I love Hamburg. Ask me whether I prefer Berlin to Hamburg and I might have to think very carefully about that one. There's something very relaxing about being so close to the water, yet at the same time it doesn't feel like just another port town. Hamburg is a city with character, lots of it.
The last time I went to Hamburg it was -7° and we had to run from one eating establishment to the next with brief freezing interludes in the middle, despite that the city still intrigued me. So when the Hamburg council asked me if I fancied a trip to Hamburg I jumped at the chance to finally wander the streets in more balmy temperatures.
So what's there to see in Hamburg? Well, read on.
Head down to the pier and you'll find a myriad of boat tours to take you out into the harbour. We did a 'Grosse Hafenrundfahrt' that took us through the Speicherstadt and out through the locks into the harbour where we passed interesting buildings and massive cruise ships. If it's a sunny day it's worth taking an hour to get a real idea of all the work that's going on out in the harbour.
Ok, this place is legit amazing. I have to admit, I wanted to go here for an ironic tourist trip around the 'largest model railway in the world'. I didn't really expect anything beyond that. But take some time and really start to look at all the tiny people and the worlds these guys have created. The attention to detail is very impressive. Make sure you press the button at the miniature Lindt chocolate factory too! ...and keep an eye out for the flasher. Be sure to book your tickets ahead of time.
Speicherstadt & Elbphilharmonie
Once you've had your fill of miniature worlds then head out and take a wander around the Speicherstadt, the literal translation is 'Warehouse town or district' which describes it pretty well. With the buildings going straight down into the canals they're the prettiest warehouses I've seen in a long time.
As you get closer to the Landungsbrücke you'll notice a strangely beautiful building dominating the sky. This is the Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg's new concert house which will be opening at the beginning of next year.
There's a tunnel that runs under the river Elbe. Wait a minute, I hear you say, that doesn't sound very exciting! It's true, it's not the most exciting tunnel and I certainly wouldn't bother going up the other side to do a bit more adventuring. What makes it interesting is the beautiful building it's housed in on the Landungsbrücke side. Don't take the lift, instead head to the left and down the stairs and watch the car lifts going up and down. It's also nice taking a little wander down the tunnel knowing that there's a mass of water above you.
We didn't make it to Alster Lake this time round but last time we had a delightfully cold walk around a bit of this lake as the edges started to freeze over. Apparently in the summer you can go rowing on the lake and there's some great walks. If you go, let me know what it's like!
Hamburger Kunsthalle - This is one of the largest art galleries in the country. It has 700 years worth of art so there's a little something for everyone's taste. This sheltered us from the freezing cold last time and for that we'll be eternally grateful.
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg - Our final day in Hamburg was pretty rainy so we spent a couple of hours wandering around the MK&G museum. It's an intriguing mix of art, design, crafts and objects. We saw a great exhibition on Japanese pop culture since 1680 - Hokusai x Manga.
Deichtorhallen - This place is on my list for my next visit. I haven't managed to go there yet but it looks great. Have you been? Let me know in the comments.
St. Pauli is the trendy area of Hamburg full of nice bars, cool shops and good coffee. It's also the home of the famous Reeperbahn, Hamburg's nightlife and red-light district and subject of Tom Waits' song which always gets stuck in my head as I cross this street. Wander around this area and discover it for yourself.
With this list there will be plenty for you to see and do now. Know of other interesting places? I'd love to hear them. Of course, between all this sightseeing you'll have to make time to eat and drink so come back next week for more tips.