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Nestled near the harbor of Schleswig is the old fishing village of Holm. Coming from the Danish word for “small island”, this fishing village was originally an island that was only connected to mainland Schleswig by a bridge. This changed in 1933 and the settlement is now easily accessible directly by car. An idyllic nook in the city of Schleswig, it still retains the fishing tradition that provided its livelihood for several centuries.
Table of Contents
- History of Holm
- What to See in Holm
- What to See Near Holm, Schleswig
- How to Get to Holm
- Where to Stay in Schleswig
- Final Thoughts on Visiting the Fishing Village of Holm in Schleswig
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History of Holm
Founded over 1,000 years ago, Holm played a strategic fishing role with its location along the Schlei. The Schlei is a waterway that leads out to the Baltic Sea. Even today, it plays an important role in the economy of Schleswig-Holstein. Schleswig’s first town charter from the 12th century clearly outlines special privileges and rights given to Holm. In 1480, King Christian I of Denmark officially published the Schleibrief (English: Schlei Letter). In it, he proclaimed that the fishermen of Holm can fish freely on the entire Schlei. Even today, this right is still upheld for the fishermen of Holm with a small exception – they’re able to fish from Schleswig to Sieseby, and fishermen from Arnis and Kappeln can fish the rest of the Schlei.
In the early 1900s, around 100 families lived in Holm. That number decreased to 60 families by the 1950s. These days, there are just a handful of fishermen still living in Holm. Besides the special fishing privileges, Holm is also known for the Holmer Beliebung, or a “Death Guild”. Founded in 1650 after the Thirty Years’ War, the Holmer Beliebung is responsible for the cemetery in the village and providing a dignified burial. This was particularly important after the Thirty Years’ War due to the city of Schleswig (and community of Holm) being savaged by war and plague. Citizens from other parts of the city came to Holm to ensure that their loved ones received an honorable and Christian burial.
You’ll notice that the houses are all built in a circle shape around the cemetery. When Holm was an island, this allowed almost every hour to have water access from their home, making it easier to go fishing. While the fishing tradition continues to this day in Holm, several houses are used as vacation rentals, shops, and restaurants.
What to See in Holm
The fishing village of Holm is quite small and can be explored in under an hour. If you’re wanting to go to the museum, you might need to budget more time. However, it’s a very relaxing day trip from Hamburg or Kiel!
If you’re wanting to learn more about Holm, its history, and its fishing legacy, make sure to stop by the Holm Museum. Located in one of the old fishing homes, this museum gives an in-depth and extensive history of what life was like in the previous centuries in Holm. It also touches upon the declining fishing industry and the outside influencer of globalization in this fishing village. The goal of the museum is to continue to preserve the traditional way of life in Holm for years to come.
- Holm Museum: Süderholmstraße 2, 24837 Schleswig
Holm Cemetery (Friedhof der Holmer Beliebung)
Located in the middle of the fishing village, the houses and shops of Holm revolve around the cemetery. While the current-day chapel is from 1876, there are records stating that some sort of chapel has been at that spot since 1196. The Holm Cemetery is run by the Holmer Beliebung and they have specific rules regarding how many people are buried in the cemetery and the uniform direction of all of the bodies (east-west orientation).
St. John’s Monastery (St.-Johannis-Kloster)
As the best-preserved medieval monastery in Schleswig-Holstein, St. John’s Monastery is right on the outskirts of Holm. Founded in 1194 as a Benedictine monastery, it became a women’s monastery after the Reformation. It mainly housed the unmarried daughters of the Schleswig-Holstein nobility. To this day, St. John’s Monastery is still an active monastery, with two women living on-site and four women living off-site (which is allowed). The grounds and outdoor areas of the monastery are freely accessible whereas the indoor areas of the monastery can only be visited as part of a guided tour. Additionally, the monastery can be rented out for events and celebrations.
- St. John’s Monastery: Am St. Johanniskloster 14, 24837 Schleswig
What to See Near Holm, Schleswig
Besides visiting the fishing village of Holm in Schleswig, it’s also worth visiting other parts of Schleswig! The city is a great day trip from Hamburg and Kiel and offers a wide array of nature and history.
