By Brigitte of The Life and Times Of A Dutchie Abroad
Move over, Berlin: Hamburg is coming! Germany’s second-largest city sees rapidly increasing numbers of tourists flock the Altstadat, the Reeperbahn and the harbour area Landungsbrücken. They come here to admire the newly opened Elbphilharmonie, to take a boat tour on the Elbe, or to walk around the artificially created Alster lakes in the city center. These are my recommendations:
Hamburg is one of the largest harbour cities in the world, and any visit to Hamburg starts at Landungsbrücken, or the harbour area. From here you can find a boat taking you for a harbour tour, visit the museum ships Rickmer Rickmers or the Cap San Diego, take the Old Elbtunnel under the River Elbe for a great view in Hamburg from the opposite shore or eat a fish burger in one of the many small restaurants.
The leftist neighbourhood of St Pauli is your next stop. Notorious is the Reeperbahn, home to many of Hamburg’s most popular night clubs and cafés. ‘The most vicious mile in Europe’ has something exiting to offer to everyone, from strip clubs and the largest sex shop in the country (or was it Europe?) to fancy cocktail bars and restaurants. As soon as the sun is out, you can find the young and fashionable in beach clubs as Strandpauli or Hamburg del Mar. In Hamburg one should enjoy every single ray.
Another leftist bulwark, Sternschanze is the place to be for alternative Hamburg. Street art is a way of life here. Admire the skills of Hamburg-based artists at the bunker next to cultural center Rote Flora, or anywhere else in ‘Schanze’ really. Although in theory street art is illegal, in Sternschanze it is part of mainstream culture – with even the fire brigade commissioning a street art work for their station!
The Speichterstadt or Warehouse District, is Hamburg’s only UNESCO world heritage site. Located to the east of Landungsbrücken, this is where the goods arriving in Hamburg harbour would be stored until further transported. Dating from the 19th century, this is Hamburg’s former free trade zone. Speichterstadt Kaffeerösterei offers the best coffee in Hamburg, locals say. It is located right next to Miniatur Wunderland – Germany’s number 1 attraction for annual visitors. Here you can find miniature versions of many famous German and international buildings. A stone’s throw away you can admire the Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg’s new landmark (finally opened in January 2017, after many, many years of construction) and the 12th most expensive building in the world.
Hamburg’s Altstadt or Old Town was unfortunately heavily bombed during the Second World War – as testify the ruined remains of the St Nicholas church. It is now a museum, dedicated to the horrors of war. Move on to the Rathaus (Town Hall) afterwards, which is widely regarded as the most beautiful building in Hamburg. And it is every bit as beautiful from the inside, so taking one of the guided tours (in English or German) is a must for first-timers.
In Hamburg there are two artificial lakes, the Inner and Outer Alster, which are super picturesque. Located smack in the city center, a walk around the smaller Inner Alster is strongly recommended. For those with more energy: the walk around the Outer Alster lasts about two hours and takes you through some of Hamburg’s fanciest neighbourhoods. Right next to the Inner Alster you will also find the Kunsthalle – one of Germany’s leading art museums.
From the Altstadt we move into the Neustadt, or New Town. Make sure to visit Planten un Blomen, Hamburg’s most beautiful park. In winter you can go ice skating on a huge outdoor ice rink here, in summer you can admire the beautiful Japanese and rose gardens as well as listen to a daily sound and light show at the large water fountain.
A bit further out, but also worth the visit:
If you have money in Hamburg, chances are good that you live in Blankenese. The poshest neighbourhood in town, Blankenese on a sunny day is magic. Enjoy the views from atop or go for a stroll along the beach. Ice cream is rumoured to taste twice as good here too.
No visit to any German city is complete without taking in some World War II history. Although less well known than Dachau or Bergen-Belsen, Hamburg’s main concentration camp Neuengamme is every bit as impressive. It has several permanent exhibitions as well as a number of original buildings and a Holocaust memorial. A group of volunteers is actively working to preserve its history, and guided tours around specific themes (in German) are taking place on an almost weekly basis. A solemn place that is well worth the visit. For history buffs: Neuengamme’s satellite camps Fuhlsbüttel and Bullenhuser Damm are also open to the public. Especially the Bullenhuser Damm Memorial, where medical experiments on children were carried out during the war, is a haunting place.
Hamburg is surrounded by beautiful cities. The capital of the Hanseatic League Lübeck, is less than an hour away. Charming towns like Lüneburg and Stade make for a great day trip. The island of Sylt is a bit further out, but makes for a good weekend retreat. And an hour to the south is Bremen, home to famous animal musicians.
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