THE TALLEST BUILDING IN THE WORLD FOR A SHORT TIME!
We are talking about the St. Nicholas churchtower in Hamburg, built in the 19th century in neo-Gothic style. It was the tallest building in the world between 1874 and 1876, with a height of 147.3 meters. This honour did not last long, as it was overtaken in height two years after its construction by the Cathedral of Rouen in France. To this day, it still has the privilege of being one of the city’s tallest buildings.
English architect George Gilbert Scott, who also participated in Westminster and Salisbury Cathedral’s construction, built this neo-Gothic architectural jewel. His design for the church of St. Nicholas was massive that featured an 80-metre-long central nave and a 30-metre-high roof.
Like the other four main churches of Hamburg, the Church of St. Nicholas was Protestant. We talked about it in the past tense because this church is in ruins at present. Therefore, it is no longer a place of religious worship but a war memorial to remind us of the war’s atrocities.
Its current condition is the result of the Allied bombing during the last days of July 1943 in an operation codenamed “Operation Gomorrah”, which killed at least 42,000 civilians.
The tall tower of San Nicholas became the perfect reference point for the allied air force to locate its target in the city centre. Even though the church was destroyed during the bombing raids, its enormous tower miraculously withstood the bombardment.
You can take a lift to reach the top of the tower, to enjoy some fantastic views of the city. You will also get to see Alsterlake, the town hall, St. Michael’s tower, the philharmonic and the harbour. Another interesting fact is that in each of the tower’s openings offering views to a particular part of the city, you can find photographs of what that side of the city looked like after the Second World War bombings. You will also find an explanation detailing what happened during the days of the bombing.
You can visit the memorial from 10 am to 6 pm for a price of 5 €.
Willy-Brandt-Straße60, 20457, Hamburg, Germany.
Hamburg has a natural port city feel to it, which is not surprising as the port on the River Elbe is the most important port in Germany and one of the most important in Europe. This is one of the many factors that make Germany’s second-largest city the richest. Therefore, it is a city of sharp contrasts between the most opulent and elegant and the most rogue and reactionary.
It is a fascinating city, one of the most lively and active on the continent, although its climate in winter can be harsh, like its people, who have dedicated their whole lives to the Elbe port. Like so many other port cities in Europe, a city of sailors and merchants such as Marseilles, Naples, Genoa or Rotterdam. And among the many things these port cities have in common, one of them is their gastronomy based on fish.
Since the German diet is primarily meat-based, we suggest trying a simple but delicious fish dish for a change, the “fischbrötchen”, in one of the most typical places in the city, the fish market (fischmarkt). Thus, take a short break from the regular German meat-and-potatoes diet.
Thefischmarktor fish market is a locally prominent place dating back to 1703, this sizeable spacious market, filled with restaurants, taverns and fish shops along with the brick building and glass dome, will surely impress you.
There are plenty of places to eat fischbrötchen, a typical North German sandwich that is very popular in Hamburg throughout the week. This sandwich is made with simple ingredients such as pickled fish, raw onion, gherkins (to taste) and remoulade sauce. The fish can be herring, mackerel, tuna, shrimps, mussels and many others - yummy! Keep some napkins handy; you’re sure to get your hands dirty.
This market becomes a bustling place for locals and tourists alike, especially on Sundays. The fischmarktarea is filled with street stalls, handicraft stalls, second-hand clothes, with music in every corner. Even though it’s full of local and international eateries, where beers and sausages are readily available, the delicious fischbrötchenis a real crowd-puller.
To get to this popular market, we recommend that you take the U3 metro line to Landungsbrückenor the S1 and S3 to Reeperbahn and walk fifteen minutes to reach this area.
Große Elbstraße 135, 22767 Hamburg, Germany.
HAVE SOME FUN SHOPPING IN SANKT PAULI
Hamburg, the wealthiest city in Germany, is blessed with large and exuberant shopping centres such as the Europa passage, the Alsterarkaden, or streets such as Neuerwall. Here we can find all kinds of big branded shops, boutiques and franchises, similar to what you can expect in any big city in the world.
However, if you are looking for something original or exclusive, you have to visit the emblematic district of Sankt Pauli, undoubtedly much less glamorous than these large shopping areas, but definitely with more personality.
Sankt Pauli is probably one of the most picturesque neighbourhoods in the city. Historically, it was a suburb, as it was located on the city’s outskirts and was home to society’s lower classes. Close to the port and the fact that accommodation, bars and brothels could be found there, sailors spent much of their time in this neighbourhood until their ships returned to the sea. This was a common feature of the neighbourhoods near the port areas, known as ‘red light districts’ because of their brothels’ lighting, as is the case in the most famous of them all, Amsterdam.