Schleswig Harbor (Stadthafen)
While the harbor is nothing special (though still nice to visit!), it’s a great place to grab a typical Northern Germany fare – Fischbrötchen (fish sandwich). A Fischbrötchen can be served with all different types of fish although if it’s your first one, I’d recommend taking it with Backfisch. Backfisch is just a fried white fish similar to the type of fish you’d get with fish and chips in the UK. In terms of sauce, most places offer it with Remoulade (a mayo-based herb sauce) or a garlic sauce. I’d recommend Remoulade as it is more traditional. If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, there are other fish options to spice it up!
- Burgermeisterin: Am Hafen 1, 24837 Schleswig (contrary to the name, they serve DELICIOUS Fischbrötchen and have a great seating area overlooking the water)
- Bistro Zander’s Nordlicht: Am Hafen 1, 24837 Schleswig
If you’re looking for something a bit sweeter, make sure to walk a bit further down the water for a delicious ice cream option!
- Kaphörnchen und Eishörnchen am Stadthafen: Am Hafen 9, 24837 Schleswig
The Schleswig Cathedral, also known in English as Schleswiger Dom or St. Petri-Dom zu Schleswig, is the focal point of the Schleswig skyline. Originally a Catholic church, it dissolved in 1624 and is now the seat of the Lutheran Bishop of Schleswig and Holstein. Almost 1,000 years old, it is the final resting place of a Danish king and queen as well as several Dukes of Schleswig. It is also rumored to be haunted by a Danish king!
Today, you’re able to visit the Schleswig Cathedral from 11 am – 5 pm. Check the opening times before you go because they can unexpectedly change. It’s free to visit although it’s encouraged to give a donation. You’re also able to climb the tower for fantastic views of Schleswig, the harbor, and Holm.
- Schleswig Cathedral: Norderdomstrasse 4, 24837 Schleswig
Schloss Gottorf, or Castle Gottorf in English, is the largest castle and one of the most important secular buildings in Schleswig-Holstein. Created as an estate almost 1,000 years ago for the bishop of the Diocese of Schleswig, it was bought by the Danish Duke of Schleswig in 1268. In 1459, it was given to King Christian I of Denmark and has continued as an ancestral home of the House of Oldenburg. Throughout the centuries, Schloss Gottorf has been expanded into an extravagant castle with extensive gardens, a sculpture garden, and a planetarium.
Following the Great Northern War in the early 1700s and their defeat after siding with the Swedish, the Duchy of Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorf (who occupied the castle) was ousted from Schloss Gottorf and it was taken over by Danish royalty. It fell out of favor by the Danish and was eventually used as barracks by both Danish and Prussian troops in the 1800s. During World War II, it was a displaced persons camp.
Schloss Gottorf underwent extensive renovations after World War II. Through funding from the State of Schleswig-Holstein, it was restored to its former glory and now houses the State Art and Cultural History Museum and the State Archeological Museum.
- Schloss Gottorf: Schlossinsel 1, 24837 Schleswig (it is free to visit the grounds but costs money to go inside)
Hedeby and the Danevirke
A UNESCO World Heritage Site in Germany, Hedeby was a Viking settlement at the base of the Schlei. Established around 800, Hedeby became one of the largest cities in the region with around 2,000 inhabitants. It grew to prominence due to its strategic trading location. Although most residents only lived to 30 or 40 years old, Hedeby survived for over 300 years until it was destroyed by the West Slavs and abandoned by the rest of the residents. The settlement was rediscovered in the early 20th century and excavation work has been ongoing ever since. You can visit a museum that explains the history of Hedeby as well as a recreation of the original settlement.
The Danevirke was a system of Danish fortifications near Hedeby. Stretching over 30 kilometers and consisting of several walls and trenches, this fortification system was built in the 800s after the Danish King feared an invasion by the Franks. However, it’s rumored that the initial fortification system was started in the 500s and continued in the 800s. During WWII, fearing an invasion through the northern Danish border, Germany wanted to convert the Danevirke into an anti-tank trench. This ultimately would have destroyed the UNESCO World Heritage site. Danish archaeologist Søren Telling convinced Heinrich Himmler to not demolish the Danevirke as it was an important piece of “Aryan civilization”.
How to Get to Holm
Holm is located quite close to the inner city of Schleswig. While Holm is accessible by car, it is important to note that parking can be a bit difficult and you might need to park quite far away and walk. When we visited in winter (low season), we still had trouble finding a parking spot nearby. However, the easiest and most direct route from Hamburg or Kiel to Holm is by car.
