Hamburg, Germany or as it is officially known, The Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg, is the second largest city in Northern Germany and is located on the Elbe River. Yes you heard that right, even though this is one of the most important trade port cities in Europe, it is located approx. 50km inland from the nearest ocean.
Hamburg is a unique mixture of heavy industry, culture, tourism and commerce all blended together to make for an exciting, action packed adventure. Living a short 01H30 minutes from this exciting city makes it really appealing for short trips and long weekends.
Hamburg has been completely destroyed on 2 separate occasions in its history with the latest being during the Second World War. Being a strategic area for steel and chemical production, the city was systematically destroyed by the allies during the war. Extensive reconstruction and restoration was done in the years following the surrender of Germany and the city is today a sprawling modern metropolises of 1.8 million residents.
Hamburg is a major junction between mainland Europe and its northern neighbours in Scandinavia. The city has a number of Autobahns (Major Highways) and a number of major railway routes running though or connecting it to the rest of Europe which makes it a great place to start at and venture from.
The local infrastructure is made up of an extensive underground train system and a world-class supporting bus network. Tickets can be purchases using either cash or credit cards at the local stations or stops using automates that are located there. Language options (Spanish, French, Italian, English, etc) are available for non German-speaking people and the menus are well laid out and easy to use. If you are caught using the public transport system without a ticket (Schwartzfahren) you will be liable for a fine of approx. 80€. While there is no access control like those that can be seen in other major cities like New York or London, there are spot checks done by officers in plain clothes who catch people unsuspectingly.
There are a number of combinations of tours that often include the costs for local travel in them so when booking tours for the city, its best to ask what it all includes and you could be able to save on the transport fares. The local Hamburg travel app is called HVV and is available on both IOS and Android operating systems free of charge and in English. Once set up, you can plan trips, purchase tickets, check schedules and so on all while touring the city. Tickets for the public transport system can be either paper or electronic so long as the person checking the ticket is able to read the square code with his scanner, you are good to go.
Museums & Miniature Wonderland
Hamburg has several large museums on offer with something for everyone. There are tributes to its maritime history, art and culture and even technological developments that have been preserved from its vibrant and often turbulent history.
Here is a list of some of the museums you will be likely to see in Hamburg:
- Archaeological Museum Hamburg (Archäologisches Museum Hamburg)
- Kunsthalle Hamburg (Galerie der Gegenwart)
- Museum for Art and Industry (Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe)
- Deichtorhallen/House of Photography.
- The Internationales Maritimes Museum Hamburg **
- The Hamburg Museum of Work (Museum der Arbeit)
- The world’s largest model railway museum Miniature Wonderland **
The Internationales Maritimes Museum Hamburg
There are approx 10 levels (12.000 m2 ) packed with all things nautical starting with the first ships and ranging all the way to the most modern of technological developments. The museum is located in the historic Speicherstadt district of the city which is the famous red bricked warehouse district which is about a 10-minute walk from the Miniature Wonderland.
We spent about 4 hours in the museum and covered most of what I found interesting in that time. Entrance to the exhibit will cost approx. 13€ for adults and you can spend as long as you like there.
The Miniature Wonderland
This is the worlds largest miniature train set comprising over 300 trains made up of over 10,000 carriages, over 100,000 moving vehicles, ca. 500,000 lights, 130,000 trees, and 400,000 human figurines. The modelled area covers some 2,300 m2 and contains scenes from across Europe, North America, modern day and historic scenes.
The museum is located in the historic Speicherstadt district of the city which is the famous red bricked warehouse district. Entrance to the exhibit will cost approx. 15€ for adults and you can spend as long as you like there. This was an amazing experience and will blow your mind by the scale and talent that has created it.
The Hamburg Dungeon is a mixture of theatrics and historical story telling. This is something along the same lines as Hollywood films when they state, based on true events. While they are bound to tell the story as it factually is, certain poetic licence is also acceptable to make it entertaining. There is much detail about this vibrant city that has been lost to the sands of time and that has required some speculation and adaptation by the performers at the dungeon.
This also not purely a history lesson with a lot of crowds interaction, laugh, joking and most importantly, scaring people……this is a dungeon after all.
For those that do not speak or understand German, there is a daily English tour that starts at 10am. The tour covers many of the historically significant periods in Hamburgs history namely the Plague, the Inquisition, the Hamburg Fire, Piracy and Bootlegging just to name a few.
The Dungeon does not allow for videos or photos to be taken so there will not be many photos available online. There is a saving when buying tickets online and there is a section that will indicate when the peak times are. To ensure a place in one of the many groups, check these times beforehand to avoid disappointment. Bring with you a good sense of humour and this will be one of the highlights of the city.
