One of the better-known travel destinations in Germany, the federal state of Schleswig-Holstein forms the northernmost tip of the country, bordering Denmark. The state has access to both the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, two destinations very popular with travelers. With the Wadden Sea National Park Schleswig-Holstein is also home to Central Europe’s largest National Park.
Apart from tourism, the state’s economy in the southern half partly profits from being located in the Hamburg metropolitan area, while in the eastern part, around Lübeck and Kiel, the only two large cities of the state, ship building and sea transportation are considerable factors. In contrast, the western half is comparatively sparsely populated and is considered as being a structurally rather weak area.
Until Prussia and Austria won the Second Schleswig War in 1864, Schleswig-Holstein for a long time in its history in large parts stood under Danish rule. Until this day, there is a small Danish minority living in the northernmost region of the state. These historic developments are reflected in Schleswig-Holsteins culture, in particular in the Low German language which is still common in the state, although generally being in decline.
Schleswig-Holstein’s population density is with 179 people per square kilometer below the German average. Among the western federal states of the country, the state has the lowest percentage of foreign-born inhabitants, some 20% of which are from countries of the European Union.
Schleswig-Holstein is the northernmost of the 16 states of Germany, comprising most of the historical duchy of Holstein and the southern part of the former Duchy of Schleswig. Its capital city is Kiel, other important cities are Lübeck, Flensburg, Neumünster, Norderstedt, Elmshorn.
After World War II, the Prussian province Schleswig-Holstein came under British occupation. On 23 August 1946, the military government abolished the province and reconstituted it as a separate Land.
Because of the forced migrations of Germans in 1944 to 1950, the population of Schleswig-Holstein increased by 33% (860,000 people). A pro-Danish political movement arose in Schleswig, with transfer of the area to Denmark as an ultimate goal. This was supported neither by the British occupation administration nor the Danish government. In 1955, the German and Danish governments issued the Bonn-Copenhagen Declarations confirming the rights of the ethnic minorities on both sides of the border. Conditions between the nationalities have since been stable and generally respectful.
Schleswig-Holstein combines Scandinavian and German aspects of culture. The castles and manors in the countryside are the best example for this tradition; some dishes like Rødgrød (German: Rote Grütze, literal English “red grits” or “red groats”) are also shared, as well as surnames such as Hansen.
The most important festivals are the Kiel Week, Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival, an annual classic music festival all over the state, and the Lübeck Nordic Film Days, an annual film festival for movies from Scandinavian countries, held in Lübeck.
The annual Wacken Open Air festival is considered to be the largest heavy metal rock festival in the world. The state’s most important museum of cultural history is in Gottorf Castle in Schleswig. The Wagnerian tenor Klaus Florian Vogt is from Schleswig-Holstein.
Schleswig-Holstein’s islands, beaches, and cities are popular tourist attractions.
Schleswig-Holstein is rich in islands. Germany’s northernmost state includes sixteen islands and Halligen in the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. Between them, these sixteen manage to offer all the superlatives any visitor could ever want: Helgoland and Sylt are Germany’s only open sea island and the country’s northernmost island respectively. Fehmarn is the sunniest island and the community on the Gröde Hallig is the smallest in Germany.
But what really makes these islands special is their individuality: long sandy beaches here, rugged cliffs there, heaths and the tidal mudflats of the Wadden Sea, charming little villages, cosy self-catering apartments, exclusive hotels and elegant restaurants. An island holiday is a unique pleasure, because each island has its own character and getting there is a special journey. Even though many islands are now accessible by bridge or by dam, for most visitors the holiday starts with a ferry trip. And it doesn’t matter how long this takes, as soon as the car is parked on the gently swaying ship and the mainland gradually disappears into the distance, body and soul begin to relax.
Lübeck is a northern German city distinguished by Brick Gothic architecture, which dates to its time as the medieval capital of the Hanseatic League, a powerful trading confederation. Its symbol is the Holstentor, a red-brick city gate that defended the river-bounded Altstadt (old town). Rebuilt following WW II, the Marienkirche is a 13th–14th-century landmark that widely influenced Northern European church design. Lübeck is one of the major ports of Germany. Situated on the river Trave, it was the leading city of the Hanseatic League, and because of its extensive Brick Gothic architecture, it is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.