First German state opens completely for tourism

On Monday Germany’s northernmost state of Schleswig-Holstein opened up hotels and indoor dining. The move comes ahead of a national three-day weekend.

First German state opens completely for tourism
A jogger runs past beach korbs in Scharbeutz, Schleswig-Holstein on May 9th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Georg Wendt

Many areas of life in Schleswig-Holstein are being revived. Bars and restaurants are once again able to open for both indoor and outdoor dining, and boat trips are back up and running. 

Up until this week, tourists were only allowed to spend the night in four areas within the northern state, which acted as trial regions before the full reopening of public life. Germany has closed most of its tourism infrastructure since November.

The state has the lowest rate of coronavirus infection in the whole country, with the 7-day incidence rate currently standing at 35.1 per 100,000 inhabitants. 

READ ALSO: Northern German state leads the way as Covid cases fall nationwide

This is not quite a return to normality, however. The terms of the opening mean that tourists will still have to meet hygiene requirements and wear masks in some public areas. It is still mandatory to wear a mask on public transport, but an FFP2 mask is no longer required. 

Visitors will also be required to present a negative Covid-19 test result upon arrival and then every three days going forward. 

A negative test result, proof of full vaccination, or proof of recovery from a recent infection, will also be mandatory if holidaymakers wish to eat and drink inside restaurants. 

The leader of Germany’s Hotel and Catering Association, Ingrid Hartges, is calling on other states to follow a similar approach. 

“I feel we can learn from Schleswig-Holstein,” said Hartges on Sunday evening. Despite the opening of the tourist industry in four trial regions, the infection rate has continued to drop across the state.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Germany’s new relaxed quarantine and testing rules for travel

Hartges made clear that there should be a focus on a ‘responsible reopening’ of the sector, saying that the hospitality industry is not a driver of the pandemic and has been hit particularly hard by Covid regulations.

Other tourism reopenings around Germany

As of Saturday, several regions in Baden-Württemberg have also reopened hotels and restaurants to the public and a number of other German states are planning to relax restrictions ahead of the Whitsun weekend. Germany has a national public holiday on Monday May 24th. 

The mayor of Hamburg, Peter Tschentscher, is set to suggest to the city council on Tuesday that outdoor dining should reopen for the religious holiday. 

Lower Saxony and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, where the 7-day incidence rate is in the region of 50 per 100,000, are taking a more cautious approach to neighbouring Schleswig-Holstein. Lower Saxony has initially only opened tourism to residents of the state. 

In Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, tourism will be open for residents from June 7th, and for guests from other states from June 14th onwards. It will be possible to eat both inside and outside restaurants this weekend.

Dietmar Bartsch, the head of Die Linke in the Bundestag, criticised the state’s hesitance in easing the lockdown, saying it did not make sense to postpone it for so long. 

Why tourism is opening up again

The reopening of tourism and hospitality is only becoming possible because of the significant progress of Germany’s vaccination programme. In some states, vaccine priority has been lifted at GP surgeries, meaning anyone can book an appointment to get their dose. 

Baden-Württemberg and Berlin are ploughing forward with this strategy from Monday onwards, with Bavaria following their lead during the week and Saxony implementing the new approach from next Monday. 

READ ALSO: When will tourism in Germany open up again?

However, in many places there will not be enough vaccine doses to meet demand, meaning not everyone will be able to make an appointment as quickly as they may like. The priority list still applies in vaccination centres. 

More than 30 million people in Germany have now had at least one dose of the Covid vaccine, and nine million people are fully inoculated. 

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Is Leipzig really Germany’s ‘ultimate travel destination’?

The Saxonian city of Leipzig has been named by traveller’s bible Lonely Planet as its “ultimate” travel tip for Germany. Does the Local Germany’s knowledgeable readership agree?

The city centre of Leipzig.
The city centre of Leipzig. Photo: Jan Woitas/dpa-Zentralbild

Long a cult favourite among Germany fans, the left-wing city of Leipzig appears to now be gaining mainstream recognition after the Lonely Planet crowned it the country’s top travel destination this week.

In a new book titled “Ultimate German Travel Destinations – the top 250”, the travel publisher put Leipzig ahead of picturesque getaways such as Lake Constance and the Zugspitze as its number one destination.

“The hype that some say surrounds the city isn’t hype t all: Leipzig really is hipper than Berlin, and hotter than Munich, especially among millennials,” the guidebook boldly claims.

It goes on to lavish praise on the city of 600,000 inhabitants as “young, exciting, multifaceted – sometimes colourful, sometimes grey – and with a vibrant liveliness.”

“Everyone wants to go to the city where the anti-GDR demonstrations started,” the guidebook continues. “It is the home of Auerbachs Keller (made famous by Goethe and Faust); it’s the city of street art and wave gothic festivals; and its artistic scene at the Baumwollspinnerei is second to none.”

READ ALSO: A love letter to the eastern German city of Leipzig

‘Not cooler than Berlin’

Reaction to the list among the Local’s readership was mixed.

“It is a beautiful city and it’s easy to navigate. I find it hard to say that it’s cooler than Berlin, though. Berlin simply has more,” one reader told us on Facebook. “It’s the kind of place where people find their ‘spot.” I think most people in Leipzig know about most places in Leipzig. It’s a much smaller city. That may just be a more favourable lifestyle for some.”

Praise for Saxony’s biggest city ranged from admiration for the beauty of its architecture (particularly its train station) to the vibrancy of its arts scene.

Others suggested that Leipzig is indeed overhyped and that it can’t compete with natural wonders such as the pristine Königssee in the Bavarian Alps.

Lake Constance wins silver

Lake Constance, the country’s largest body of fresh water, came in second on the list.

The authors praised the southern See, which borders Switzerland and Austria, for “the many beautiful spots on its shores: Lindau, Meersburg, Überlingen, Constance and more – often surrounded by lush orchards.”

A regatta on the Bodensee in September 2021. Photo: dpa | Felix Kästle 

Hamburg’s new Elbphilharmonie concert hall came in third. 

“It’s impossible to imagine the Hanseatic city’s skyline without this glass work of art, which soars into the sky above the harbour like a frozen wave,” the book notes.

Also in the top ten were the Wattenmeer, which is a huge nature reserve on the North Sea coast, Berlin’s museum island, the sandstone hills of Saxony, and Germany’s highest peak, the Zugspitze in Bavaria.