Rostock and Warnemünde, Germany are probably two of the loveliest places in northern Europe that you have never heard of.
Situated in northeast Germany, Rostock is one of the country’s finest former Hanseatic cities. Warnemünde, on the estuary of the Warnow River, is the seaside resort of Rostock and has a sensational broad sandy beach, the largest on Germany’s Baltic Sea coast.
Warnemünde is also one of the world’s busiest cruise ports, commonly marketed as Berlin (Warnemünde), enticing cruise passengers with the opportunity to visit the German capital.
But I say don’t bother visiting Berlin from a cruise stop in Warnemünde.
Don’t get me wrong; I love Berlin and have paid it a visit more than once. However, a shore excursion to Berlin from Warnemünde is a very long and expensive day trip.
As the one-way journey by either bus or train takes around three hours, even with a long day in port this will give you barely five or six hours to explore Berlin.
Therefore, unless you are unlikely to have an opportunity to visit Berlin again, skip the shore excursion and spend your time in Warnemünde and Rostock. To help you make the most of your one day in Warnemünde and Rostock, here are some essential practical tips, including how to get from Warnemünde cruise port, and my pick of what to do.
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How to Spend a Day in Warnemünde and Rostock
I recommend that you start your day in Rostock.
There are two reasons for this. Firstly, this will give you the chance to witness the whirring of Rostock’s famous astronomical clock. But also, as you will be close to the ship during your afternoon in Warnemünde, this will allay any anxieties about getting back to the ship on time.
What to Do in Rostock, Germany
From Rostock Hbf, it’s a pleasant 15-minute walk into the centre of town. Alternatively, jump on tram #5 or #6.
Passing through the city’s imposing steintor (city gate), you will soon arrive at Neuer Markt (market square).
Visit Neuer Markt (Market Square)
With its Renaissance-era gabled merchants’ houses lining a cobblestoned square, Rostock’s Neuer Markt oozes historic charm. A member of the powerful Hanseatic League from the 13th Century, Rostock became an important port and centre for trade and shipbuilding on the Baltic.
Rostock was badly damaged by bombing raids in 1942, but mercifully much of its heritage was spared, including the merchants’ houses on the market square, a kilometre-long stretch of the city’s 13th Century defensive walls and the Rathaus (town hall).
Stroke the snake’s head at Rostock’s Rathaus (town hall)
The youthful appearance of Rostock’s pink arcaded Rathaus on the market square belies its age. Dating from the 13th Century, it is one of the oldest town halls in Germany. Damaged by a storm in the 18th century, its the facade was given a Baroque makeover, even if the interior is much older.
Don’t leave the market square before petting the head of the snake sculpture guarding the entrance to the town hall. Local tradition holds that this will bring you good luck.
Watch the astronomical clock’s performance at St Mary’s Church
On the other side of the market square is St. Mary’s Church, also dating from the 13th Century, which is Rostock’s largest and most beautiful church.
Time your visit for midday to see the Apostles’ Procession at the astronomical clock. Created by the watchmaker Hans Düringer in 1472, and working with original parts, six figures (evangelists and apostles) move past Christ in a solemn procession.
Admission is free; donations welcome.
Stop by Universitätsplatz
Walking west from St Mary’s Church along Rostock’s main shopping street you will reach the triangular Universitätsplatz.
Founded in 1419, Rostock University is one of the oldest universities in the world. The Neo-Renaissance main university building is on the west side of the square. In the centre of Universitätsplatz is Der Brunnen der Lebensfreude (Fountain for the Joy of Life).
Created by Jo Jastram and Reinhard Dietrich, this contemporary fountain features 20 bronze sculptures of animals and people and 18 water jets.
What to Do in Warnemünde, Germany
The guidebooks will tell you that Warnemünde’s highlights are its late 19th Century lighthouse and the Teepott (Teapot) Building, an interesting example of East German (DDR) architecture. But for me, the star of the show was Warnemünde’s beach.
Walk along Warnemünde’s beach
Stretching for over 9 miles, the fine, sugar-white sand of Warnemünde’s beach is dotted with playgrounds, barbeques and the town’s characteristic deckchairs.
These hooded deckchairs, or Strandkörbe, were invented in 1882 by Wilhelm Bartlemann, a basket-maker from Rostock. They were an instant hit and can now be found peppering the beaches of resorts across Germany.
