What is Sylt and why is it terrified of Germany’s €9 holidaymakers?

As excitement grows for the roll out of the €9 transport ticket, the residents of one region are reportedly growing increasingly worried. Here's why Germans are currently having a lot of fun at that region's expense.

Sylt in Germany
Storm clouds descend over the island of Sylt. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Axel Heimken

Over the past few days, you may have seen the hashtag #Sylt trending on German Twitter and other social media.

Though this may sound like the name of some trendy start-up, Sylt is actually a picturesque North Frisian island just off the coast of Schleswig-Holstein – and it has recently become the subject of approximately a million memes. 

It all started (as it often does) with an article in German tabloid Bild, which implied that residents of Sylt are terrified of ne’er-do-wells descending on this island this summer.

The issue is reportedly the bargain-basement travel ticket that the government has promised to introduce this summer. For just €9 per month, people can get unlimited travel on local and regional trains across Germany. 

READ ALSO: How will Germany’s €9 monthly travel ticket work?

All being well, the deal is set to come in this June and last through August, so it follows that a lot of people will probably be using it for their summer holidays. 

Normally, Sylt is known as a bit of a playground for the famous and affluent. In fact, it’s even been described as the “German Hamptons” in reference to the star-studded neighbourhood north of New York City. 

But the well-heeled island-dwellers of Sylt appear to be concerned that drop in price could bring a rather different crowd to the island than the usual jet-setters. 

“Sylt in fear of the 9-euro holidaymakers!” Bild wrote. “Cheap ticket to the island of the rich and beautiful!” 

Obviously, the internet has totally lost it at the idea of the great unwashed swarming to the exclusive holiday destination, clutching the €9 ticket in their grubby paws. 

READ ALSO: How many people in Germany will use the €9 ticket?

On Twitter, people started imagining some of the terrifying consequences of giving people cheaper public transport over summer.

One Twitter user suggested that the demographics of Sylt may change just a little bit if people with less money were suddenly allowed to go there.

Here’s a sobering ‘before’ and ‘after’ scenario for the residents of the wealthy island. 

Others took an aerial view of the potential consequences of the €9 ticket. Could the crowds on Sylt be even bigger than the ones that turned up for Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009?  

That’s the fear. 

Even German rail operator Deutsche Bahn got in on the action with a Sylt meme based on the Batman film, The Dark Knight rises.

“There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne. You and your friends better take cover! Because when it hits, you’re all going to wonder how you ever lived so extravagantly while leaving the rest of us with so little…. #Sylt.”

Not to be left out, the DB’s Cargo division sees a role for itself in organising express industrial-scale deliveries of beer helmets, sangria and (very thoughtfully) electrolyte tablets for the hangovers.

They’re even offering an express service to Sylt!

The Bild story also led a few other publications to speculate on what could happen to idyllic island over summer. In an article tagged “class war”, online news portal asked: “Are Fridays for Future and Punks storming Sylt now?”

If these scenes are anything to go by, it looks like there could soon be literal anarchy on Sylt.

Most worryingly of all, Roman Wagner speculated that the €9 ticket could lead to another type of undesirable arriving on the island – one who appears to be checking whether you’re standing exactly 1.5 metres apart from all of your friends. 

(Yes, that’s right, it’s Health Minister Karl Lauterbach, so you’d better have your Impfpass ready.)

Is Sylt really going to be overrun this summer?

We hate to ruin everyone’s fun, but it’s possible! Sylt is a very popular destination for northern Germans, especially people based around the Hamburg area, and the transports links on and off the island could come under strain.

“We expect increased passenger numbers during the promotional period – both on the trains of the Marschbahn line from Hamburg to Sylt and on the buses on the island,” Moritz Luft, the managing director of Sylt Marketing, told Bild.

Sylt tends to be at capacity through much of summer even in normal years, so the additional traffic on the island could be a genuine concern. But Luft simply advises people to try and travel at off-peak times and avoid bringing bikes to the island that could overcrowd the regional trains.

Bernd Buchholz (FDP), Schleswig-Holstein’s Transport Minister, also emphasised that the roll-out of new double-decker coaches would mean significantly more seats could be provided on the Marschbahn.

