36 Hours In Hamburg.
Germany’s second city is a watery wonder, teeming with architectural marvels, restaurants and cultural charms, including a shimmering new concert hall.
Not only famous for it's culture but also the launch pad for The 4 Beatles, John, Paul, George, Ringo and the 5th Beatle, Pete Best all from my home town, LIVERPOOL.
As Germany’s largest port and traditional gateway to the world, Hamburg has always been outward-looking, but also self-possessed enough to keep its many charms and thriving cultural scene a relative secret. Hamburg may still be off the radar, but that is also what makes it a blank slate, a surprise gem, waiting to be explored.
Germany’s second city is a watery wonder, teeming with architectural marvels, restaurants and cultural charms, including a shimmering new Elbphilharmonie concert hall.
FRIDAY 1) 2 P.M. WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE
Hamburg is a city defined by its relationship with two bodies of water: the Elbe River, bringing cargo liners and cruise ships in from the North Sea, and Alster lake, which sits at its heart. The promenade on the southern edge of the lake, called Jungfernstieg, is the perfect introduction to Hamburg, with its stepped terrace rising from the waterfront toward a boulevard featuring elegant century-old department stores. Immediately adjacent is the imposing 19th-century neo-Renaissance Rathaus, or town hall; its tall clock tower looms over the Rathausmarkt, one of Hamburg’s main squares. Tours in English are offered a few times a day (€4, or about $4.75), but the entrance hall is free to enter and usually hosts an art or photography exhibition.
2) 4 P.M. LOCAL FASHION
The trendy Karoviertel area is home to many of Hamburg’s most acclaimed boutiques and clothing stores, as well as cool cafes and bars. Check out the locally designed fashions in Garment or go old school at Hot Dogs, a veritable museum of vintage sports clothes.
3) 7 P.M. EATING AND DRINKING, BOHEMIAN-STYLE
The bohemian vibe continues in the neighboring area known as the Schanzenviertel. A traditional working class district that has maintained a strong sense of identity despite creeping gentrification, it has a huge selection of cafes, bars and restaurants. If the weather is agreeable, get a table outside one of the restaurants – which range from Italian to Portuguese to Pakistani – on the plaza on Schulterblatt street, across from the Rote Flora theater, occupied by squatters since 1989.
Enjoy an authentically Italian if not quite Neapolitan-quality pizza at Il Cammino for a bargain €7.40. The plaza feels like a German version of St Mark’s Place, but perhaps is doing a better job of holding on to its soul.
After dinner, there is no shortage of bars to enjoy a local beer such as Astra or Ratsherrn, or a Hugo, the cocktail of choice in these parts, consisting of prosecco, elderflower, mint and occasionally a dash of gin. Atmospheric Saal II is a white-tiled salon that has barely changed in decades, and which fills with rising clouds of cigarette smoke and the rising sound's of conversation as the evening wears on.
4) 9 A.M. LAKESIDE
While tourists tend to explore Alster lake on one of the gentle cruises departing from Jungfernstieg, Hamburg residents use it as an exceptionally scenic exercise track, jogging or cycling through beautiful parks and leafy, exclusive neighborhoods.
The lake is made up of two parts — the smaller Binnenalster and the large expanse of the Aussenalster (literally, inner and outer Alster) — and functions as a sort of liquid Central Park, a restful enclave exhorting the restive city around it to relax. Get a city bike at one of the stands at Jungfernstieg (€5, free for the first 30 minutes), and traverse some of the most picturesque of Hamburg’s approximately 2,500 bridges — more than Amsterdam and Venice combined, or so the locals boast. Stop for a refreshment at the Alsterperle cafe on the northern edge of the lake for a striking view of the city skyline.
5) 11 A.M. BRICK EXPRESSIONISM
Stroll south through two areas that have been added to the list of Unesco World Heritage sites in recent years. The Kontorhausviertel, or office quarter, boasts the finest examples of Hamburg’s distinctive early 20th-century architectural style, known as brick expressionism: large red brick buildings with ornate facades. The most renowned is the Flatiron-style Chilehaus. Nearby, in the Speicherstadt, the old warehouse district, the rows of neo-Gothic, red brick buildings standing tall over canals are, in many ways, predecessors to the huge port that has grown up on the south side of the Elbe.
6) 1 P.M. THE NEW CONCERT HALL
Imperiously perched at the western tip of the gleaming new Hafencity — one of the largest urban regeneration projects in Europe — is the stunning Elbphilharmonie.
Designed by the Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron, it was dogged by controversy throughout its construction, which ran five years late and hundreds of millions of euro over budget, ultimately costing €789 million. However, the initial skepticism was quickly dispelled when it finally opened in January, the public christening it with an affectionate nickname, the Elphi, and all performances sold out for months in advance.
