Gluckstadt: city on the elbe of fortuna

The small town is known for its maritime location on the Elbe, the beautiful Renaissance buildings and the fish specialty Matjes. In her coat of arms she carries the goddess of luck Fortuna.

Although Gluckstadt is only about 12.000 inhabitants, the name is familiar to almost everyone in the north. This is partly due to the ferry connection across the Elbe to Wischhafen in Lower Saxony, and partly due to the matje. The herring speciality is produced in the Elbe town according to traditional recipes. Every year in June the town dedicates a folk festival to the tender, silver fish, the Gluckstadter Matjeswochen (Gluckstadt Matjes Weeks).

Gluckstadt: Town on the Elbe with maritime flair

An inland harbor with a magnificent row of historic houses gives Gluckstadt a maritime atmosphere. In summer many leisure captains moor there. But the full beauty of the city is revealed only when strolling through the adjacent streets to the market square. The center of the town is the stately square with cobblestones.

Magnificent facades on the market square

The town church of Gluckstadt © Gluckstadt Destination Management GmbH

Historic houses with well-kept facades frame the market square, including the town hall with its red brick front to the north and the town church from 1621 diagonally across the street. Fortuna, the goddess of luck, who adorns the town’s coat of arms in light clothing, also decorates the narrow spire of the church. At the entrance is a storm surge mark from 7. October 1756, when 200 people lost their lives in a dike breach. On the south side, the marketplace is bordered by the so-called Fleth, a watercourse that was once used to transport goods.

Floor plan like a hexagon

The historic town center is largely under monument protection. Many buildings date back to the town’s founding and were built in the Renaissance style. The special feature: The entire town layout was planned on paper and follows a strict outline that can be traced on a town map: Twelve so-called radial streets run dead straight from all directions toward the marketplace. Cross connections at the respective end points result in a hexagonal ground plan, which is still visible today. This clearly distinguishes Gluckstadt from medieval towns with their typical maze of alleys.

A Danish king founded the town

Christian IV., King of Denmark and Duke of Schleswig-Holstein, had ambitious plans when he founded Gluckstadt in the 17th century. The city of Hamburg was built in the 16th century on the Lower Elbe. According to tradition, he emphasized his goals with optimistic words: "Dat schall glucken und dat mutt glucken und denn schall se ok Gluckstadt heten"!" (This shall succeed and this must succeed and then it shall also be called Gluckstadt!) With enormous personnel and material employment the place designed on the drawing board was established.

Rantzau Palace in Gluckstadt © GDM Kirbis

To promote trade, Christian attracted wealthy and enterprising citizens to the city with privileges – such as Dutch merchants and Jews from Portugal, who had good trade contacts. This is how Gluckstadt experienced an economic heyday. However, the goal of outstripping Hamburg was never achieved.

If you want to learn more about the history, you can visit the Detlefsen Museum in the Brockdorff Palace, a former nobleman’s residence near the marketplace.

Starting point for bicycle tours and hikes

The Elbe landscape around Gluckstadt can be easily explored by bicycle. Four signposted bicycle tours lead in different directions. Those planning longer tours can turn onto the North Sea Coastal Cycle Path or the Elbe Cycle Path. Hikers arrive on the "Via Jutlandica, a pilgrimage route, to Gluckstadt.

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