Hamburg Step through the gateway to the world

The German city of Hamburg, known variously as “the gateway to the world” and the “highlight of the north”, is characterized by its waterways and churches. JP/Maren Hoepfner

Padang German city of Hamburg, known variously as “the gateway to the world” and the “highlight of the north”, is characterized by its waterways and churches. JP/Maren Hoepfner

“The gateway to the world”, “the beauty” or “the highlight of the north” — there are many good reasons why this green city on the River Elbe is said to be one of the finest cities in Germany.

Young, modern, friendly and open to the world, but at the same time full of contrasts — that is how Hamburg can be described. With 1.8 million inhabitants, this northern city is the second-biggest city in Germany and offers a lot to its citizens and visitors: arts and culture, music and theater, excellent restaurants, great shopping, exciting nightlife and interesting historical sights. Although each corner of Hamburg looks different, everything joined together represents a harmonious picture.

At Landungsbrücken (piers), seagoing vessels from all over the world enter the second-biggest port in Europe. It smells like freedom and faraway countries here, watching the big ships go by and seagulls battling for leftovers of breadrolls and fish. Many harbor tours leave from here and reveal beautiful views of the city from the water.

On Sundays, Hamburg’s traditional fish market offers everything that can be sold — from old and dusty chinaware to kitschy vases — and of course fish. It is worth getting up early to go there, because it is a unique experience seeing bananas that fly in the air and crowds of people standing in front of vendors’ carts, and hearing traders shouting out what they have to offer.

JP/Maren HoepfnerJP/Maren Hoepfner

Not far from Landungsbrücken is the historic Storehouse City (Speicherstadt). This is the world’s biggest connected warehouse complex and possesses an idyll that one probably would not expect to find at a world port — bizarre gables and turrets are reflected in the water. Behind its walls are supplies of coffee, tea, cacao, tobacco and oriental carpets. The Storehouse City is also one of the main attractions of big harbor tours. From dusk, its brick-lined buildings are lit with floodlights, giving it a magical appearance.

Right in the middle of the city, Lake Alster is a popular spot for recreation and jogging. Sitting on a blanket or a canvas chair, strolling or having coffee or tea in one of the cafés, or simply enjoying the beautiful view on the water — there are many ways to get to know this Hanseatic citizens’ oasis in the heart of the city.

Jungfernstieg, situated next to Alster, has long been Hamburg’s shopping and promenade area.

Formerly, families went for walks there on Sundays and took their unmarried daughters (jungfern = damsel). Nowadays it’s all about shopping in big department stores and exquisite shops. Just around the corner is the city’s main shopping area, with the streets Mönckebergstrasse, Spitalerstrasse and Neuer Wall.

A franzbrötchen is a tasty snack for an afternoon of exhausting shopping. It is a sweet pastry baked with butter and cinnamon and is commonly found in Hamburg and Northern Germany. It is usually served for breakfast, but is also enjoyed along with coffee and cakes.

Hamburg’s Town Hall is located close to Alster and the shopping area. The Hamburg Town Hall burned down completely in 1842, so the council temporarily moved to auxiliary premises, for 55 years. In 1897 the New Town Hall was inaugurated. It has more than 647 rooms and was erected on more than 4,000 oak poles. With an elaborately decorated facade and emperor statues on top, the building looks unlike the conventional Hanseatic style. Above its main port it is written in Latin, “The descendants shall aim to maintain the freedom that was achieved by the ancestors with dignity.”
Hamburg has many churches that give the city its characteristic image, but it has only one “Michel”.

JP/Maren HoepfnerJP/Maren Hoepfner

That is how the Hanseatic citizens affectionately refer to St. Michaelis church — the most important baroque church building in northern Germany. Its platform, at a height of 132 meters, offers the best pa-norama of Hamburg and its harbor. During the day the view is already phenomenal, but going up to the top at night is truly an unforgettable experience. Seeing the whole city as a sea of light, while classical music plays in the background, is definitely something to remember.

After a full day of sightseeing, Hamburg still offers visitors a lot to see and do at night. The St. Pauli district with its Reeperbahn is known as the most sinful mile in the world. Actually, today there are numerous traditional pubs, bars, cafes, discotheques and live clubs — nightlife at its best. At night the street is crowded with people of all ages — the younger ones heading for the next disco or bar, the older ones coming from the operetta house or Schmidt’s Theatre. Another popular nightlife district is the Schanze. This alternative quarter shelters cozy pubs and bars and is especially in vogue with students.

Thinking of Hamburg, the really special characteristic of this northern city is a certain attitude to life — something that cannot be put into words, but is best experienced on the spot./tjp


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