Wismar’s Old Town, UNESCO World Heritage

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Wismar, Germany

Wismar’s Old Town, UNESCO World Heritage Reviews

Kathrin_E Kathrin_E
369 reviews
Wismar’s Old Town, UNESCO World Heritage Jun 27, 2009
The old town of Wismar has maintained its medieval and early modern structure, including the old port basin and the canal that runs through the town. World War II bombs have hit the industrial areas and destroyed two of the three medieval churches but spared most of the old town. You may find more spectacular individual architectures in other Hansa cities like Lübeck or Stralsund. In Wismar, it is the ensemble that matters, and that made the town UNESCO World Heritage.

Scheuerstraße has a remarkable amount of medieval and renaissance merchants’ houses with the characteristic stepped gables. Most of these served as trade offices and storages, some still have cranes at their gables. This street is off the usual tourist path and so far hardly any restoration has been done. The facades are secured but they are in urgent need of plaster and paint. This street breathes the spirit of past decades, if not centuries, even more if you overlook the modern cars parked here.

Spiegelberg is another off the beaten path street with remarkable architecture in urgent need of repair and restoration. Seeing 17th century facades of once beautiful, now empty and decaying houses, their ground floor windows closed with bricks, makes me hurt. Others have already been done and look great, so let’s hope it will be the miserable houses’ turn some day, too. A lot depends on the owners...

„Grube“ (pit) is the name of an artificial watercourse that leads through the old town. This canal was built in the 13th century. It is part of a system of canals that connects the Lake of Schwerin with the Baltic Sea. It supplied freshwater, moved the wheels of the water mills, and provided water for fire-fighting.

The so-called „Gewölbe“ („vault“), a half-timbered house on top of a low bridge with two arches. was built across the end of the Grube canal towards the harbour. It used to be part of the city’s fortification. The pretty half-timbered building dates from around 1650, shortly after the end of the 30 Years War.

Lübische Straße is the main street to the west. It was named after the direction it leads to. Lübsch, lübisch is the adjective that refers to the city of Lübeck. The wide street is accompanied by the typical gable facades from all eras, some painted in bright colours. Heilig-Geist-Hospital is the main sight in this street (see separate tip).

Krämerstraße, Hinter dem Rathaus and Altwismarstraße are the city’s shopping streets and pedestrian zone. There is a lot of old architecture along these streets mixed with modern buildings. Here is the liveliest part of the city and the streets have smooth stone pavement instead of the usual cobblestone.

A big business has its origins in Wismar. In 1881 a certain merchant named Rudolph Karstadt opened a store in Wismar, corner Lübsche Straße and Krämerstraße. In the beginning staff consisted of himself and one employee. In his shop customers had to pay cash, which was still unusual in those times. His business policy was successful. His store has grown into Karstadt AG, a big nationwide chain of department stores that still bears the founder’s name - in 2009 they were on the edge of bankruptcy, but the business has been saved, although a number of smaller stores were sacrificed. Karstadt is again a well-reputated address for shopping.
Merchant's house in Scheuerstraße
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photo by: Kathrin_E