How to Get to Holm from Hamburg
Getting to Holm from Hamburg via public transportation is not difficult at all. While there are a few difficult routes you can take, I would highly recommend not taking the train that connects through Kiel. This goes a bit out of the way and requires an extra 30-45 minutes of travel time. Here are your best route options:
- Option 1: A regional train (RE 7) directly from Hamburg to Schleswig. It goes about every hour. Once you reach Schleswig, take Bus R1 or R15 from Schleswig Bahnhof (train station) to Schleswig ZOB. It’s 4 stops by bus to Schleswig ZOB and then a 10-minute walk from the station to Holm.
- Option 2: A regional train (RE 6) from Hamburg to Elmshorn. It also goes about every hour. Once you reach Elmshorn, switch to RE 7 (the same train as above). Once you reach Schleswig, take Bus R1 or R15 from Schleswig Bahnhof (train station) to Schleswig ZOB. It’s 4 stops by bus to Schleswig ZOB and then a 10-minute walk from the station to Holm.
Considering that Option 2 ends up putting you on RE 7, it makes the most sense if you’re able to catch RE 7 directly from Hamburg. While the above 2 routes are the most common ways of getting to Holm from Hamburg, there are also periodic IC trains and other train options that might also be able to get you there. Just make sure to check Deutsche Bahn before leaving for Holm.
How to Get to Holm from Kiel
Similar to getting to Holm from Hamburg, it is quite easy to get to Holm from Kiel via public transportation. There are several options to get from Kiel to Holm. However, I would highly recommend not taking the train that connects through Neumünster. This goes a bit out of the way and requires extra travel time. Here are your best route options:
- Option 1: A regional train (RE 74) directly from Kiel to Schleswig. It goes about every hour. Once you reach Schleswig, take Bus R1 or R15 from Schleswig Bahnhof (train station) to Schleswig ZOB. It’s 4 stops by bus to Schleswig ZOB and then a 10-minute walk from the station to Holm.
- Option 2: A regional train (RB 73 or RE 72) from Kiel to Eckernförde. It also goes about every hour. Once you reach Eckernförde, take Bus 720 from Bahnhof/ZOB – Eckernförde (train station/bus station) to Schleswig ZOB. It’s 27 stops by bus to Schleswig ZOB and then a 10-minute walk from the station to Holm.
While both options take about the same amount of time, Option 1 is the more enjoyable route because it’s mainly via train. I just find train travel way more enjoyable than bus travel. Additionally, even though the above 2 routes are the most common ways of getting to Holm from Kiel, other train and bus options might also be able to get you there. Just make sure to check Deutsche Bahn before leaving for Holm.
Where to Stay in Schleswig
There are lots of cute hotel options in and near Schleswig. With its location on the water, Schleswig is not only a great city to visit, but always makes a good starting point for a regional vacation.
Hotel Strandleben is situated directly on the water and is the perfect romantic getaway for couples. The hotel is rustic from the outside but modern and sophisticated from the inside.
Hotel Zollhaus is a grand estate built in the 1800s. The former customs house of the city, it has now been converted into a hotel. It’s located right near Schloss Gottorf and has extensive grounds for exploring and relaxing.
Hotel Bed & Breakfast am Dom is a bit kitschy from its decor but charming nevertheless. With colorful walls and floral fabrics, this hotel is as central as you can get in Schleswig.
Ringhotel Waldschlößchen is on the outskirts of Schleswig but provides the ultimate relaxation. Located on the edge of a forest, it provides a spa on-site but it is close enough to the city if you want to explore for the day.
Akzent Hotel Strandhalle is located right in the city of Schleswig on the water. A bit more modest, it is the perfect jumping-off point to exploring the city and the surrounding area.
Reethüs Schleiblick is a traditional thatched-roof house that’s perfect for housing your entire family. It has multiple bedrooms and a charming coastal interior vibe.
Altbauwohnung mit Schleiblick is a chic and upscale apartment that can be rented for vacation. Located in an old building, this apartment has been updated with a spacious layout – perfect for a romantic weekend away.
Final Thoughts on Visiting the Fishing Village of Holm in Schleswig
The fishing village of Holm is a perfect day trip from Hamburg, Kiel, or other locations in Schleswig-Holstein. With an abundance of storybook homes straight out of a fairy tale, this village is a great stopover during a trip to Schleswig or any of the other surrounding places!