The people of Hamburg are known to be incredibly fashion conscious and always stylishly dressed. This can be seen by the types of shops and the stocks which thy carry. There is an enormous shopping district located between the main train station and the Landungsbrucke that is alive with energy and people. There are a number of cafes, street performers and other activities happening everyday so you will never be bored.
Many of the premium branded shops are located close to the Inneralste Lake which is separated from the Alste River by the Kennedy bridge that was named in honor of JF Kennedy who was assassinated in Dallas Texas.
Landungsbrucke/Harbour & Red Bus Tour
When we visit Hamburg, we try to stay the Hotel Hafen Hamburg. The reason for this is that it centrally located between the party district of St. Pauli, the tourist hub of the Landungbrucke and the city centre district. While it is in the middle of the action and provides a beautiful view of the harbour area. It is however, also far enough away from St. Pauli to ensure that should you need some time to recharge, it is ready and waiting.
The Landungsbrucke is a tourist hub with harbour and bus tours leaving regularly from this point. Access to the Lion King Theater also leaves from this area and it is always a hive of activity. You do not need to purchase additional tickets to take the boat across the Elbe to the theater. The promenade between the Landungbrucke and Hafen City has recently undergone a complete rebuild with many of the residents enjoying sun downers there in the warmer months.
The Red Bus Tour is always a great option for me which I mentioned in my post about Copenhagen. The tour covers most of the main attractions in the city and provides some really interesting facts about the port of Hamburg including the apartment where the worlds richest rooster lived. The port is alive with both museum ships, ship yards, cruise ship terminals and other commercial activity and a harbour tour is well worth it to get a sense of the size of this port which is once again contesting the converted award of the largest deep water port in the world.
Theater & Elbphilharmonie Hamburg
Hamburg plays host to a number of world-famous musicals with the famous Lion King (König der Löwen) musical being hosted by Hamburg since 2001. Various other musicals have also visited Hamburg namely Cats, Mary Poppins, The Phantom of the Opera, Dance of the Vampires just to name a few. The high volume of tourists attracted to the city support these musicals in dedicated theatres resulting in perfect harmonics and the best possible experience.
The Elbphilharmonie or ‘the Elphi‘ as it is affectionately known by residents, is the long awaited addition to the city that was set to define the new skyline of Hamburg. It was opened in 2017 with a cost of almost 900 € million and has a total seating capacity of 2,100 people.
It is one of the largest and acoustically advanced concert halls in the world, however the building is not without controversy as a result of its late delivery and being horrifically over budget….4 x to be exact (Origonal estimate was 200€ million). There is a spectacular viewing deck that is open the public and provides an impressive platform for some memorable photos of the harbour.
St. Pauli & Sunday Fischmarkt
The Borough of St. Pauli is where the world-famous red light district is located as part of the iconic Reeperbahn area. The Reeperbahn is where restaurants, nightclubs, strip clubs, brothels and theatres can all be found in a unique mixture that is famous for its vibrancy. The area can be see being frequented by football fans, families, young, old, couples and tour groups. This is a melting pot of people from all walks of life and backgrounds with the activity heating up after dusk and lasting right though till dawn.
Pro Tip: Look out for the tribute to the Beatles Band when they played in Hamburg.
If you find yourself parting up a storm until dawn from Saturday till Sunday morning, starting just adjacent St. Pauli is the Fischmarkt where all sorts of items from weekly groceries, flowers, plant’s and alike can be bought cheaply without compromising on quality. Truck loads of goods arrive during the night and the goods are placed in grouped baskets to be sold sometimes for as little as 10€. This is an experience that should not be missed but be aware that it is usually over at punctually at 10am with vendors being forced to close up shop by order of the city.
Included in the market area on a Sunday morning is the Fischauktionshalle (Fish Auctions Hall) that dates back to the last century and is used as a type of concert hall where live bands play many well-known hits for crowds of party goers. One can sit and enjoy a beer or coffee depending on your preference and is a mixture of young and old people. The atmosphere is alive and festive so do not expect this to be a quiet affair for a Sunday morning.
The video I have included here illustrates a plant’s wholesaler starting with 2 Orchids for 15 € then dropping to 10 €. He then brings another pair of Orchids out for which there are no takers, the 3rd pair there is a buyer for 10 € and so it goes. The sellers attempt to put together various combinations and the prices fluctuate according to the interest shown in the goods. All items must be sold on the day to ensure that only the freshest produce is offered. There is a kind of frenzy of selling that starts about half an hour prior to the market’s closure so look out for this.
This is only the tip of the iceberg so to speak of a city that has so much to offer. It is well worth a visit and the time spent here will be well worth it. Whether it be in summer drinking cocktails at one of the many restaurants or street side cafes on the Alste, or taking in all the sights and sounds of the Weinachtsmarkt, Hamburg is a terrific city to visit.
I hope you enjoyed this post and drop something in the comments section and I will get back to you….