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Cosmopolitan, rustic and hearty: Hamburg's image is shaped by the harbor, the Alster and a bit by the Reeperbahn - ten sights and things you should have done in Hamburg! 


Sight and Hamburg landmark in one: A visit to the Elbe Philharmonic Hall

The Elbphilharmonie: Not even 5 years old and yet already one of the city's most popular landmarks © Mediaserver Hamburg /Cooper Copter GmbH

"The Elbphilharmonie is the most beautiful ship that will never set sail," said Elphi artistic director Christoph Lieben-Seutter about what is probably the most spectacular building built in Hamburg in the last 50 years. Rather expensive, of course, and also finished much later than planned, but unlike the Berlin airport, the finished concert hall in Hamburg's Hafencity with its solid brick base and glass temple has on top immediately captivated the world - and provided Hamburg with a new landmark. Since its opening in November 2016, the concerts in the Elphi almost always sold out, regardless of the program - just because everyone wants to have been there and see with their own eyes what cost 866 million euros at the end of the day. The sight of the Elphi, especially at dusk, is indeed breathtaking. Our tip: If you want to have that for a whole day and night, you should definitely visit once in the Harbour crane stay overnight at Sandtorkai - in this smartly furnished vintage crane called "Greif" you look from the double bed directly on Hamburg's new pearl. Unusually original! 

More info about the Elphi is available here.


A day at the port of Hamburg

"Hamburg, my pearl, you beautiful city," Lotto King Karl sang live for a long time before every home game of the Hamburger Sportverein, which now didn't necessarily contribute to the success of the troubled second-division club, but is nevertheless completely in order. One of the places where the fresh, windy and rough beauty of the Hanseatic city can be seen in the most spectacular way imaginable is certainly the port of Hamburg. We definitely recommend a visit to the Landungsbrücken, Hamburg's gateway to the world. (Just not necessarily during the Hafengeburtstag, since about a million visitors squeeze around the harbor every year in May). Instead, at quieter times, our recommendation: take a stroll through the Old Elbe Tunnel - it starts at the Landungsbrücken and is a nostalgic experience. If you can get up early (or party late), a Sunday visit to the Fish market - a mixture of party and folkloric sales event (watch out for Eel-Dieter!), which finds its center in the fish auction hall at the Große Elbstraße. 


Experience Art & Culture

The Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe is located just a few steps from Hamburg's main train station
The Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe is located just a few steps from Hamburg's main train station ©MKG HAMBURG/Marcelo Hernandez

It could hardly be more central: The Hamburg art gallery displays significant art collections from the 13th century to the present day on 13,000 square meters. And it does so in a building complex near Hamburg's main train station, whose location has almost inevitably made it a hotspot of Hamburg's cultural landscape. Recently, the venerable Rowohlt Publishing House in Hamburg's Bieberhaus with a view of, once again: the main train station, but also of the under Tom Stromberg long controversial but always well-attended Hamburg Playhouse. Not even a kilometer away is then already the renowned Museum of Arts and Crafts. Gastronomically, St. Georg - the district where all these cultural sites have gathered around the main station - is also a rich hunting ground. Exemplary for the multitude of good restaurants and bars we recommend you the Café Gnosa and there the pear tart and the fine-playful restaurant Cox, both in the Long Row. 


A round around the Alster

When people talk about "the Alster" in Hamburg, they don't necessarily mean the same thing - after all, there are two artificial lakes in the city center that are located close to each other and both go by the name of Alster. But that doesn't matter, because both the Binnenalster at the central Jungfernstieg as well as the incomparably larger Outer Alsterwhich begins behind the Kennedy Bridge, are among the absolute favorite places in the city. While the Jungfernstieg or Ballindamm on the Inner Alster are more for shopping - they are home to some of the finest brands - the Outer Alster is all about physical exercise and sightseeing. You either stroll the 7.4-kilometer circuit around the Alster and admire the classic Hamburg mansions, or jog the fancy route along with a few hundred other runners who came up with the idea at the same time. On the Outer Alster it is also possible to run on a "Alster dinghy" to sail - in summer a charming picture in the middle of the city. Also a legendary institution on the banks of the Alster: Bodo's jetty on Harvestehuder Weg - if you like the hanseatic, grumpy staff, you'll get either a boat, a deck chair, or a great coffee in the most beautiful place of all. 

More info about Hamburg's Alster is available here.


Once chill on the Elbe beach

Among the questions that probably cannot be definitively settled is this one: Does Hamburg have a real bathing beach or not? If it's up to the many guests who enjoy themselves on the sandy beach when the weather is nice Övelgönne sunbathe - preferably still within sight of the legendary Kultimbiss Beach pearl - the answer is clear. Of course: Övelgönne and the wide sandy beach on the Falkenstein shore off Blankenese finally stood up to any beach contest at first glance. The problem is that bathing in the Elbe is not permitted - dangerous currents due to heavy ship traffic and not so clean water keep most chillaxers on the Elbe from getting into the cool waters even in hot weather. However, the sandy beaches in the middle of the city are popular and highly recommended as an excursion tip. And if you want to swim - there are plenty of opportunities to do so in Hamburg's outlying districts. 

You can find more information about Hamburg's bathing lakes at here.