A sturdy old brick warehouse serves as the base to a soaring rippled glass structure that culminates in a crown of peaks resembling billowing circus tents. The juxtaposition of brick and glass, old and new, practically begs to be seen as a metaphor for Hamburg’s marriage of traditional and modern industries.
There are long queues to get to the viewing platform, but you can book online for a specific time (€2 booking fee), and there is limited availability on tours (€15) of the building and the extraordinary concert hall itself, a steeply tiered bowl with the orchestra pit at the base. While on the plaza level, stop by the Störtebeker cafe — the lunch menu ranges from smoked salmon sandwiches (€13.50) to steak tartare (€16.50) — and take in the views of the port.
7) 4 P.M. STEEL SAILBOAT
Walk along the new undulating walkway designed by the late Zaha Hadid that is taking shape on the banks of the Elbe, and visit the permanently docked Rickmer Rickmers (€5), a 121-year-old steel sailboat that gives a vivid impression of what life at sea was like for the generations of sailors who made fleeting visits to Hamburg.
8) 5 P.M. BEACH BARS AND CARGO SHIPS
From the floating piers at Landungsbrücken, take the 62 ferry west along the Elbe (€3.20 round-trip) for about 15 minutes until you reach Övelgönne, an old fishing village with a long stretch of sand. At the far end sits the lively Strandperle beach bar, where you can sip a drink while watching cargo ships being tended to by a row of giant cranes on the other side of the river. The sight of a container ship being gradually unloaded is oddly mesmerizing, a slow-moving choreography that offers a glimpse into the mechanics of global trade.
9) 8 P.M. SATE YOUR APPETITE
Adjacent to the Landungsbrücken is the Portugiesenviertel, a bustling hub of restaurants and cafes, most with a distinctly Portuguese character. The oldest and probably finest is Restaurante Porto, at the intersection of Ditmar-Koel-Strasse and Reimarusstrasse. It serves delicately grilled fresh fish and enough potatoes to satisfy the most voracious appetite (€18).
10) 10 P.M. WHERE THE BEATLES PLAYED
The thriving St Pauli district, and the local soccer club of the same name, encapsulates Hamburg’s alternative persona and countercultural spirit. Running through the area is the Reeperbahn, a long street that is simultaneously one of the world’s most notorious red light districts and also home to Germany’s biggest collection of musical theaters and an array of pulsing nightclubs.
Start with drinks at the Chug Club, a Mexican-themed venue, one of the pre-eminent cocktail bars in the city (drinks from €10.50), and then squeeze into Zum Silbersack, a classic, smoky kneipe, or tavern, for an Astra beer or two.
At the intersection where the Reeperbahn meets the most hedonistic party street of all, Grosse Freiheit, is Beatles-Platz. Here, life-size steel silhouettes of the Beatles commemorate the spell in the early 1960s when the group forged their sound in a number of venues on these streets, a reminder that this city’s raucous night life goes back a long way.
SUNDAY 11) 7:30 A.M. REVELRY AT DAWN
One of Hamburg’s distinctive traditions is the sprawling market that pops up at dawn every Sunday along the Elbe, by the gorgeous glass-roofed Altona Fischauktionshalle. This is where Hamburg’s night and day converge; alongside the loud entreaties from vendors selling everything from pike to pineapple, it is also a kind of after-hours club for all-night revelers.
12) 10 A.M. MINIATURE WONDERLAND
Touted as the world’s largest model railway (€13 for adults, €6.50 for children), Miniatur Wunderland is epic in both scale and creativity, spread over two floors of an old warehouse in the Speicherstadt. Regularly voted Germany’s most popular tourist attraction, the painstakingly detailed rail network is only part of the magic, as the tiny, and often hilarious little scenes catch the eye: abseiling monks, scuba-diving cows, little green aliens running amok at Area 51. It is a work of pure imagination that will delight and amaze everyone’s inner child. Like Hamburg itself, it is simultaneously beautiful, impressive and lots of fun.
WHERE TO STAY The Westin Hamburg opened last year and occupies 19 floors of the Elbphilharmonie, offering breathtaking views over the Hafencity and Elbe through the floor-to-ceiling glass bubble windows that ripple across the facade. Rooms start at €215 a night, and the decor subtly echoes the wavy design of the building, from the lampshades to the wallpaper.
Recently opened in the heart of the Schanzenviertel, August the Boardinghouse is a beautifully designed and compact apartment building nestled in a residential courtyard off Schulterblatt, at the very heart of Hamburg’s creative scene. One night’s accommodation in an apartment starts at €149 for two people.
So let Rainbow Travel plan a trip for you, experience the architecture and culture of present day as well as the musical past, follow in the footsteps of the famous Beatles gig venues, we know we operate Beatles Appreciation Trips, our founder is from Beatle City-LIVERPOOL!
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Thanks to David O'Dwyer, October 19, 2017