Hamburg, a city full of surprises.
Hamburg is a lively, energetic city, able to adapt, change and go above and beyond, just like the rivers it was founded upon.
Despite being over 100 km from the sea, Hamburg is one of Europe’s most important commercial ports (and the second-largest city in Germany, after Berlin). This is because the River Elbe, which crosses through it, is wide enough to allow for the transit of large commercial ships. And perhaps thanks to its port-city qualities, Hamburg has its own way of capturing the hearts of visitors: unlike what one might expect from northern Europeans, Hamburgers are quite warm, welcoming and proud of their roots and traditions.
This local pride is easily seen in the architecture of one of the city’s most iconic monuments: the City Hall (or Rathaus). Completely rebuilt after the great fire of 1842, it cleverly blends neo-Renaissance elements with Gothic and Baroque influences, perfectly interpreting the proud character of the city.
The building’s 110-meter-high façade includes statues of twenty German emperors, while the imposing central tower rises above the Rathausmarkt, the city’s large, red brick central square.
Not far from the city hall and its marketplace, the Passagenviertel (also known as ‘The Passages’) is named after the numerous pedestrian arcades and galleries that characterise it, now a local attraction thanks to its countless boutiques and striking architecture.
Exploring the nearby streets on foot, visitors will soon reach another important local monument, St Michael’s Church (or Der Michel, as the locals call it), one of the finest Lutheran churches built in the northern European Baroque style. Since its construction, the 132-meter-high bell tower has been a point of reference for citizens and sailors crossing the Elbe, gracefully looking out over the entire city. To take in the incredible view from above, you can ‘climb’ its 500 steps or take a ride on the convenient lift.
However, the vibrant, cosmopolitan nature of Hamburg is only truly revealed through the nightlife along the Reeperbahn. This red-light district cropped up along the port to offer a number of ‘services’ to sailors, becoming a hub for artists and musicians over time. The Beatles got their start here in the early 1960s, and today this quarter is still a magnet for music fans and revellers on the hunt for rule-breaking entertainment.
Other local points of interests are the Jungfernstieg (‘maiden road’) and the Speicherstadt, the largest warehouse district in the world, now populated by shops and museums.