Warnemünde – A Cruise Port Guide

Warnemünde, on the mouth of the river Warnow is a both a busy port and an elegant ‘fin de siecle’ seaside town. Warnemünde increasingly features on the Baltic Cruise circuit and its large modern terminal, which has two berths, is home port for AIDAdiva and AIDAmar. The entrance to the harbour is guarded by a new lighthouse – it is a very deep channel but it does look a dramatically tight entrance, especially from the shore!

Warnemünde Alte Strom.
Warnemünde Alte Strom.

The port of Warnemünde is labelled as ‘for’ Berlin which is a little misleading as is is quite some distance away (240km or 3 to 4 hours on a train to be precise!) and this is one of those situations where we would probably suggest that you use a ships tour to visit unless you are a very confident traveller. German trains are generally exceptionally reliable and, as Warnemünde is it’s are generally a little longer than normal to allow for travel to Berlin, it would be possible to DIY the day but the downside is that the next day or two will probably be sea days and then home to Southampton so if you miss the boat your holiday will be over! If you are based in the UK a weekend trip to Berlin will be less stressful than a DIY day from the ship and probably much cheaper than a ships tour to Berlin for two! (Funnily enough the same applies to the other major German port, Hamburg – basically Berlin is a long way inland!) There is a lot to do local to Warnemunde – so consider spending the day locally – I think you’ll have fun!

5 hours on a train?? Are you sure?!
5 hours on a train?? Are you sure?!

Warnemünde was originally the fishing port for its larger, more prosperous neighbour – the city of Rostock. Strategically placed upriver to be more easily defended from attack, Rostock is the largest city in the German Federal state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and is the academic, cultural and economic centre of the state with over 200,000 inhabitants. It is a Medieval town, founded in 1218, with a long history as a Hanseatic port and harbour. The Hanseatic League was effectively the worlds earliest trading association – you can still see Hanseatic warehouses on various cruise stops around Northern Europe ( Hamburg, Riga, Bruges, Tallin and Bergen) and these Hansa cities effectively ruled the Baltic from the 1200s until the 30 Years War in 1618. The strategic location of Rostock made it strategically important and over the years it was occupied by the Danish, the Swedes, the French under Napoleon and the Prussians under Peter the Great. It was the largest port in East Germany and for some time was a popular cruise port itself.

Rostock is home to cruise company AIDA Cruises and their ships are home-ported at Warnemünde. Nowadays although some smaller ships still travel upriver to Rostock the majority of cruise moor at the Warnemünde Cruise terminal. The two towns are quite different and it is perfectly possible to visit both quite comfortably in one day.

Celebrity Eclipse, cruise terminal to the right, photographed from the ferry queue.
Celebrity Eclipse, cruise terminal to the right, photographed from the ferry queue.

Lets start with Warnemünde where you will almost certainly be berthed at the Cruise Terminal, opened in 2005 it is a large two-storey steel and glass terminal with all the usual facilities for passengers. It is probably one of the most convenient and pleasant terminals for a stopover because of its exceptionally good position. The terminal is only 300 m from the local railway station and not much further from the town of Warnemünde itself so it is very easy to explore. It is worth mentioning here that English isn’t very widely spoken in the area so a translation app or book might come in handy. If you turn away from the town and walk through the underpass beneath the railway (towards the water) you will reach the Pier 7. The local ferry travels to Rostock from here every half hour or so. You can purchase a days travel pass for the local public transport system for 5€ with further reductions for groups. From the Station trains go to Rostock every 10 minutes or so. It is a twenty minute train journey to Rostock Hbf which is actually on the outskirts of town. From the station it is a short tram ride to Neuer Markt – the town centre. We took a nice round trip going into Rostock by ferry, walking back down through the town, taking a tram to the station and return to Warnemünde by train (you could do the opposite!).

Cruise Terminal with the town and beach beyond.
Cruise Terminal with the town and beach beyond.