Celebrate once in the Schanzen or Karoviertel

Beckstraße is one of the prettiest connecting streets between the Karo and Schanzenviertel © Adobestock/Blaubach Photography

In addition to the rather tough party district around the Reeperbahn and Hans-Albers-Platz in St. Pauli, the area around the "Schanzen-Piazza" in Schulterblatt is probably the most popular spot for Hamburg's traditionally active strolling and party crowd. Around the autonomous center Red flora - occupied and controversial since 1989 - trendy cafés such as the Transmontana, pubs like the original Room II, craft brew pubs like the Old girls or restaurants like the casual Hatari Palatinate parlor It's almost unfair to single out a few of them, given the huge number of good stores and boutiques in the Schanzen and Karoviertel districts. However, what with the recently completely refurbished Bullpen by swashbuckling chef Tim Mälzer nevertheless has to be - this mixture of upscale restaurant and factory hustle and bustle is actually something quite special once again.

More info about the Schanzenviertel is available here.  


Once train ride in the Speicherstadt

Alongside the Elbe Philharmonic Hall and musicals, this marvel of miniature technology is one of Hamburg's biggest attractions: the Miniature Wonderland in the Speicherstadt, the largest model railroad in the world. Since 2000, it has been built by brothers Gerrit and Frederik Braun on 1,500 square meters according to different themes, and by 2016 it had already received 15 million visitors - and the expansion of the miniature world continues to progress. And if you're already in Speicherstadt, the massive brick buildings on the Elbfleeten between Baumwall and Oberhafen form the world's largest historic warehouse complex and have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2015. A literally quirky gastronomic tip rounds off the visit: In the warped but very charming Oberhafenkantine under a railroad bridge on the edge of the Speicherstadt, traditional Hamburg home cooking from regional production is served. 

More info about the Speicherstadt can be found here.


Relaxing in the parks of Hamburg

Possibly the Planetarium yes da most beautiful building in the entire Stadtpark, it is definitely Germany's most popular star theater: "Sky Machine" and "Cosmos Simulators" attract hundreds of thousands of visitors to the imposing former Winterhude water tower every year. This is not the only attraction in Hamburg's city park, which was opened in 1914 and has grown to almost 150 hectares to become the most popular green space in Hamburg's north. In addition to numerous sculptures, a pilgrimage path and an educational tree trail, the Open-air stage in the Stadtpark is a summertime attraction for visitors and lovers of rock & pop concerts: the "green living room of the city" is one of Germany's most beautiful open-air theaters. Another popular outdoor fixture in Hamburg is the approximately 50-hectare park in the middle of the city center: Planten un Blomen is the name of the complex decorated with small lakes, numerous flower meadows and themed gardens right next to the TV tower and the exhibition center. 

Here you can find more info about the City Park.


A view from the lookout tower of the Michel

From the 132 meter high tower of the Michel you have a great view over Hamburg. It's especially beautiful up there in the evening © AdobeStock/foto-select

So to speak the old school landmark of Hamburg, after the Elbphilharmonie has ushered in the new times: The "Michel," as it is affectionately known in Hamburg, is the main church of St. Michael between the harbor and the city center. The Michel owes its fame first and foremost to the church's 132-meter-high tower, in which, at a height of 82 meters and after a not unencumbered climb of 452 steps, one reaches a viewing platform that offers what is probably the most beautiful view over Hamburg. For friends of the well-pleasing comfort: There is also an elevator. If you want to see Hamburg glow in a wonderful way at night, you have two options: Either you take part in one of the popular Night Michel Tours or you move exactly one kilometer further in the direction of the Reeperbahn and find yourself at the Empire Riverside Hotel. There is the 20 Up Skyline Bar on the 20th floor of the building - and here floor-to-ceiling glass windows and sparkling cocktails make a truly delightful combination ... .


An evening on the Reeperbahn

Große Freiheit is one of the most famous side streets of the Reeperbahn © Mediaserver Hamburg/ Konstantin Beck

We can't get past the Kiez without Hans Albers: "Auf der Reeperbahn nachts um halb eins" ("On the Reeperbahn at half past midnight"), the patron saint of merry carousing on St. Pauli once sang, evoking the special atmosphere of seafaring sentiment and lascivious adult entertainment that has always been a feature of the Reeperbahn. These days, the once disreputable neighborhood has long since morphed into a far more well-behaved but still sparkling entertainment district, where musical halls coexist with sex stores, specialty restaurants with wild dives. Even today, the highlight for many a Reeperbahn visitor is a short "just look, don't touch" trip through Herbertstrasse, where sex workers from all over the world display their charms in the shop windows. But beware: this pleasure is reserved for gentlemen only, women are not welcome on Herbertstraße. Also popular here are the many different guided tours that offer a look behind the scenes of the so-called sinful mile of the Reeperbahn. We recommend the Neighborhood Tours by St. Pauli's most famous drag queen Olivia Jones. 

Beatles fans still breathe the history of their idols everywhere around the Reeperbahn. From the Jägerpassage, to Gretel & Alfons, to the Kaiserkeller - traces of the Fab-Four can be found everywhere. At the end of the sinful mile shines Beatles Square, where silhouetted statues commemorate the talented musicians from Liverpool.

More info about the Reeperbahn is available here.

Comfortably to Hamburg by train and bus: Plan arrival.

Cover photo: The best view of Hamburg City Hall is from the Binnenalster © www.juliaschwendner.com

Geschrieben von Harald Brown

Travel and culture journalist Harald Braun, a native of the Rhineland, lives in the countryside of Schleswig-Holstein, regularly escapes to Australia in winter, likes FC St. Pauli, South Tyrol and, increasingly, selected corners of Germany that he has recently discovered - such as the "Greif" harbor crane in front of the Elbphilharmonie concert hall, where you can spend an excellent night.

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