Rügen Island is a small paradise of white sandy beaches and turquoise water near the Baltic Sea, in northeast Germany. Mixing old-fashioned seaside resorts atmosphere and Scandinavian influences, Rügen is the perfect getaway for a weekend or more, just a 3-hour drive from Berlin. After a quick first visit, here are my impressions of the Germany’s largest island. In the article, I also give you my list of must-sees for a first visit to Rügen Island.
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How to get to Rügen Island?
Living in Berlin, my friends and I chose to rent a car to go to Rügen, which is only 3 hours away from the German capital. We rented a car via the Getaround app and we paid 250€ for 3 days. We were 5 people so it cost 50€/person, including gas, rental and mileage package (we drove almost 800 kilometers in three days). I definitely recommend you this app, which allows you to geolocate vehicles close to your home and has pretty cheap rates. Everything can be done via your smartphone, which is really practical. As the island is quite big (926 km2), I advise you to have a car. You can also rent electric bikes and travel around the island this way, as there are many bicycle paths.
Rügen Island is located in the not very known Land of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, by the Baltic Sea and the Polish border. To get there from Berlin, you will have to take a boring motorway, but it’s straight forward and pretty quick. Then, in Stralsund, you have to cross a bridge (free of charge) to enter the island.
And now, here are the sites you can’t miss in Rügen Island!
Jasmund National Park
This is the activity you have to do in Rügen Island if you don’t have much time. In addition to an imposing beech forest (some of the trees are more than 700 years old), you will see the very popular chalk cliffs that flow into the azure blue sea. I felt I was in a tropical island, it was very beautiful and impressive!
The place is so beautiful that it inspired several German romantic painters. I must confess that I was completely captivated by the colours of the place, the white cliffs, the translucent turquoise of the sea and the green of the pine forests along the coast, the golden sand… Some of the cliffs are more than 100 metres high and offer breathtaking views of the coastline. Don’t miss out on this place, it is stunningly beautiful!
How to get to the Jasmund National Park and the chalk cliffs?
The most popular place to contemplate the steep coastline of the park is the Königsstuhl, which literally means « the king’s chair ». This rock formation is one of the highest in the park, at 118 metres high. A panoramic viewpoint has been set up to enjoy the landscape. To get there, you can either leave your car a little bit before, at the parking Großparkplatz Hagen (this is what we did, be careful, there are fees). From there you will walk about 3.5 km through majestic beech trees before reaching the cliffs. Alternatively, you can walk directly to the foot of the cliffs, to the Königsstuhl Nationalpark Center, as there is a parking lot.
My advice: The view from the belvedere is nice but the entrance ticket, which costs 9.5€, is really too expensive. There is an information center (which we didn’t visit) but apart from this point of view, there is nothing else to see. So I advise you not to enter by the information center. When you are at the car park, follow the signs « Viktoriasicht ». You will pass along the restaurant « Restaurant am Königsstuhl » and arrive near the cliffs, where several small lookouts have been set up. The view is just as spectacular and you won’t have to pay anything!
Lohme, a relaxing fishing village
We went to Lohme totally randomly. It is located a little further north in the Jasmund National Park. My friend Joana wanted to see the sea more closely, since we had only seen it from the cliff tops! Following the advice of an agent from the park’s information centre, we went to Lohme, which apparently has beautiful beaches overlooking the cliffs. There we discovered a small fishing village with hollyhocks and thatched houses. The deserted streets overlooking the sea were both pretty and wild. I really liked the atmosphere. After eating a Fischbrötchen, one of the island’s specialties (see below), we walked around the village and looked for the beach.
In the end, a shopkeeper adviced us another beach town, so we took the car back to Glowe, about 10 km north. We stopped at the Ostseeperle restaurant. I clearly remembered being so excited when I was walking towards the beach… But I was very disappointed when I climbed the dune: the sandbank was tiny and crowded! It was not what I expected at all (I come from the Atlantic Ocean, where the beaches are gigantic). The place was nice though, there were beach shops and toilets at the entrance and everything was clean. The water was surprisingly warm (17/18°C at this time of the year) and we met very nice people.
Summary: Glowe is a family friendly and quiet beach, and is worth a visit if you are near Lohme. However, I found it quite tiny, so don’t drive there on purpose, as there are other beaches probably bigger! But I encourage you to go to Lohme, the chilled atmosphere is worth the detour.
The fancy seaside resort of Binz
Binz is my second favorite place in Rügen after the Jasmund park! We liked this chic seaside resort so much that we spent the whole day there. Binz is located about 30 km south of the Jasmund park, still on the east side of the island. It is the largest seaside resort in Rügen.
What I liked: the walk along the beach, more than 300 meters long. The architecture is typical of the late 19th century Baltic Sea constructions. Villas with balconies of white carved wood or elegant wicker beach chairs, gardens overflowing with roses, lavender, peonies … The city has transported us to another era! Add to this the large crescent moon-shaped beach, the white sand crunching under your feet, the pine trees lining the dunes (the smell is divine), and you have a delicious mix of atmosphere.
Here are my three favorite things:
- The villas south of the beach: they are the most impressive. To find them, head towards the pier and continue towards the naturist beach (FKK Fischerstrand) and the Granitz nature reserve.
- The former lifeguard station, called Müther Turm: a must-see for those who are into modern architecture! This lifeguard station was designed by Ulrich Müther in the 1980s with very thin concrete shells. Today, this futuristic-looking tower has been converted into a wedding hall. It offers a 360°C view of the entire coast.
