A seaside town in the northern federal state of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, Rostock, Germany, draws Europeans looking for sun, sea and sailing. It's a Baltic Sea resort with a distinctly Scandinavian feel, where the boats seem to outnumber the people.
Visitors will find that the two main sections of Rostock—the historical downtown and Warnemuende—are both packed with their own distinct appeal. The downtown area is an intriguing mix of architecture, from Stalinist structures to the restored redbrick Gothic buildings that hark back to the city's stint as a powerful member of the 12th-century Hanseatic League.
By contrast, the ornate, pastel-colored city hall presides over the Neuer Markt, a spacious plaza sprinkled with outdoor cafes and markets, and the imposing Marienkirche, with its medieval astronomical clock, dominates the skyline.
Warnemuende, just a few miles/kilometers away, is a lively seaside resort that has retained much of the charm of its early days as a fishing village. Restaurants and shops line the waterfront.
In Warnemuende, visitors can explore the boardwalk, sun themselves at the beach, catch the view from the lighthouse (which dates to 1897) and visit the restaurants and shops in the adjacent Teepott building. Art aficionados can poke around the Cultural History Museum, a former convent now housing paintings and crafts dating to the Middle Ages, and the Kunsthalle art gallery, with its collection of contemporary art.
The IGA Park on the city's west bank offers gardens, a teahouse and a discovery center for children as well as the Shipbuilding and Maritime Museum. Rostock Zoo is another family-friendly draw.
Rostock is home to one of the best-known sailing races in the world, the annual Hanse Sail, which usually takes place in August and draws more than 1.5 million visitors.
Ferry service links Rostock with Denmark, Sweden, Latvia, Estonia and Finland.
A short drive west of Rostock lies Bad Doberan, which has a stunning former Cistercian monastery church dating from 1368. From Bad Doberan, you can take the "Molli" (http://www.molli-bahn.de), a nostalgic steam-powered narrow gorge railway, to Heiligendamm, a historic seaside spa area. The train then chugs on to Kuhlungsborn, another popular seaside resort.
Northeast of Rostock, the peninsula chain of Fischland-Darss-Zingst is one of the most attractive areas of the German Baltic coast and also popular for its rich maritime past and traditions. Its Vorpommersche Boddenlandschaft National Park is a sanctuary for many threatened bird species.
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