Hamburg is home to Europe’s second largest port and you can really sense the grand scale of transportation when you arrive. The bustling port fronts the city acting as a gateway from the river to the various neighbourhoods which seep back further and further into the city. Towering churches unique in shape and grandeur rise aside lavish department stores and hipster cafes. Depending on what neighbourhood your in, like many other cities around the world, differs your perspective of the city.
To get a real glimpse of what Hamburg looks like from afar, check out the Elbe tunnel. Constructed in 1919, the cool dank tiled tunnel takes you under ground and under the river Elbe, leading you to the other side of Hamburg, where you can see the array of ships nestled in the port awaiting their departure. The skyline lingers with attractive apartments, port docks, the significant Elbphilharmonie (the cultural and musical hall of Hamburg) and remnants of historical buildings. Here is where you can fully appreciate it all.
Heading back into the city savour the sights, sounds and smells of Hamburg’s port, eyeing up herring burgers and dodging envious seagulls, wander into the city a little further. I found myself at Speicherstadt which houses the largest warehouse district in the world. Rows and rows of red brick buildings loom over a runaway of canals, mapping out the waterways that flow through Hamburg. Many choose to cycle through the district, allowing themselves the time to fully explore the area and its desolate empty feel. Others appreciate its vastness by boat, looking up from the canals and taking in the size of the colossal buildings. Walking over the iron clad bridges allows you time to finger the etched lovers’ names in the lock locks clinging onto bridges and appreciate just how enormous the area is.
Nearby, is a wonderful place to rest your legs and savour the delicious tasting local waffles, cleverly titled, Eis and Wafflehaus. Here there are several waffle styles and ice cream flavours to try and it really was mouth wateringly good.
Hamburg is full of beautiful churches and you’ll stumble upon quite a few when wandering around the city. St Nicholas Church and St Michael’s Church are particularly spectacular. Many head to the Kuntsthalle Hamburg to explore the art that Hamburg has to offer, other’s head to Miniatur Wunderland to marvel at the miniature wonder world of well… miniatures.
Instead I headed to the beach. Now Hamburg might not be your usual place to visit the beach, I am sure it is low on most people’s lists of beautiful beach locations, but with the soaring European heatwave, a quick escape to an urban beach is totally worth it. Okay, so the sights might not be so picturesque, rather full of industrious ports and sweeping cranes, but it sure is wonderful to dip your toes into the river. I’d definitely recommend taking a cheap ferry (number 62) which is included in your all-day metro ticket, rather then a tourist package ferry. For the price of 4 euros can you travel all day on any mode of transport, whilst others charge 20 euros for one boat ride! Stop off at Strandperle beach bar for one of their famous herring sandwiches and soak up the sun.
Hamburg is also popular for its red-light district, St Pauli, where a famous street called Reeperbahn is where many visitors flock to… go shopping for women, let’s delicately say, and where a majority of the bars and clubs are. Garish and odd in the day, the best time to visit St Pauli, even just for the experience, is in the evening, where fluorescent lights flicker luminously, and groups of men huddle outside shop windows… yep those kind of shop windows. Hamburg may have a darker side to its city, but don’t let this put you off from visiting the place, it really is a beautiful city, but do expect to cross paths with some definite characters, that’s for sure.
I stayed in the hostel, Instant Sleep Backpackers Hostel which I thoroughly recommend. Having a long overdue catch up with a friend I met travelling, we decided to opt for a smaller, more comfortable hostel rather than the grand soulless flash backer hostels that were available. It was a good choice, the other travellers were friendly and welcoming and the smaller feel to the hostel meant it was much more laid back.