We had a long weekend at the end of April in the Netherlands and I decided to make full use of it to go on a city trip. Last year, I wanted to visit Hamburg but fell ill just before my trip, so I stayed at home instead. It was therefore easy to decide on where I wanted to go this time.
The train ride to Hamburg took me to Hengelo in the far east of the country, whereupon I had to take a bus to Bad Bentheim as the scheduled train leaving Hengelo for Osnabrück was brilliantly cancelled and only started its service in Bad Bentheim. From there I transferred at Osnabrück Hbf and travelled to my final destination of Hamburg Hbf.
The first two days of my trip were rainy. The weather wasn’t very nice to be honest and I’m glad I was warned beforehand that Hamburg is renowned for its terrible weather. That said, some having taken it upon themselves to depict Hamburg’s weather in perspective (interesting read but in German).
But then the weather cleared up and things got better.
The first thing you’ll notice while exploring Hamburg is that the city has really embraced its maritime heritage. You see this in the architecture and districts like the Hafencity and Speicherstadt. By the way, it’d be a shame to not see those two districts, so make visiting those a priority. St Pauli can wait in my opinion.
According to Hamburg’s tourism board, the Speicherstadt is ‘the world’s largest contiguous warehouse complex’. They’re not lying – it is a massive place. I recommend seeing it both during the day and at night, when lights illuminate certain architectural features of the buildings. I tried making photos of of the Speicherstadt at night but that didn’t go so well. I should practise night photography more.
Of course we shouldn’t also neglect a building that Hamburg has become (in)famous for: the Elbphilharmonie. Opened in January 2017, the concert hall’s glass façade has probably become one of the city’s defining features by now.
Usually in a European city you’ll find an old town, and perhaps a city centre close by built in more recent times, but buildings with beautiful modern architecture – if at all present – might be clustered somewhere farther away. (Bratislava, Vienna and Utrecht come to mind.) Hamburg is a city where this isn’t the case, and the proximity of classic and modern architecture lends it a unique feel in my opinion.
I spent a rainy day at the International Maritime Museum and I must say that I was suitably impressed with its exhibits. Do pay the museum a visit if you’re ever in the city! It’s great fun for everyone regardless of age. The scale models of ships, in particular, are something to look at because of the amount of detail that they have.
The museum is located in the HafenCity district of Hamburg, close to the Speicherstadt and not too far away from the Elbphilharmonie. Believe me when I tell you that there are plenty of photo opportunities in this part of town!
Just like the Maritime Museum you’ll find no lack of brick buildings to look at. If you’ve ever spent time in Amsterdam, Utrecht or some other Dutch city, you might find it interesting to compare and contrast the architectural style of those places with that of Hamburg. Personally I often think that brick is a boring construction material because it’s red and not much else. I forget, however, that there is no limit to the variety of shapes and patterns that one can use bricks to create.
Hamburg is also home to some of Germany’s most famous news publications. Below is the headquarters of Der Spiegel, located in the area of the main station. In another part of the city you might spot a building belonging to Die Zeit.
The city is wonderful to explore on foot. I enjoyed my time here a lot and wish I was able to see more more of it. But this isn’t a bad thing, because I now have a reason to visit the city again!
Furthermore, there are also other cities close by that one can travel to from Hamburg, such as Lübeck and Lüneburg. (In fact there will be a post about Lübeck in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!) And if you’re willing to travel a bit farther out, there is also Berlin. As such, large as the city is, one doesn’t have to be confined to it – there is much to see outside its limits too.
To conclude, if you’re into architecture and simply can’t live without rain, the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg might be for you. If you love eating fish and are secretly – or not-so-secretly – a bit of a rebel, you’ll find something to your liking in Hamburg.
But if you’re a huge football fan and want to watch a top team play – go to Munich instead.
See you next time!