Visiting Hamburg - What to See and Do
(Hamburg Airport HAM, Germany)
Germany's second-largest city is also Europe's greenest. Hamburg
has set aside more than half of its land as roughly 1,400 parks, gardens and other public green spaces. It has also got enough canals snaking through its cityscape that people call it the Venice
of the North. At night, the red-streaked pavement of the Reeperbahn makes it clear that Hamburg also has its sexy sinful side.
The sheer diversity of all these components makes Hamburg one of Europe's most enjoyable places to visit. Rebuilt from the ashes of WWII, the modern and medieval stand shoulder-to-shoulder everywhere you look. The Hauptkirche St. Michaelis church doesn't seem out of place amidst the glass and steel skyscrapers.
By day, it is pleasant to stroll around Alster Lake and the Old Town, maybe checking out the haunts of the Beatles. After dark, you can get as rowdy as necessary around the Reeperbahn's Sankt Pauli neighbourhood or take in some classical music at the Laeiszhalle. There is no end to the fun and attractions on hand in Hamburg.
Ten things you must do in Hamburg
- One of the world's most infamous red-light districts is Sankt Pauli in the Reeperbahn. The Beatles played here in 1960, and while 'working girls' are the obvious selling point of this lively night-time neighbourhood, there is also live music, theatre and places to eat. Even the mildly curious should venture into Sankt Pauli at least once.
- The top art museum in northern Germany is Hamburg's Kunsthalle. Recent renovations have made this venue better than ever, and its collections of German masters, altarpieces and contemporary art are superb.
- Hamburg's zoo was opened in 1848 and is still one of the best in Europe. Visitors can admire 2,500 creatures covering 360 different species in very humane conditions. A recently opened tropical aquarium, train rides through 'fairyland' and the chance to ride a camel or elephant are just some of the fun activities on offer at this great zoo.
- The Hauptkirche St. Michaelis is the most immaculate baroque church in Northern Germany. It is a real stunner, with its hammered copper dome and fascinating crypt filled with more than a few famous names. Be sure to take the elevator to the top of the tower for the very best panoramic views of the cityscape.
- Hamburg's Altstadt (Old Town) isn't much compared to others in Europe, but it is still worth a day of your time. The old canals still wind through much of the district, with the Rathaus (Town Hall) being its star historic attraction. A tour of the building and its 647 rooms is worth the pittance entry fee, if for nothing else than to climb to the top of its tower and check out the Rathausmarkt and the Alsterfleet canal from above.
- Of the many lovely public parks in the city, the centrally positioned Alsterpark is arguably its best. It lies on the banks of Alster Lake, a beauty in itself, and encompasses around 178 acres / 72 hectares of perfectly manicured lawns and gardens. The towering trees that dot the park provide ideal shady spots for resting when exploring central Hamburg.
- A great way to spend an afternoon in the summer is boating on the Outer Alster Lake. You can rent paddle boats, rowing boats and one-person sailing dinghies by the hour, and enjoy fine views of the skyline from the centre of this enormous lake in the heart of town.
- Hamburg has a long tradition of 1,200 years as a merchant's town. Its finest and oldest shopping streets are Neuer Wall and Grosse Bleichen, which run parallel to each other along the canals. There are also nine huge shopping malls, including the striking Hanse Viertel Galerie Passage and its glass roof.
- Since this is a city connected to the sea, a visit to its main fish market is well worth the effort. Located between Hexenberg and Grosse Elbstrasse, it is only open on Sundays from early in the morning. There is much more here than fish, however, and the market itself is lined with pleasant taverns, perfect for an afternoon bite.
- An interesting activity is to visit the Willkomm-Höft, or Welcome Point, on the edge of the port. More than 50 ships pass this peninsular point each day, and they all get their national anthems played as they pass by the station house. The Hamburg flag lowers in a salute that is replied with a flag lowering on the ship. The scenery itself on the peninsula is lovely.