A city of style, culture, waterways and tunnels
This was our second visit to the charming city of Hamburg in northern Germany, and I certainly don’t think it will be our last.
The iconic view of the Speicherstadt district
I just love it down by the harbour, the bustling Elbe River is not only transporting inquisitive visitors along its waterways.
It’s also has a day job to carry on with.
While Hamburg is a port city, you feel that this is truly part of its charm and strolling around the Speicherstadt district with its striking warehouses is magnificent.
A little history
Hamburg is a Free and Hanseatic City, which originates from the mediaeval Hanseatic League. These were a collective of key defensive market towns and a confederation of merchant guilds, through northwestern Europe. They played a prominent role in maritime trade through the Baltic and the North Sea.
The Elbe River
Where to start
With there being so much to see and do in Hamburg I highly recommend starting at Visit Hamburg Tourist Information centre. There is one located St. Pauli Landungsbrücken, and then from here, you can head straight down into Elbe Tunnel.
St. Pauli Landungsbrücken
Grab your Hamburg Card
Whether you are located in the heart of Hamburg or just out of the centre, the Hamburg Card will come in very useful. With unlimited free public transport, we were able to scoot around everywhere. You’ll also receive discounts on over 150 tourist attractions.
Old Elbe Tunnel
You’d be forgiven in thinking, “what’s all the excitement about a tunnel”? Well, this is not just any tunnel, it was built in 1911 as a pedestrian and vehicle tunnel. For the tens of thousands of dockworkers, this was a considerable improvement to their day to day lives.
The entrance to the old Elbe Tunnel
The Alter Elbtunnel has two tunnels at 426 metres (1,398 ft) long at 24 metres (80 ft) below the Elbe River surface. Four huge wooden fronted lifts transported the pedestrians and vehicles up and down. Today the tunnels are mainly used for cyclist and pedestrians, as during the 1970s the ‘new’ Elbe Tunnel and bridges were built.
The pedestrian entrance to the old Elbe Tunnel
The Old Elbe Tunnel has now been refurbished and kept in its original Art Deco style, with glazed ceramic tiling all the way through. Also dotted along the tunnel are stoneware depictions of fish and animals that all relate to the river in some way.
The old Elbe Tunnel
Head to the southern banks
Not only is it free of charge, but, when you emerge on the southern banks, you’ll get a superb view bank across to Landungsbrücken piers and Hamburg.
Just by the Elbe Tunnel is the Landungsbrücken piers, the floating docks are a social bustling part of Hamburg city. Families and friends out and about soaking up the relaxed atmosphere. Take a stroll along the pedestrian promenade which runs parallel with the Elbe River.
A tall ship on the River Elbe
Here you can sample Hamburg’s fischbrötchen and then jump aboard a river tour and discover all about Hamburg’s nautical history.
A paddle steamer pleasure boat
One of the many highlights of our visit to Hamburg was taking a wander around the viewing gallery at the Elbe Philharmonic Hall. The 360-degree views across Hamburg and its port are incredible (if not a little windy at times).
A view of the Elbphilharmonie
The Elbphilharmonie is a concert hall just on the edge of the Elbe River, and it is stunning. It opened in January 2017, and the top section is built entirely of glass. The first 8 floors are within the brick façade and the remaining 18 floors, continue up through the fluttering glass sails.
Enjoying the view from the Elbphilharmonie
It’s not only the views across the city that are spectacular, but also the 82-metre-long curved escalator, that takes you up there, this is a treat on its own.
The curved escalator to the Elbphilharmonie
Views across Hamburg
You can enjoy the views from the Elbphilharmonie for free, grab your ticket at the main entrance and hop on the world’s first arched escalator.
I just love strolling around Speicherstadt, Hamburg’s ‘warehouse city’ and its canals. I think it’s my nautical roots coming out in me.
Exloring the Speicherstadt district
This district of Hamburg became Germany’s 40th UNESCO site, and the 260,000 square metres that it covers, is the world largest complex of warehouses.
The beautiful neo-gothic red brick buildings were erected into the Elbe River on oak poles between 1883 and the 1920s. During its maritime heyday, this would have been a bustling part of Hamburg, with its dockworkers coming and going unloading their goods.
Love locks in the Speicherstadt
The Speicherstadt is still busy and popular today as there is so much to see and do and an excellent place for socialising. It’s also a lovely place to head at dusk, as the day gives away to the evening the light across the rustic warehouse looks magical.
The Elbphilharmonie from the Speicherstadt
Exploring warehouse city
For the big kid inside you, just shouting to get out, you must head to Miniatur Wunderland. This is great to visit even if you are not a model enthusiast.
Every 15 minutes, the whole environment will cover a 24-hour period, so which ever location you are in the museum the nightfall descends. This is great to see when the streets of Las Vegas come to life.
