In your travel route to visit Europe, has it ever come to your mind the idea of visiting Hamburg? Or have you ever heard anything about Hamburg at all? That’s right, even being this beautiful and with so many attractive spots, Hamburg still seems to be an undiscovered treasure. Actually, the German tourists themselves are the ones that appreciate the city the most, followed by the Danish and the Swiss*. Well, if the German like Hamburg so much, even with so many other interesting and beautiful cities inside their own country, it’s because this one must have something else.
That’s why we made this list with some of the reasons that make Hamburg so special – not far from the most famous routes.
- Hamburg is the biggest non-capital city in Europe
And that brings many advantages for those who come to the city, for Hamburg has the infra-structure of big cities, since when it comes to commerce, up to big events. Hamburg is the second largest city in Germany, only behind Berlin; it is also the home of major companies, such as Hapad Lloyd, Beiersdorf (Nivea) and Hamburg Süd, and the Hamburg harbor is the second largest in Europe. But, even with all these numbers, Hamburg is not chaotic and overcrowded as most big cities. Which means, you can enjoy everything a major urban center has to offer, and yet feel comfortable. Just take a walk in downtown Hamburg at 8 in the morning on a weekday and you’ll feel the difference.
- Nature in the middle of urban life
One of the images that are most associated to Hamburg is the harbor alongside Elba River. Thinking about Hamburg is remembering the water, may it be shining under the sun, or the fog over the river during the winter. Hamburg even has a little beach by the Elba River shore, with sand and everything! A couple of miles from there, more water: in front of the City Hall is the Alster River, which unfolds in many canals crossing the city, and where it is very common to see the practice of various water sports in the summer, such as Stand Up Paddle, rowing and sailing. Besides, Hamburg owes many parks in its urban area, all clean, well-maintained and enjoyed by its citizens. The park Planten un Blomen deserves an special mention for its open-sky Botanical Garden in the middle of the city, and also the Stadpark, next to the Planetarium.
- The most famous brands are here
We already know Hamburg is a big city, very important, and of course that, with that, great chain stores have branches in the city. Since more accessible brands, such as Zara, H&M, Mango, up to designer labels such as Armani, Jil Sander, Louis Vuitton, Hermès, Hugo Boss, among other, all of them can be found in Hamburg. Other international brands such as Nespresso, MAC, Apple and the electronic grats Media Markt and Saturn are also here. Downtown only, there are three streets dedicated to stores, besides branches spread throughout other neighborhoods and department stores.
- History, art, architecture – and many bridges
With over 1000 years of History, and a lot of richness brought by the sea commerce, Hamburg crossed through the centuries with elegance. Not even the catastrophes that took over the city made its buildings less amazing. Many of its rebuilt and renovated estates in the city followed the molds of the original buildings, which can be seen in the façade of the buildings downtown, in Speicherstadt storehouses, Laeiszhalle concert room, just to name a few. But the modern and contemporary architecture also has space in Hamburg: the Unilever Haus, the Chile Haus building (one of the most photographed spots in town) and the Hafen City, the new neighborhood built next to the harbor (and currently the largest urban construction project in Europe) are some good examples of the many architectural styles that mix in Hamburg.
And, with this much water around, there couldn’t not be bridges around. Hamburg has over 2500 bridges*, a number that surpasses Venice and Amsterdam together.
For those who seek cultural activities, Hamburg offers the most various events: from the alternative scene, classical music, art galleries, museums, children activities, opera.
- Night life
Hamburg not only has the night life of a big city, but also has the most famous bohemian street of German: the Reeperbahn. With almost 1km of extension (besides its parallel streets), Reeperbahn has bars, clubs, concerts, theaters, and even striptease clubs and sex shops. Which means, night life to all tastes! Only two subway stations away is Sternchanze, the alternative style neighborhood in Hamburg, where you can also find bars, cafés, lounges and other good options for the night. And for those who prefer something a little calmer or elite, there are excellent bars spread throughout the city, like 20Up, Le Lion, or Indochine, and many others.
- Attractions and international events
Besides all the charms I’ve mentioned here on this list, Hamburg has attractions that you can only see here. How about a walk through the harbor, or the city canals? Or visiting the city museums, such as the Miniatur Wunderland, the International Sea Museum or the Chocoversum? The first in-the-dark-dinner restaurant in Germany is also here. Besides, Hamburg is the city of musicals: Aladdin, Rocky and many other great shows have been through here – and always sold out. The most famous is The Lion King, which has a special place in a very modern installation in the Hamburg harbor. Speaking of concerts, Hamburg is also always on the route of international tours. And I haven’t even mentioned the Harbor Birthday Party, the Elbjazz Festival, the Stadpark Open Air festival, the Literature Festival, the hundreds of free cultural events and the newly-open Elbphilharmonie.
- Around the world of gastronomy
You can adventure yourself through the typical flavors of Hamburg, trying out a Franzbrötchen (a French bread, in German), or rote Grüze (rode Grütt), the red berries syrup, or maybe even the Matjes (a kind of marinated herring).
But, if you prefer, you can visit all kinds of restaurants. German cuisine from the South, Britain crepes, Vietnamese cuisine, Spanish, Persian, Italian, Indian, and even an all-you-can-eat with meat, rice and beans… anyway, dishes from all over the world! Hamburg has so many good restaurants that it’s hard to choose, and the best: with several price ranges. You can eat well without spending much.
For a quick snack, there are cafés, with all kinds of hot beverages, bread and cakes.
And for those who enjoy wine and beer, there’s a great range of good brands that can be found in specialized stores and even in supermarkets.
- Hospitality, infra-structure and safety
One of the nicest things about walking around Hamburg is seeing how everything works. Yes, it’s standard in Germany as a whole, but as I live here, and I see the day-by-day in the region, it doesn’t cost to make it clear that here in the North it is also like this. And especially because we are talking about a big city. Subway, bus and punctual ferries, trains and subways every 10 or 5 minutes (depending on the time). Except on the rush hour, you will hardly see crowded public transportation or public places. It’s possible to walk calmly downtown at night or through the harbor (if you like photographing or just looking at beautiful landscapes, that’s something I recommend whenever you are in Hamburg).
The people from Hamburg may seem a little closed, but it’s only a trace from the North personality. Yes, people here are more contained, but very polite. When they become more open, you’ll see they are very gentle. And if you say you’re Brazilian, then, you’ll be sure to get a smile or a curious look: ‘wow, from Brazil!’.
- The Face of the North
Whenever you think of the German culture, it immediately comes to mind those Tyrolean clothes, the beer jug and pretzels. But all those elements are part from the culture of the South of the country. Not that you’re not going to find any of those things in Hamburg – after all, we are in Germany – but Hamburg has its own characteristics, other traditions. In so many centuries with people and ships arriving and leaving all the time, and the ‘free city’ status in the Middle Age, Hamburg became an opening place to the world, with a more cosmopolitan mentality, especially when it comes to commerce and development. In the City Hall, there are crests if hundreds of towns of all continents, from where Hamburg has had and still has commercial ties. There’s a reason that Hamburg’s slogan is ‘Tor zur Welt’, or ‘the gate to the world’.
- It’s the most beautiful city of the world!
Well, that’s how the residents of Hamburg tenderly call it. And why is it the most beautiful? That answer you’ll only get by asking, because each person has a different answer: the harbor, the contact with the water, the City Hall, the view of the city form the Saint Michael church tower… So many options. Or you can visit Hamburg to check ‘what the city has’. But the fact is: with so many enchantments (and so much self-esteem!), it’s impossible not to surrender to Hamburg’s charm.
*Information from the Tourism department of Hamburg.