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Hamburg City Guide

Venice, German-Style

by André Gayot

A sailing boat on the Inner Alster and the Alster shopping arcade in Hamburg, Germany
A sailing boat on the Inner Alster and the Alster shopping arcade

With its active (since the Hanseatic era) commercial and intellectual life, the second-largest city in Germany — but the richest in the country — produces half of the German press, and is a gateway to the world for the export of “Made in Germany” products. Surprisingly, so far it had little impact on the international scene with its modest image. Hamburg is changing and wants to show its power and many charms, beginning with its location among the meanders of the Elbe River that forms a lake right in its centre, the Alster.

The Hamburg Kunsthalle (Art Museum), the second most important art museum in Germany, displays seven centuries of artistic creation in three different buildings of different eras. Creation never stops. Visible are the transformation of architecture, the evolution of music, clothing and life in general. A group of young musicians dubbed The Beatles played here leaving traces of a new music. In the Karolinenviertel quarter, studios and workshops produce new clothes and artwork, while in St. Pauli the soccer club uses the ball to transform mentalities and fight racism, homophobia and sexism.

Hamburg's port and jetties in St. Pauli in the evening. The city is know as the Venice of Germany.
Hamburg's port and jetties in St. Pauli in the evening

Hamburg, the “Venice of Germany,” built itself around the ramifications of the Elbe river arms. In the quarter of Speicherstadt, nineteenth-century brick warehouses plant their feet in the river that licks their flanks. Iranian rugs and precious oriental spices have given way to offices. Continuing, we hit the gigantic harbor in the process of renovation and transformation. In HafenCity, a town within the town, the old docks are modernized and converted into new structures. Construction of the vast urban development project is expected to be completed in 2012. A gigantic ice cube, conceived by the architects of the Beijing National Stadium, sits on top of a former cocoa warehouse. It’s perhaps a sign that Europe is not ready to abandon the vision of the future to China. The Reeperbahn, the infamous red light district where sailors back from sea used to look for carnal comfort, has lost its notoriety, remaining like an anecdote from the days of the sail ships.

Hamburg heads to the future and changes its mentality.


Hamburg, with a metropolitan population of 4.3 million citizens, is home to more than 500 industrial companies and is the third largest port in Europe. Despite this strong CO2-generating activity, it was selected as the European Green Capital for 2011. It has achieved the highest environmental standards such as the building of huge retention basins to recuperate rainfall, inducing citizens to reduce their water consumption, recycling litter and waste and reinforcing public transportation, mostly with trams. The millions of containers passing through Hamburg are carried in or out mostly on rail rather than via polluting trucks.


Fairmont Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten Hamburg
Neuer Jungfernstieg 9-14

An elegant, Euro-style grand hotel located on the shore of the Inner Alster Lake. Founded in 1897, it was renovated in 2010.

SIDE Hotel Hamburg
Drehbahn 49
49 40 30 99 90
Near the Alster and the shopping district and offering modern design.

Sofitel Hamburg Alter Wall
Alter Wall 40 
49 40 36 95 00

French sensibilities meet Hanseatic style at this elegant hot
el, which offers a spa and its own jetty. Enjoy an Alster canal view from the bar.

Steigenberger Hotel Hamburg
Heiligengeistbrücke 4
49 40 36 80 60
Located in the heart of the city and on the Alster waterways, Steigenberger Hotel Hamburg offers one of the top stays in town.


Steigenberger Hotel Treudelberg
Lemsahler Landstrasse 45
49 40 60 82 20
Located outside of Hamburg in the nature preservation area of Alstertal.


Café Paris
Rathausstrasse 4
49 40 32 52 77 77
Enjoy a taste of France in the heart of Hamburg.

CARLS an der Elbphilharmonie
Am Kaiserkai 69
49 40 30 06 01 90
A brasserie in HafenCity with a wink to music and musicians next to the Elbphilarmonie.

Hein-Hoyer-Strasse 7-9
49 40 31 46 42
Unpretentious, huge portions, nice Wienerschnitzel.

Reeperbahn 75
49 40 80 79 94 48
In the middle of the red light district, Lucullus pays tribute to German charcuterie.

Neuer Pferdemarkt 5-6
49 40 43 97 82 3
Fresh products in a cozy ambience

River Kasematten
St. Pauli Fischmarkt 28-32
49 40 30 06 01 90
Seafood in the dock area.

Neumühlen 17
49 40 89 27 60
Beautiful view on the docks.

<< Previous | Next


Intro: East Germany, a Luminous Past and Thriving Present
Hamburg: Venice, German-Style
Lübeck: City of Steeples, Scribes and Marzipan
Wismar: A Walk in Medieval Times
Stralsund: Created by the Sea and for the Sea
Leipzig: Where the Fall of Communism Originated
Dresden: Devastation and Reconciliation
Berlin: A Phoenix on the Rise

* Both Hamburg images by Rainer Kiedrowski, courtesy of the German National Tourist Board

(Updated: 10/17/12 CT)

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