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What to do and visit in Hamburg?
I had long wanted to visit the amazing city of Hamburg in Germany, so when the the possibility of going came up I did not think twice.
Located in the north of Germany, it is the second most populous city in the country. As a curious fact is that even being the second largest port in Europe after Rotterdam, Hamburg has no sea, but the river Elbe is navigable for 100 miles to reach the sea. It is said that around 13,000 ships from all over the world spend some time annually in Hamburg and that it houses more than 2300 bridges. That’s more than London, Venice and Amsterdam together!
A bit of history: Hanseatic City
Hamburg is a Hanseatic city and this is reflected in its flag and its shield.
What does this mean?
It means that Hamburg, even in medieval times, was involved in the Hanseatic League. This league was formed by a group of cities in northern Europe that managed to control all the trade of the Baltic Sea and that defended the route that joined the Baltic with the North Sea.
Being a Hanseatic City had a number of privileges and freedoms such as the free trade among them, thanks to which the bourgeoisie settled down in these cities and achieving a high power of prosperity in them. In fact, on the threshold of the Council entrance in Latin you can read a phrase «Our descendants will watch with zeal to preserve the freedom that our ancestors got.»
My recommended activities
- Boat trip: This city connected to the sea by the navigable river Elbe, is also crossed by numerous water canals and has two artificial lakes so it is not surprising that one of the most advisable things to do here is to catch a boat. You can catch a boat either by the lakes in summer or by the port area or by the area called Hafen City. We did a one hour tour from the port area. The tour was in German, but you get an audio guide in English. Totally recommended. Here you will find out why Hamburg is called the «door of the World».
- Hamburg City Hall: it has probably been one of the buildings that has struck me most in Hamburg. It stands out in the silhouette of the city thanks to its high tower and its green roofs. It is an imposing building thanks to its Renaissance architecture and its façade crowned by 20 statues of the Kaiser. Also very beautiful is the market square that is in front of it and where one of the famous Christmas markets of Germany takes place. The Town Hall building also houses a concert and exhibition hall. I recommend you see the back of the building where the fountain, another perspective of the building just as nice but also with no one around.
I recommend you to do one of several free Tours in Hamburg. Most of them leave from the Town Hall square.
- Hamburg Stock Exchange Building: Hamburg Stock Exchange is the oldest stock market in Germany. It was founded in 1558, but destroyed in a fire in 1842. The current building was completed in 1912.
- Neuer Wall: is one of the streets of Hamburg’s Golden Mile. Here you will find all the luxury shops you are looking for and all of them in buildings of great architectural importance. I was especially struck by the building where the Louis Vuitton store is and the Hildebrand Haus,both are of marked ART Nouveau style.
- Alster and Mellinpassage Arcade: The arcade is a picturesque shopping arcade built after the fire of 1842. It is a structure that wants to remember Venice and houses cafes and shops. In front of the arcade lies the small Alster lake where you will see numerous white swans. They are a true symbol in Hamburg, as it is said that the city will remain free and Hanseatic as long as there are swans in the Alster. The Mellinpassage is the oldest commercial gallery in Hamburg. Here there are antiques, works of art, literature, porcelain, etc. If you look up you will see some wonderful frescoes of Art Nouveau style and stained glass with intricate designs that were discovered after the reconstruction of one of the shops of the passage that suffered a fire in 1989.
- District of San Pauli and the street: Reeperbahn, in the district of San Pauli, is one of those neighborhoods to visit when the sun falls. It’s perfect for dining out or having a drink. This is the «Red light district» of Hamburg, so to speak. Keep in mind that all cities with important ports have one. Today it is one of the city’s nightlife centers. Literally the street «Reeperbahn» means in German «the street of the sin» but derives from a word in German which meant «street of the rope-makers» since in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries this street was important because it produced nooses and ropes for the boats of the port. Today in this neighborhood you will find restaurants, bars, nightclubs, strip clubs, sex hops, brothels, several cabarets and the Sex Museum. In some streets there are showcases with prostitutes, although these streets are not as touristy as they can be in Amsterdam. This neighborhood is also famous for hosting several musical theatres.