Warnemünde town is a short level walk from the ship – you can pick up a walking map of the town at the cruise terminal or railway station. Although quite small in comparison to Rostock with a population of only about 35,000, it is both a busy fishing port and a seaside town.

The marina and the Alte Strom.
The marina and the Alte Strom.

The town surrounding the old fishing port expanded at the end of the 18th century as tourists discovered the towns beautiful long sandy beach and dramatic sand dunes. The grand 18th Century architecture of its casino, hotels and spas contrasts with that of the ancient timber framed fishermen’s cottages and the captains houses which sit overlooking the river and the new marina on the Alte Strom.

Warnemünde Church built in the 1860s has strong evidence of its maritime links with a lovely carved wooden statue of St Christopher and a fleet of small model sailing ships hanging from the ceiling. Warnemunde is a very popular seaside resort, you can hire bikes and ride for miles along the flat sea front.

The Lighthouse and the Teapot
The Lighthouse and the Teapot

Architectural highlights include the UNESCO World Heritage Site at the Warnemünde Lighthouse and the Teapot which is an unusually shaped shaped building situated directly on the beach, containing bars and restaurants. The old lighthouse was first constructed in 1836 and restored in 1898, there are great views over the coast and the port from the top of its 36m high spiral staircase. The beach is wide and sandy with high dunes – quick warning, part of it is a naturist area!

Excellent restaurants and bars line the habourside area and the path continues right out to the Port ( green) entrance lighthouse which can be quite a bracing walk! Warnemünde is a popular sailing town with a popular weeklong regatta in July each year. The renowned Norwegian expressionist painter and graphic artist Edvard Munch (1863 – 1944) spent eighteen months in Warnemünde from summer 1907 and his former home is now used as part of a cultural exchange scheme for visiting Norwegian artists. Although not generally open to the public it sometimes holds exhibitions and events when you are able to see inside.

The medieval city of Rostock is 13km up the Warnow river from Warnemunde. It dates from 1218 when its main exports were ships, beer and fish and its position as an important port in the Hanseatic League ensured the cities wealth. Ship building flourished on the banks of the river and in the early 20th century Rostock became famous for aircraft manufacture; the Heinkel factory produced planes for the Luftwaffe in the 1930s. Rostock was East Germanys principal ocean port but since Reunification at the end of the 20th century has declined in importance in comparison to Hamburg. If your cruise arrives in August you may catch the annual Hanse Sail Rostock in August, when upwards of 200 Tall Ships and other classic sailing boats arrive for four days of regattas, fireworks and markets.



Rostock is also northern Germany’s oldest university town, it has an excellent reputation both academically and as a centre for performing arts.Although some of the city’s older buildings were destroyed by Allied bombing in World War II, the grand marketplaces, bridges, city ramparts and gates have been restored and newer buildings are still designed with the traditional Hanseatic red brick, stepped gables.

The lively pedestrian zone of Kropeliner Strasse is lined with shops, restaurants and bakeries and is a nice place to walk, at its far end you will find the remains of the old city wall some of which is still walk-able and next to it the peaceful Wallangen park, a good spot for a picnic. At the end of the main Plaza you will find a large fountain – celebrating Zest for Life – and the beautiful 600 year old facade of Rostock University, founded in 1419 it is one of the oldest universities in the world. Also close to Wallangen park, tucked down behind the old city wall is the Cultural History Museum which displays various paintings, relics, crafts & artifacts in a converted 13th-century monastery on Klosterhof, various art and craft galleries cluster nearby.

Top section of the Astromomical clock in Marienkirche
Top section of the Astromomical clock in Marienkirche

At the opposite end of town you will find the 13th century Petrikirche (St. Peter’s Church) which unbelievably was once the tallest building in the world, although post war restoration has left it shorter than it used to be! The steeple is now 335 feet high and its viewing platform can be accessed by climbing 196 steps or you can cover the 12 stories in a lift. Also nearby is Marienkirche (St. Mary’s Church), built in 1230 – definitely worth a visit to see its intricate astronomical clock and the beautiful model boats that hang from the ceiling.

