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Schleswig-Holstein is one of Germany's 16 federal states, occupying the southern third of the Jutland Peninsula. Located in the northernmost part of the country, Schleswig-Holstein neighbors Denmark to the north. The North Sea serves as the natural border of the state to the west and the Baltic Sea to the east. Within Germany, Schleswig-Holstein neighbors Mecklenburg–West Pomerania to the southeast and Lower Saxony to the southwest. Part of the state's border is also shared with the city of Hamburg, which is also one of Germany's federal states. The region's capital city, Kiel, can be found in the eastern part of the territory. The town is geographically characterized by the Kiel Fjord, which cuts through the mainland directly into the city center. Of considerable historical significance is the city of Lübeck, with its Old Town protected by UNESCO. Different geographical features of the state's landscape divide Schleswig-Holstein into three parts: the west, formed mostly by lower hills and an abundance of lakes; the center, dominated by the mountainous landscape; and the east, characterized by marshes and bogs. Across the west coast of Schleswig-Holstein is one of Germany's protected areas, the Schleswig-Holstein Wadden Sea National Park, which is inhabited by an abundance of various animals and bird species.
Schleswig-Holstein reportedly has the "second highest tourism intensity per local among the German states." However, in "absolute value," Schleswig-Holstein is Germany's 6th most visited state. The touristic popularity of the area is mainly attributed to the state's access to both the North and Baltic Seas, with numerous beaches and several islands. On the shores of the North Sea, the Schleswig-Holstein Wadden Sea National Park can be found stretching from the mouth of the Elbe towards the Danish borders, covering approximately all of the region's west coast. Located on the other side of the state is the Holstein Switzerland Nature Park. Holstein, Switzerland, attracts tourists seeking outdoor water recreation, such as paddling, boating, or swimming, as the area has a relatively large amount of lakes. The nature park also tends to be visited by those who enjoy hiking, biking, and climbing, additionally featuring several educational opportunities for kids as well.
Concerning the urban areas in Schleswig-Holstein, the state's capital city, Kiel, can be found on the east coast of the territory. Kiel is allegedly known for its shipbuilding and naval tradition. Thus, water and sea is the predominant element of the city, as the Kiel Fjord cuts directly through the mainland, bringing the Baltic Sea to the city center. The shipyards along the shore of the Kiel Fjord are reportedly some of the largest in Europe. One of Kiel's most visited historical destinations is Dänische Strasse, which features buildings that date back to the 19th century.
Lübeck, located in the southern part of the state, represents another historically significant destination within Schleswig-Holstein's territory. Formerly bearing the function of the capital and the Queen City of the Hanseatic League, the Hanseatic City of Lübeck is currently protected under UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The city was established in the 12th century and, by the 16th century, became one of the main trading centers in northern Europe. Lübeck's Old Town showcases the traditional medieval structure of the Hanseatic Town. The buildings in the old town, which is surrounded by water on all sides, date back to the 15th century and are well preserved to this day. Apart from historical buildings, several parks, embankments, and public monuments attract visitors to Lübeck's Old Town as well.
Schleswig-Holstein covers the northernmost part of Germany. The North Sea borders the state to the west and the Baltic Sea, with the coast formed by fjords, to the east. The area of the state can be roughly divided into three parts: eastern, central, and western. Reportedly, eastern Schleswig-Holstein is formed by hilly countryside and an abundance of lakes, with local soils being used for wheat agriculture. Uplands and an ancient moraine area stretch over the central part of the region, with grounds being of reportedly lower quality than in the rest of the state. The western part of Schleswig-Holstein is known for its abundance of ditches, dikes, and ponds. The local landscape is flat, marshy, and treeless. Schleswig-Holstein's west coast and the adjacent shallows and flats are often exposed to the tides. Some of those areas have reportedly been reclaimed and are presently used for livestock breeding.
Several natural areas with protected animal and plant species can be found across the Schleswig-Holstein territory. One of them is the Schleswig-Holstein Wadden Sea National Park, one of Germany's 16 national parks. The national park covers approximately 4,380 square kilometers of land, stretching across most of Schleswig-Holstein's west coast. About 3,200 animal species can be found within the national park's territory. The predominance among animals is namely birds, as the Schleswig-Holstein Wadden Sea National Park is Central Europe's richest area in terms of the number of bird species.
Regarding Schleswig-Holstein's climate, the area is affected by the Gulf Stream, resulting in relatively warm summers and mild winters that can be experienced in the region. Concerning the average temperatures in Schleswig-Holstein's capital, Kiel, the warmest month is July, with an average daily temperature of 21°C. January has been found to be the coldest month, with an average temperature of 2°C. With an average of 39 mm of rainfall, February tends to be the driest month in Kiel. The most precipitation falls during November, receiving about 88 mm on average.
Schleswig-Holstein was established based on two historical regions, Schleswig and Holstein. Representing the northernmost part of Germany, sharing borders with Denmark, and with a direct approach to both the North and Baltic Sea, the territory of Schleswig-Holstein was subject to the claims of several different countries, such as Denmark, Sweden, the Holy Roman Empire, Prussia, and Austria, over history. For instance, the Schleswig region has been one of Denmark's duchies since the 12th century, as well as Holstein. However, at the same time, Holstein was also a fief of the Holy Roman Empire, and after 1815, Holstein became part of the German Confederation. Later, in the 1840s, Holstein was inhabited mainly by the German population, while Schleswig was divided into German populated south and a Danish-populated north, which led to several conflicts and, ultimately, a war.
After the Napoleonic wars, there was a significant movement in Holstein and Southern Schleswig to become part of Prussia, while the people of Northern Schleswig wanted to become part of Denmark. The conflict, which resulted in a war between Prussia and Austria against Denmark, is nowadays called the Schleswig-Holstein Question. Prussia eventually won the war. Thus, Schleswig (Northern and Southern Schleswig), Holstein, and Lauenburg became part of Prussia and Austria. However, after the defeat of Germany in World War I, a plebiscite was held in Schleswig and Holstein, which showed that 75% people of Northern Schleswig wanted to reunite with Denmark. In 1920, Northern Schleswig officially became part of Denmark, and in today's time, it is called South Jutland County. Northern Schleswig has remained one of Denmark's integrative counties to this day.
Schleswig-Holstein, in current times, is inhabited by mostly the German population, with considerable Danish, Frisian, Roma, and Sinti minorities. The relative variability of the local population is presumably caused by the number of refugees who settled in the region after the Second World War. Schleswig-Holstein's population grew by approximately 1.1 million people between 1944 and 1949, with refugees coming mainly from Eastern Pomerania and East Prussia.
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