Kiel is the major city in, and is the seat of government of, the state of Schleswig-Holstein, which is to be found in the northern part of Germany. The country of Denmark is almost right next door, and, through a historical quirk, the city of Kiel was ruled by the King of Denmark for almost 100 years in the 18th and 19th centuries. Its trading and tourist ties to Denmark remain close, but most of the population of nearly a quarter of a million people here will cheerfully inform you that they are German. It lies on the Baltic Sea, and has a long-standing, friendly rivalry with the neighbouring city of Lübeck.
If you have been in Kiel at any time of its history, you will almost have been there on some activity which involves the sea. It was founded in 1233, and became a significant member of the Hanseatic League scarcely half-a-century later. Trade helped the city flourish, and to this day the city has had a deserved appearance of affluence – though much of what you will now see in the city dates back scarcely more than half-a-century. As the main headquarters of the German navy in the Second World War, it was heavily bombed by allied air forces, and up to 80% of the original city was destroyed.
The German navy still has a significant presence. Perhaps as significant for maritime matters these days though, is the fact that it is also Germany’s cruise ship capital. Thousands of people come here to board a luxury boat which can take them on the cruise of a life time.
The nearest airport to Kiel is the one in Hamburg. An airport bus runs direct between Hamburg Airport and Kiel’s main railway station and takes approximately 85 minutes.
International passengers who arrive at Germany’s main airport hub at Frankfurt, have the alternative of using Germany’s excellent railway service. The very fast and very comfortable ICE service will have you in Kiel in approximately five and a half hours, with one change of train required in Hamburg.
People travelling by car in Scandinavia can also reach Kiel by ferry from either Oslo or Gothenburg, and there is a ferry connection also to Klaipeda in Lithuania.
Advanced booking of hotels is always to be recommended before setting out on any journey, but given the large number of people who use Kiel for boarding a cruise liner, it is particularly important that you should do so here. All the information that you need for booking a room can be found on the website http://www.kurskiel.de/Accommodation/Accommodation_486.html
Please note also that this is a versatile site which allows you several other choices apart from hotels – inns, Bed and Breakfast establishments, holiday homes, youth hostels, and even farm accommodation can be booked from this site.
Kiel is quite a large city, and there is a great deal to see. The best advice on how to get around can be obtained at the Tourist Information Centres which are to be found at the new Town Hall, or at the main railway station. They can also provide excellent information on the best places to dine, and what to see in the city, including a choice of walking tours which can be undertaken.
There is much to be seen in Kiel, whether it is the modern Town Hall (Rathaus), which was built in the 20th century, or the famous church of Sankt Nikolai, which dates back to the 13th century. There are also two botanical gardens (old – Alter, and new – Neuer – which offer much of interest to horticultural fans).
Much of what Kiel is really famous for though is to be found round the harbour. The city has an annual regatta week in June, where thousands of boats from different generations are on display. The docking berths of the ferries from Norway and Sweden (the Norwegenkai and Schwedenkai) are worth a visit in their own right. The Maritime Museum allows the visitor to see a number of different ships, including the world’s oldest submarine – the “Brandtaucher”. Visitors are also recommended to walk round the Tipritzhafen (Tipritz Harbour) and see the famous training ship the Gorch Fock, where young German naval officers learn their craft, and other impressive sailing vessels which serve the German navy.
Trips around the harbour are well worth taking, whether on a two-hour trip along the Kiel Fjord, or possibly on a complete day trip on a sailing yacht. The fjord can also seen from the air, if you prefer, by taking a trip round in a helicopter.
Shopping and entertainment are both well provided for in the city, the shopping centres such as the Citti Markt and the Sophienhof offer a wide range of possibilities in modern surroundings. At night the city has a range of theatres and cinemas available (though for the theatre performances, a knowledge of German is to be recommended). There are throughout the city some excellent bars and cafes, where an excellent choice of refreshment is offered.
Perhaps the most significant sports team in Kiel is its handball team. Handball is a popular sport in Germany, and Kiel has for years been among the dominant teams in the country. People who wish to get tickets for games though are advised to book in advance, as the demand for them, given the popularity of the team, is great.
For more relaxing activities, maybe a sauna may be just what you need. The Birke Hotel, the Mare Wellness Centre, and the Meridian Spa all offer excellent services – enquiries can be made in advance via the Internet, or locally upon arrival.
Normally the climate is reasonably temperate, which is typical for northern Germany. Very occasionally the Baltic Sea experiences a severe winter with winds coming down from the East or the North and the sea freezes over. In such periods, Kiel, while at the western extremity of the waterway, is also upon the receiving end of these severe bouts of weather. This does not happen every year, by any stretch of the imagination, but visitors should be aware that the possibility of such winter weather exists.
Overall Kiel is a fascinating city. For lovers of the sea in particular, there is much to enjoy. It also has a sense of comfort and affluence second to nowhere in Germany, and the people of the city, who are well accustomed to the demands of the travelling public, will be glad that you paid them a visit, and that they were able to offer you the high-class hospitality for which they are renowned .