Kiel is a Baltic port town on Germany's northeast coast. It's home to the world's busiest artificial waterway, the Kiel Canal, which links the North Sea to the Baltic. Many of the city's key attractions, including the grand harbour, are maritime-themed. A large student population means that there's an exciting nightlife scene, and the city has a vibrant atmosphere during the day too. Kiel's verdant botanical gardens are a peaceful place to stroll after a morning spent exploring the busy docks.
Hostels in Kiel include dorms and private rooms. You can stay in contemporary accommodation in the old town, a cosy Kiel hostel close to the harbour or laid-back digs with views over the city. Most are within walking distance of transport hubs such as the railway station and ferry ports, with easy access to shopping and museums. Look out for Kiel hostels with free breakfast, which can range from tea and toast to a full buffet spread.
The heart of the city is its old town. This is where you'll find bars and clubs, plus shopping on the main drag of Holstenstrasse and late-19th-century Dänische Strasse. On the eastern side of the harbour, Gaarden is a multicultural district with plenty of green spaces. Kiel's centre was hard-hit by bombing in WWII, but its residential areas have generally survived. 19th-century Düsternbrook is particularly worth strolling around, with grand government buildings surrounded by leafy trees.
St Nikolai Church is one of the only medieval buildings left in Kiel. Its red-brick walls and soaring green roof make it a striking sight. For panoramic views, you can climb up the Rathaus (town hall) tower. See gigantic whale skeletons at Kiel University's Zoological Museum or discover cutting-edge art at Kunsthalle Kiel. The city has a number of festivals – Kiel Week (held in June) is the most famous, and sees hundreds of historic boats sailing into the harbour, plus boat races, street performers and live music.
Although Kiel has its own airport, it can only take small planes, so most visitors fly into Hamburg Airport, 90km away. You can catch a bus (1.5 hours) or train (2 hours) from the airport to Kiel. Buses also run direct from Berlin and take 6 hours. In the city, local buses and ferries can get you around, or you can simply walk.