A Sustainable Travel Journey Through North Germany

We travel through some of the key cities of North Germany and experience the green side of the country while exploring its historic beauty, modernism, cultural hotpot, and vibrant food scene
Cycling around Museum Island. Credit Sumisha Gilotra
Cycling around Museum Island. Credit Sumisha Gilotra

Sustainability is not just a buzzword in Germany. It's a way of life. One that the local authorities, the hospitality sector, and the locals take rather seriously. Germany's transport system is diverse, extremely well-connected, and includes rural towns and regions. As a result, it offers excellent opportunities for seamless, environmentally friendly, and experience-oriented travel - and consequently, a stress-free journey and a relaxing stay.
Their eco-endeavours go beyond transport. Active efforts are also taken to educate and practice sustainability in the country. We travel through some of the key cities of North Germany and experience the green side of the country whilst, ofcourse exploring its historic beauty, modernism, cultural hot pot and vibrant food scene.

Buoyance of Berlin

Windmills by the dozen welcome you as you try and grab a bird's eyes view of the country's capital as you get ready to land at the international airport in Berlin. In that very instant, you know this journey is going to be a rather interesting one. Well-recognised for its historical associations, Berlin is a pulsating hub of countless caf&eacutes, clubs, pubs, street art, museums, palaces, and other historical landmarks. Despite the glitz and glamour, it beautifully adheres to the commitment to being eco-friendly and creating a sustainable environment.

Using public transport here is not just easy but also highly enjoyable. Add to that the ease of using e-bikes or pay-as-you-go bicycles whether you are a tourist or a local, the options to explore the city sustainably are plenty. What's more, even Uber here offers a green option where you can book an Ecab and reduce your carbon footprint.

I stayed at the Hackescher Markt in Mitte, the central part of Berlin. A 4-Euro train journey dropped me off at the gorgeous Hackerscher market station, which is now one of the only two Stadtbahn stations preserved in their original condition in Berlin. Besides being lively with cafes and shops, the area also thrives with flea markets. It is a stone's throw away from the stunning museum island that beautifully combines history, culture and architecture. Berlin, in general, is full of green spaces and parks. And, thirty minutes into the city, I knew my mode of transport would be the bicycle. I downloaded the Nextbike app, and every euro spent was worth every minute of the exhilarating ride.

The Berlin Diary

When in Berlin, don't forget to visit the Reichstag Building and reserve a spot at the Norman Foster-designed dome that offers the city's most spectacular view. Restaurants that use organic products and local ingredients and focus on less waste are very common in the city, but what is exciting to see is the global food scene the city has to offer. You name the cuisine, and they have it, including many vegan options. And then some restaurants believe in zero waste. It's an absolute delight to see how small initiatives and sustainability education are imbibed in the daily life of the city's residents and now even tourists. A friend even told me about an app called Too Good to Go, with over 5,000 restaurants, hotels and markets participating and offering reduced-price leftover meals.

Every corner of the city has stories to tell, and mind you, the stories of yesteryear and those of today are vastly different and equally enjoyable. If you are a history buff, you must head to the Berlin wall memorial, the Nazi book burning site at Bebelplatz, Brandeburf Gate or the Memorial for the murdered Jews. You can also take a trip to Museum Island, a beautiful area with dated buildings sporting gorgeous Prussian and neo-classical architecture. And if you are in the mood to explore the throbbing nightlife, choose between the relaxed cafe culture at Hackescen Hof or the wild techno scene at famous Berlin clubs like Berghain and Tresor.

Charming Hamburg

Having been awarded the title of European Green Capital, Hamburg has set itself the goal of advancing sustainably. The city's residents are involved tooth and nail in the positive movement. Whether sustainable fashion, travel, shopping or simple living, Hamburg residents take recycling, reusing and upcycling very seriously.

The gorgeous metropolis that it is, it's effortless to indulge oneself and enjoy the gorgeous red brick architecture of the city, whether you choose to do it on a cruise boat on the gorgeous river Elbe, which is the pulse of the city, or on a bike or simply enjoying a picnic in its lush green gardens. The city that houses the largest harbour in Germany and has been the country's gateway to the world is full of surprises. Its many promenades around artificial lakes, a booming sustainable food scene, where most restaurants focus on organic produce, and tourism that encourages social and cultural well-being alongside preserving the city's heritage are worth exploring.

I took a nearly 3-hour train journey from Berlin to land in this equally lively city and stayed at St Georgia Street, which is close to Lange Reihe Lane. This is where you would find the hippest cafes, art shops and little boutiques, which focus on quality over quantity and have made recycling and reusing a part of their business. A 15-minute walk would take you to Alster Lake where you can spend your evenings enjoying the beauty of the city and the beautifully lit skyline of the other side of town. The other side of town is Hafen City, where the harbour and the old warehouses house several museums, art galleries and quaint cafes are. It is also home to one of the most striking buildings in the city - the Elbphilharmonie building, a modern structure built by Swiss architect Herzog de Meuron that houses a concert hall, with its glass fa&ccedilade resting over an old brick warehouse, which is mesmerising. The breathtaking view from its plaza is free, allowing one to see the old and new parts of the city at once.

Two things I highly recommend while in Hamburg are a visit to the Miniature Wonderland and a meal at Buddels Restaurant, a sustainable, country chic hub that focuses on local produce, seasonal eats, and a view to remember for a very, very long time

Small town gorgeousness

Luneburg, a one-hour journey from Hamburg, is considered the prettiest town in North Germany, which is probably true. The medieval architecture of this quaint little town, with lines of brick buildings and traditional gable roofs, is worth romanticising. Luneburg was one of the few towns that were not bombed during WWII, so the town is a history and an architecture lover's dream come true, just as it's the perfect café lovers' paradise. Most of the restaurants here are housed in old cellar vaults combining sightseeing with a gourmet experience. 

The town is also home to several chocolatiers and is an artists' retreat. Besides, the food scene in the city is surprisingly one of its biggest attractions with the Stintmarkt area boasting the largest concentration of pubs in all of Europe. Its old harbour, the Alter Kran, a historical crane at the former Ilmenau docks, Townhall Building and shopping are some other attractions in the city.

Germany, with its quaint cities and towns, marvellous architecture, eco-friendly cafes, bars and pubs and mainly the country's undying focus on sustainability, is every traveller's paradise. Add it to your must-visit list

Outlook Traveller