Stroll the streets of Warnemünde
The best way that you can spend your day in Warnemünde is to simply stroll its streets. Its canalside, fringed with former fishermen’s houses, and its beachfront promenades are just made for wandering around.
Stop to pick up a portion of fresh seafood or a juicy brätwurst from one of the many vendors. At around €3 – 5 for a portion, these are a bargain. They taste even better washed down with a refreshing local Rostocker beer.
And don’t miss Alexandrienstrasse with its cobblestones and wooden fishermen’s houses.
Visit Warnemünde’s Lutheran Church
Warnemünde’s current Lutheran Church has been serving the congregation since 1871. Take a look at the church’s Gothic altar, dating from 1474, in particular, the odd placement of its group of carved wooden figures in the central panel.
Planning Your Visit to Warnemünde & Rostock
Exploring Warnemünde from a cruise ship is easy as the centre of town is a mere 10 to 15-minute walk from the cruise port.
How to Get to Rostock from Warnemünde
You will need transport to get to Rostock from Warnemünde cruise port. But this is easy to do independently.
Here are your options.
Option 1: Travel by train from Warnemünde to Rostock
The modern, frequent S-Bahn train will whisk you from Warnemünde train station to Rostock Hbf in 20 minutes. Warnemünde train station is an easy 10 – 15 minute walk from the cruise port.
A one-way ticket costs €2.40 (2021 price) and is available from the machines at the station or from the ticket office. This ticket also includes the tram in Rostock. Don’t forget to validate your ticket in the orange machine on the platform before boarding the train.
Option 2: Take the boat from Warnemünde to Rostock
If you haven’t had enough of being on the water, there is a passenger boat service between Warnemünde and Rostock. A one-way ticket costs €14. 100-minute harbour tours also available for €20 (2021 prices).
Warnemünde & Rostock, Germany – Tips for cruise passengers
- Language – German. English is widely spoken.
- Currency – Euro. Cards are widely accepted.
- Tipping – Tipping is not expected in restaurants because a 10-15% service charge is usually applied to your bill. However, if you feel that the service was exceptional, you can leave a few Euros more.
- Getting around Warnemünde and Rostock – Both places are easily walkable.
And If You Want to Take a Day Tour to Berlin from Warnemünde?
Of course, you can always take a day trip to Berlin from Warnemünde.
The easiest way to do this is to book a shore excursion with your cruise operator. To give you an idea of how much this might set you back, in 2018 a 12-hour excursion with Celebrity cost from £200.
A cheaper alternative is to join a group tour with an independent operator. Or why not take a private excursion to Berlin, which guarantees to get you back on board on time for departure.
Because of the distance involved, I don’t recommend visiting Berlin from Warnemünde independently.
Planning an excursion to Berlin
Packing a good guidebook to allow you to explore the ports of call on a Baltic Sea cruise is a wise move. I can recommend this excellent Lonely Planet guide which I used when I was visiting these ports.
Although it doesn’t include Rostock and Warnemünde, it has a hefty chapter on Berlin if you are interested in visiting the city on an excursion, as well as valuable tips for planning your cruise.
How I Visited Warnemünde and Rostock on a Cruise
- Cruise operator: Celebrity Cruises
- Cruise ship: Celebrity Silhouette
- Time in port: 7 am – 9.30 pm
What Was it Like to Visit Warnemünde and Rostock on a Cruise?
I had no expectations and thought that I would be merely filling time in Warnemünde and Rostock. How wrong was I!
Warnemünde turned out to be one of my favourite stops on my Baltic Sea cruise, even trumping the better-known, and more touristic, Helsinki and Copenhagen. Other stops on this cruise were Stockholm, Tallinn and St. Petersburg.
Both places were easy to explore independently and offered contrasting experiences.
Rostock has an almost palpable historic charm, a legacy of its Hanseatic links. Warnemünde is a wonderfully laid-back seaside resort with an extraordinary beach.
My decision not to return to Berlin was the right one for me. Whilst I can understand cruise passengers taking the opportunity to visit this great city, it is one heck of a day trip.
Staying in Warnemünde and Rostock allowed me to see a more local side of Germany – a German work colleague later shared happy memories of childhood holidays spent in Warnemünde – and have a relaxing day closer to port.