The German city of Hamburg is situated on the River Elbe in the north of the country and is home to the second largest port in Europe. It joined the Hanseatic League back in the Middle Ages, and the city is now the country’s premier media hub and its wealthiest city. Indeed, it is officially named the Freie und Hansestadt Hamburg (Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg).
With a mercantile history linked to the port since the 1100’s, Hamburg is very much a maritime city driving everything from the architecture to menus. The city has given rise to vibrant neighbourhoods full of multicultural eateries, as well as the seedy Reeperbahn red-light district, the famous street where the Beatles cut their teeth.
Nowadays, media is big business and the city is home the leading European publishing house Gruner + Jahr and German TV & Radio broadcaster NDR. As well as media, Hamburg’s economy is built around shipping, engineering (including a big base for Airbus) and the banking industry.
Hamburg’s many streams, rivers and canals are crossed by over 2400 bridges, more than London, Amsterdam and Venice put together. Indeed, Hamburg has more bridges inside its city limits than any other city in the world and more canals than Amsterdam and Venice combined.
From a leisure perspective, Hamburg is a great tourist destination with grandiose architecture and the pretty river Elbe running through its centre. the planetarium, open since 1930, offers you the chance to see the night sky in the unique setting of the Winterhuder Water Tower. Head to the town hall in the centre of town and you’ll find yourself in the heart of the shopping district – Hamburg is internationally regarded as a shopping destination and there are shops to suit all tastes and budgets.
Sightseeing in Hamburg
A typical Hamburg visit includes a tour of the city hall and the grand church St. Michaelis (called the Michel), and visiting the old warehouse district (Speicherstadt) and the harbour promenade (Landungsbrücken). The town hall depicts the emperors of the Holy Roman Empire, since Hamburg was, as a Free City, under the sovereignty of the Pope.
As Hamburg is one of the world’s largest harbours many visitors take one of the harbour and canal boat tours which start from the Landungsbrücken.
The area west of Hamburg’s central railway station is a shopping area with Spitaler Straße and Mönckebergstraße, leading to Hamburg’s town hall. Shops are mostly open daily 10AM—8PM. The Schanzenviertel is also getting more popular nowadays for unique boutiques. Hamburg has many second hand or outlet shops also worth visiting.
Of course, no visit to Hamburg is complete without a trip to the Reeperbahn. It’s safe and a definite touristy place to see. A lot of people go there for dinner, live music, theatre, musicals. See where the Beatles played at various times including the Indra club and Star Club. At the corner of Reeperbahn and Grosse Freiheit, (called Beatles-platz), there is a sculpture of the Beatles.
Aside from the usual tourist trail, there are some very different – and interesting things – to visit in Hamburg.
Situated just across the Elbe River, Finkenwerder Airport is where the Airbus aircraft plant exists and the runway, as well as the aircraft parking lot, can be observed from the public street Neß-Hauptdeich. There are public tours of the Finkenwerder aircraft plant lasting about 2½ hours, however, reservations are required at least four weeks in advance, and payment has to arrive 14 days in advance. You must bring your passport; leave cameras and mobiles at your hotel.
If you are from the Americas, BallinStadt Emigration City is worth a visit find your ancestry at computer terminals, as it is dedicated to the millions of Europeans who emigrated to North and South America between 1850 and 1939.
The world’s largest model railway museum Miniatur Wunderland with 12 km (7.46 mi) total railway length is also situated near Landungsbrücken in a former warehouse. The panoramas include parts of Hamburg, the Alps, the American west, and automated ships on water. It also has an airport exhibit with automated planes which taxi and fly!
Restaurants in Hamburg
If fine dining is what you’re after, look no further than the 2 michelin starred Restaurant Haerlin. The traditional oak panelled dining room is elegant and sophisticated and the food, french, traditional, is of exceptional quality. You will need to book ahead.
Hamburg is well known for its seafood and there are many fish restaurants to choose from. A particular favourite on trip advisor is Fischereihafen which is actually situated in the Port of Hamburg. So, whislt you’re eating your oysters or fish soup, you can sit and look at the water.
Real Hamburg dishes are Birnen, Bohnen und Speck (green beans cooked with pears and bacon), Aalsuppe (Hamburgisch Oolsupp), Bratkartoffeln (pan-fried potato slices), Finkenwerder Scholle (pan-fried plaice), Pannfisch (pan-fried fish with mustard sauce)
Of course,given the name, you might think that Hamburg was the home of the American hamburger. It seems to have developed from Hamburg’s Frikadelle: a pan-fried minced meat mixed with soaked stale bread, egg, chopped onion, salt and pepper, usually served with potatoes and vegetables. However, there is not trace of a bun! See if you can find one and do a taste comparison.
The area of Reeperbahn in the St. Pauli quarter is Europe’s largest red light district and home of strip clubs, bars and nightclubs. The Beatles had stints on the Reeperbahn early in their careers. Others less frenetic places to try are the Schanze neighbourhood with its street cafés, or a barbecue on one of the beaches along the river Elbe.
Hotels in Hamburg
Hamburg is a big tourist destination – for German and international visitors. So, it gets busy with a steady stream of visitors – so make sure you book in advance ready to explore the waterways that make Hamburg unique.
Ranked #1 on Tripadvisor, the Park Hyatt Hamburg is centrally located near to the main shopping street and within easy walking distance of Hamburgs main sight seeing areas. The hotel has everything you’d expect from a 5 star establishment including spacious, modern rooms, a spa, pool and gym. Park Hyatt Hamburg
The Hotel Alsterblick is situated on the shores of the Lake Außenalster. slightly further out of town than the Park Hyatt, and is set in a beautiful historic building, this hotel offers free Wi-Fi and business facilities and the rooms are reasonably priced.
As stylish alternative to a chain hotel, try the SIDE Hotel, built around a prism-shaped central atrium. All suites feature a coloured free-standing bathtub! The 8th-floor chill lounge, strewn with sofas, opens to a panoramic sun deck terrace overlooking Hamburg. It is just 2 underground stops from Hamburg Central Station, in the Neustadt district, a 3-minute walk from the Hamburg State Opera and Gänsemarkt Underground Station.
Fritz Boutique hotel on Schanzenstrasse is a cool town-house with just 17 rooms. It has a great vibe, with fresh organic fruit and cappuccinos always available. Its also called the Fritz im Pyjama Hotel – oddly enough.