Hamburg, a city of cranes and chimneys, is the second largest city in Germany, and is home to Europe’s second largest port. An independent city state, Hamburg has always been home to adventurers, and you too could travel to Germany’s Gateway to the World. Founded as Hammaburg, a fortress, in 808 AD under the rule of Emperor Charlemagne, the ‘Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg’ is now one of the most affluent cities in Europe. It’s a hub of media, fashion and film production. So where should you go in the city?
The Rathaus (City Hall)
The Rathaus is one of the most ornate government buildings in Europe, and its Neo-Renaissance structure certainly rivals the monuments of Prussia. The whole façade is peppered with statues of Hamburger Kings (a delicious sounding title) and a constant vigil is kept by the not-so-friendly, well-armed, jackbooted guards. While walking past them, one really hopes that the psychological evaluation for the police force is well implemented. Or that their pistol training is ridiculously bad.
Tours in the place are a bit pricey (€12), so unless you’re really interested in the socioeconomic and political structure of the state of Hamburg, it’s best just to enjoy the historical facade and then go for a coffee or a beer in the surrounding cafés and bars.
Sure, Germany is full of military history, and they were building empires when our ancestors were still arguing over whose wattle-and-daub hut was nicest, but we all know what you want: the beer and food. Hamburg is an unusual German city, in that it seems to want to be more Latin-European, and so sports more French and Italian restaurants than German style ones. If you want a good hearty German meal, head to Brockbräu’s. Good news: they also brew their own strong beers, providing you with a chance for you to teach your new German friends the word ‘Sláinte’.
The Old Warehouse Region
If you like walking alongside canals and down winding cobbled streets while feeling like a Wizard or a God, the old warehouse region is for you. The red bricked buildings used to contain spices and carpets from the exotic orient, but nowadays many of them contain cool bars and restaurants that are definitely worth a visit. It may be at this point of the trip that you realise how many bars you’ve gone to, and if you listen closely, you can actually hear your liver crying.
Jungfernstieg & Shopping Centre
The Jungfernstieg is a major shopping street in Hamburg and it’s sure to have most of the shops you’ll be looking for. It’s named after a bygone practice whereby the affluent families would go on walks to show off their lovely, unwed daughters. If another rich family liked the look of one of these girls, and was rich enough to interest her father, a marriage match could always be made. Ah, young love.
Boasting five floors, each 160m long, Europapassagen is the biggest shopping centre in the City. The Centre connects the Jungfernstieg with other important shopping streets. Many of your favourite well-known chains can be found on Mönckebergstraße alongside small boutiques, cafés, bistros and ice cream parlours. Some of the little cobbled stone alleys are reminiscent of Temple Bar, and are home to the most interesting independent small shops in the city.
Also known in German as die sündige Meile, the Sinful mile, this street is located in the St. Pauli district of Hamburg. Lined with clubs, discos, bars, sex clubs and restaurants, this is a pretty interesting place to see.
Prostitution is legal during certain hours of the day here. The majority of prostitutes stand directly across the road from Davidwache, one of the oldest police stations in the city, which is now advertised by a bright neon sign that reads “Polizei”.
The whole area has a rich history, and it was a hub of theatre and music in the 1920s, 30s and 40s. The Beatles also played here, and John Lennon once said: “I might have been born in Liverpool, but I grew up in Hamburg.”
It’s a pretty seedy place, and it certainly wouldn’t be for everyone. Drug dealers, pimps and prostitutes with dead eyes all prowl the streets, and it’s not really the place you’d want to go if you’re on a nice romantic holiday. Unless you’re into dead eyes, abandoned theatres, drug deals and sexually transmitted diseases that is.
St. MichaelisKirche (St. Michael’s Church)
A symbol of Hamburg for many years, this Lutheran Church was built in the Rococco and Baroque style. Its crypt contains the tomb of Carl Philip Emanuel Bach, the son of J.S Bach, who was also a famous late Rococco/early classical era composer. The architecture is awe-inspiring, and the organ is one of the finest in the world. Free concerts often occur in the church, so check out local guides. Some of the concerts are even ones composed by C.P.E Bach himself, for all you Baroque fans out there. Because we know there’s just so many of you gagging for a sonata or two.
Hamburg is a beautiful city, but it might serve better as a stop on a trip around Germany rather than a stand-alone holiday. Nonetheless, the vibrant city is still expanding and improving, and is sure to be an even more exciting place over the next few years.