Hamburg, located in Northern Germany is one of the world’s most famous port cities and the harbour is the second busiest in Europe. The rich and beautiful move away from the capital and praise this city for its multicultural community, easy-going vibes and it’s openness to everything new and interesting. It was one the main cities belonging to the famous medieval Hanseatic League, a commercial and defensive alliance of merchant guilds and trade cities in North-West and Central Europe. It paved the path of Hamburg’s reputation of a liberal and tolerant city. It was always a magnet for artists, musicians and all kinds of laid-back individuals and even the Beatles moved here in the early 60s to make their first steps to worldwide fame. Nowadays it’s even better, the city is experiencing an economic boom, tourists and students flock over from all over the world to work, study and live the good life in this vibrant port. Young urban professions are sipping a glass of wine in one of the fashionable bars at the artificial beaches along the riverside.
In another – less glamorous – part of the city girls from Eastern Europe try to make a living by working at the Reeperbahn, Hamburg’s red light district in the St. Pauli district. Fishermen are unloading fresh catch during the early mornings to the backdrop of tall warehouses being adapted to modern, spacious lofts. All that and much more makes a part of the joys the city has to offer. It is remarkable how easy and fast the city always recovered from tragedies and disasters. One-third of its area was completely destroyed by The Great Fire in 1842. And after World War 2 only half of its homes were left standing, the port was in ruins. But they did not stick to bitching and whining. I find this drive to rebuild and improve amazing in Germans. And especially the people in Hamburg seem to have special talent for this resilience; the power to bounce back.
As for the interesting sights Hamburg isn’t lying behind other German cities either. The Old Town is a tourist staple, and the port and the world-famous Red Light District are all worth seeing. When in Hamburg be sure to visit the Speicherstadt or City of Warehouses, a World Heritage Site build at the end of the 19th century. It is typical an area you can explore by foot or boat and you will be astonished by the warehouses in a gracious neo-gothic style, all in red brick and standing on oak piles. Some of them have been transformed into luxurious lofts and apartments, while others are still fitting to their original purpose of storing spices, coffee, thee and other imported trade goods. A visit to Speicherstadt can be perfectly combined with HafenCity is a new area at the waterfront of the Elbe river, opened in 2008. This district, partly created on new land taken from the Elbe, is packed with innovative and cutting-edge building that fulfil the city’s urgent need for new homes and working places. There you will also find the newly build Elbphilharmonie concert hall, which was opened in 2017. Have a look at its stunning glassed façade consisting of around 1,000 curved windows which looks like waves or the sails of a ship, or like some say: a quartz crystal. Do not moss out the opportunity to go to the rooftop and visit Plaza, an observation deck and glossy café.
Arts lovers can probably spend a whole day in the renowned Kunsthalle, located nearby the Hauptbahnhof, tucked in between the Binnenalster and Außenalster. Kunsthalle has one the richest collections of Germany and even Europe including works of Goya, Rembrandt, Rubens, Manet, Degas, Gauguin, Klee, Picasso, Bacon, Warhol, Bacon and of course the German genius (my words) Joseph Beuys. So matter if you are into old masters pieces, 19th century paintings or more contemporary art you will definitely find what you like. If you are tired of the city hectic and need to fill your lungs with some fresh air, head over to Planten un Blomen, one of Europe’s most famous parks which has a unique style of its own had to make a list of Europe’s best urban parks. Main attractions in the almost 50 hectares of gardens, greenhouses and ponds are the colourful musical fountain and the Old Botanical Garden, raised on the foundations of the old city walls. Especially when it is cold and rainy you can spend more time inside by exploring the five inter-connected greenhouses such as the Schaugewächshaus with vegetation from the Mediterranean regions and the Kakteenhaus, housing many cactuses and other plants from desert climates.
After a lazy and relaxing day in the green you can prepare yourself for a wild night out in St. Pauli, Hamburg’s edgy and rebellious district situated east of the centre and descending to the Elbe. St. Pauli is famous for the Reeperbahn, the legendary red light district, packed with strip clubs, red windows and porn shops. But is also home to FC St. Pauli, a football club, which has acquired a real cult status in and outside Germany. Its rebellious character is symbolized by the black flags carrying a skull and cross-bones and the fans are a weird mix of left-wing activists, punks, intellectuals, anarchists, students, harbour workers and even prostitutes. The big rival is the Hamburger SV (HSV), the much more elite and richer club of the city. This so called Traditionsverein (traditional club) has relegated recently to the second league which was big news in Germany because it was the only club which always played Bundesliga; Germany’s first football league. It even had a famous digital clock in its stadium, which was proudly and provocative showing the time since the club was playing in the Bundesliga. Obviously the clock needed to be reset and stopped ticking. But on a more positive side: the notorious city derby matches between FC St. Pauli and HSV are back in town!
The Reeperbahn will be associated forever with The Beatles who played their first gigs outside of the UK in some dodgy basement bars on the Reeperbahn. The first performances were in the Indra Musikclub, which still exists and enjoys its cult-status by becoming a pilgrimage for hard-core Beatles fans. In those days the band was instructed to play hard and fast to reduce the chance the gigs would be interrupted by fights of drunken people, which was very common during concerts those days. The Hamburg period of the Beatles lasted from August 1960 to December 1962; it boosted their performance skills and established the reputation of the “Fab Four”. The first recording of the Beatles ever released was the single "My Bonnie" which was recorded in Hamburg. Pretty soon after their first single they signed a contract with manager Brian Epstein and we all know how the story continued.