For many travelers, Germany has been synonymous with lederhosen, biergartens, and bratwurst. However, we discovered an entirely different German experience during our weekend trip to the second largest city, Hamburg. In Hamburg, we were greeted by a cosmopolitan, waterfront city filled with diverse attractions. The city has a maritime culture that feels almost Scandinavian, and the streets are lined with historic red-brick architecture and modern cityscapes.
Famous of being one of the largest ports (and third largest in Europe), Hamburg is situated on the Elbe and the North Sea. In fact, it is nicknamed the “Venice of the North” for its numerous picturesque canals. The water is never far away and you can feel the ocean breezes throughout the city. Hamburg is also filled with architectural gems, some of which were recently designated with UNESCO World Heritage status. With so much to see and experience in Hamburg, we knew we had to be there.
Here's how to tour Hamburg:
To get to Hamburg, we took the DB train from Berlin, which runs about every half hour. Tickets start at €20 (about $23) and the train includes a cafe cart. You can also take the Flixbus, a comfortable bus service that starts at $5.99. The transit time is about 2 hours from Berlin, which makes it a great weekend destination.
We stayed at the Generator Hostel, which is conveniently located adjacent to the DB train station. They offer spacious communal spaces such as a business area, lounge, and bar as well as a variety of types of accommodation including private and shared rooms, starting at around $50 USD.
Where to Eat:
Since Hamburg is situated on the water, the cuisine includes delicious seafood dishes. Our favorite is Carls Brasserie, located right outside of the Elbphilharmonie - the perfect place to enjoy lunch or dinner before seeing a performance.
1. Hamburg Maritime Museum -
Located in the HafenCity, the Maritime Museum offers exhibits on Hamburg's ship building and port history. Explore the HafenCity neighborhood surrounding the museum, which is the largest urban redevelopment centre in Europe.
2. Chilehaus -
Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015, this building is an architectural icon of the city known for its expressionist architecture. The sharp angles of the building's facade are reminiscent of New York’s "Flatiron" building.
3. Elbphilharmonie -
The icon of the city, the Elbphilharmonie was built in 2017 . The exterior glass design includes resembles a hoisted sail. The interior features a curved escalator that leads through an "iPad" looking tunnel to a viewing platform with 360 degree views of Hamburg's harbor, old town, and new city.
4. Historic Architecture -
While many buildings in Hamburg are done in modern design, you can find plenty of unique historic treasures. For example, check out the interior of the Chilehaus which contains vintage details, including a never-ending stairwell and a revolving open-door elevator called a paternoster.
5. Biking the City
Hamburg is a huge city at 292 square miles, so the ideal way to get around is via Hamburg's efficient bike program. The red bikes are located throughout the city and maintained via the Deutsche Bahn. Rent a bike for a half hour for free, perfect for getting from point A-to-B, or for a full day for 12 Euros. Best of all, it comes with a bike lock and is managed via an app.
The largest warehouse complex in the world and UNESCO site, Speicherstadt appears to float on the water. It was built atop the islands of the Elbe and contains a seemingly endless network of brick structures connected by bridges. This architectural monument is one of my favorites to photograph in the city.
Our guide Tomas offers tours in German or English. To book a tour, visit his site.
We hope that you get to visit Hamburg soon. It truly is one of the most beautiful and photogenic cities in Germany. What are your favorite places in Hamburg? Comment below!
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We are two adventurous young professionals who turned our passion for travel into a blog to help others travel more.