The German city of Hamburg is not only the second busiest port in Europe, behind Rotterdam. Located at the confluence of three rivers – Elbe, Alster and Bille – Hamburg is also famous for its artificial lakes and its beautiful Renaissance City Hall, crowned by a 112-meter tower.
This city, which was practically destroyed by bombing during World War II, managed to rebuild very charming neighborhoods, surrounded by huge parks -such as Planten un Blomen- and street markets.
Among its attractions are: the City Hall, the Alster Lake, St. Michael’s Church, the Speicherstadt harbor area, the Elbe Philharmonic building and the amazing Miniatur-Wunderland Museum.
Hamburg City Hall
It is safe to say that the Hamburg Town Hall Square is one of the most beautiful in Europe and that is why it is one of the recommended places to see Hamburg. Located in the center of the city, in the Alstadt district, the Town Hall building was built at the end of the 19th century, when the city and the Kingdom of Prussia lived their maximum splendor on a continental scale. Enhanced by the neo-Renaissance style of its majestic façade, it has a 112-meter tower and contains 647 rooms (six more than Buckingham Palace itself), which can be visited on guided tours during the day.
The Alster River is one of the symbols of Hamburg and another of the things to see in Hamburg, not only because it crosses the historic center but also because it feeds two huge artificial lakes: the Binnenalster and the Aussenalster -separated by two bridges-, which are known as the Alster Lake. These peaceful watercourses allow locals and tourists to take canoe rides and tour its shores on foot or by bicycle. It is, undoubtedly, the great outdoor recreation area of the city.
St. Michael’s Church
Called “Der Michel” by the Germans, St. Michael’s Church is an icon of Hamburg and should be on your list of places to see in Hamburg. It was built between 1647 and 1669, with a baroque style that makes it the most important of its kind in northern Germany. One of the curiosities of the building is that it was destroyed by lightning on the night of May 10, 1750, to be built again 36 years later. The enclosure consists of a large tower 132 meters high, which houses the largest bell tower in the country. Very close to the church is the alley of Krameramtswohnungen (better not to pronounce it), with beautiful houses from the 17th century, which are worth seeing.
Speicherstadt harbor area
Although Hamburg has no sea, its rivers, lakes and canals give it an eminently port-like character. Its port, on the Elbe River, flows into the North Sea, which the Germans call “Germany’s gateway to the world”. In the port area of HafenCity is located a very picturesque part called Speicherstadt, a district famous for its colossal red brick warehouses in Gothic style. A great program is to stroll along the canals and admire the warehouses from the water. The Speicherstadt area was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site so it is another of the places to see in Hamburg.
In the HafenCity area you will find an emblematic building of Hamburg: the Elbe Philharmonic, known by the locals as Elphi. This concert hall was built only three years ago but represents the most modern and trendy side of Hamburg. Not only are the acoustics of the hall phenomenal (attending a concert is recommended) but the building itself is a work of art that deserves to be discovered.
Next to the Elphi is another gem to see in Hamburg: the Miniatur-Wunderland Museum, the largest miniature railway museum in the world. It is an incredible miniature city with almost 1,000 trains, 12,000 carriages and 200,000 human figures. Various landscapes from different continents are also reproduced on a minimum scale, as well as incredible and very vivid urban scenes. One of the surprises is the model of Knuffingen Airport, the largest miniature airport ever built. More than one million people visit the Miniatur-Wunderland every year. For many, it is the first place to visit in Hamburg.
Hamburg has a gigantic red light district called St. Pauli, even bigger than the one in Amsterdam. The most famous street in St. Pauli is called Reeperbahn, also nicknamed “the sinful mile”, because of the large number of sex shops and strip clubs. Despite Reeperbahn’s bad reputation, the truth is that in recent years the area has diversified its offer and more and more trendy pubs and restaurants are opening their doors. In addition, St. Pauli has a special spice: the Beatles played in these bars before they rose to fame in the 1960s.
Other famous streets in Hamburg are the coquettish Deichstrasse, next to the magnificent St. Nicholas Church and the Nikolaifleet canal; and, on the other side of the canal, the picturesque Cremon Street. Hamburg has a large number of neighborhoods and streets to explore, since 1.8 million people live in this city (5.3 million if the metropolitan area is counted). It is the second most populated city in Germany, behind Berlin.
Another of the places to see in Hamburg is the quintessential Hamburg street market which is the Fishmarkt. It is a traditional fresh fish market that opens every Sunday at dawn (more precisely at 5 am) and closes at 9.30 am. During those hours, all kinds of maritime merchandise is paraded, although clothes, fruits, vegetables and plants are also sold.
Planten un Blomen
The Planten un Blomen park is one of the most beautiful green places to see in Hamburg. Located in the center of the city, with 47 hectares of surface, it is the ideal place to escape from city life for a few hours and lie in the sun. It has a beautiful botanical garden, fountains, playgrounds and houses the largest Japanese garden in Europe. Its tropical greenhouse is a must-see.