Zuarina was founded as a Slavic fortress in the 10th or 11th century. In the 12th century, it was conquered by Germans and the region was Christianised. Schwerin was made the seat of a county, that later evolved into the Duchy of Mecklenburg. While Schwerin remained the political centre, the Hanseatic seaports Rostock and Wismar were more prosperous and grew faster.
Around 1765, Duke Frederick II ("the Pious") moved his residence to Ludwigslust, a Baroque new town planned on a drawing board, 40 km south of Schwerin (like Louis XIV of France had moved his residence from Paris to Versailles). In 1837, the capital was moved back to Schwerin. Grand Duke Frederick Francis II who was on the throne from 1842 to 1883 had Schwerin's castle completely rebuilt in a fancyful, romantic style. It is now known as a "fairytale castle" or "Neuschwanstein of the north".
During the Cold War and German partition, Schwerin was one of East Germany's 15 district seats. Despite Rostock being larger, Schwerin remains the state capital of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, re-established after Germany's re-unification of 1990. Its regained political importance and its location within the Hamburg Metropolitan Region notwithstanding, Schwerin's population dropped by 30% between 1989 and 2012, recovering slightly since then. With around 95,000 inhabitants it is the smallest German state capital and the only state capital not to be a "Großstadt", a city above 100 000, as defined by German statistics.
The closest major airport is Hamburg (HAM IATA), 115 km from Schwerin (1½ hours by train). Rostock airport (RLG IATA) is a little closer (78 km), but little frequented. Berlin's airports Tegel (TXL IATA) and Schönefeld (SXF IATA) are further off (200 and 230 km, respectivly) and less conveniently connected.
- 1 Schwerin station. has direct ICE connections from Hamburg (four times a day; taking 52 minutes), Rostock (55 min), Stralsund (1:50 h) and Hannover (twice a day 2:15–2:40 h). Twice a day there is an intercity train from Bremen (1:55–2:25 h), the Ruhr area (4:50–6 h), Cologne (6–6½ h), once a day from Frankfurt (8½ h, the indirect connection by ICE via Hamburg takes just 5:40 h). Once a day, an intercity train arrives from Magdeburg (2 h) and Leipzig (3:40 h).
- Traveling from Berlin takes about 2 hours and requires to change trains in Ludwigslust.
- Regional trains connect Schwerin at an hourly interval with Wismar (25 min), Ludwigslust (30 min), Parchim (45 min); two-hourly with Wittenberge (55 min), Hamburg (1:25 h), Berlin (2½ h). They stop at 2 Schwerin-Mitte in addition to the main station.
Schwerin is just of the A 14 about 200 km northwest of Berlin and 100 km east of Hamburg using the A 24. Lübeck is about 65 km and 90 km from Rostock via the A20.
Schwerin has a tram network some 21 km (13 mi) long, serving most of the city.
- 1 Schweriner Schloss (Schwerin Palace). The castle nowadays houses the state parliament. It sits next to the Schweriner See (lake) and adjacent to a park.
- 2 Schwerin Cathedral (Schweriner Dom). A major example of Northern German brick Gothic.
- 3 Schweriner Fernsehturm (TV tower), Hamburger Allee 72-74 (6 km southeast of old town). It has an observation deck and a restaurant 100 meters above ground. The 136.5 m (448 ft)-high TV tower is from unique design. As a curiosity close to it, there is a guyed radio mast, which is 273 m high.
- 4 Internationales Feuerwehrmuseum Schwerin (International Fire Brigade Museum), Hamburger Allee 68, 19063 Schwerin (300 m from TV tower; tram 1 or 2 "Neu Zippendorf"), ☏ . 10:00 - 18:00. Closed Mondays. Very extensive collection of everything related to fire brigades. Fire engines, model fire engines, uniforms, helmets, masks, equipment, pumps, training equipment. A lot of stuff relating to the former DDR (East Germany) but also West German and international. 5€.
- 5 Zoo Schwerin, An der Crivitzer Chaussee 1 (4 km southeast of old town; tram 1 or 2 "Zoo").
- Climb the tower of the Schwerin Cathedral. Go via the main entrance, then go to the back of the pews, pay the attendant €2 and climb the spiral staircase. At the top, there are 360 degree views of the city.
- 1 Mecklenburgisches Staatstheater (Mecklenburg State Theatre), Alter Garten 2. Staging operas, operettas, musicals, dramas, ballet and symphonic concerts.
- 2 Capitol Schwerin, Wismarsche Straße 128. Heritage cinema from the 1930s. Venue of the Filmkunstfest MV (cinematics festival).
- Cycle around Lake Schwerin (61 km (38 mi)), or only the nearer half of it (Innensee, 32.5 km (20.2 mi))
- 1 Zum Freischütz, Ziegenmarkt 11. A pub that serves great food and drinks. Try the Fladenbrot. One is enough to share between two people. Probably the best pub in town, that's why you can expect it to be very crowded.
- 2 Bolero Bar, Mecklenburgstraße 2. Relaxed cocktailbar with quite nice Mexican food, next to Pfaffenteich in the city centre.
- 3 Rösterei Fuchs, Am Markt 4. Roasts their own coffee and serves great hot chocolate. They are located on Am Markt.
- Wismar, medieval seaport and mercantile city of the Hanseatic League, Unesco World Heritage, 30 km north (30 min by train)
- Ludwigslust, Mecklenburg's secondary residence during the Baroque era, dubbed "Versailles of Northern Germany", 38 km south (35 min by train)
- Poel, island in the Baltic Sea, 45 km north (one hour by train and bus via Wismar)
- Ratzeburg, former capital of the tiny Duchy of Lauenburg, surrounded by four lakes, 47 km west (1:20 h by train via Büchen)
- Boltenhagen, Baltic sea resort, 50 km northwest (1:20 h by train and bus via Wismar)
- Güstrow, 60 km east (50–55 min by train via Bützow or Bad Kleinen)
- Lübeck, 70 km northwest (1:10 h by train via Bad Kleinen)
- Kühlungsborn, posh seaside resort, 75 km north
- Rostock, East Germany's major international port and biggest city of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, 90 km northeast (50–60 min by train)