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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrThe first thing you notice about Hamburg, beside the fact that it's very green, both literally and figuratively, is its ambitious architecture - a clash between industrial buildings and modern style. Many of the buildings used to be factories, the 19th-century steampunk-like red bricks colossi which now make an attraction in itself, were kept in perfect shape. The alternation happens smoothly though, with each side of a street or river belonging to one style, and gives a feeling of a hybrid world without being kitschy.
HistoryAfter becoming the seat of the prince-bishop and later united with the bishopric of Bremen in the 9th century, Hamburg was the theater of many successive battles and occupations. Starting with the Viking invasions, and then the Polish conflict in the 11th century, turmoil never ceased to fall on Hamburg until 1350, when decimation culminated due to the Black Plague, with over 60% of the population dead.
In the 12th century, Hamburg acquired the status of “Free City of the Holy Roman Empire”, and with the tax-free access into the North Sea, it quickly became one of the major harbors in Northern Europe.
In the 15th century, the city saw its first constitution, and in the next century it embraced Lutheranism with many Reform refugees coming to establish themselves here from France, Netherlands, and Portugal.
At the beginning of the Thirty Years' War , the city was refortified, and the New Town took birth, the street names of which still date to this day.
After the fall of the empire, Hamburg became a city state, and besides Napoleon's occupation, it remained so until it was annexed in the German Empire.
In 1842, the Great Fire of Hamburg, which lasted for 4 days, wrecked a quarter of the city, destroying many administrative buildings and leaving about 20,000 people without homes. Restoration took over 40 years, and in its wake, Hamburg knew its most accelerated growth, not only as population, which reached 800,000, but also economically. This is when Hamburg became the second-largest port in Europe. Besides worldwide shipping lines, the harbor was also a hub of immigrants departing to the United States.
The plague hit Hamburg again at the end of the 19th century, when cholera ravaged the city causing almost 9,000 victims.
During World War II, the city was devastated by Allied bombing, and three neighborhoods were quite literally burned to the ground following a firestorm.
Since the German reunification in 1990, the Port of Hamburg has once again become the largest harbor in the region for major commercial trade and shipping.
Hamburg Town HallThe Hamburg Town Hall is an attraction in itself and probably a pleasure to work in even if just for the looks alone. At first sight, you wouldn't believe it is actually functional, looking more like a museum than an administrative building, but the mayor comes to office every day in this building of 647 rooms, which dominates the city center in great contrast with the Hanseatic style of the rest of its surroundings.
The Fish MarketDating since 1703, the Fish Market became a landmark of Hamburg, retaining the traditions and old time's fresh morning moods of German merchants. Despite the name, you can find mostly anything here, from ceramic to fruits and even birds. It's worth the visit even if you don't buy anything, and a special attraction here is the breakfast in the fish auction hall in the pleasant ambiance of jazz and country music.
SpeicherstadtSpeicherstadt is the largest complex of warehouse buildings in the world. This is where the red bricks industrial structures guard the sides of the canals, making up a truly unique district with a Victorian atmosphere. Located in the Freihafen, right between Baumwall and Deichtorhallen, the district offers the best view at night, when the 19th-century Wilhelmine brick scenery is fully lit by the 800 spotlights that complete the eerie industrial feel. The canals can be explored either by boat or by foot, according to the tide.
Port of HamburgThe world's second-largest port offers a unique attraction: the immigrant community at Ballinstadt offers everyone the chance to track their descendants who departed to the New World between 1850 and 1939. This is also the place where you can book a ship cruise on the Elbe , and visit the nearby maritime museum.
JungfernstiegFor the locals, Jungferstieg is not only the central promenade, but it bears a rather traditional significance: this is the place where unmarried daughters (Jungfern) were introduced for betrothal on Sundays. The Inner Alster and the surroundings give a very homey feeling and it is still a very convenient place for dates and small shopping.
St. Michaelis ChurchSurrounded by a history as tumultuous as Hamburg's, after being destroyed and rebuilt three times in three centuries, the St. Michaelis Church tower platform, 106 meters tall, offers a breathtaking view of the city, the harbor, and most importantly, the surrounding countryside. The view is mostly magnificent at night, and the panorama is enhanced by the classical music in the background, making this visit the very top, both literally and figuratively.
