6 Ways to Get to Know Hamburg
Famous for its lively nightlife and for being Germany’s ‘gateway to the world’, the port city of Hamburg is the perfect city break destination. Planning a visit soon? The following are six ways to get to know Hamburg.
1. Holy Hamburg – Discover Hamburg’s Christmas tradition
You know when you’ve spent the whole year feverishly waiting for something – and then, virtually as soon as the big moment arrives, it seems to be gone again in no time at all? That’s how most Hamburg natives feel during advent when the city transforms itself into a fairytale wonderland.
For weeks on end, people in Hamburg are busy preparing almost everywhere you look – and then, at the end of November the Christmas markets open to reveal what locals call Holy Hamburg.
The Christmas market tradition in Hamburg goes way back – visitors can expect row upon row of wooden huts and white tents filled with mulled wine and punch, bite-sized Schmalzkuchen doughnuts and roasted almonds.
The highlight for most is the historic Christmas market in front of the city hall, where on each of the four Saturdays of advent there’s a special Hamburg Christmas parade. The family-friendly event takes place three times a day – at 11.30am, 2pm and 5pm when Santa Claus, elves, reindeer and a festively adorned float moves through Mönckebergstrasse to Jungfernstieg. Get into the festive spirit with a listen to this special Christmas carol from Hamburg to the world.
2. Maritime Hamburg
Speicherstadt is the world’s largest historical warehouse complex and has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2015. Coffee, tea, spices and oriental carpets were stored behind the thick walls of these warehouses for centuries. Today, the Speicherstadt has become something of a museum district. Try up to 50 different spices in the Spicy´s Museum or discover the world’s largest private collection of maritime treasures in the International Maritime Museum. Admire the largest model railway system in the world in the Miniatur Wunderland or get to know the world of chocolate in the CHOCOVERSUM by Hachez. Meanwhile, the Prototyp Car Museum lets you get closer to the automotive icons of motorsport. For a look at the city’s darker history, head to Hamburg Dungeon.
Still in Maritime Hamburg, the futuristic HafenCity district is Europe’s largest inner city renewal project and is a mixture of apartment houses, offices and restaurants with businesses in-between. At Hamburg’s Harbour, more than eight million containers are handled here every year. This “hands-on” port is one of Germany’s most popular attractions. Check out the massive container ships and luxury cruise liners or hop on one of the many harbour boat trips that depart from the central pier, Landungsbrücken.
3. Culture in Hamburg
Music City: Hamburg is the world’s third largest musical metropolis, after New York and London. Historically, the city has always been devoted to classical music. Johannnes Brahms, Gustav Mahler, Felix Mendelsohn-Bartholdy and many other outstanding artists have all contributed to Hamburg’s cultural heritage. Don’t miss live performances at The Elbphilharmonie one of Hamburg’s newest attractions – a shining star in Hamburg’s breathtaking skyline on the waterfront.
Opera and Ballet: The Hamburg State Opera, Germany’s first public opera house was founded in 1678. Hamburg Ballet, which was founded in 1973, is one of the leading ballet companies in the world, with an international reputation and the Laeiszhalle, a magnificent, neo-baroque concert hall was built in 1908. Located close to the city’s major shopping areas, the concert hall provides a wide repertoire in classical and contemporary music.
Museums: The city is home to around 70 museums, including the Deichtorhallen, featuring Germany’s unique Haus der Photographie and the Bucerius Kunstforum, which hosts four annual exhibitions of international acclaim. The Hamburger Kunsthalle, founded in 1869, is one of the largest and most important art museums in Germany. Its first-class collection covers seven centuries of art. For one of the loveliest views of the city, grab a coffee at the bistro of the Galerie der Gegenwart, it’s always a favourite with visitors.
4. Nightlife without limits – Reeperbahn and St. Pauli
Whether you’re on a stag or hen night, celebrating a birthday or just on a night out, the Reeperbahn – known as “Kiez” by the locals is Hamburg’s most lively entertainment area. On the centrally located “Spielbudenplatz” along the Reeperbahn, you’ll find musical theatres including the St Pauli Theatre offering entertainment of all kinds. For a comedy fix, see one of the shows in the Schmidts Tivoli. Going all out? The mix of bars, restaurants and clubs in the Große Freiheit is hard to beat. Be warned though, a night on the Reeperbahn is not for the faint-hearted and will go on well into the early hours of the morning.
On Sunday, if you’re still up at 5am (or you’re an early riser), head to Hamburg’s legendary fish market. The traditional market has been taking place every Sunday morning since 1703. From fish to bananas to plants and flowers, there’s plenty to see. Stave off hunger with a traditional fish roll washed down with a local Hamburg beer or go for brunch in the historic fish auction hall where live jazz, skiffle and country and western music provides the perfect soundtrack to your Sunday morning.
5. Hamburg’s shopping paradise: from luxury to the unusual
Hamburg is a Mecca for shoppers. Most of the city’s best flagship stores and galleries can be found in the Bleichenhof, Galleria, Hamburger Hof and Gänsemarkt arcades.
Head to Neuer Wall for designer stores, it’s one of Europe’s top ten streets for luxury shopping. Meanwhile, Spitalerstrasse, located near the main train station, is a pedestrianised street with major clothing chains such as H&M, Office and ZARA. For huge department stores, head to Mönckebergstrasse.
Karolinenviertel, Schanzenviertel and Ottensen are young and alternative lifestyle districts for Hamburg’s hipsters and trendsetters. Second-hand shops used to dominate the scene, but today there are also several designers as well as urban cafés and bars.
Looking for a traditional Hamburg gift to take home? Head to Ladage & Oelke, Mutterland or Oschätzchen where you’ll find plenty of handmade souvenirs to take back to your nearest and dearest.
6. Discover all these attractions with the Hamburg Card!
The Hamburg Card offers you unlimited travel on the underground, buses and harbour ferries. Furthermore, you get up to 50% off at more than 150 tourist attractions including harbour cruises, city tours and discounts on theatre, opera and musical tickets. You’ll also make big savings at many restaurants, museums and exhibitions.
Lead image: View of the historic Christmas market in front of the Town Hall
©: Jörg Modrow