Nowadays, this famous district is located in the centre of Hamburg, in the neighbourhood of Hamburg-Mitte, right next to the river Elbe and the city’s harbour, making it a trendy spot for locals and tourists alike. This bohemian neighbourhood, lively and different, is a perfect place to find hundreds of businesses ranging from interesting antique shops, spicy sex shops, vinyl record stores, African businesses with voodoo masks and a long list of interesting things.
In almost every corner in this neighbourhood, you will find flags, souvenirs, T-shirts and all kinds of merchandising with a pirate skull symbol. This sign generates more than a million euros annually and is the authentic symbol of the neighbourhood and arguably the best known in the city.
The origins of the pirate flag as a symbol of rebellion can be traced back to sports, strangely enough. In the mid-1980s, many Hamburg fans abandoned the city’s top team in response to the growing number of fascists in their football club. Swapping their colours for those of the Sankt Pauli team, the movement was joined by punks, prostitutes, refugees, and other social outcasts. The team became a symbol of the struggle against injustice, discrimination, homophobia, racism, sexism and other issues. And the skull became the team’s most prominent symbol.
So, a T-shirt with a skull on it can be great memorabilia to remind you of your visit to Sankt Pauli, Hamburg.
Reeperbahn 174, 20359 Hamburg, Germany
THE SPEICHERSTADT OR WAREHOUSE DISTRICT OF THE PORT
The photogenic Speicherstadtis a historic district declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a district full of brick-built warehouses along narrow canals that were built in the 19th century. The perfect place for one or one hundred photos!
The Speicherstadt, which means warehouse city, is built on the river Elbe banks and is one of the largest in the world built on wooden stilts, a generous one and a half kilometres long.
It was built between 1883 and 1927 by architect Andreas Meyer with various structures, including its beautiful neo-Gothic brick architecture. First, a row of warehouses was created to store the spices, cocoa, fabrics and other products that the city received and transported to the Speicherstadtarea by boats on the canals. Following this mono-functional urban conception, the sale and distribution of products were negotiated in the district’s northern part from the Kontorhausoffices. The most remarkable is the Chilehaus, a marvellous German expressionist building with surprising combinations of colours.
The combination of high warehouses with their towers and terracotta decorations, with the canals and metal bridges, gives the district a unique beauty with a picturesque touch. We recommend taking an unforgettable photo from the bridge of the hafenbrückefürliebende, one of the most advantaged spots, to observe the essence of this beautiful red brick district.
The metal bridge of the hafenbrückeconnects the historic part of the city with the renovated Hafencity district. As you walk across the bridge, you will discover a multitude of brick buildings reflected in the water, boats anchored in the Elbe, the historic buildings of Nikolaifleetand the philharmonic in the background; great places to take some memorable snaps.
You’ll find bars, restaurants, and hotels in this distinctive neighbourhood among the warehouses’ beautiful buildings. There are also unmissable places such as the Kaffeerösterei, where the coffee beans arriving at the port were deposited. Nowadays, it is a renovated building that respects the original structure, an ideal place to take good photos of a warehouse’s interior and pay homage to a good coffee.
Kehrwieder7, 20457, Hamburg, Germany.
THE BEATLES SCULPTURE IN SANKT PAULI
Sankt Pauli is alternative by day, bustling and wild by night. It has historically been the centre of nightlife, not only because of its sex shops, erotic clubs and brothels but also because of the countless restaurants, bars and taverns. And a great cultural offer that goes far beyond sex: music clubs, cabarets and theatres.
With this background, it can be said that this neighbourhood has been a cradle and a springboard for so many groups that achieved fame, such as Jimmy Hendrix, Gerry & the pacemakers, Rory Stone & the Hurricanes, whose drummer was Ringo Starr. In fact, it was here that he met the Beatles.
The five original Beatles band members: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Stuart Sutcliffe and Pete Best, the drummer at the time, arrived in Hamburg on 17 August 1960 and fell in love with this city and its alternative neighbourhood, which a romance that lasted for almost two years. They came here to try their luck and established themselves as a band. John Lennon’s famous quote confirms that point: “I may have been born in Liverpool, but I grew up in Hamburg”.
The Beatles’ period in the eccentric Hamburg would give rise to a thousand anecdotes: they arrived in a van, slept in a small room behind the screen of the Bambi cinema, frequented brothels, strip clubs and other places with women of loose morals, where they contracted venereal diseases such as gonorrhoea. They went to marathon concerts, where their initial contact with narcotics started.
