Devastated by WWII bombing raids, Germany’s second city plays to its strengths offering a thoroughly livable city filled with culture, architecture, food and activities.
By Leah Larkin
Move over Berlin and Munich. Make room for Hamburg. Germany’s second city and largest port is moving way up on the popularity scale with both Germans and tourists.
Its maritime ambience is captivating. Seagulls squawking. Ship horns groaning. Sailboat spinnakers ballooning on lakes where swans glide. Water is seldom out of sight.
Hamburg is located 65 miles from the North Sea, but is set around the shores of two lakes, the Binnenalster (inner Alster) and Aussenalster (outer Alster). Three rivers: the Elbe, the Alster and the Bille, traverse the city, as well as narrow canals, more than in Venice. And bridges—Hamburg has more than any city in the world.
“Hamburg is fantastic. It has a very different flair. It is not like other parts of Germany,” said friend Ortrud who comes from Neuss in northern Germany. “The water, the big ships—all make a very special impression.”
We saw lots of big ships, huge cargo craft from all over the world and more, on our harbor cruise, our initiation to Hamburg during our visit last September. These hour-long boat trips with commentary (lots of fascinating facts about the city) are a leisurely and informative introduction to the city. To discover more of Hamburg, debark from the boat and board one of the bright red hop-on, hop-off buses lined up near the harbor for an on-land overview. Both tours offer stunning views of Hamburg’s newest, glittering attraction, the Elbphilharmonie concert hall which has become a magnet for visitors to the city (see German Life December/January 2018). It is an architectural masterpiece with its spectacular design by architects Herzog & de Meuron. Tickets to performances in its Grand Hall, which places the orchestra and conductor in the center surrounded by terraced seating, are in great demand.