There are many cities that claim the title ‘Venice of the North’, from Amsterdam and Stockholm to Bruges and St. Petersburg. Although all beautiful in their own way, no city however boasts a stronger claim than the free and Hanseatic city Hamburg. Indeed, as the number of bridges in Hamburg outnumbers these of any other European city, Hamburg is arguably more Venetian than Venice itself!
The city of Hamburg and water are closely connected. Situated along the river Elbe, Hamburg was a founding member of the early modern Hanseatic trade league. International trade allowed Hamburg to thrive, and it is no wonder that the city still prides itself on its maritime past. And the past is not merely in the past: walking along the shores of the Elbe you will see a great many impressive ships from all corners of the world visiting Germany’s main harbour city.
The Landungsbrücke area is the perfect starting point for any Hamburg trip. Paying a fortune for a harbour boat trip is possible, but not necessary. From Landungsbrücke public ferries take you to different ends of the harbour, making for a lovely introduction to the city. From the boat you will have a great view of the Elbphilharmonie, the Hamburg equivalent of the Sydney Opera House. On your return you can follow Kaiser Wilhelm II’s foot steps in the Old Elbe Tunnel across the water or eat a local fish dish at one of the many restaurants. It’s only a stone’s throw to the Scandinavian Seaman’s churches or the UNESCO heritage site Speicherstadt, where you can admire the former warehouses. Although many are now offices, one hosts the most amazing coffee house in town.
And although the Elbe is Hamburg’s main water, it is by no means the only one. Most picturesque are the Inner and Outer Alster, two large artificial lakes in the Hamburg city centre. On a nice Sunday afternoon you will find hundreds of people jogging, strolling around, picnicking or merely enjoying a peaceful escape from busy city life with a good book. Walking around the Outer Alster will take you a good two hours, but stops for a snack on the way are prevalent. Just that you know: good German fashion is eating ice cream at any time of the year, and you might as well follow their example.. if only for integration purposes!
Hamburg is by no means a poor city, but the real rich and famous live in Blankenese, to the west of the city center. When the weather is nice the walk back from Blankenese via Altona is magnificent. Admire the pretty houses that you will never be able to afford, away from the hustle and bustle of Hamburg-Mitte. Although days that the temperature rises over 25 degrees are relatively rare here, on these rare occasions you can find all of Hamburg on the Elbstand or city beach in Blankenese. Blankenese too far out of town for you? Alternatively, any of the Landungsbrücke beach clubs will do just as fine for a relaxing afternoon. From Stand Pauli to Hamburg del Mar, whenever there is sunshine there are people!
And if, after all this water, you still haven’t had enough of all the water there is still plenty for you left to do. From visiting the old water filtration plant and the Maritime and Harbour Museums to boarding actual ships and even an old Russian u-boat (highly recommended, that’s super cool!), water is never far away when visiting Hamburg.
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