, church towers were purposely built slightly crooked into the wind so that they didn’t get the full wind load, but it shouldn’t have been quite so pronounced.

The organ in St John’s Church in Lüneburg, Germany.
Close up view of the great organ inside St John’s Church in Lüneburg.

The story goes that when the master builder saw his mistake, he climbed the church tower and threw himself out the window, however, just then, a hay cart went past allowing him to survive the fall. The builder then decided to celebrate the fact that he was still alive with a drink at the pub, and that’s when he fell off a bench and broke his neck.

Is it a true story? Hard to say, but locals love sharing it!

St Michael’s Church

The third church we visited was St Michaelis, or St Michael’s, which was an abbey church of the former monastery of Benedictines.

St Michael’s Church in Lüneburg is built in red brick in the Gothic style.
The interior of St Michael’s Church in Lüneburg, Germany.

This is where Johann Sebastian Bach was a boarder as a young teenager. Here, he was a singer in the church choir and likely also contributed as an organist.

And because we’ve been talking so much about crooked buildings, I’ll also mention that in this church there’s a plumb line that hangs to the west of the nave, where you can see that the columns aren’t quite straight!

Stroll along the Ilmenau River

During our visit to Lüneburg, we enjoyed a walk along the banks of the Ilmenau River which flows through the town.

This is a really picturesque area and if you’re looking for postcard-perfect photo ops, this is where you’ll find them. You have the weeping willows swaying next to the river, you can see buildings in a variety of architectural styles all standing next to each other, and the bridge is covered in love locks.

Weeping willow trees and Gothic architecture on the banks of the Ilmenau River in Lüneburg.
The Ilmenau River flowing through Lüneburg’s old town.
Timber frame architecture on the banks of the Ilmenau River in Lüneburg.

There’s also a nice multi-level terrace on the west bank of the river just across from the medieval crane, and you can find lots of restaurants with outdoor dining.

See the old medieval crane

Another cool attraction to visit in Lüneburg is the old wooden crane, which was first mentioned in documents in the year 1330. This crane was mainly used for the transport of salt and salted herring, and although it is not in use today, its current state is still operational, which is amazing! 

Lüneburg’s old wooden crane sits on the banks of the Ilmenau River.

Enjoy lunch with a view

There were so many tempting lunch options, but we ended up settling on Frieda’s am Wasserturm. This restaurant sits right next to the water tower, so it has a pretty cool view, especially if you opt for al fresco dining.

Lunch with a restaurant view of the water tower in Lüneburg.
Hamburger for lunch at Frieda’s am Wasserturm in Lüneburg.
Having lunch al fresco at Frieda’s am Wasserturm in Lüneburg.

I ordered their parmesan and pesto cream soup, which was delicious and perfect for an outdoor autumn lunch. Meanwhile, Sam opted for their massive hamburger and spicy fries. It was a good meal!

Take a guided tour of the town

One of the best things to do in Lüneburg, in my opinion, is to join a guided walking tour. It’s such a great way to learn about the town’s unique history and its special relationship with salt.

One of the first stops we made during the tour was the building known as the pregnant house due to its bulging belly. This occurred because the walls were built using plaster that contained a large amount of calcium. Because the bricks were fired for too long, they absorbed and accumulated moisture, resulting in the walls expanding outwards.

Lüneburg’s town hall building is built in multiple architectural styles.
The rose garden in bloom behind Lüneburg’s town hall building.

We also visited the town hall building which came into being over the course of several centuries and therefore comprises an eclectic mix of architectural styles which range from North German Brick Gothic to Baroque. This is the largest medieval town hall in Northern Germany and it also has a beautiful rose garden out back.

We joined a guided tour on our day trip to Lüneburg and explored local neighbourhoods.
Walking down the crooked medieval streets of Lüneburg, Germany.

We also learned how in the Middle Ages, Lüneburg found its wealth through salt during a time when table salt was almost as valuable as gold. The problem is that the salt was underneath the town and water was pumped down to extract it creating cavities. This resulted in parts of the town sinking and it’s something that continues to happen to this day. You can see this as you walk past medieval houses that aren’t quite level and whose doorways and windows are slanted.

Visit a chocolate shop

Another place we visited during our day trip to Lüneburg was Schokothek. This is a chocolate shop that carries a wide variety of hand-selected chocolates from across the globe.

Visiting Schokothek, a chocolate shop in Lüneburg, Germany.

We did a little tasting and also bought some chocolates to take home as gifts. Some of the highlights included the salted caramel chocolate, pistachio and nougat, and then black liquorice for Sam. If you’ve been watching our YouTube channel for a while, you know full well about his salted liquorice obsession! And we also bought a bottle of Franconian wine to take back home as a gift.

Enjoy some hearty dishes

Lastly, we ended our day at Krone with some hearty German pub fare and beer. Also, this place has over 500 years of history!

During the time of the Hanseatic League there were 80 breweries in Lüneburg, and the Lüneburg Kronen Brewery which dates back to 1485 was the only one that remained in existence until it closed in 2001.

While they may no longer brew on-site, today, you can enjoy the restaurant and also visit their brewery museum.

Sampling Krone beer in Lüneburg, where it originated.
Enjoy dinner and drinks at Krone in Lüneburg.

As for the food, we had two of our favourite dishes of the whole trip! Sam got these savoury potato pancakes covered in a chicken and mushroom gravy, while I got the baked potato with sour cream, pickled herring and apples. Simple, classic, hearty German pub food!

And that’s a wrap of our day trip to Lüneburg. Hopefully, this itinerary gave you a few ideas of things you can do in Lüneburg on your own visit! And last but not least, we’ll leave you with a video of our visit. Tschüss!