It might be fair to call the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg a "sleeper" or a "dark horse" in the tourist destination game. While its name may not be as instantly recognized worldwide as its German counterparts Berlin and Munich, ask anybody who's been to Hamburg what the city has to offer and you'll receive an earful.
And there are a lot of people willing to give you that earful: Hamburg has Germany's fastest-growing tourist rate because it offers something for everyone. While many European cities have managed to brand (or be branded) in such a way that makes them very attractive to one or two types of travelers, versatile Hamburg offers a smorgasbord of attractions for different types of visitors from all over. If you're one of the five types of travelers listed below, consider booking a visit to "the Gateway to the World."
1. The Highbrow Traveler
You appreciate the finer things. You want to be engaged cerebrally and have your senses wowed. Lucky for you, Hamburg is home to Germany’s oldest public opera house, the Hamburg State Opera (Große Theaterstraße 25, 20354). The Elbe Philharmonic Hall (Am Kaiserkai, 20457), the most expensive concert hall in the world, opens this month. And perhaps it’s not high art, but who wouldn’t be delighted by Miniatur Wunderland (Kehrwieder 2-4/Block D, 20457) a massive warehouse full of miniature models and figures, including the largest model railway in the world?
2. The Bohemian Globe Trotter
Gritty and scruffy is more your style. You don’t want to stay in high-end chain hotels and experience a sanitized version of the city; you want to see a real city full of real people. Well, it doesn’t get any realer than the famous St. Pauli area of Hamburg. St. Pauli’s residents are famous for their edgy disposition, dedication to social causes and general cool factor. The famous red-light district, The Reeperbahn, and the raucous atmosphere of the Milerntor Stadion (Harald-Stender-Platz 1, 20359), FC St. Pauli’s home ground, embody the spirit of the neighborhood. And if you time it right, you can visit Hamburger Dom (Heiligengeistfeld, 20359), the eminently popular thrice-a-year carnival.
3. The Nature-Loving Urbanite
You visit cities, but a little begrudgingly. You appreciate culture and restaurants, but you’re most happy when surrounded by nature, so you’re always on the lookout for those serene, pastoral places within the urban uproar. For you, Hamburg offers Stadtpark (Hamburg-Nord, 22303
). Take a walk, check out the planetarium, and have a picnic or even a barbecue. Other Hamburg parks include Planten un Blomen (Jungiusstraße 1, 20355
) and Alsterpark (Harvestehuder Weg, 20149
). Hamburg’s most successful football club, Hamburger SV, plays in the giant, beautiful Volksparkstadion (Sylvesterallee 7, 22525
), ideal for a nice soccer-watching afternoon.
4. The Amateur Historian
To truly appreciate a city, you must know something of its history. You love learning (and talking) about the history of buildings and neighborhoods. Despite a massive fire that nearly destroyed the whole city in 1842, Hamburg managed to retain lots of its history. Check out any four impressive churches: St. Michel (Englische Planke 1, 20459
), St. Jacobi (Jakobikirchhof 22, 20095
), St. Petri (Bei der Petrikirche 2, 20095
) and St. Katharinen (Katharinenkirchhof 1, 20457
). Marvel at the splendid architecture of Hamburg Rathaus (Rathausmarkt 1, 20095
), the town hall, or Chilehaus (Fischertwiete 2, 20095
), and visit some the clubs that the Beatles played in before they became famous, including the Indra (Große Freiheit 64, 22767
) and the Kaiserkeller (Große Freiheit 36, 22767
). Note: These sites are good enough to entertain professional historians, too.
5. The People Person
You like to learn about a city by talking to its people. In Hamburg, whether you deplane at Hamburg Airport or detrain at Hauptbahnhof, central station (Hachmannplatz 16, 20099
), you will likely be greeted by helpful smiles. Take one of the many walking tours offered to get to know Hamburgers and their city. And if you tire of birnen, bohnen und speck (green beans cooked with pears and bacon) or rote grütze (a type of summer pudding made mostly from berries and usually served with cream), thanks to Hamburg’s diverse population you can find many Chinese, Thai and Indian restaurants. Cap it all off with a trip to Altona Fischmarkt (Große Elbstraße 1, 20000
), the fish market, to savor the hustle and bustle.
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