Hamburg is the second biggest city in Germany and the biggest non-capital of the EU. “Das Tor zur Welt” (Gateway to the World) is embossed by its rivers, canals and the harbour. Apart from the ubiquity of ships and water it has become one of the world’s most important locations for musicals.
All around the harbour
The harbour is probably Hamburg’s number one tourist attraction. Not only is it one of the most important trans-shipment centres in Europe but also a tourist hot spot. You can watch ships from all over the world coming and going, from either the water’s edge or one of the numerous tour ships. To get an even nicer view over the harbour and Hamburg in general you may climb the “Michel”. The belfry of this, three times rebuilt, baroque church, can even be visited at night.
To enjoy a traditional Fischbrötchen (fish sandwich) at the legendary Fischmarkt (fish market) you have to get up early as it opens on Sundays from 5am in summer, 7am in winter until 9.30am. It is definitely worth it for you can not only buy fish but all kinds of other things from clothes to tropical flowers. The market is bustling with early bird tourists and hungry night owls.
The Speicherstadt (warehouse district) is still used for its original purpose. High class goods from all over the world (e.g. cacao, coffee, spices) are stored in the red-brick houses. The whole complex has been was placed under conservation in 1991, making it part of UNESCO world heritage. It can be seen on the land and, maybe more impressively, from different tour ships. Over the years all kinds of museums have sprung up there.
One of the most exciting ones is the Miniatur Wunderland (miniature wonderland). It is the world’s biggest railway model built by the twins Gerrit and Frederik Braun. The still growing model is 1,150 square meters in size and shows a reproduction of existing and fictive regions, cities and countries. Its preliminary finish is planned for 2020.
“The sinful mile”
The famous Reeperbahn is a street in the quarter St.Pauli. It is both the red-light district and one of Hamburg’s biggest party areas. Often referred to as the sündige Meile (sinful mile) it is full of restaurants, bars and nightclubs but also strip clubs, sex shops and brothels. Moreover musicals, cabarets and variety shows are located in this area. The adjoined Herbertstraße where prostitutes present themselves behind display windows is only accessible to adult males. The Beatles performed regularly in this area in the early 1960s before they became world famous. The district is also home of FC St.Pauli, one of Germany’s “Kult” football clubs.
A more family-friendly attraction is the parc Planten un Blomen (Low-German for: plants and flowers). The Japanese garden, the rosarium or the tropical greenhouse draw in visitors. Every summer’s evening the lake’s fountains are dipped in colourful lights supported by a changing music show. Several playgrounds, pony riding and miniature golf are just a few more things to entertain people in this peaceful place.
The Jungfernstieg (Maidens Steep) is the city’s most important shopping mile. Situated along the Alster you can enjoy the beautiful atmosphere while strolling past the numerous stores. Unfortunately the price level is very high but not buying anything is easier said than done. Nevertheless you should not miss this experience during your stay in Hamburg. A meal in the traditional Alsterpavillon completes your shopping tour.
The Town Hall made of sandstone belonging to the neo-renaissance is located in the Altstadt (old town). The bright and noble facade of the building constitutes a contrast to the rather distanced nordic character of the city and makes it even more outstanding.
Music & Culture
More than any other German city, Hamburg has become a mecca for musical fans. Being performed for more than ten years, Disney’s The Lion King may still be the most interesting one. But it doesn’t mean that there are not plenty of other great musicals to watch. Just check the program and you will find anything from expensive Disney productions to smaller German ones.
Although not situated directly in Hamburg but about 75 km outside the city, the legendary Wacken Open Air is worth mentioning. The biggest heavy metal festival in the world with more than 80,000 visitors per year opens its gates in early August. More than 100 performing artists make it the Promised Land for “headbangers”.
Getting to Hamburg
- Plane: Situated in the north of the city the airport can easily be reached by bus and metro.
- Train: Hamburg has five important intercity railway stations so travelling by train is comfortable. Nevertheless German trains are comparatively expensive.
- Car: Due to the very good German infrastructure, Hamburg can be reached by car from every direction. Contrary to many other cities you do not need a pollution badge to enter the city.
- Coach: Due to legal restrictions in order to protect the Deutsche Bahn (German railway) the network is far away from its potential capability. I recommend choosing another way of travelling although there are frequent inner- and inter-state connections.
- Boat: Besides the usual ways you can also come to Hamburg by ship. This more expensive alternative will be an adventure in itself.