- The Beatles Square and Grosse Freiheit Street: In the premises of the district of Saint Pauli was where the Beatles started to became famous. They acted regularly in four different clubs during 1960 to 1962. It was a period in the history of the group where they perfected their musical skills, broadened their reputation, and made their first recording. In fact, it is famous the phrase of John Lenon that says «Maybe I was born in Liverpool but matured in Hamburg«. Grosse Freiheit Street is full of shows and cabaret bars, one of the most famous in the Dollhouse and the Olivia Jones Bar, Germany’s most famous Drag Queen. Here you will find VIP celebrities and even their photos are at the door. Just at the end of this street you will find the Beatles square which has a modern sculpture of them.
- Churches: The silhouette of the city of Hamburg is dotted with churches. The sharp needles of their towers stand out in the skyline. The Church of Saint Michael stands out, from the eighteenth century, as one of the most liked and is presumed to be the most important Baroque church in the north of Germany, to have the second highest tower in Hamburg with 132 meters and to have the largest tower clock in Germany with its hands covered with gold leaf. In fact, it serves as a guide to the sailors of the Elbe River. It has a lookout top from where you see all Hamburg and the views are really breathtaking. As a recommendation to say that there is a lift up to the top, do not go down the stairs because you have to climb the equivalent of 10 floors. As for its interior, the organ stands out, which we were fortunate enough to hear when we visited. Every day at 10.00 and at 21.00 h the clock rings with its wind instruments. The Church of St. Jacob was beautiful surrounded by vegetation of different colors thanks to autumn or the Church of St. Peter of the 12th century but built again after the Great Fire of Hamburg in the year 1842.
- Portuguese Quarter: without doubt, one of the most charming neighborhoods in Hamburg. Located between the city’s Ferry terminals, in the Landungsbrücken Metro and the Church of Sain Michael. I was surprised to learn that the city has a Portuguese neighborhood, thanks to the number of Portuguese people who emigrated here years ago. It is 2-3 streets full of Portuguese restaurants -and some other Spanish- where you can try Portuguese delicacies such as Portuguese cod fish, shellfish, octopus, accompanied by its rich vinho verde and end with a few pasteis of cream.
- Deichstrasse Street: We took this street by chance because it was located next to the hotel and it caught our attention because it is full of fairytale houses with Dutch-style facades from the 17th-11th centuries. These houses belonged to former traders and today seem to move back in time. The houses, which endured the bombardments of the Second World War today are shops, cafes and restaurants. I recommend you have a coffee or brunch at Nord Coast Coffee Roastery which is located right on this street.
- Hamburg Philharmonic and Hafen City: Hafen City is probably Europe’s largest urban project. Among the most important architectural buildings stands out the building of the Philharmonic which has generated so much controversy. It is a concert hall that stands out for its magnificent architecture and has become the new emblem of Hamburg. If you can go to a concert, they say that its acoustics are impressive. You can go up for free to the top terrace where you will have a good view of the port.
- Walk through the canals of Speicherstadt: I think, no doubt, it was my favorite area in Hamburg. It has been declared a Cultural heritage by UNESCO. It is the largest warehouse district in the world, built as a free port where traders could transfer goods without having to pay customs. A warehouse city where goods such as coffee, spices, tea, cocoa, tobacco, silks, etc. are stored. The red-brick buildings of Gothic architecture are interspersed with the canals that surround this area making it a very idyllic place to walk. Here besides stores are found several of Hamburgs museums like the Miniatur Wunderland, the Dungeon or the Maritime Museum.
- The Maritime Museum exhibits everything related to ships and maritime history.
- Chilehaus and Sprinkenhof: The building of the Chilehaus is without doubt one of the most impressive of Hamburg by its architecture. Completed in 1924 by architect Fritz Högel, this ten-storey office building is an example of the so-called twentieth-century brick expressionism. It highlights its roof reminiscent of the bow of a ship. It is a UNESCO World Heritage building in 2015. It was named because it was commissioned by the English shipping magnate Henry Sloman who made a fortune trading Chilean saltpeter. Without a doubt, one of those sites that I recommend you to visit if you are fans of architecture because it is impressive. The Instituto Cervantes in Hamburg is located within it. The Sprinkenhof located next to the Chilehaus for what you can visit together, it was the largest office building in Europe in the 1920s. Built by Hans Brothers and Oskar Gerson and Fritz Höger. Also belonging to the current called «Brick Expressionism» but the brick here is painted in rhombus form and with ceramics arranged that way that represent economic, commercial and transport motives.