Speicherstadt in the Model Village
The Hamburg Maritime Museum
The Chilehaus is also included in the same UNSECO inscription as the warehouse district of Hamburg, and the building is a stunning piece of architecture. The Chile House was built in the 1920s and constructed in the style of Brick Expressionism.
The pointy end of Chilehaus
Chilehaus is a 10-storey office building designed by the architect Fritz Höger. The beautiful lines that have been created in the shape of a ship’s prow are elegant and look even more stunning when it is lit up of an evening.
Take a wander through the central courtyard, and you’ll see right through to the sky above.
St Nikolai-church tower
The Ordeal (Edith Breckwoldt)
The only parts that remain are the tower, spire and crypt. The tower and spire now house a lift (elevator) that transports you 247 feet (75 metres) above, to a platform within the spire. Here you get incredible views across Hamburg’s skyline, and there are also black and white storyboards, to follow part of the church’s history.
A view of the Rathaus and beyond.
Within the crypt is a fascinating museum, where we found out about the whole of St Nicholas Church’s timeline.
From its origins as a Seaman’s chapel, the aftermath of Hamburg’s Great Fire and the devastation of WWII.
We also received a discount here with our Hamburg card.
The Altstadt is another fascinating area of Hamburg. Perhaps it doesn’t have the quainter historic architecture of some German cities, but it has a lot of character, nonetheless.
The beautiful building that takes pride of place in the centre is the Rathaus (City Hall). It houses Hamburg’s seat of government, the parliament and senate, which still assemble here.
The Rathaus at dusk
The Rathausmarkt, the main square in front of the city hall, is where various fairs and events take place. One, in particular, is at Christmas time, when Santa takes to his sleigh and flies across the rooftops of the festive Christmas cabins.
The Hamburg Rathaus at Christmas
Hamburg at Christmas
Leaving the Rathaus behind you head across the canal towards the Alsterarkaden the delightful waterfront arcade. Here you can grab yourself a delicious coffee and have a wonderful view back to the Rathaus.
A small passage off Neuer Wall
Once refreshed and relaxed stroll back one street. You’ll be sauntering along Neuer Wall, the upmarket and chic shopping district of Hamburg.
Hamburg is certainly not short of water and if you’ve managed to refrain from splashing out on that special purchase, then keep wandering up to Binnenalster. This is the inner lake formed by the River Alster.
This is a lovely lake to while away some time, there are lots of things going on to entertain you or you can even embark on a boat trip around the lake.
If you then fancy brushing up on your art knowledge head to Hamburg Kunsthalle. This a beautiful gallery, full of spectacular and fascinating exhibitions.
The Hamburg Kunsthalle is one of the largest museums in Germany and has on display seven centuries of European Art.
The Kunsthalle Hamburg
The gallery is located across three building the oldest is the ornamental red brick structure dating from 1869 to the Cube, that was opened in 1997.
Another great way to see Hamburg is jumping on a Hop on - Hop off sightseeing bus. We took Line A on the Red Double Decker. Not only does it take you to the main sights around Hamburg, but it’ll also take you around districts that may not be on your ‘must-see’ list.
HafenCity Universität U-Bahn station is not like the run of the mill underground station that you and I are used to.
HafenCity Universität in red
HafenCity Universität in blue
Jump on the U4 and head over to ‘HafenCity Universität’ the incredible huge cubes that run along the centre of the rail station are memorising. Continually pulsing in and out and changing colour as they go.
Our room at the Best Western Premier Alsterkrug Hotel
Located close by Hamburg airport; however, it was so peaceful.
The staff were accommodating and friendly.
The hotel is out of the city centre, which was ideal for us, as there was secure parking. It took around 30 minutes to get into the heart of the city centre.
The breakfast & dinning area
The room was very comfortable, clean & peaceful. The desk area was a good size, allowing us to set-up our charging station, and work on the laptop with plenty of room.
There was a wide variety of food and drinks for breakfast, and all served in a pleasant location.
The breakfast table.
When Gary and I travel anywhere, we always make an effort to try the local food and drink. After a little research, we found a speciality from the Hamburg region, that I let Gary try.
Labskaus can be made in various ways, although the main ingredients in Gary’s dish were minced beef, egg, beetroot and a side dish of pickles and herring.
Gary enjoyed it, although it isn’t really my cup of tea.
For us, no trip to Germany would be complete without a currywurst.
Currywurst from a street vendor
The copper mash tun
The end of day refreshments
This article was produced in partnership with Hamburg Marketing, in exchange for an honest review and an account of our personal experiences.
Inspired to visit Hamburg?
Well, there should be enough to tempt you, but remember we only had 36 hours. We know there's a lot more to this city, and that will brings us back, as well as the warmth of the people we met.
It's a great city to explore with its own unique 'quarters', Chilehaus, Rathaus, Speicherstadt & St Pauli to name but a few. So why not give it a go, you won't be disappointed.
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