10 Tips for Hamburg
With almost two million inhabitants, the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg is Germany’s second largest city. Unlike Berliners, most Hamburgers would not claim to live in a cosmopolitan city. With Hanseatic understatement, they are content to be North Germany’s No. 1 and at least the “gateway to the world”. This combination of modest and pompous elements, combining relaxed cosmopolitanism, diverse attractions and provincial clarity, makes Hamburg’s special charm for many visitors. There is definitely a lot to see and experience on the Elbe and Alster, and for every taste.
1st harbour tour: Hamburg’s heart on wave height
Hamburg’s importance as a business location has been closely related to the port for centuries. Although Hamburg’s port area of about seven square kilometres is located more than a hundred kilometres from the North Sea, the Lower Elbe River nevertheless laid the foundation stone for the wealth of Hamburg as a “pepper-bag city” through maritime trade. The depth of the Lower Elbe river, which leads to the sea, makes Hamburg’s position as Germany’s most important overseas port possible due to the draught of oversized container ships or giant passenger cruise ships. Whether it’s a low-cost alternative to the local public transport tariff when crossing the Elbe or a more time-consuming one with one of the numerous harbour cruise bays departing from the St. Pauli jetties: A tour of Hamburg’s economic and historical centrepiece is an essential part of a visit to Hamburg. The visitor, capriciously supplied by the Barkassenführer with mostly well thought out Döntjes and respectable information, can dive into the world of the sea-oriented commerce during a round trip through port arms and canals, past shipyards and container terminals very closely.
2nd Museum Ships: Come on board and become captain
A harbour tour can be combined with a visit to Hamburg’s largest museum ships to create a maritime experience. At the St. -Pauli-Landungsbrücken not far from the Old Elbe Tunnel, which is also worth seeing (and can be walked on), two shipping legends invite you to become acquainted not only with inveterate shiplovers: The CAP SAN DIEGO and the RICKMER RICKMERS. The 160-metre-long CAP SAN DIEGO was launched in 1961 not far from its current berth at the German shipyard and is a veteran of the almost extinct cargo shipping industry. The ship, which was active on South American routes until 1986, was rescued from scrapping and is now considered the world’s largest operational museum freighter. From time to time the CAP SAN DIEGO is still at sea for small trips. CAP SAN DIEGO’s pretty neighbour, the 97-metre-long three-mast barque RICKMER RICKMER RICKMERS, was launched in 1896. The freighter transported coal and saltpetre and served as a training ship for the Portuguese Navy from 1924 to 1962.
Speicherstadt and HafenCity: Old and new eye-catchers
If you are already in the harbour area, which is only about one kilometre away from the city centre, it is worth a stroll through the historic warehouse complex of Speicherstadt, which was built 150 years ago. Carpets, spices and other specialities are still stored here according to traditional methods. But cultural and touristic delicacies are also offered here. These include the Speicherstadtmuseum, the Hamburg Dungeon, the German Customs Museum, the Miniatur Wunderland or the Gewürzmuseum. A stone’s throw away from Speicherstadt, HafenCity Hamburg’s brand-new and architecturally not uncontroversial HafenCity district is located amidst the latest attraction: The Elbe Philharmonic Hall, which was inaugurated in 2016 after a ten-year construction period that was severely criticised for its exorbitant rise in costs. The “Elphi” towering 110 metres above Kehrwiederspitze is an innovative concert hall. An absolutely recommendable tour on the public viewing area (“Plaza”) allows spectacular views of the harbour and city from a height of 37 metres.
Fourth Övelgönne: Here the hamburger lets his soul dangle
Especially on sunny days, Hamburgers like to take a trip to the Övelgönne section of the Elbe beach, which belongs to the western Nobel district of Othmarschen. Here you will find beach feeling at the miles of sandy beach and in the beach bar “Strandperle”. Most people just sunbathe. But some brave people actually bathe in sight of container terminals towering on the other side of the Elbe in the river floods. In addition to the beach, a floating crane, a lightship and several other ship attractions can be boarded in the museum harbour. Every Sunday morning around the Altona fish auction hall, the famous and popular Hamburg fish market is held about two kilometres up the river Elbe. Although it’s still about weekly markets and fish sales, the main focus of interest of the mixed public is on the last weekend’s nightclub, music fun and curiosities.
