The Sunny Island of Usedom
If you’re dreaming of a beach holiday, Germany probably isn’t the first place to come to mind. But it would certainly be a shame to not at least consider this destination. But the island of Usedom, on the German coast along the Baltic Sea, is truly beautiful. The region, is affectionately known as the “German Riviera”.
At first glance, it might not seem quite as glamorous as the French or Italian Riviera. Nonetheless, it’s still one of the most beautiful travel destinations in Europe, though very few foreign tourists know about it.
You’ll find Usedom in the Baltic Sea. It’s the second-largest island in Germany, with the nickname “Sonneninsel”, or Sun Island. This stems from the fact that this area receives the most sun in Germany, with over 1,900 hours of sunshine per year.
And here’s a fun fact: Usedom is divided between Germany and Poland. Around 80% of the island belongs to the German state of Mecklenburg–Western Pomerania, whereas the eastern part of Usedom belongs to the Polish West Pomerania Province. In this article, we’ll reveal all the activities you can get up to on the island.
So, does this sound like a place you’d like to visit? Read on to find out everything it has to offer.
The Three Imperial Spas of Usedom
There are three imperial spa towns in Usedom: Ahlbeck, Heringsdorf and Bansin. Each of these towns is situated near the island’s gorgeous golden beaches, and it sometimes seems as if they were competing in opulence.
The stunning buildings in the three towns feature elements of almost every style of architecture. In fact, the buildings are so unique that you would never think that they were built in the same period. You’ll see Greek columns, Roman frescoes and Bavarian mountain lodges. The grandiose villas are also certainly a sight worth seeing.
In addition, all three imperial spa towns have a promenade located directly on the beach. Many of the expensive houses there have been transformed into hotels, and you have the chance to be pampered like royalty during your stay. Trust us, the fair bit of money you’ll spend for this experience is worth it.
Besides the beautiful villas, don’t miss out on the coast itself. The piers, as well as the island’s seemingly endless beaches, make the landscape here especially beautiful. From these wooden piers, you also have a breathtaking view of the luxurious buildings of the island’s seaside resorts.
The Peenemünde Historical Technical Museum
The Peenemünde Historical Technical Museum, an impressive remnant of World War II, is situated to the north of the island. As soon as you arrive, you’ll be greeted with the sight of a rocket modelled on a type that used to be manufactured here.
Since this part of the island is particularly secluded, it was selected by the Nazis as the perfect place to set up a giant research center. On the backs of over 12,000 forced laborers, the Nazis produced thousands of rockets for use against Belgium, France, and England.
At the museum, you can learn about how the rockets were invented and built. You’ll also learn about why this location was chosen and how it ended up destroyed. You also have the chance to listen to first-hand accounts of witnesses from that time. They reveal the unpleasant details of life on the island during World War II.
Following this, head over to the neighboring power plant. You won’t learn much about the war itself, but the huge barracks give a good insight into how terrible the working conditions were in the wartime factory.
The Natural World of Usedom
There are plenty of opportunities to commune with nature on a visit to Usedom. If you want to discover all the breathtaking landscapes that await you on the island, travelling by bike is really the best option available.
So, get on your bike and cycle along the breezy beaches and the fairytalelike forests of the island. There are more than enough cycle paths to keep you busy for a few days.
You also have the chance to take part in a guided cycling tour of the island. A local guide will take you through the region and show you the island’s most beautiful and surprising locations. This is your chance to learn everything about Usedom and its natural scenery.
The tour lasts around five hours, and covers around 20 kilometers, meaning you don’t need to be super fit for the tour. Besides, there are plenty of breaks for you to have a snack and listen to fascinating stories and facts about the island.
Visit the Upside-Down House of Trassenheide
The Upside-Down House got its name because, well – it’s a house that’s upside down. It’s almost as if the building had been blown over by strong winds, which are very common on Usedom.
At first glance, this tourist attraction does seem a little kitschy. But as soon as you’re through the inverted doorway, the reason why it’s a must-visit attraction becomes clear.
One of the house’s most fascinating features is that all the furniture inside is glued to the ceiling. You’ll probably end up a little disoriented at first, but will soon get used to it.
As soon as you’ve wrapped your head around the layout of this rather untypical house, start your search for the perfect photo location. If you use photo-editing software to flip your pictures horizontally, you will end up with some quirky results to share with your family and friends. For example, you can pretend to be a spider hanging from the ceiling or balance some furniture on your head. Your imagination has no limits!
Discover the Achterwasser Lagoon by boat
When visiting an island, taking a boat trip just makes sense, right? If you’ve dreamed of going on a romantic sailing voyage, Usedom is the place to give it a try. If you’re interested, contact Zeesenboot, a company that offers tours at €16 per person.
A friendly woman called Rika runs the tours. She’ll take you out onto the water in her own boat and help you explore the Achterwasser, a lagoon that separates the island from the mainland. On the way, Rika reveals all the best tips and tricks for sailing, and, if you like, you can even steer the boat yourself.
The rippling waters of the Achterwasser are beyond mesmerizing, but try to remember to look at the sky as well. You might even spot stunning eagles or huge cranes soaring in the air above you.
Crossing the Polish Border within Usedom
As we mentioned above, Usedom is an island divided between Germany and Poland. Although the largest portion of the island belongs to Germany, more Polish people live here than German people. This is mainly because the only large town on the island, Swinemünde, is Polish. You’ll barely notice you have crossed the border, though, as you’ll still hear people speaking German.
A visit to Swinemünde definitely makes for a relaxing day trip. In comparison to the other towns on Usedom, Swinemünde has far more modern buildings. This is because this part of the island was heavily bombed during World War II. Thus, everything needed to be rebuilt from the ground up.
Discover the natural harbor of Krummin
This small harbor is situated in a pretty secluded spot, meaning you might be the only visitor. You can stroll along the boardwalk and take a look at all the picturesque boats moored here. Reeds surround the whole area, and you can hear a magical symphony of whispering plants with the slightest gust of wind.
If you really like this location, one option is to rent one of the wooden huts located on the harbor terrace. Make sure to book early, though, as many tourists want to go to this magical place.
Without a doubt, Usedom is a gorgeous island on the Baltic Sea. It belongs mostly to Germany, but the easternmost part of the island belongs to Poland. As the most populous town on the island, Swinemünde, is on the Polish side, Usedom has more Polish residents than German.
On the island you can visit the three imperial bath towns of Ahlbeck, Heringsdorf and Bansin. In the past, these locations were luxury holiday destinations for influential people and make for great areas to explore on foot today.
If you want to learn about the history of the island, we recommend a visit to the Peenemünde Historical Technical Museum. If you’re looking for a quirky photoshoot instead, head to the so-called Upside-Down House.
One of the many highlights of the island is a bicycle tour around Usedom or a boat trip out on the Achterwasser. The first choice teaches you about nature and the island itself, while the latter offers interesting information about sailing and the lagoon. In both cases, the charming tour guides make it an unforgettable experience.
So what are you waiting for? The Sunny Island awaits!