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Despite the floaty, romantic connotations that come with the nickname "The Sailing City," it has to be said that Kiel, on Germany's Baltic Sea coast, is anything but. Located on the Jutland Peninsula, close to Denmark, it was heavily bombed during the Second World War as a result of it being a major naval base, and was cobbled back together afterwards with a focus on maritime efficiency, rather than aesthetics. But don't let that put you off: it does have watery sunsets, the pretty buildings that did survive, and more importantly, is home to a number of unique visitor attractions, as well as playing host to the world's biggest sailing festival. No, it might not be the most stunning place on earth, but Kiel is any sailor, boat-spotter or Second World War enthusiast's heaven on earth (well, on land).  

Kiel Week

Without doubt, the busiest week of the year in Kiel is during 'Kieler Woche,' the world’s largest sailing event, when up to three million people descend on the city. Occurring every June, the event features around 2,000 boats and sees regattas in every Olympic sailing discipline, as well as live music, delicious food stalls, a tall ships parade and a fireworks display.

What to see

Nord-Ostsee Kanal - The Kiel Canal is one of the busiest on the planet and links the North Sea with the Baltic Sea, allowing ships to avoid making the long journey up and around the north coast of Denmark. You can cycle almost the entire way along the canal's banks - although at 99km in length you may need to take a rest stop somewhere.

U-Boot U995 - The world's only surviving type-VII U-boat, the U995, is preserved at Laboe, roughly 22km from the city centre. Allowing you to climb inside and experience the cramped conditions that sailor would have endured during WW2, it makes for an interesting day trip and is right next to the equally thought-provoking Laboe Naval Memorial.

Warships - Kiel is still a main base for the German Navy and is where many of the new vessels are built, so it's great for spotting ships. Also look out for the Navy's tall sail training ship, the Gorch Fock.

How to get to Kiel

With the city already a popular stop for cruises, there's one obvious way to reach this waterfront city... by sea - linking Germany with other parts of Europe, Kiel has ferry links with Oslo, Norway, Gothenburg and Kalipeda. For those already in the country, there are frequent direct train services to Hamburg, where you can change for other destinations. Hamburg is also the closest major airport to Kiel.

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