The dynamic city of Hamburg is not only the second biggest city in Germany, it is home to one of the biggest ports in Europe and has a well-earned place as the wealthiest city in the country. Perched on the banks of the majestic River Elbe, the free and Hanseatic city is situated just over 100km away from the North Sea and boasts a booming population of a whopping 1.8 million residents.
Map of Germany
The long-time international socialite of Germany, the city has always strived for independence, and has long been known as one of the most vibrant and successful international ports, trading successfully since the middle ages; proving to itself and the world of its ability to continue to be a tenacious achiever in its own right, and proudly touting the nickname of Boomtown Hamburg.
Today, the city is perched on the fringes of what is now one of the most valued and important harbours in all of Europe and has resolutely built a status that has managed to flourish through much adversary and devastation. Notwithstanding the major business background, the city is also the home to the vivaciously beating heart of the German media world.
Sprawling mansions, opulent villas and expansive townhouses are evidence of its wealth and stature as history dictates it, despite large parts of the city being destroyed in the air raids that devastated many parts of Germany in the Second World War. Much of the heritage has been restored to its former glory as the city was rebuilt, and historic buildings and architecture are a testament to the pride the citizens take in their incredible city.
The city just oozes charm as students and media executives rub shoulders with the super wealthy, and the city has managed to put itself into a class all on its own.
Best Time to Go
Germany itself has a decent climate all year round, making it the perfect destination for every type of traveller to visit. And because of Hamburg’s close proximity to the ocean, it is a destination that will suit those visitors who don’t really deal with the cold and snow in the winter, as it has a more oceanic climate. The weather is generally mild all year round, and snow is rare. Although the summer months of June, July and August are hotter than the rest of the year, you don’t get the soaring temperatures as you would say in Munich.
It rains for more than half the year, with averages of 130 days of rainfall recorded annually. But summer temperatures a cool and mild with highs reported no much more than around 21°C (70°F) during the peak of summertime.
Summer is the best time to go would be between the months of May and September, but be prepared to pay seasonal prices for everything. Hotels and air fares are sky high and there are queues to get into everything.
If you are not a fan of crowds, then fall would be the best time to go; the crowds have died down a bit and the prices are not so steep. December, January and February are cold, but Christmas sees a tourist boom as people flock into the city for the festive season. Even so, don’t think you can leave a winter holiday booking to the last minute, this is Hamburg, and it is always busy.
Getting Around in Hamburg
Being in Germany, Hamburg has an excellent public transport system; everything is on time and works like clockwork. There is a fantastic bus and train network that for the most part has service right throughout the night, especially on weekends. During the week in the outlying areas, you may find that there is no service after 11pm, so you would just need to check before you hop on.
The buses arrive and leave from the Rathausmarkt which is near the town hall and there is a special nachtbus or night bus service that will cover the service between the outlying areas and the center of the city. You can get tickets from the vending machines at the train stations and there are some at the bus stops as well. The bus drivers are very helpful and knowledgeable and will tell you which kind of ticket that you need to buy in case you are not sure. For visitors, the Hamburg Card is very handy, as it includes entrance to museums, sights and the public transport system and can be bought from all the bus drivers and ticket offices.
Public transport is very busy before 9am and between 4pm and 7pm; it is more comfortable for tourists to plan your day around those times. Bicycles are a very popular way to get around the city, especially during the summertime. Bike rental shops are all over the city and some hotels offer the facility too. Dedicated bike lanes make it simple to navigate your way around on your own, but maps are available from the tourist information centers.
Major Attractions and Sights
Miniatur Wunderland, is the world’s largest model railway and is broken up into 5 distinctive sections. You can see the breathtaking, miniature landscapes of Hamburg, America, Switzerland, Southern Germany, the German coast, the Alps and Scandinavia. There are working mechanized ships on real water, complete with a fully functional airport display with airplanes that can fly.
The Hamburg Zoo is a privately owned family zoo that was started in the early 1900s by Carl Hagenbeck Jnr, in his time a prominent wild animal merchant and trader. There is an entire rainforest, sea and desert in the zoo’s colossal troparium. There is a dolphin show, plenty of places to eat, lots of playgrounds for kids and enough to keep an entire family busy for the day.
Speicherstadt is an historic area that was used as a warehouse district, and when the ships used to come into port and offload their cargo the district was heaving with aromatic spices, silks and coffee. Unfortunately there are not tours through the inside of the buildings, but the experience and ambience of the district is worth the trip.
Planten un Blomen is a delightful park that is a favorite among visitors to the city. The summer time is obviously the best time to go and visitors can enjoy water, light and music shows. In winter they open an ice rink. The park is absolutely beautiful and perfect for a day’s outing with the kids.
The Rathaus (Town Hall) is bigger than Buckingham Palace, and this colossal town hall is one of the most popular sights in the entire city. A tour through this stunning historical landmark takes almost an hour and is worth every minute. The opulence, lavish interiors and majestic state rooms were inspired by the Piazza San Marco in Venice.
The Hamburg Dungeon is a must see for anybody out for a bit of a thrill, although perhaps not suitable for younger children as the adventure could be quite scary. A theme tour and grizzly presentations, demonstrate most graphically the darker, foreboding times of the city of Hamburg. Be whisked away into time and experience floods, fires and executions.
Chilehaus is an architectural feat of genius, and the brain child of architect Fritz Hoger who was commissioned to build it for a wealthy merchant. Brown bricked, the Chilehaus has been designed to resemble that of a massive ocean liner, complete with terraced balconies fashioned to look like decks, and was built in 1942.