Obviously there are a tonne of other wonderful places in Germany that tourists can go to with the €9 ticket. We’ve covered a few them here:

How to explore Germany by train with the €9 ticket

But if you are set on going to Sylt, don’t be put off from visiting the island this summer – while you still can. 

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Nine of the best day trips from Frankfurt with the €9 ticket

If you want to explore the area around Frankfurt this summer, there are plenty of destinations you can reach in under two hours. 

Nine of the best day trips from Frankfurt with the €9 ticket

Germany’s €9 monthly ticket, which launched in June, is also available throughout the whole of July and August. It can be used on all local transport across the country, as well as on regional trains. 

If you’re based in Frankfurt, or heading there on holiday, these destinations can all be reached on regional transport in under two hours, making them an ideal day or weekend getaway. 

READ ALSO: €9 for 90: Everything you need to know about Germany’s cheap travel deal

1. Heidelberg

People sit in front of the Old Bridge at the Neckar river in Heidelberg.

People sit in front of the Old Bridge at the Neckar river in Heidelberg. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Uwe Anspach

With its arched Old Bridge and castle on the hill, it’s no wonder Heidelberg is known as one of Germany’s most romantic destinations. The castle, which dates back to the 13th century, was even immortalised by English romantic painter William Turner in a famous painting from the mid-19th century. 

Stroll the winding gothic streets, pay a visit to Germany’s oldest university and visit have a coffee in the historic centre which still bears witness to the medieval layout of the city.

To get to Heidelberg, take the RB68 direct from Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof to Heidelberg Hauptbahnhof in 1 hour and 40 minutes.

READ ALSO: Is Frankfurt a good place for foreigners to live?

2. Hessenpark

Historic half-timbered houses and an old fountain in the market square of Hessenpark, a popular excursion destination in the Taunus region.

Historic half-timbered houses and an old fountain in the market square of Hessenpark, a popular excursion destination in the Taunus region. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Arne Dedert

Take a step back in time in this fascinating open-air museum. With over 100 reconstructed historic buildings across 160 acres, the park gives visitors a close-up look at 400 years of rural life in Hesse. 

Amongst the highlights are the market place which boasts buildings from the whole state of Hesse; a 15th-century church and an austere school room from the turn of the 20th century.

With lively demonstrations of crafts and agriculture, exhibitions, colourful markets, the museum theatre and themed tours, a trip to Hessenpark makes a great day out for all of the family. 

To get there, take the RB15 from Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof to Wehrheim Bahnhof and from there, hop on the 63 bus to Neu-Anspach-Anspach Hessenpark. In total it should take you 1 hour and 15 minutes.

3. Darmstadt

A man walks through the Mathildenhöhe UNESCO World Heritage Site.

A man walks through the Mathildenhöhe UNESCO World Heritage Site. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Frank Rumpenhorst

A day trip to Darmstadt is a must for art and architecture lovers, as Hessen’s fourth-biggest metropolis is home to some particularly interesting cultural sights. 

The former artists’ colony on Mathildenhöhe, now a UNESCO World Heritage site, is one of the most important Art Nouveau sights in Germany and the Wedding Tower and the wacky ‘Waldspirale’ (forest spiral) are well worth a visit.

Also on Mathildenhöhe is the richly decorated Russian Chapel where one of the sisters of Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig married Nicholas II, the last Russian Tsar. 

You need only half an hour to reach Darmstadt, with a direct ride on the S3 from Frankfurt (Main) South station.

READ ALSO: Less traffic, more ticket sales: How the €9 ticket is impacting Germany 

4. Königstein (Taunus)

The Königstein castle ruins are a landmark of the Hochtaunus town and are among the largest castle ruins in Germany.

The Königstein castle ruins are a landmark. They are among the largest castle ruins in Germany. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Andreas Arnold

At an altitude of around 300 metres on the wooded slopes of the Taunus lies the health spa town of Königstein. 

Königstein has been a climatic health resort since 1935, thanks to the purity of the air in the region and is home to various health clinics. 

Daytrippers can soak up the tranquillity in the parks or in the picturesque city centre.

The ruins of Königstein Castle, which date back to the first half of the 12th century, are also well worth a visit. 

There are several routes to get you to Königstein from Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof in under 50 minutes, the fastest being the S5 to Oberursel, followed by the X26 bus to Königstein.

5. Wiesbaden

The Kurpark in Wiesbaden.

