Part 2 of our city trip to Hamburg, Germany! Feel free to check out part 1 but it’s not a must to read that one first. These blogposts are a checklist for first-time visitors to make sure you get the full picture of things to do in Hamburg.
If you thought the red-bricked warehouse district (Speicherstadt) and the harbor (both featured in part 1) was all Hamburg has to offer, think twice. Hamburg encourages you to visit both sides of the spectrum: the well-designed Speicherstadt/Hafencity compared to the urban and multicultural feel of districts like St Pauli, Karolinen and Schanzen. These are districts where the diversity of the city shows itself at its finest. Let’s go and discover some more of Hamburg! [and at the end I will explain you all about these shoes!]
The old city and Alster lake
75 years ago (during WW II) Hamburg was bombed severely. Within one week in July 1943, 43000 people lost their lives and the city was decimated. That’s is why, architecture-wise, large parts of the city are not what you might expect from a historical city center. But sometimes you find these small gems, like the famous Deichstrasse. A row of 7 to 8 historic houses that give you a bit of a flavor of what Hamburg looked like over 80 years ago.
Do visit the Nicolai church, a powerful monument expressing the insanity of war. Built in the 12th century, this church has always been a dominant part of the Hamburg skyline. It was destroyed almost completely, where nowadays only the spire (tower) and some walls are still standing.
On site you will find various monuments, like The Ordeal. This one is actually dedicated to the memorial in Sandborstel where in one of the largest prisoner camps established by the Nazis more than 50,000 people died. The basis of this sculpture consists of the original bricks of the prisoner’s barracks (text from museum website).
On the bright side, the church is also a cool viewing tower! From 76 meters high you will for sure have a wonderful view of Hamburg!
Another place that you will probably want to visit is the old city hall (the Rathaus), Hamburg’s seat of government. The building dates back to 1897 and is open to the public. Do check out the backside of the building! Here a courtyard resembles an Italian style piazza with a terrace (at least in summer…) and a fountain named after the Greek goddess of health (Hygieia). The fountain was built in remembrance of the cholera epidemic that took place in 1892 (but I will spare you the details…)
Not many cities have a big recreational lake right next to the city center. Hamburg does. The Alster lake is close to the Rathaus and for the people of Hamburg a place to relax and escape from hectic city life. You can go on a boat trip (although a bit boring compared to a harbor tour – see part 1). The area around the Kleine Alster has its share of porticoes, again reminding me of Italy (specifically Bologna – go check out that story too!).
Diversity in St. Pauli and Schanzenviertel
For those who want to experience a totally different side of the city, continue reading! For a real peek into city life in Hamburg, I urge you to travel down to districts like St. Pauli and Schanzen. It might look a bit confronting at first sight: graffiti all over the place, strange looking shops, etc. Don’t worry, find yourself a place in one of the many small bars and restaurants and just observe. Feel the laid-back atmosphere and the colorful multicultural life happening around you. And don’t forget to taste that delicious German beer, like I did! I wished I had more time strolling around these neighborhoods, maybe next time!
One interesting thing about this white Hamburg TV tower… it kind of seemed to pop up everywhere! I have to admit, it’s a beautiful TV tower and that’s why I took dozens of pictures capturing it all over the city (click here to see them). Unfortunately, it’s closed to public and actually for sale! If you have 40 million Euro laying around somewhere….
St. Pauli is the district where you find the infamous Reeperbahn, Hamburg’s red light district (for those who really want to take it all in!). Don’t worry, the place is not only full of things that will never see the light of day. Be surprised, because the area actually has some very good (and famous) theaters and restaurants that attract Hamburg residents from all over the city.
Around the corner the Beatles performed almost daily between 1960 and 1962. This period has been an important chapter in the group’s history; in Hamburg they learned how to perform (at the Indra and Kaiserkeller), widened their reputation and worked up to their first recording. Five life-sized silhouettes pose at the Beatles-Platz Square…
Paradise for architecture lovers
Speicherstadt and Hafencity are fine pieces of architecture, but with the new Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg really put itself on the global map of modern architecture! The Elbphilharmonie (Elb Philharmonic Hall) is an extraordinary structure, dominating the skyline. It’s a concert hall mostly, but the building is also home to apartments, a hotel, restaurant, etc. The acoustics have become world-renowned. You have to book tickets way in advance but when you are in, you will experience (classical) music like never before (at least, that’s what our local contact told me…). The central, ivory auditorium is something I really want to experience if I visit Hamburg again! Read more here on Wired.
Next up: the Chile House. A 1924 historic ‘skyscraper’ (at least in those days). The owner was at that time the richest man in Hamburg, who made a fortune trading saltpeter from Chile. The Chile house does remind of a merchant ship, a bit. To me it reminded me of the FlatIron building in New York City! Developed by German architect Fritz Höger, this is a classic example of the 1920s Brick Expressionism style of architecture (using bricks as the main visual building material).
Another ship-like building (this time more futuristic) is Dockland. Designed by Hamburg based architects Bothe, Richter and Teherani, this building has an observation deck on the roof that can be reached via a public outdoor staircase!
Schlagermove – festival and parade extravaganza
Hamburg showed us some of her finest but the biggest surprise had yet to come: Schlagermove. What is Schlagermove? Well, Schlager is kind of a happy-go-lucky popular style of music (at least in Germany!). The annual Schlagermove is a 2-day music festival with the highlight being a parade that consists of over 40 trucks full of partying people. On top of that, almost 400,000 people dress up to walk along and have an unforgettable party in Hamburg’s bars…. Surprising Hamburg for sure! And that’s where I shot that picture of these awesome 70s boots! Watch the video to get a feel of what this festival is all about…
Things to do in Hamburg
So here you go: things to do in Hamburg, especially for first time visitors. Hope you enjoyed it and don’t forget to check out part 1 of our city trip.
Disclaimer: This trip was part of the Come to Hamburg promotional initiative. I would like to thank the city of Hamburg and the Gute Leude Fabrik for organizing our stay which was partly sponsored and partly paid by ourselves. All pictures are made by me.