UNLESS you have inspected the crimson foil wrapper of a famous marzipan brand, it is perhaps unlikely that you will be familiar with the city of Lübeck.

Many tourists planning a trip to Germany plump for the culture and bustle of the big cities - Berlin, Munich and Hamburg being the most popular.

Just an hour's drive away from the latter, or a 40 minute train journey, is a city widely considered to be the world's marzipan capital.

Lübeck is home to Niederegger marzipan and chocolate factory, a family-run confectionary businesses founded in 1806.

The old part of the city, which dates back to the 12th century, is an island encircled by the Trave river.

Despite suffering a huge amount of damage during the Second World War bombings, for which the rebuild effort is still continuing today, many 15th and 16th century structures remain standing and the city's medieval core is a designated UNESCO world heritage site.

Characterful buildings boast beautiful shapes and brickwork, like Christmas gingerbread houses.

One of the city's main landmarks is the Holsten Gate, whose spectacular twin turrets mark the entrance to the old centre.

Our tour guide tells us how the lacquered black bricks that pepper the gate's walls cost seven times the price of a normal red brick.

Past Lübeck's gateway there are more architectural feats, particularly St Mary's Church - apparently one of Europe's biggest red brick churches.

Outside a rather sweet-looking devil statue sits on the step, and an amusing plaque next to him explains the legend of how he was tricked into thinking the church was going to be a wine bar.

Nearby is the main market square, also surrounded by beautiful turrets and archways. Come December, it will play host to a German Christmas market - one of seven staged in the city.

For literary lovers, a trip to the house of Nobel Laureate Thomas Mann is another key landmark.

The Buddenbrooks House, now a museum dedicated to the author, provided the setting for his famous novel of the same name.

Lübeck's historic centre is juxtaposed with buildings erected in the post-war decades - though less attractive to look at, they are a testament to the city's determination to rebuild.

A must-see is the Niederegger shop, complete with a cafe and museum, which celebrates the pinnacle of the confectioner's product selection.

Shelves are lined with 400 types of products, including truffles, nougat and marzipan treats of all shapes and sizes - from tiny replicas of the city's Holsten Gate to a menagerie of marzipan animals.

We were treated to a tour of the company's factory on the outskirts of Lübeck, which is not usually open to the public.

It is situated in an industrial estate with an unremarkable facade, which belies the magic happening inside.

Handing out white coats and hairnets for hygiene, our guide Kathrin told us enthusiastically: "I call it the marzipan wonderland. It is a bit like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory!"

We were walked through the entire process - the noisy conveyor belt of almonds being hand-sorted, then pummelled into a raw paste with sugar.

It is then roasted in boilers so hot you can see the heatwaves shimmering from across the factory floor, cooled and stored until the secret ingredient is added.

From there it is fashioned into hundreds of shapes, some by machine while larger made-to-order marzipan pieces are expertly hand-pressed into moulds upstairs.

Some are kept natural and others painted using airbrushes, or encased with Belgium chocolate.

The end product is unrecognisable from the luminous yellow lumps you often find in supermarkets.

Though German food fare gets a bad reputation, I also enjoyed a delicious meal at Schiffergesellschaft - don't miss the rumtopf, an indulgent dessert of rum-soaked red fruits ladled from huge ornamental pot.

Hotels in Lübeck cater to all budgets - we stayed at the Radisson Blu Senator, where modern rooms boast gorgeous views over the Trave and plush long-pile carpets underfoot.


Get there: BA flies direct from London Heathrow to Hamburg, and it is easy from there to get to Lübeck

Stay: At the Radisson Blue Senator, on the banks of the river Trave and a short walk from the Holsten Gate

Do: Visit the Niederegger shop, cafe and museum in Holstenstraße. You can also buy products in the UK, including at Lakeland, Waitrose, John Lewis and Selfridges