Germany’s second largest island, Usedom is a picturesque, low-lying landscape of rolling meadows, woods and lakes dotted with thatched cottages, windmills and medieval churches. The island, 445 sq km (174 sq mi) in area, views to the northeast of the lagoon of Stettin at the mouth of the River Oder, the border between Germany and Poland.
Inhabited since the Stone age, first by Slavic tribes then Viking pirates, Usedom was German territory until 1945, when Poland was granted sovereignty over the eastern end and the entire German population were expelled to the west of the island.
The sunniest spot on the North German coast, Usedom is perfect for seaside holidays, with over 100 km (60 mi) of cycle paths, 400 km (250 mi) of walking trails and 40 km (25 mi) of flawless sandy beaches. The northwestern hinterland is one of the most beautiful parts, where the woodland descends steeply to the coast and you are likely to spot sea eagles circling overhead. In the southeast of the island, there are some lovely stretches of gently undulating scenery enclosing lakes and sleepy villages.
The island’s historic spa towns exude an unmistakable air of culture and luxury. There are rows of magnificent 19th-century mansions, elegant Art Nouveau villas, and stately piers more than 300 m (985 ft) long. Ahlbeck, Heringsdorf and Bansin, their former fishing villages on the north coast, are amongst the oldest of the Celtic ‘bathtub of Berlin’ seaside holiday resorts.
They are popularly known as The Dreikaiserbader (The Emperor’s Three Baths), the haunt of the cream of 19th-century society and international names like Johann Strauss, Tolstoy and Maxim Gorki. Today, strolling along the promenades, it takes little imagination to transport oneself back into the glamour of the past, restricting the footsteps of European nobility.
When to visit
July to December
How to reach
Fly to Usedom. Road/railfrom Szczecin, Poland or Zussow, Germany.
- Wassweschloss, Mellenthin – Renaissance castle, medieval churches in the villages of Benz, Morgenitz, Zirchow and Liepe.
- Kamminke – a small fishing port.
- Coastal views from the villages of Ziemitz and Newberg.
- Swinemunde outdoor market in the polish part of the island.
You should know
In World War II the island was used as forced labour and prisoner-of-war camp. The small village of Peenemunde, renowned as the ‘cradle of space travel’, was the centre for the V2 missile tests that formed the basis of all modern rocket technology.