Hamburg Travel: Hamburg Harbour Area, Alster, Reeperbahn, St. Michaelis and Beyond

With its 1.8 million inhabitants, Hamburg is the second largest city in Germany and the eighth largest city in the European Union.  It is located in the centre of northern Germany, on the shores of the Elbe River. As a major transportation hub, Hamburg is an important economic and industrial centre in Germany. Moreover, with its abundant attractions and unique events, Hamburg entertains guests all year around. Hamburg is a major cultural hub as well, with 60 theatres, more than 100 music clubs, around 60 museums, and numerous recording studios. More than 10,000 independent artists reside in Hamburg. If you plan to travel to Hamburg, you should try to visit the city between May and October, because then you will enjoy the best weather in Hamburg.

Detail of Hamburg's City Hall
Detail of Hamburg’s City Hall (image by {a href=”” target=”_blank”}Joerg Moellencamp{/a})

Main attractions:

  • Hamburg Harbour: As one of the main business centres of Germany, the Hamburg port and its shipping industry play an essential role in Hamburg’s economy. It is the largest port in Germany, and one of Europe’s most important transshipment ports. Not surprisingly, the city’s nickname is “Gate to the World”. In 2008, almost 10 million containers were transferred there. Apart from its economic significance, visitors of the port area can enjoy the view of the historic Landungsbrücke (literally translated: “landing bridge”) and its terminal building, which was built from volcanic tuff in the 19th century. From the Landungsbrücke, you can also take a ferry to enjoy “The Lion King” in the Theater im Hafen (Theatre in the Harbour).
  • Around the Alster Lake: The Alster Lake in the city’s centre is the heart and soul of Hamburg. It is divided into two parts: the Inner and Outer Alster Lakes, with a circumference of 7.6 km. Tree-lined boulevards along the blue and crystal-clear lake entice countless joggers, walkers and cyclists to enjoy the lake. Make sure to visit Hamburg City Hall, which is located directly beside the Inner Alster Lake. Hamburg’s City Hall was built in the 19th century in the neo-Renaissance style and boasts numerous monuments that record Hamburg’s storied history.
  • Hamburg’s Reeperbahn: This colourful area is located in the St. Pauli district and is one of the world’s best known red light districts. This 900 meter long street, which started to take shape at the beginning of 17th century, is home to 450 restaurants, 3 pub bar and discos, 6 theaters and 22 casinos. Particularly during weekends, this area booms with business and attracts visitors of all ages.
  • The Warehouse District (“Speicherstadt” in German) features red brick buildings that are over a 100 years old and make up the world’s largest warehouse district. Built in the late 1800s, these multi-story buildings have unusual turrets, irregular gables and arches and all sorts of interesting architectural details. They were originally constructed to hold commodities such as coffee, rum, tobacco, spices and dried fruit, mechanical implements and oriental carpets. Many carpet dealers are still located here. Today this area also holds various museums, including the Warehouse District Museum, the Customs Museum and the Spice Museum.
  • Hamburg’s Fish Market is renowned for its fresh seafood and other treats from around the world. For more than 300 years now fish has been sold in Hamburg’s iconic Fish Market. The famous Fish Auction Hall was completed in 1896 and is reminiscent of an ancient Roman market hall. Threatened by demolition years ago, today the Fish Auction Hall is one of the main attractions in this area.
  • St. Michaelis Church, also affectionately called “Michel” by the locals, is one of Hamburg’s main Protestant churches and the most famous landmark of Hamburg. It is located close to the Reeperbahn, on the southwest side of Hamburg.  It was founded in the 17th century and is crowned by a 132 meter high steeple. With its ornate decoration and Italian marble pulpit, St. Michaelis is the most famous and important Baroque style church in Northern Germany. In addition, it features the largest church bell in Germany. When it tolls, you can even hear it as far away as the Outer Alster Lake, in the northeastern section of Hamburg.
The "Michel" in Hamburg
The “Michel” in Hamburg (image by {a href=”” target=”_blank”}riko.jennrich{/a})
  • Miniatur Wunderland is one of Hamburg’s most popular attractions: the world’s largest model railroad exhibit features 12 kilometres of tracks and features areas such as Hamburg, Germany’s Harz region, Austria and the Alps, Switzerland, Scandinavia and Switzerland. The exhibit keeps growing and currently includes 890 trains and 200,000 human figurines. Additional sections representing places like England, France, Italy and Africa are planned for the future.
  • The Emigration Museum in Ballinstadt traces back the fate of more than 5 million people who emigrated from Hamburg to the New World between 1850 and 1939. For those wanting to do genealogical research, original passenger lists and the world’s largest genealogical database will enable them to trace back their family tree.
Hamburg's Reeperbahn
Hamburg’s Reeperbahn (image by {a href=”” target=”_blank”}keinepanik{/a})

