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Elegant Hotel Stadt Hamburg
Elegant Hotel Stadt Hamburg

Germany's version of the Hamptons on the North Sea attracts an elite clientèle and is a perfect place to escape fellow American tourists

January 2006 - When it comes to destinations, many travelers (this one included) have to fight the urge to return time after time to the familiar and the tried-and-true. It's a safe but dull strategy and readers unable to break out of the not-so-vicious southern Bavaria Black Forest cycle will never know the many, often unique, charms of the island of Sylt, Deutschland's version of the Hamptons.

This slender, flat island in the North Sea lies as much off Denmark's coast as Germany's and attracts up-market Germans like no other domestic destination. One of its dozen villages, Kampen (pop. 650), seems at first merely an unassuming collection of cottages scattered among meandering lanes, until you begin to notice the discreet Bvlgari, Prada, and Louis Vuitton signs and a local whispers that this is Germany's most coveted and expensive residential real estate.

Visitors arrive via long, double-decked car trains (€42 per car each way) over vast tide flats on the seven-mile Hindenburg embankment, or by car ferry (€37) from Denmark.