The gorgeous Kurpark in Wiesbaden. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Hannes P Albert

​​Nestled in a beautiful valley between the Rhine and the mountains of the Taunus lies Hesse’s capital Wiesbaden. 

There are plenty of things to see on a day trip to the city, including the English-style landscaped garden of the Kurpark, the neo-Gothic Market Church on Schlossplatz and the Hessian State Museum.

Those who fancy trying their luck should pay a visit to the Casino Wiesbaden – one of Germany’s oldest casinos in the former wine salon of the Kurhaus. 

Wiesbaden is also known for its thermal baths and no trip is complete without a hot tub and sauna visit. 

READ ALSO: Weekend Wanderlust – Getting my feet wet in. Wiesbaden

You only need around 50 minutes to reach Wiesbaden from Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof with the S1 or S9 to Wiesbaden central station.

6. Felsenmeer

Hundreds of visitors climb over the rocks of the Felsenmeer , which is a popular attraction in the Odenwald.

Hundreds of visitors climb over the rocks of the Felsenmeer , which is a popular attraction in the Odenwald. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Boris Roessler

Around 60 kilometres south of Frankfurt is a true natural wonder that will delight nature lovers of all ages. 

The Felsenmeer, which literally translates as ‘rock sea’ is a mass of boulders across Felsberg in Oldenwald. The rocks are hundreds of millions of years old, and at the information centre at the foot of the hill, you’ll find all the geological, historical and practical information you need to make the most of a hike through the sea of rocks. 

At the top of the hill, you can reward your exertions with a tasty snack at the kiosk on the summit. 

A trip to the Felsenmeer will take you around an hour and 40 minutes with the RB82 from Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof to Reinheim Bahnhof, followed by the M02 bus to Reichenbach, Felsenmeer.

7. Limburg (Lahn)

A view of the Lahn river and the cathedral in Limburg.

A view of the Lahn river and the cathedral in Limburg. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Thomas Frey

A visit to Limburg in the west of Hesse, is a bit like travelling back in time to the Middle Ages. There are dreamy castles, palaces, charming half-timbered houses and ancient legends swirling around the city’s cobbled streets.

A particularly visit-worthy ancient relic is the imposing St. Lubentius Basilica. Perched on an outcrop of limestone rocks on the west bank of the Lahn river, it was the region’s most important church until the 13th century.

You can reach Limburg in just over an hour with the RE20 from Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof.

8. Mainz

A glass of wine stands on a table near the cathedral in Mainz during the Johannisnacht festival in 2019 held in honour of Johannes Gutenberg.

A glass of wine stands on a table near the cathedral in Mainz during the Johannisnacht festival in 2019 held in honour of Johannes Gutenberg. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Andreas Arnold

A short train ride away from Frankfurt, you’ll find the city of Mainz on the Rhine River. Known as Germany’s wine capital, there’s plenty to explore in the cobblestone streets of the Altstadt. Mainz has a steep history after being founded by the Romans.

For more than 1,000 years, the city’s skyline has been dominated by the cathedral.

We’d also recommend checking out the the Gutenberg Museum – one of the oldest museums of printing in the world. And of course, make sure to visit a little wine bar – known as a Weinstube.

Get to Mainz by taking the RE4 from Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof.  It takes just over 30 minutes. 

READ ALSO: Nine of the best day trips from Munich with the €9 ticket

9. Walldorfer See

People enjoy a dip in the Badesee Walldorf.

People enjoy a dip in the Badesee Walldorf. Photo: picture alliance / Daniel Reinhardt/dpa

What better way to cool off this summer than to head to a lake? The beautiful Walldorfer See, south of Frankfurt, is known for being a little less busy and calmer than the nearby Langener See, which is the biggest lake in the region. 

On the southern shore at the entrance is the large sandy beach which has a snack bar, toilets, plus a beach volleyball and barbecue area. You can also explore the forest around. 

Keep in mind that the lake is near the airport so you will also see some planes overhead (which might be fun, especially if you have kids with you!). 

Get there on the S7 or RE70 from Frankfurt Haubtbahnof, and then jump off at Walldorf (Hess), and get the the 67 or 68 bus in the direction of Frankfurt airport to Mörfelden-Walldorf-Egerländer Straße. It’s then an 18 minute walk to the Badestelle Walldorfer See.

With reporting by Rachel Loxton