Read in: nlNederlands (Dutch)

We shape our buildings, thereafter they shape us.

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Winston Churchill

Urban design in Hamburg

Hamburg is after Berlin the second largest city in Germany with 1.8 million inhabitants. It has therefore all the big city attractions, including a great choice of international gastronomy, a full cultural agenda, fabulous sights and lots of events. Here you can shop till you drop and most importantly the city is packed with cool architecture.

A trip to this German metropolis is thus a must for lovers of urban design. Absolute highlights include the 19th-century warehouse district and the historic heart of Hamburg, the Altstadt.

Romantic Hamburg
Speicherstadt Hamburg

A city trip to Hamburg

When you get off the train on the east side of the Hauptbahnhof you will find that the streets in this area are populated by men of all sorts of backgrounds, just hanging there. As a woman, I would rather not walk alone between the train station and the Berliner Tor, especially burdened by luggage. Luckily I am accompanied by my own men, a.k.a. as my family.

Right, so we skip this part of town and quickly head to the old centre, for some serious sightseeing and shopping. Hamburg has after all the most millionaires in Germany and that is noticeable, the city centre largely serves as a playground for the super-rich with luxurious design shops and haute couture boutiques.

Altstadt

The old town is concentrated around the Rathausmarkt. Here is the Rathaus, or the old town hall and nowadays the seat of the parliament of the German state of Hamburg. The cosy market square is bustling with stalls and street performers.

The Town Hall and the Parlament

The medieval town hall houses an excellent restaurant called the Parlament. In fact, we find the place so charming, we decide to dine there twice, something we rarely do. The food tastes good, is affordable and the staff is friendly.

With our bellies filled it is time to explore the rest of the old town.

Chilihaus

Another remarkable building we see in the Altstadt is the Chilihaus, built in the interbellum on behalf of a wealthy businessman who gathered his fortune in Chile, hence the name. The building is on the list of UNESCO World Heritage. The Chilihaus has ten floors and covers an area of 30,400 square meters, it is considered one of the finest examples of expressionist architecture of the 20th century. The building houses multiple shops, restaurants and offices.

Sankt Pauli

For those who can’t afford the luxury shops in the old town, there is always Sankt Pauli, a district of Hamburg which is mostly known for its 930-meter long slightly shady Reeperbahn.

Reeperbahn

This street is synonymous with the red light district of Hamburg, outside the“gentlemen’s clubs” there is plenty of other entertainment to be found here for tourists and citizens alike in the form of bars, cinemas and amusement arcades.

Jewish cemetery

A bit down the road of the Reeperbaan is the 400-year-old Jewish cemetery, the final resting place of what was once the largest Jewish community in Germany. The cemetery can only be visited with a guided tour on Sundays.

Hamburg Harbour

From the Jüdischer Friedhof in the Königstraße it is a 600-meter walk to the waterfront. The port of Hamburg is in Europe only second in size to the Rotterdam harbour in the Netherlands.

Fish auction hall

One of the most outstanding buildings in this neighbourhood is the fish auction, the Fischauktionshalle. Every Sunday morning (early!) you can attend an auction, the rest of the week the building serves as an event location.

Baumwall station Hamburg

U-boot

Another curiosity you can find in this area is the (old) Russian submarine. A visit to this U-boot gives a glimpse into the claustrophobic underwater world that navy men endure for months on end.

Following the waterfront we get to the highlight of the city, the warehouse district, which is, of course, interlinked with the harbour activities.

Speicherstadt

On an island in the River Elbe is the Speicherstadt,  a large complex of warehouses built on timber piles. The warehouses are multi-storey red brick buildings with entrances from water and land. The buildings feature little towers, alcoves and terracotta ornaments. One of the oldest warehouses is the Kaispeicher B, nowadays it functions as the International Maritime Museum.

As the first site in Hamburg, it was awarded the status of UNESCO World Heritage Site. In fact, I found it so special if I had my way, I would have wandered for days at a time in this area to marvel at the architecture.

Sadly, I must go home.

Rathausmarkt Hamburg
Fish auction Hamburg
Hamburg port authority
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Hamburg Speicherstadt

Practical advice

    • We slept in the A & O hotel close to the Berliner Tor, around 500 meters from the train station. It is a huge, but otherwise fine hotel close to the old town with a great rooftop terrace for those sundowners after a long day of sightseeing.
    • Public transport is well organized: a day pass for a family of 5 persons costs €12.50.
    • At various places in the city, including at the various train stations, you can rent city bikes.
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