When you mention Hamburg to someone they usually respond with something like “Is that where Hamburgers came from?”. It is a good question, but it isn’t a city at the forefront of people’s minds when they think of major German or even European cities. It should be. I will tell you why in the latest instalment of the Top 10 Series. Hamburg, let’s go!
My links to Hamburg are through my late Grandfather who was a Hamburger born and bred until he left in the mid 1940s to head for pastures new in Melbourne, Australia. He eventually moved to Perth in the 1960s and the rest, as they say, is history. So for me, this visit had much more emphasis than just another stop on my trip. After many years of hoping to visit, I am extremely grateful and happy I did so. There is quite a lot to do in Hamburg, a city of around 1.8 million people. The thing that struck me the most was how well the city is set up from the train systems to the Port and Harbour areas of Hamburg, it really is very easy to get around here.
1. Visit the Reeperbahn.
The name alone of this street is enough to make you think twice about visiting but trust me, you won’t find anyone grim around here. The Reeperbahn is a street in St Pauli which serves as the entertainment district of Hamburg. It rivals that of Amsterdam, except without the “coffee shops”. There are 2 train stations that serve the street, St Pauli and Reeperbahn, neon lights greet you and remember – the girls are to the left hand side of the street and the party is on the right hand side of the street.
2. Climb the tower of St Michael’s Church.
For the best views in town, head here. For €5 you can climb the 110 metre high tower via 400 odd stairs or you can play it safe and take the lift. Once up top you can see for miles and it gives a good perspective of Hamburg. There is also a crypt underneath the church which can be viewed for an extra €2.
3. Head under the Elbe River by walking in the St Pauli Elbtunnel.
The St Pauli Elbtunnel was built in 1911 to connect the docks and shipyards on the south bank of the Elbe River to central Hamburg which made commuting a lot easier for the many dock workers. Originally it was used for vehicles and passengers and spans around 430 metres at a depth below the river of 25 metres. Now it is only possible for pedestrians to enter, but it is free to do so.
4. Admire the different styles of architecture of the Hafen City.
Originally the Hafen (Port) City was a swamp land with no use or importance but being a port city it was decided to embrace their location and expand the city. Hafen City is an architect’s dream in the sense of there appears to be no rules or guidelines that were followed, due to the many different types of buildings on display here. The most controversial of all is the Elbephilharmonic Hall which is continually being pushed back for completion and over budget.
5. Take a relaxing cruise along the canals of Hamburg.
Hamburg has many canals, similar to Amsterdam, caused by rising waters back in the early days. Since then the city has built a modern defence to potential rising waters and floods to avoid future problems. It is a relaxing way to see some of the inner city of Hamburg.
6. Take a slightly more frantic cruise of the Hamburg Harbour from Landungsbrücken.
Landungsbrücken (Landing Bridges) is a transport hub in St Pauli where the S and U Bahn trains connect to the Ferry system of Hamburg. From here you can take a trip on one of the many ferries to take in the harbour. The best boat to catch is the 62 which goes to the Altona Fischmarkt, around to the docks and back again. If you buy a day pass for the trains, €5.90, you will get access to the public ferries included. Cruises last around 1 hour and don’t be surprised to get up close to the giant Container ships that frequent the harbour.
7. Go to a Football game.
There are two teams in Hamburg, Hamburger SV and St Pauli. The Hamburgers play in the Bundesliga (1st Division of Germany) whereas St Pauli are in the Zwei Bundesliga (2nd). Hamburg play in the Imtech Arena located near the Spielplatz, holding around 55,000 fans and St Pauli play in the Millerntor Stadium which is considerably smaller at a 30,000 capacity. Even though they aren’t currently in the same league the rivalry is pretty big. Match tickets and/or stadium tours are pretty easy to get hold of online.
8. Visit the impressive Rathaus. (Town Hall)
The city hall of Hamburg was rebuilt back in 1897 after being destroyed in the Great Fire of 1842. The government of Hamburg still use the Rathaus today and is an impressive structure with a lot of detail. It is rumoured that the Nazis surrendered out front of the Rathaus. At 647 rooms the Rathaus has more rooms than Buckingham Palace in London.
9. Go to the Hamburg Museum.
Located in St Pauli, the Museum of Hamburg is a history museum housing items such as Archives, Photography, Architectural items, Paintings, Military insignia and even a Coin Collection to name a few. The building itself was designed and built between 1914 and 1922 by a Hamburg architect and town planner, Fritz Schumacher. When building the museum, the facades were decorated with preserved architectural sections of Hamburg houses and the statues of German emperors from Hamburg’s old town hall. Parts of buildings destroyed in the Great Fire of 1842 were also incorporated in the structures of the courtyard and exhibition halls. It costs €9 to enter the museum.
10. Head to the Altona Fischmarkt.
The Altona Fischmarkt (Fish market), is a very popular place to go in Hamburg. It only opens on a Sunday morning from around 4am, and is popular because all of the Reeperbahn partygoers end up here at the end of the night for some fried fish of some sort. The produce has been caught just hours earlier so it’s super fresh and serves as a great way to end the evening after countless Astra beers. The market vendors are mixed in with loud music to keep the party atmosphere from Reeperbahn going for at least an extra few hours. The market winds up around 10am so is a bit of an enigma of sorts being open only 5-6 hours every week. No wonder the locals love it so much!
So there you have it. Hamburg, you didn’t disappoint. I hope I have been able to shed some light on this largely unknown city. If you are going to Germany, try to factor in a visit to Hamburg – you won’t regret it.