They got into fights, insulting unfriendly audiences. George Harrison was deported for being underage and getting involved in fights, drunk. Paul McCartney was arrested and spent the night in the notorious Davidwachepolice station cell. We could go on with a hundred anecdotes, but it is undoubtedly true to say that Lennon grew up in Hamburg.
Their first steps as a group were taken in legendary venues such as the Indra, a small strip club that still exists today. The Kaiserkellerwas another classic, and as they began to gain popularity, they played in the prestigious Top Ten and Star Club. If you’re a Beatles fan, we recommend following in their footsteps and visiting some of these places.
The Beatles-Platz was opened in 2008 to pay tribute to the unique group in the corner of Reperbahnand Große Freiheit. The square resembles a large vinyl record and has five statues with metal profiles. The drummer is a hybrid of Pete Best and Ringo Starr. You can reach this place on the Sbahnlines S1, S2 and S3. Don’t miss this place! The Beatles are timeless!
Reeperbahn 174, 20359 Hamburg, Germany
ELBTUNEL - A WALK UNDERNEATH THE RIVER
Some places stick to your mind when you see them for the first time, and that is what will happen when you descend into the old Elbe tunnel. In this case, we are not going to see a monument but rather an engineering masterpiece. Still, given its age of over a hundred years, its usefulness, beauty, architecture and the skill with which it was built, it is considered an important place to visit in Hamburg.
The old tunnel under the Elbe was the first river tunnel of the entire European continent, built-in 1911, so we are talking about a century-old engineering work. Designed by the architect Phillipp Holzmann, its construction was intended to link Sankt Pauli’s districts with the Steinwerdershipyard island and port area to make it easy for the dockworkers’ to reach their jobs. Today it is still the shortest access from the city to the port.
The tunnel is a marvellous work of engineering that will make your jaws drop. So, if you are not claustrophobic, dare to go down - it’s free! You will descend to a depth of 24 metres utilising four hydraulic lifts controlled by the tunnel’s operators. Once in the river’s depths, you will soon find out that there are two tunnels or pipes, each six metres wide, each for the different directions you take. Pedestrians, cyclists, and a few vehicles requiring to pay toll can use this tunnel at once.
The tunnel has a length of 426 metres. It has been used exceptionally for art exhibitions on its walls or concerts by the Elbe Philharmonic. Its 140 members line the tunnel’s length and have even been used for sporting events such as the Elb-tunnel marathon.
You don’t have to run, but enjoy the decoration, as the tunnels are beautifully covered with glazed tiles, many of them with motifs of marine animals related to the Elbe River, such as fish and crabs. There are also tiles with less pleasing themes but always associated with the river: rats or garbage. They are all part of the port, aren’t they?
The tunnel is open to the public round the clock and is used by workers and locals and frequented more and more by tourists because when they arrive at Steinwerderon the other side of the tunnel, they will get to experience a different view of the river.
They will discover a fantastic perspective to photograph the Hamburg skyline from the other side of the Elbe.
To get to the Elbe tunnel, we can either take the U3 subway and get off at the Landungsbrückenstop or take the S1 bus and get off at the Alter Elbtunnelstop.
St.Pauli-Landungsbrücken20359 Hamburg. Germany
MORE ROOMS THAN BUCKINGHAM?
The Rathaus, or City Hall, is another must-see in Hamburg, located in the heart of the city near the AlsterRiver and Lake Alster, on the Rathausmarkt. This imposing building, a symbol of the city’s power, houses government offices such as the mayor’s office, parliament chambers, and the senate’s seat.
This marvellous neo-renaissance style building from 1897 was built after several fires and relocations and is the sixth different town hall the city has had. Choosing the site and erecting the structure was not easy, as the city is built on the water like Amsterdam or Venice. So, it took 400 piles of the finest timber to pierce the AlsterRiver’s muddy waters to support the 133-metre wide, 70-metre deep and 112-metre-high imposing structure of the Rathaus.
The first thing that you will notice about the town hall, apart from its immense size, is the beauty of its richly decorated façade, crowned by 20 statues of historical figures such as the Kaiser. The city’s beautiful motto can be found above the main door: “Our descendants will vigilantly guard the freedom that our ancestors achieved”.
Access to the Rathausinterior is free, do not miss the opportunity to see this building constructed to demonstrate Hamburg’s citizens’ power and good taste. The first thing you will find is the vast and beautiful courtyard, decorated with the fountain of Hygieia, who was the Greek goddess of health. It was built in memory of the cholera epidemic that struck the city in 1892.
The building has been visited throughout history by influential international personalities, including Emperor Haile Selassie I, Shah Pahlavi and in 1965, Queen Elizabeth II. We can’t help but wonder what Queen Elizabeth II would have thought about this palace with six more rooms than Buckingham Palace, with dimensions of 17,000 m2 that hide 647 rooms.
