Water, bridges, harbor, harbor birthday, Cruise days, canoeing, Alster, fish market, Franzbrötchen, biking, Schanze, Dom, Reeperbahn, musicals and most recently…the Olympic and Paralympic Games! These are the keywords that come to my mind when thinking of Hamburg.
I am by no means an expert of Hamburg, but immediately fell in love with the city on my first visit in May this year and I moved here in August to support the bid for the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Did you know that Hamburg even beats Amsterdam (1281 bridges) with more than 2.300 bridges? In comparison, Venice has only 409 total bridges.
Hamburg is not as known as Berlin, Munich, or Frankfurt but I want to tell you what makes it the greatest city in Germany.
When I think about Hamburg, I think about water. Hamburg’s significant harbour is the second most important harbour in Europe and a huge logistic center. Isn’t an industrial harbour noisy and dirty and unattractive? Not in Hamburg. The harbour is an important part of the city and is greatly integrated into the city landscape. Not convinced? Come to the harbour birthday in May, the Blue Port installation, the Cruise Days, or just admire the many cruise ships that come and leave the harbour throughout the whole year.
The Speicherstadt (warehouse district), built between 1883 and 1927, was awarded the status of a UNESCO world heritage site in 2015. It is directly connected to the modern HafenCity, which is still under development.
The harbour also plays a crucial part in the city’s bid for the Olympic and Paralympic Games 2024. An area of about 100 square meters will be used to create a new inclusive city quarter with the athlete village being transformed into residential houses after the Games. Also the Olympia Stadium, the Olympia Swimming Stadium, and the Olympia Hall, which will be transformed into a Cruise Center, will be part of the newly developed city quarter.
Following New York and London, Hamburg is the world’s third biggest Musical metropolis. One of the most popular musicals is The Lion King, which is performed in its own theatre at the south bank of the Elbe. The musical is has been shown here since 2001. Tickets are expensive but even the cheapest tickets provide great views of the stage. So don’t go all out here.
One of the city’s most controversial buildings is the Elbe Philharmonic Hall (nicknamed “Elphi”) which sits on top of an old warehouse building. Originally scheduled to open in 2010, was postponed to 2017, as the costs exploded to more than 3 times the original estimates. Here comes the population’s critical and conservative position towards staging he Olympic Games, which is linked with a huge construction plan from 2017 onwards.
Hamburg hosts the world’s largest model railway attraction called “miniature wonderland (Minituar Wonderland)!” This museum cannot be missed on your next Hamburg trip. It amazes both young and old with its incredible detailed themes from around the world. The founders are also huge fans and supporters of the Olympic Games and created a stadium with 70.000 figures.
Dialog im Dunkeln is another very unique museum in the Speicherstadt, not far from the “Miniatur Wunderland”. I have yet to visit this place, where you experience everyday situations in the dark led by a blind guide. They also offer Dinner in the Dark and Dialog im Stillen (same concept with for the hearing impaired).
Cruising or running around the Alster, kayaking through the canals, strolling at the beach (yes there is a beach at the Elbe with runs into the North Sea) or go to a football game of the local teams HSV or St. Pauli. Also, for less than 9 € per month, you can join Sportspaß and participate at over 123 different sports around town.
Fish, but also fruits, veggies, flowers, clothes, souvenirs and more. A trip to the legendary fish market will fulfil all your shopping needs. While party goers come here straight from the Reeperbahn (Kietz) to fight their hang-over with a fish sandwich or party on, thousands of tourists flock here into the early morning hours. The best bargains can be made by the end of the market, shortly before 9:30 am.
You can easily explore Hamburg by bike and rent one of the 1.800 red signature bikes from nearly 150 stations in the city for free. It is easy to sign up and use and you get to see a lot more from the city than by taking the train and metro at almost no costs. Make sure to return the bike within 30 minutes of unlocking it and if you want to go further, just unlock your bike again for another 30 minutes.
U-Bahn and S-Bahn
If you don’t like biking in rain or have to cover longer distances, the S-Bahn and U-Bahn run very frequently and connect the city well.
You don’t want to join the touristy harbour cruises? Your best bet is a day ticket from HVV which covers all U-bahn, S-bahn, busses and public harbor cruises for only 6 €. Enjoy the ride outfrom Landungsbrücken to Finkenwerder and back.
Hamburg may not be as artsy as Berlin, not as international as Frankfurt and not as known for its sporting scene as Munich. Hamburgers are modest and humble and persuade with its maritime charm.