Autumn is Awesome on this German Belle of the Baltic
SEE THE BEAUTIFUL ISLAND OF RÜGEN OFF-SEASON
(Originally posted in October 2016, updated September 2018)
Come with me. Close your eyes. Ok – open them again. Kind of hard to read along with them closed. But picture this. Imagine Copenhagen. If you live here – not that hard. Take your finger and draw a virtual circle around the Baltic Sea beginning in Denmark. Move around to your right and you are bound to hit Rügen, Germany near the bottom. On the opposite side of this imaginary arc lies a beautiful Baltic island sitting off the eastern corner of northern Germany. That’s northeastern Germany peeps.
Here they call it Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. Rügen is an island in this German province. In fact, it is the largest island in Germany. Don’t think of islands when you think of Germany? Me neither to be honest. And while Rügen is no tropical palm-treed island paradise, there are huge swaths of beautiful sugar fine white sandy beaches here. Place these beaches smack in front of charming little resort towns like popular Binz and then add boardwalks, ice cream shops, iconic wooden piers extending out into the blue Baltic beyond and you can see why this German island is worthy of a week’s respite come July and August.
POMERANIA: No, not the miniature dog – I’m talking about an area that spans the southern Baltic across borders between Germany and Poland: “The name derives from the Slavic po more, meaning “by the sea”.
Rügen is beautiful in Autumn as well
But you went somewhere else for your summer holidays. And now it’s not July OR August. It’s October. I hear you. And while Rügen is super popular among Germans and other Europeans during the peak summer months, I’m here to show you that it is just as valid for a visit off-season. Come to Rügen in the Autumn.
We visited during our Fall break (or half-term if you’re British.) With a week off from school mid-October and no pre-booked plans, we wanted (read: we NEEDED) a wee escape from Copenhagen. We rented a car and drove south, heading ultimately for Berlin to see “Light Weeks.” But for us, a cultured city break needs a side of nature. Living smack dab in a city, we crave a little unstructured outdoor experiencing to keep it balanced and we found it and more on Rügen. Germany.
Why Go to Rügen In Autumn
Rügen wears autumn’s wardrobe well. Brilliant white chalk cliffs on the easternmost shore at Jasmund National Park near Sassnitz gleam against the russets and golds and coppers clinging to the trees on your descent down to the beach. The blue Baltic shimmers and swells against autumn’s display and offers swoon worthy imagery. Bring your camera! And stamina – 412 steps down to the beach from the bus drop off at Königsstuhl. The King’s Seat.
Jasmund National Park is modeled after the American National Park system, inspired by the likes of Yellowstone and Yosemite. From the National Park there are miles and miles (or rather kilometers and kilometers) of hiking trails that take you to vistas like this:
The old growth beech forest here is a world heritage site and even has its own app. We didn’t use it – but if you do try it, make sure you have marked all the sites you are interested beforehand as coverage is spotty at best out here on this corner of Germany.
The main parking lot is at Hagen. From here you can take shuttle buses out to Königsstuhl – the King’s Seat – to see the white chalk cliffs. OR – you can walk. Which we did. It was beautiful, scenic and peaceful – save for the moaning of teens. How much longer may have been the mantra. It’s up to you. But we walked it both ways – there and back – a little over 3km each way. For littler ones – maybe plan a hike one way and shuttle back or vice versa.
|Easter to 31 Oct
|9 am – 7 pm
|1 Nov to Easter
|10 am – 5 pm
Admission: includes all indoor and outdoor activities
|Families* = 2 adults + children up to 14
|– free –
NOTE: You do not have to visit the visitor’s center to take steps to go down to the beach, which can be reached for free from the parking lot. But to get to the viewpoint and visit the interactive center, an entrance fee is required.
The nature of the National Park is to let wild space be wild. This allows for lots of wildlife. Bird watchers will be happy to spot eagles and peregrine falcons along the cliffs. Elsewhere you may encounter otter crossings and crane migrations. 25,000-60,000 cranes rest in this area every fall on their way south.
One of the things that we loved about visiting Rügen was its authenticity. Compared to Copenhagen, very few locals speak English. They are very friendly and appreciate any attempts at German and are happy to help. We loved the idea that no one understood us while we chatted as a family in English. Haha!
Getting to Rügen, Germany
From Copenhagen to Rügen, it requires taking the ferry between Gedser, Denmark and Rostock, Germany via Scandilines. There are other routes (via Rødby, DK and Puttgarden, DE or driving through Jutland via Hamburg and around) but the Gedser-Rostock route is the most convenient if targeting Rügen from most points north.
NOTE: Book ahead – more than 14 days in advance and you can save BIG with economy ferry tickets. You can buy tickets at the ferry landing, but expect to pay a premium and not be guaranteed a spot. Ferry crossing is only 1 hour and 45 minutes and there are newer vessel options with more amenities to keep your family having fun while afloat. Check Scandilines website for updated sailing times, routes prices and vessels.
Where to Stay in Rügen
We loved the cozy feel of having our own apartment in the less busy than Binz seaside village of Sassnitz. Further up the coast, but closer to Königsstuhl and Jasmund National Park. We had a wonderful time at the Seaside Apartments there with views of the water, comfortable beds, a wood fire stove and a well appointed kitchen for cooking.
Where to Eat in Rügen
Konditor & Bäcker Peters
Strandpromenade 8a, 18546 Sassnitz, Germany
An excellent start to your day – right on the waterfront with tables outside if it is nice and lots of windows to watch the wave if it isn’t. Delicious baked goods and coffee. Try to pick just one! Take a bag of the thin buttery and crispy cookies to go. It’s ok – you’ve been hiking. Try the sea buckthorn with cranberry or lavender hearts – we loved those!
Fischbrötchen – Fish sandwiches
Stadthafen Sassnitz, 18546 Sassnitz, Germany
The harbor in Sassnitz has many boats all along the pier selling fischbrötchen. These yummy sandwiches are made in crusty white bread rolls filled with – you guessed it – fish. Fischbrötchen is as popular in this area as bratwurst in southern Germany and currywurst in Berlin. The sandwiches are small enough to try a few and share. Fillings might include locally caught eel, mackerel, crab and can be prepared smoked and fried normally. Watch the seagulls ever at the ready to pick up your scraps!
Hafenstraße 12D, 18546 Sassnitz, Germany
If you are looking for something a little more substantial than take away – walk to the other side of the harbor for sit-down service at nearby Kutterfisch. According to Angie at German travel blog Reisefreunde – they also have one of the best fischbrötchen on Rügen. Kutterfisch also sells fresh fish and other local specialties like sanddorn (sea buckthorn or havtorn) liquors, jams or syrups in their market up front.
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