In 1971, an extra room was accidentally discovered in the tower when searching for a document that had fallen behind a filing cabinet to make matters worse.
The City Hall can be reached by taking the U3 subway line and getting off at the Rathausstop.
Rathausmarkt1, 20095, Hamburg, Germany.
BY BOAT ON THE ELBE
Being a city situated by the waterside, its river, and its harbour, we consider it essential to know this marvellous part of the city. Since the boats are just another form of public transport, like the underground and the bus, it is unnecessary to take a tourist cruise to enjoy the river Elbe and its surroundings.
We suggest a circular route of an hour and a half, although it can be shortened as much as you wish, as it makes different stops at emblematic or monumental points on the shores of the port.
The starting point is the Landungsbrückenpier, which you can reach by taking the U3 underground line and then getting off at the stop with an unpronounceable name, Landungsbrücken.
You only need one of the City Transport Association (HVV) tickets to take this public ferry. We suggest you buy a ticket for 11,80€, valid for groups of up to 5 persons and valid for one whole day! AND INCLUDES ALL PUBLIC CITY TRANSPORT! An economical way to experience Hamburg.
You will recognise this river station in Landungsbrückenby its beautiful architecture with the clock tower dating from 1839. Steamships used to anchor here during those times, as this was where they loaded the coal for their engines. Nowadays, it is full of bars and taverns, perfect for a quick snack. In Landungsbrückenfrom bridge 3, we recommend taking the ferry line 62, which will surely remind you of the vaporettosof Venice. It runs very frequently every 15 minutes. So, you won’t have to wait long.
The tour is a very comprehensive one, as you will discover the urban part of the city with its various neighbourhoods and the gigantic harbour. This ferry 62 makes five stops. In addition to the Ladungsbrücke, as mentioned above, it goes as far as Altona, known for its popular fish market (fischmarkt). The third stop is at the Dockland or Fischereihafen, which is recognisable by its modern glass building in the shape of a ship, built in 2005, with an impressive terrace. We continue to Neumühlen, known for its river beach and lively bars popular among the locals. The route will take us through beach areas and huge hilltop mansions in Bubendey-Ufer, a wealthy neighbourhood.
The last stop is Finkerwerder, not as exuberant as the previous ones, as it is the area of the cargo ships and the container island, but very interesting and different. Since the route is circular, you don’t even have to get off the ferry. We will return the same way to the starting point in Ladungsbrücken. Do you want to get to know Hamburg? Travel along the Elbe.
St.Pauli-Landungsbrücken 20359 Hamburg. Germany.
FROM THE PHILHARMONIC TERRACE
The Hamburg or Elbe Philharmonic (Elbphilharmonie) was from the very beginning intended to be the city’s business card or the building that would represent the city to the world. This spectacular 108-metre-high building is located at the outer edge of Hamburg’s Hafencityon the river Elbe’s banks. On the site where the historic Sandtorhafen, the former working port for centuries, once stood and whose most prominent building was the Kaiserspeicherfrom 1875.
The Elbe Philharmonic was inaugurated in 2017 and is, as mentioned above, one of the city’s great pride, but also one of the most controversial projects in the city’s history. Mainly due to its continuous construction delays and high-cost overruns.
This building is a controversial one. The Hamburgers, who love their city above everything else and are pragmatic, have mixed feelings about the philharmonic, and some consider it a waste of money. Something similar has happened in other major European cities like Paris with the Eiffel Tower or the Pompidou Centre or in Donostiwith the Kursal.
This controversial building, designed by the Swiss studio Herzog & Meuron, stands out for its original architecture with its glass façade and undulating roof. Depending on who sees it or the number of beers they have drunk, they will tell you that it represents a raised sail, sea waves, an iceberg, or even a quartz crystal.
It was not only necessary to provide the city’s new philharmonic with attractive architecture but also an interesting mix of urban uses to make it a genuine public facility. In addition to the concert hall itself, with seating for 2150 spectators, the complex houses a chamber music hall, another hall for music studies, a hotel, flats and restaurants, bars and a large panoramic terrace with a view of the city and the harbour.
The first thing you will notice when you enter the building is the 82-metre-long curved escalator - yes, that’s right, curved! It will take you through the building to a panoramic window offering an unbeatable view of the harbour and its quays.
The terrace is the ideal place to sit in any of its bars and take a well-deserved break where you can pass the time while enjoying the spectacular views of the harbour and the city.
Platz der DeutschenEinheit 4, 20457 Hamburg, Germany
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