- Hamburger Dom: It’s the biggest fair in north Germany. It takes place three times a year. From carousels to roller coasters and above all, lots of fun.
[wp-svg-icons icon = «arrow-right-3» wrap = «i»] If you are interested in having the map with all the sites to see, restaurants, cafes etc leave me a comment here or by email saying you want it and I will send it by private.
Origin of Hamburgers
I had heard many good things about this city but, however, if I tried to think of something typical or characteristic of this city, nothing came to mind except if it is true that the burgers come from here.
In this regard it is said that the Tartars placed the minced meat under the horseshoe of the horses so they were kneading it when riding. These Tartars came to the north of Germany and more specifically to the city of Hamburg, so the mashed meat technique might arrived this way.
In addition, although Hamburg had an important maritime trade during its history, in the nineteenth century the people of Hamburg began to emigrate to the United States.
Just as we take vacuum-packed food when we live in another country, people from Hamburg seem to have done the same and took this meat to the United States.
The way to eat it evolved over time and ended up between two loaves of lettuce, tomato and pickle, resembling what? Yes, hamburger. And this is the story.
Where to eat and drink?
You can not leave Hamburg without tasting its famous burgers:
- Better Burger Company. I recommend you try the burgers here. The most characteristic are the different sauces they use.
- Atelier F Restaurant. I loved this place. This is an American-style French restaurant. It squanders class, style and know-how. The decoration of the site caught me quite the attention, and the restaurant is divided into several rooms each with a different style in terms of decoration. Located in the centre of Hamburg, in the Kaufmanhauss passage next to one of the canals. The menu is quite spacious and also has a cocktail menu. I recommend the onion soup and its vegetarian turmeric burger. Different from the typical Hamburg burger but definitely delicious. It also has steaks, onion rings, chicken wings, fried mussels and meat burgers.
- Clockers is one of those places that called me and much attention. Especially since finding it was not an easy task, in fact, this site is known as the hidden Treasure of Hamburg. Sometimes you have to call a doorbell so you can get in. It’s a small place, with little or no light and no apparent name outside. Then we saw it, very faintly written upon the glass. That said so will not convince you very safe, but if enter inside discover why this site is reputed to be one of the best cocktails in Hamburg. The décor is based on branches, wood and moss and the lights are super dim, so you have to light up with the phone to see the cocktail menu. The girl recommended one in particular and I have to say it was delicious. This site is also famous for marketing its own gin, Clockers gin. It also has a top floor that makes you feel literally like in the living room of your house since it has sofas and a small library. You can book for Geneva tastings.
- Portuguese Quarter: I recommend you to try one of the many Portuguese restaurants in the Portuguese quarter of Hamburg. There are several good restaurants such as Porto, or fisherman, Olá Lisboa.
- Café de Paris. One of those cafes you have to visit yes or Yes if you are in Hamburg. Originally built as a slaughterhouse in 1882, the building became later a great French coffee of the end of the century. It is a perfect place to enjoy excellent French food in a glamorous setting. It has the most spectacular and beautifully decorated roof of all Hamburg restaurants. It makes you move to some Parisian neighborhood. Tiled walls and ceilings represent various Hamburg industries. It stands out for its architecture and ART Nouveau decor. A classic to visit in Hamburg.
- Try the Currywurst. As a recommendation, tell you to try the Currywurst in a foostruck that is right next to the Jungfernstieg subway entrance and to the Alster arch and less than 5 minutes walk from the city hall. This place was always crowded every time we passed and the truth is that it was delicious.
- Cafe Zeit is located very close to the Chilehaus and St. Paul’s Church so it becomes the perfect place to rest and have a coffee and a sandwich.
- Wasserschloss. This almost unpronounceable name place for anyone who is not German, becomes the perfect place to eat or to rest if you are in the neighborhood of Speicherstadt stores. Besides that the site is beautiful, inside also has a store where they sell the cutest things that you can imagine from cups and souvenirs and to different products to eat like chocolates Deliccattesen, teas, etc.
Where to sleep?
My recommendation is that you stay at the Madison Hotel. Amazing! One of the best hotels I’ve been to.[wp-svg-icons icon=»pencil-2″ wrap=»I»] If you are looking for a getaway to another German city you should check the perfect itinerary if you go to Berlin.
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