Lübeck is the second largest city in Schleswig-Holstein, in northern Germany, and one of the major ports of Germany. It was for several centuries the "capital" of the Hanseatic League ("Queen of the Hanse") and because of its Brick Gothic architectural heritage is on UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites. In 2005 it has a population of 213,983.
Situated at the Trave River, Lübeck is the largest German port on the Baltic Sea. The old part of the town is an island enclosed by the Trave. The Elbe-Lübeck Canal connects the Trave with the Elbe River. Another important river near the town center is the Wakenitz. Autobahn 1 connects Lübeck with Hamburg and Denmark (Vogelfluglinie). The borough Travemünde is a sea resort and ferry port at the coast of the Baltic Sea.
In addition, around 700 AD Slavic peoples started to come into the eastern parts of Holstein which had been left by many Germanic inhabitants in the course of the Migration Period. By the early 9th century Charlemagne, whose Christianisation attempts were opposed by Saxons, moved Saxons out and brought in Polabian Slavs, who were allied to Charlemagne, in their stead. Liubice ("lovely") was founded on the Trave banks about four kilometres north of the present-day city centre of Lübeck. In the 10th century it became the most important settlement of the Obotrite confederacy and a castle was built. The settlement was burned down in 1128 by pagan Rani from Rügen.
The modern town was founded by Adolf II, Count of Schauenburg and Holstein, in 1143 as a German settlement on the river island Bucu. He established a new castle which was first mentioned by Helmold in 1147. Adolf had to cede the castle to Henry the Lion in 1158. After Henry's fall in 1181, the town became an Imperial city for eight years. Emperor Barbarossa gave the city a ruling council with twenty members that survived into the 19th century. This council was dominated by merchants and caused Lübeck's politics to be dominated by trade interests for centuries to come.
The town and castle changed ownership for a period afterwards and was part of the Duchy of Saxony until 1192, of the County of Holstein until 1217 and part of Denmark until the Battle of Bornhöved in 1227.
Around 1200 the port became the main point of departure for colonists leaving for the Baltic territories conquered by the Livonian Order and, later, Teutonic Order. In 1226 Emperor Frederick II elevated the town to an Imperial Free City, becoming the Free City of Lübeck. In the 14th century Lübeck became the "Queen of the Hanseatic League", being by far the largest and most powerful member of this mediaeval trade organization. In 1375, Emperor Charles IV. named Lübeck one of the five "Glories of the Empire", a title shared with Venice, Rome, Pisa and Florence. Several conflicts about trade privileges were fought by Lübeck and the Hanseatic League against Denmark and Norway with varying outcomes. While Lübeck and the Hanseatic League prevailed in conflicts in 1435 and 1512, Lübeck lost when it became involved in the Count's Feud, a civil war that raged in Denmark from 1534 to 1536. Lübeck also joined the Schmalkaldic League.
After defeat in the Count's Feud, Lübeck's power slowly declined. Lübeck managed to remain neutral in the Thirty Years' War, but with the devastation caused by the decades-long war and the new transatlantic orientation of European trade, the Hanseatic League and thus Lübeck lost importance. After the Hanseatic League was de facto disbanded in 1669, Lübeck remained an important trading town on the Baltic Sea.
In course of the war of the Fourth Coalition against Napoleon, troops under Bernadotte occupied the neutral Lübeck after a battle against Blücher on November 6th, 1806. Under the Continental System, the bank went into bankruptcy and from 1811 to 1813 Lübeck was formally annexed as part of France until the Vienna Congress of 1815.
During World War II, Lübeck was the first German city to be attacked in substantial numbers by the Royal Air Force. The attack on 28 March 1942 created a firestorm, that caused severe damage to the historic centre and the Bombing of Lübeck in World War II destroyed three of the main churches and greater parts of the built-up area. A POW camp for officers, Oflag X-C, was located near the city from 1940 until April 1945. Lübeck was occupied without resistance by the Second Army on May 2 1945.
On May 3 1945, one of the biggest disasters in naval history happened in the Bay of Lübeck when Allied bombers sank three ships which, unknown to them, were packed with concentration-camp inmates. About 7,000 people were killed.
Lübeck's population grew considerably from about 150,000 in 1939 to more than 220,000 after the war, owing to an influx of refugees expelled from the former Eastern provinces of Germany.
Lübeck remained part of Schleswig-Holstein after the war and was situated directly at the inner German border during the division of Germany into two rival states in the Cold War period. South of the city the border followed the path of the river Wakenitz that separated both countries by less than 10 m in many parts. The northernmost border crossing was in Lübeck's district of Schlutup.
Much of the old town has kept a medieval look with old buildings and narrow streets. The town once could only be entered by passing one of four town gates, of which two remain today, the well-known Holstentor (1478) and the Burgtor (1444).
Other sights include:
Like many other places in Germany, Lübeck has a long tradition with Christmas market in December, which includes the famous handicrafts market inside the Heiligen-Geist-Hospital (Hospital of the Holy Spirit), located at the north end of Königstrasse.
The Lübeck wine trade dates back to Hanseatic times. One Lübeck specialty is Rotspon, wine made from grapes processed and fermented in France and transported in wooden barrels to Lübeck, where it is stored, aged and bottled.
Lübeck's only newspaper is Lübecker Nachrichten.
Lübeck has three universities, Lübeck University of Applied Sciences, University of Lübeck and Musikhochschule Lübeck. The Graduate School for Computing in Medicine and Life Sciences is a central facility of the University and is founded by the German Excellence Initiative The International School of New Media is an affiliated institute at the University.
The city of Lübeck is divided into 10 zones. These again are arranged into altogether 35 urban districts. The 10 zones with their official numbers, their associated urban districts and the numbers of inhabitants of the quarters: