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Helgoland, Germany

Helgoland, sometimes referred to as ‘Heligoland', is a German archipelago in the North Sea.  As a largely land-locked country, Germany is not a destination which springs immediately to mind when cruises are mentioned, but the truth is, its coast is home to many islands, of which Helgoland is one of the most popular with cruise ship visitors. As Germany's only offshore island, it has a relaxed and secluded feel and is also a haven for wildlife, especially gannets.

Sightseeing in Helgoland

As Helgoland proves, it only takes two islands to make an archipelago and ‘Helgoland' actually refers to the larger, populated island in the group, though its actual German name is ‘Hauptinsel'. Its smaller relative is Dune, which though not continuously inhabited, serves as the islands' airstrip. As archipelagos go, Helgoland is relatively new, as it was just one island until a storm flood in 1720 destroyed the area of land connecting both islands. Helgoland is made of sandstone, something which is unusual in the area and indeed, the red sandstone cliffs which can be found around its coast date back further than the famous white cliffs of Dover. Helgoland has a long history, as archaeological findings show that it was inhabited as far back as prehistoric times. It's been in the hands of the Danish during the period in history when they owned parts of Germany and during the Napoleonic Wars, its population sided with the British, putting it in George III's hands in 1814. It became German once more in 1890 as part of the country's unification and was a key port during both World Wars.

Visitors to Helgoland should always make a beeline for its most spectacular natural attraction, Lange Anna. This single sandstone tower stands apart from the rest of the coastal cliffs, rising from the sea like a finger pointing to the sky, beckoning the myriad breeding seabirds which visit during the spring. In fact, this is one of Europe's most popular destinations, at least as far as Gannets are concerned but you don't have to be an ornithologist to appreciate the beauty of Lange Anna, and it's a great place to get some memorable photographic souvenirs.  The smaller satellite island of Dune is also well worth a visit if you have enough time, because as well as being home to the archipelago's finest beaches, it's often visited by seals, which are known to bask and play on the beaches. Another popular landmark is the Heligoland lighthouse, which as you'll soon notice when you visit, isn't a lighthouse in the traditional sense. Though one has existed on the site since 1804, the current one was constructed as an aircraft tower during the Second World War and only turned into a lighthouse in 1952. Today it boasts the strongest light to be found anywhere on the German North Sea Coast.

Shopping in Helgoland

If you're a habitual holiday shopper, you'll be delighted to know that Helgoland is a duty-free zone, so feel free to stoke up on the perennial favourites. Be aware though, that the usual customs restrictions apply.

Eating out in Helgoland

Lobster is the local speciality here, harking back to the island's glory days of it being the heart of Germany's lobster trade and indeed, seafood forms a large part of the menus to be found across the island. Crab claws (Knieper) are also very popular.

Cruise Lines

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