Lighthouses at the harbour entrance
Lighthouses at the harbour entrance

The midway ferry stop between between Rostock and Warnemünde (or accessible by bus) is the IGA park, which was built in 2003 for the 17th World Horticultural Exposition. The park was created on the banks of the river, in a derelict area around the ruins of the village of Schmar. Many cultural events are held here and It also houses a Maritime Museum housed in an old merchant ship as well as a spacious park with playgrounds, landscaped gardens & sporting facilities. Rostock has a large Zoo with many animals including elephants, jaguars, gorillas and polar bears, it is slightly outside the city on the other side of the woodland park Barnstorfer Anlagen.

‘For’ Berlin?

As I mentioned Warnemünde is usually labelled ‘for’ Berlin which is a trip that I really wouldn’t advise but because of that stops here are generally a little longer than normal to allow for extended travel times, so there are other things that you can do a bit further afield than you might normally consider…

the Molly passing through Bad Doberan
the Molly passing through Bad Doberan

Bad Doberan is worth a visit – it is accessible by taxi, bus or train, the drive takes 30 minutes or it is about an hour by train. The town is lovely but the ‘Molli” train which leaves from here is great fun! It travels through the streets of the town and then out across fields and open countryside to the seaside resort of Bad Kühlungsborn. Opened in 1886, the Molli is apparently the worlds oldest narrow gauge steam train and a regular train service runs every hour during the summer and every 2 hours during the winter. It is all delightfully old fashioned, with hand operated level crossings and traffic giving way to the train as it travels down the centre of the main street in town! There are currently five trains that date from 1886 to 1932 and although the oldest carriages are now ‘retired’ the newer ones still feature hard wooden seats, if you are offered the option of an upgrade to a ‘Salon’ coach with upholstered leather seats it will be worth it! There is a nice restaurant at the Kühlungsborn Ost station.

Schwerin Castle and gardens
Schwerin Castle and gardens

If you fancy going even further afield you could investigate the medieval port of Wismar or take a trip to Schwerin, both of which are accessible by local transport in a couple of hours or by taxi or car in under an hour. Schwerin is a beautiful old town dating from the 11th century which is almost completely surrounded by water. The beautiful castle (Schloss) is an extravagant, ornate palace on an island accessed by a causeway over Lake Schwerin, surrounded by elaborate gardens intersected by canals. It is a riot of architecture with a golden dome, Gothic and Renaissance turrets, Slavic ‘Onion’ domes and terracotta brick Hanseatic step gables. The Schloss contains the State parliament of the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, a museum, cafes and galleries. In Schwerin town you could visit the museum which has a wonderful collection of medieval art, the 13th century cathedral and the rococo State Theatre.

A quick stop for a little snack!
A quick stop for a little snack!

The local food is quite hearty and filling. Look for Fischbrotchen, Warnemunde’s own speciality, which is a smoked fish sandwich – available in all sorts of fish – halibut, mackerel, herring, butterfish, flapper, bismarck – many cafes and restaurants have their own smoker just outside on the terrace to prepare the fish. Local Rostock beer is also very popular in both ‘white’ and ‘dark’ forms, and, as elsewhere in Germany, bratwurst and other sausages are found everywhere!

Shopping is quite good in Rostock and Warnemunde and if you are reaching the end of a Baltic cruise you will find it substantially better value than some other ports you have visited. Amber jewellery and various arts and crafts seemed good buys and various gourmet food items made with local orange Sanddorn (sea buckthorn) berries.

So unless you have a burning desire to visit Berlin I really can recommend a day spent more locally, as you can see from many of our pictures we had some pretty poor weather and still had a great day. When the sun is out it is a really lovely area to visit. I hope you’ve found this helpful, its always great to hear what you think so it would be great if you commented below!

I hope you enjoyed reading about how to spend your cruise visit to Warnemunde and that it will be useful on your cruise. The port features on many Baltic and Northern Europe itineraries cruises – if you are looking for inspiration you could start here

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