Destination Germany: Why Not Choose… Hamburg?
Upstream of the Elbe River, Hamburg is the largest port in Germany. Come and discover this city of contrasts, as young and trendy as it is old and historic. Cosmopolitan and multicultural, Hamburg lets you discover its Hanseatic past and its many districts, sometimes historical, “heated” or trendy!
An incredible variety of places and atmospheres
To start your visit, quietly stroll into Altstadt, the old town, and along Spitalerstraße and Mönckebergstraße, the main shopping streets lined with elegant shops. They will lead you to the City Hall, a splendid building whose baroque facade is decorated with statues of the Emperors. Just behind, Rathausmarkt Square is a place for exchanges and meetings where many events are organised. Close by, are the churches of St Jacobi and St Petri, two of the five main churches in Hamburg.
A special feature of Hamburg: its beautiful lake in the heart of the city. Alster is made up of two lakes, the Binnenalster (Inner Alster) and the Aussenalster (Outer Alster). Its banks landscaped and lined with greenery, offer pleasant walks. And to quietly sip a drink while enjoying the most beautiful view of the lake, head for the Alster Pavilion! You can also climb aboard a steam boat and take a tour around the lake and the canals.
Remain in a peaceful and relaxing atmosphere while visiting the “Planten un Blomen” (Plants and Flowers) Botanical Garden, a true oasis in the heart of the city. In addition to the magnificent greenhouses and rose gardens, it houses the Museum of Hamburg History, which covers the entire history of the city.
Among the other important museums in the city, you can visit the Kunsthalle (Museum of Fine Arts) or even the Museum of Arts and Crafts, which houses beautiful collections of sculptures, earthenware, furniture, jewellery and musical instruments inside a Neo-Renaissance style palace from the 19th century.
As you leave the park, join the Landungsbrücken docks. From there, you can take a shuttle to visit the port and go to one of the beautiful beaches that surround the city.
You can also go to the “very heated” Saint Pauli district, and more specifically to the famous Reeperbahn, with its bars, cabaret and party-goers. This district, compared to the Red Light district in Amsterdam, features all of the city’s nightlife, with a melting pot of people from all four corners of the globe. Pure escapism!
In the north of Saint Pauli, Schanzenviertel is well worth a detour. This former poor district, a place of resistance during the Second World War, has today become a district that is full of life with its many cafes, where students, immigrants and young designers create a unique atmosphere.
Top 10 Must-Sees
The City Hall: come and admire this beautiful Second Empire style building, built between 1886 and 1897. The balcony is surmounted by a mosaic representing the patron goddess of Hamburg, Hammonia. On the inside, admire the Hygieia Fountain; Hygieia, goddess of health in Greek mythology and representative of the power and purity of the water.
St Petri Church: located in front of the City Hall, this imposing church in red brick built as early as 1195, was the main church of Hamburg, but it was completely rebuilt in 1849 after a devastating fire. Its replacement is quite small and stark, but offers the highest viewpoint over the city, if you're brave enough to climb its 544 steps.
The Hamburg State Opera: this internationally renowned opera house can accommodate up to 1690 people. It was completed in 1953, in the same place as the former Schinkel theatre was demolished during the Second World War. Enjoy the outstanding acoustics of the room at a performance of La Traviata or the Nutcracker, or listen to the wonderful Hamburg Symphony Orchestra.
The Alster Lake: located in the heart of the Hanseatic city, this vast lake is a paradise for lovers of sailing, rowing or kayaking. Created as early as the 13th century, by damming the small Alster River, it is a popular Hanseatic meeting place. Relax with a glass of “Alsterwasser”, a very refreshing mix of beer and lemonade.
Kunsthalle: Hamburg's Museum of Fine Arts, housed by an enormous red brick building of typical Northern German Neo-Classicism style, is one of the largest art museums in the country. It contains a treasure trove of paintings and sculptures from the 15th to the 20th century: a large collection of romantic German paintings and beautiful expressionist and impressionistic collections (Manet, Gauguin, Monet Renoir).
The St Pauli District: marvel at the very particular atmosphere of St Pauli and the Reeperbahn with its bars and nightclubs. Just like in the Parisian district of Pigalle, amongst prostitution, strip shows and sex shops, a cultural scene of alternative trends has been established and the musical theatres have found a place that suits them.
The Port of Hamburg: Hamburg owes its prosperity to its maritime port, the most important in Germany and the second in Europe. Founded in the 12th century, it hosts supertankers, container ships and cargo ships from all over the world. Head for the Landungsbrücken and walk along the pontoons lined with snacks and souvenir shops.
The Planten un Blomen Park: this large park of 47 hectares, located in the centre of Hamburg , is well known for its water and light shows, as well as its concerts. In the park, you can admire a set of classified tropical greenhouses, or even a rose garden arranged in a classical style.
Saint Michael’s Church: built from 1751 to 1762, this baroque church, emblem of Hamburg, is not only the most remarkable of Northern Germany, but it also has the highest bell tower in the country, featuring dials with a perimeter of more than 24m. Its 132m tower has a panoramic platform, offering a beautiful view over the port and the city.
Elbe Philharmonic Hall: opened in January 2017, the Elbe Philharmonic is one of the most beautiful concert halls in the world. Standing proudly at 110m above the Elbe River, the building features a glass roof in the form of sharp waves, which looks like a crown. It is an architectural achievement, immediately making it the new emblem of the city.
Fishing and homeland take pride of place
As a port city, Hamburg is famous for its fresh fish, either salted, smoked or marinated. You can taste pannfisch, a slow cooked dish made of different types of fish and sautéed potatoes, topped with a mustard sauce.
Sweet and sour stews are also enjoyed and are blended with cooked or candied fruit. In winter, try Ochsenschwanz, prepared with beef shank, turnips and potatoes.
On the sweet side, the choice is not huge, but you can still enjoy a rote grütze, a type of red fruit pudding with vanilla cream, or a franzbrötchen, a delicious cinnamon pastry that you will find in all bakeries.
May: Hamburg Port Anniversary
This huge popular festival gathers the people of Hamburg to celebrate the anniversary of the port which has brought prosperity to their city. In the programme: sea excursions, cultural and historical events and typical food tasting.
September: Reeperbahn Festival
In several venues and clubs along the famous Reeperbahn, the main artery of Hamburg as well as the surrounding areas, more than 200 concerts will charm all kinds of audiences.
December: Saint Nicolas
In Germany, Saint Nicolas and Advent are at least as popular as Father Christmas. On the evening of 5 December, children conspicuously put their shoes outside and on the morning of 6 December, they look for gifts and sweets inside them. Saint Nicolas marks the start of the holiday season.
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