ShoppingThe main shopping area of Hamburg is situated in the city center close to the Binnenalster. The stores will attract glances from the renowned Mönckebergstraße or the Jungfernstieg area, and as you stroll along, you will inevitably reach the popular pedestrian areas, such as Colonnaden, Neuer Wall, or Alsterarkaden.
When it comes to shopping malls, you don't want to miss the Europa Passage, a colossal, arch-shaped complex with no less than 120 stores covering five storeys. It is open from 10 AM until 8 PM, from Mondays to Saturdays. Other shopping malls can also be found in the central area of Levantehaus, Mellin-Passage (found within the Alsterarkaden - it is the very first shopping mall in Hamburg); Bleichenhof-Passage, Galleria Hanse-Viertel; Hamburger Hof Einkaufspassage, and Gänsemarkt-Passage. All of these shopping malls open at 10 AM and close at either 7 PM or 8 PM.
DiningWhile Hamburg is not a cheap city, it has a cheap/student neighborhood named Schanzeviertel, with the S-Bahn station at Sternschanze. It’s two stations away from the central station and here, you can find very tasty and accessible food of all kinds and from all the countries. You should not miss the Kumpir here – baked potato filled with stuffing, Turkish style.
As the name implies, the famous Hamburger was born here, and in the proximity of the harbor, there is a round cobblestone street full of bistros and restaurants offering their daily menus, and almost all have their own version of the hundred-year-old popular dish.
If you are looking for something more classy, and especially German specific, you should definitely try Anno 1905. An exception in itself, as most people think that German cuisine is long since extinct, this elegant restaurant offers a distinct and intimate atmosphere without exaggerated prices. The Labskaus, a classic dish of Northern Germany is not to be missed here.
HotelsCheap accommodation can be found for 10- €12 ($14) per night in the Turkish quarter or hostels farther away from the center, and if you’re in the situation where you have nothing to lose, there’s a dirty but friendly open-air squat in Schanzenviertel.
Cheap hotels do not necessarily mean low quality in Germany. You can find something in between with really fine comfort and decorations.
However, if you want to avail of only the best accommodations in Hamburg, The Atlantic Kempinski is the number one place in Hamburg. A favorite for celebrities - both local and foreign, this is a place which defines comfort. It provides central location, rooms with outstanding views of the lake, an inner spa, and flawless service. Other hotels on top of the list are Barcelo, Park Hyatt, and Sofitel Hotel.
Tourist TransportationThe Hamburg Public Transport System is ensured by rail services and transit bus routes, as well as harbor ferries. The prices are not the cheapest, but there are a lot of offers and special packages for tourists, some also including free passes and discounts to many cultural objectives around Hamburg.
S-Bahn and U-Bahn TrainsProbably the most convenient way to get around is the subway and S-Bahn railway transport systems. With four subway lines (U-Bahn) and six S-Bahn lines, you can quickly get from the center, where the networks form their hub to mostly anywhere in the city, including suburbs. During weekends, the main lines are operate all night long. At the weekend and on public holidays, the most important U-Bahn and S-Bahn rapid transit services operate all night long.
BusesIf the trains don't suit your visit plans, or you simply need to travel shorter distances, the bus network is at your disposal, offering comfortable transport, low waiting times, and fast convenient connections. Like the trains, the main bus lines also function at night.
Harbor ferriesThere are six ferry lines around the river and the harbor, and when the tides permit, they are ideal for admiring the nocturnal scenery of Speicherstadt.
BikesTypical to German cities, Hamburg also offers a public bike rental system. With 80 stations, you can even borrow it, as the first 30 minutes are free of charge. Bikes can be taken from one station and left off at another, anywhere else in the city. Payment can be completed either by card or by phone.
SafetyHamburg is generally a very safe city. Mönckebergstraße can be busy at night, but even if you see drunken people or prostitutes, they are unlikely to harm you, as the city has a strong police presence. Bikes, however, as anywhere, can get stolen so use a strong lock if you decide to travel by bike.
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Author: aelumag. Last updated: Feb 15, 2015