Main events:

  • Hamburg Harley Days: Every year, at the end of June, Hamburg hosts the hugely popular Harley Days. During this three-day festival, thousands of Harley Davidson riders from all over the world get together in Hamburg to exhibit their treasured motorcycles. You can admire the Harley drivers and their carefully maintained and styled motorcycles, and also enjoy music played by many well-known bands, particularly Rock’n Roll, Country-Western and Cowboy music bands. Harley Days have become one of Hamburg’s most popular events.
  • Harbour Birthday Hamburg: If you come to Hamburg at the beginning of the May, you should not miss the Hamburg Harbour Birthday. The Port of Hamburg can look back over 820 years of history. During this festival, you can watch cruise ships, frigates and steamboats along the Elbe River. Make sure to catch the most impressive views from the ships and spoil yourself with typical north German food—Fishbrötchen (German style bread rolls with herring, crab and different ingredients).
  • Dextro Energy Triathlon: The world-famous Dextro Energy Triathlon takes place every year during the summer season in Hamburg. Top athletes from across the world come to Hamburg and show off their best skills in this championship competition. The swimming competition takes place at the Inner Alster Lake, while the running and cycling races take place along the Elbe River and the entire City. Thousands of sports fans and visitors come to Hamburg to attend this extraordinary world- class competition and experience the enthusiasm and the exciting atmosphere.
  • Hamburg’s Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival is celebrated every year on May 19th and is organized by the Japanese Community of Hamburg. This festival is known for its breathtaking fireworks.
Hamburg's Fischauktionshalle
Hamburg’s Fischauktionshalle (image by {a href=”” target=”_blank”}Frank Hamm{/a})

Travel tips:

  • Accommodations:

Many fashionable hotels are located around the Alster  Lake, such as the Fairmont Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten (Four Seasons), Hotel SIDE Hamburg, and Hotel Hafen Hamburg. These establishments offer outstanding customer amenities, such as spas, fitness clubs, upscale restaurants, and even babysitting services. But if you are a backpacker, you can also find some affordable youth hostels which are very clean and cozy in Hamburg.

  • Transportation:

You can take a train to Hamburg from virtually every city in Germany. For example: Travel time from Munich (800 kilometer south of Hamburg) to Hamburg is 6 hours, whereas from Berlin (300 kilometer east of Hamburg)  you’ll need just 2.5 hours. Germany provides its travelers with one of the world’s best and most efficient railway and subway systems. Hamburg’s public transit is reliable, speedy and convenient and serves many thousands of tourists every day. Hamburg airport is conveniently connected with the city via a 30 minute train ride.

With its charming harbor, its cosmopolitan urban culture and boundless activities, Hamburg definitely is worth a visit. Your holiday in Hamburg will be a memorable experience for a lifetime.

The Alster River in Hamburg
The Alster River in Hamburg (image by {a href=”” target=”_blank”}MarBu{/a})

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Here are our personal travel adventures in Berlin.
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