Just like the pastel-hued buildings lining its Neuer Markt – or New Market – Square, Rostock on the north coast of Germany is a colourful and quaint port city. It sits on the mouth of the Warnow River where small fishing boats bob in the Alter Strom harbour, and there's even a white sandy beach where you can take a dip in the Baltic Sea. With its old university (founded in 1419) and plenty of Gothic buildings, Rostock is also known for its historic architecture.
Hostels in Rostock are spread out across the city, from the seafront to the busy centre. You can stay in a traditional 100-year-old building right next to the Neuer Markt, with its own welcoming outdoor terrace and a large communal dining area inside. There are also modern Rostock hostels close to the beach. In the morning, tuck into a free breakfast before wandering out for a swim, or meet some fellow travellers over a game of pool.
Rostock centre, or Stadtmitte, sits just below the Unterwarnow estuary. It's home to the bustling Neuer Markt, where vendors sell fresh food – come here for a piping-hot bratwurst (German sausage). This neighbourhood has plenty of key sights, like the Gothic Marienkirche church with its famous 15th-century astronomical clock and the pink-walled Rathaus, or town hall. For a local fishing-town feel, head to Warnemünde: a harbour district with waterside promenades bordered by cafés and restaurants.
For fresh seafood with a harbour view, stroll along the Stadthafen docks. This is where you'll find the Mönchentor: one of Rostock's four surviving medieval city gates. The centre is only a short bus or tram ride from Warnemünde Beach, a 15km long sandy strip with a lighthouse that you can climb for panoramic views. This neighbourhood was once home to the Norwegian expressionist painter Edvard Munch, and his house has since been turned into a museum.
You can reach Rostock by train, plane or boat. Rostock-Laage Airport has domestic and some international flights. Catch a bus (number 127) from arrivals to get into the city centre in about 35 minutes. If you're coming from Finland, Denmark, Sweden or Latvia, you could hop on a ferry, which will arrive in Seehafen. From here it's a short walk to the local tram station, where you can get a service to almost anywhere in the city.