5th parks: Hamburg’s green lungs
The Hanseatic city is famous for its many green areas, usually combined with water surfaces. There is probably no other city of this size where street noise and city house weariness can be quickly eliminated in so many parks close to nature. The Stadtpark in Winterhude is Hamburg’s largest park with 150 hectares. A visit to the planetarium is a must. Almost as big is the wooded Niendorf enclosure. In the middle of the city centre, close to the Dammtor railway station, the grounds of the green area Planten un Blomen extend over almost 50 hectares. An insider’s tip is the island park (100 hectares) in the Wilhelmsburg district, which is often wrongly classified by the general public as not worth visiting due to its remote location south of the Elbe and its social problems. The Ohlsdorf cemetery is a special kind of Hamburg green lung. With almost 400 hectares, Ohlsdorf is twice as large as the Principality of Monaco and is the world’s largest park cemetery. We recommend that you take part in a guided tour of this last resting place, which is of great interest from a cultural and horticultural point of view.
6th Reeperbahn: World-famous dirt and fun mile
Of course, almost every visitor to Hamburg wants to go at least once over the notorious Reeperbahn in St. Pauli, which is known as the “sinful mile”. This includes side streets with similarly rounded sides like Hamburger Berg, Große Freiheit, Herbertstraße or Silbersackstraße. Here, many evening and night travellers are attracted by the peculiar coexistence of the tourist industry and the actual or alleged criminal milieu. The Reeperbahn, which is just under one kilometre long, is Hamburg’s most important quarter for street prostitution, which is constantly decreasing. However, this has led to the development of an economically more important range of pubs, bars, clubs and stages such as the “Operettenhaus” or “Schmidts Tivoli”. The chance to get into an unpleasant situation on the Reeperbahn before the officials of the famous Davidwache can intervene is not excluded, especially after midnight, due to the enormous consumption of alcohol by parts of the visitors. However, if certain rules of conduct are observed, this risk is probably hardly greater than at fire brigade festivals in the Sauerland.
7th The DOM: Three times a year a huge funfair
More than on Sauerland fire brigade festivals is going on at the Hamburg DOM. The origin of this name goes back to a regular market activity in Hamburg’s cathedral church. After the demolition of the cathedral in 1804, the name passed to the market on the Heiligengeistfeld in St. Pauli after a transitional period. After the end of the Second World War, this developed into the “Hamburg DOM”, which is celebrated three times a year for four weeks each: Spring DOM (March/April), Bumblebee Festival/Summer DOM (July/August) and Winter DOM (November/December).
This is the longest funfair festival in Germany on the open-air grounds of Heiligengeistfeld, which is dominated by the impressive block of a huge anti-aircraft bunker from the Second World War, and which is located at Feldstraße underground station, attracts around 10 million visitors every year. Right next to the Heiligengeistfeld in the Millerntor stadium, a slightly different Bundesliga football club has its home: FC St. Pauli, known for its alternative-link fan culture. An afternoon in the fan block of the Kiez-Kicker in a home game promises even in the not uncommon Pauli defeats mostly exuberant soccer cheerfulness.
8th Hamburg’s High Culture: Theatre, Opera and Museums
Millions of visitors are drawn every year to the not at all dusty temples of Hamburg’s high culture. The “Hamburg State Opera”, the “Thalia-Theater” and the “Deutsche Schauspielhaus” have the level of the World Stage League. The “Ohnsorg-Theater”, which cultivates the Lower German language, is especially hamburgish. Among the most outstanding museums are the “Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe”, the “Museum für hamburgische Geschichte” (“HamburgMuseum”), the “Kunsthalle”, famous for its exquisite paintings, and the “Museum für Völkerkunde”.
9th Hamburg-City: Alster, Rathaus and Mönckebergstraße
A round trip to Hamburg also includes a shopping stroll through the city centre’s shopping area, which runs between the neo-Renaissance style (19th century) and the city’s large town hall and the central station. Particularly in the Mönckebergstraße and Spitalerstraße large turnovers are made. Attractively directly belonging to this city area, the inner Alster (20 hectares), which is dammed up to form a lake, spreads noble flair. Afterwards, on the Alster hiking trail, you can refuel on a circuit around the Outer Alster (165 hectares) bordered by the noble districts of Rotherbaum and Harvestehude.
10th Culinary delights for every palate
The cosmopolitan Hamburg has hundreds of highly recommended restaurants of German and foreign cuisine. In the Portuguese quarter near the subway station Landungsbrücken you can enjoy excellent and inexpensive fish and meat specialities of Portuguese cuisine. For the gourmet who wants to spend a little more, there are a dozen or so star restaurants such as “Haerlin” in the Alster Hotel “Vier Jahreszeiten” or “Jacobs Restaurant” in Nienstedten. Good timing is the prerequisite for being able to experience a Hamburgish fish speciality as a foreigner. Only a few weeks in March, the small fish Stint, which comes from the North Sea, can be caught in Hamburg’s Upper Elbe during its spawning migration. The stint, baked in flour and baked on a plate in a few down-to-earth restaurants in the east of Hamburg, is a culinary revelation.