- The Kurhaus and the pier: The Kurhaus was one of the first thermal baths hotels built at the end of the 19th century in Binz. Its architecture is typical of Prussian castles, with its copper towers, yellow walls and big towers. You can’t miss it! During the Second World War, the owner, who had Jewish roots, was expropriated by Hitler’s National Socialist regime. For the record, Rügen was in the GDR, the communist East German regime, during the Cold War. At that time, many pensions and villas were nationalized to provide holidays for members of workers’ unions. It’s hard to imagine today when you walk along the opulent houses! Right next to the Kurhaus, the pier offers a magnificent view of the beach and the surrounding area.
The pier of Sellin, Seebrücke, is one of the symbols of the island. It’s about 400 metres long, which left me speechless! Sellin is another seaside resort nestled about ten kilometres south of Binz. Like its northern cousin, the architecture is typical of the Belle Époque, with imposing immaculate villas.
What makes it special, however, is its famous pier, which was first built in 1906. The vagaries of the weather (storm, ice) have destroyed it several times, which has helped to build its reputation. Today you will find a restaurant, the Seebrücke Sellin, right at the entrance. However, we decided to stay away from it because it looked like a touristy trap!
My advice: Come and admire the pier at sunset, the colours are magnificent! One of the most beautiful viewpoints is at the Bernstein hotel, above the beach (photo above). We parked our car right behind the hotel. You can then stroll along Wilhelmstrasse, the main street, where there are many restaurants (see below).
It’s already the end of our trip! We didn’t have time to explore the island any further as we only stayed there for two days. I advise you, if you can, to stay at least 4 days there because the island is big and there are many things to see! If we had had the time, I would have added Cape Arkona, in the very North, to our trip. But I really loved this weekend, which allowed me, without taking the plane, to escape the hustle and bustle of Berlin and breathe the sea air that I miss so much here!
Where to sleep in Rügen Island?
Let’s move on to a touchy topic: accommodation! If you come in high season (summer), prices rise very quickly. When we wanted to book (we went mid-July), about a month before, everything was almost full.
Our accommodation in Sassnitz
We finally found a kind of hostel (but with private bathroom), the Kutterfisch Käjuten, in Sassnitz, a tiny fishing village located at the entrance of the Jasmund park. For 40€/night, I thought it was very decent. As usual in Germany, the rooms were as clean as a penny. The only downside was that there were no curtains on the windows, and at this time of the year, the sun comes up around 3:30 am. However, the hotel is ideal for groups or families as the rooms are spacious and a fully equipped kitchen is available.
If you are looking for something more fancy, you can book a nice villa in Sassnitz, where the prices are significantly lower than in Binz or Sellin. The town is indeed very small and the atmosphere is more like an industrial port than a glamorous resort… The location of Sassnitz is however excellent, just next to the Jasmund park and on the way to Sellin and Binz.
Accommodation in a villa in Binz or Sellin
If you come to Rügen for a romantic stay (which I recommend), you will certainly want to stay in one of those famous hotels with resort architecture that Binz and Sellin are famous for. My advice: make sure you book in advance, as these are the most popular (and most expensive) establishments. The most expensive hotels range between 200 and 300€/night and you will hardly find rooms for less than 100€ per night at this time of the year, unless you are far from the coast. Prices do indeed drop drastically in inland establishments.
My opinion: If you want to stay in a more authentic but equally well-kept setting, I advise you to look for a hotel far away from the main seaside resorts. All around Glowe, for example, accommodation in thatched houses is available at much more attractive prices, such as the Hotel der Wilde Schwan.
What to eat in Rügen?
As you can imagine, it’s all about fish in Rügen! Herring is one of the highlights of the German coastline. You’ll find it cooked in two kinds:
- the Rollmops (pickled herring fillet marinated in vinegar)
- the Matjes. It is a young salted herring, i.e. one that has not yet spawned, fished between May and June. It is very rich in omega 3.
If you want to eat on the go, the best way to taste the island’s fish is to try a Fischbrötchen, which is a fish sandwich. You will find huts all over the island selling them. In Lohme, we randomly entered a fish smokehouse, Wilberg’s Traditions-Räucherei, which sold these sandwiches with super-fresh fish. For less than 4€, we really enjoyed ourselves. I took a fillet of Matjes and it was tasty!
You can also go to fish restaurants, there are plenty of them in the island. We had dinner at Zum Skipper, in Sellin, and it was good and generous. If you are hungry and want to try different kinds of fish, I advise you to take the tray for 2 people served with potatoes. Delicious! I heard that the Kleine Melodie, still in Sellin, is also excellent. But if I go back to Rügen, I’ll certainly try Daheim, in Lohme, whose fish come from the village’s fishing.
BE CAREFUL: Restaurants and bars close early in Rügen Island. The first evening we arrived at 10 pm and all restaurants were already closed or were no longer serving food. On Saturday, we had to leave the restaurant at 10:30 pm, closing time! We didn’t see any bars open late. But maybe was it due to the coronavirus? In any case, plan to bring food if you arrive late in the island!
Rügen Island : what you need to know
- In my opinion, the most important site is the Jasmund national park, with the viewpoint of the Königsstuhl (9,5€) or the Viktoriasicht (free);
- Lohme is a stop away from the bustle of the overly touristy beaches. It’s a fishing village known for its gastronomy and its peaceful atmosphere;
- Binz and Sellin will take you back in time to the end of the 19th century, when the first seaside resorts on the Baltic Sea were created. Perfect for contemplating the opulent villas and relaxing in a wicker beach chair!
Have you ever been to Rügen Island? Feel free to share your tips and impressions in the comments!