Hamburg Top ten: Must See
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Janine Alsterhaus, Hamburg

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Hamburg Top ten: Must See

Time is always limited on those nice little city adventures. So much to see and indulge in, but never enough time… ever. Good thing that Hamburg is not a really big city. Here is a little run-down of the essentials you should see and experience.

1. The obvious choice: Elbphilharmonie

No surprise here. Of course, the “Elphi” is the place to visit at the moment. But this time the Hype is right. Manoeuver through the well-educated crowds, take the (extremely) long escalator ride to contemplate life, enjoy the first view from the window and then take a stroll around the “Piazza” to get a full overview of the city. Book Piazza tickets or even a guided house tour in advance and you will be a very smooth visitor (not a tourist).

If you want to make this experience unforgettable, try to get tickets for a concert. You may not be able to get regular tickets, since everybody is head over heels for the concerts. It is crazy. However, there are always tickets available on the well-known auction platforms. Just be smart about who you trust. The tickets will be worth it.

2. Old & New quarters: Speicherstadt and HafenCity

While you are in the neighbourhood, you should take some time to wander the quiet ways of the old Speicherstadt (warehouse district) and look out for those moments when the light comes through the canals. Those are very special photo opportunities. And if it is a warm summer day, this area is a very chill place to cool off for a while.

And just one street further, you will find the new HafenCity with its design-overkill buildings and the great views of the open water. More sun, more wind more attractions… more business. It is the modern approach to define what a harbour quarter looks like. You may decide if it is a success or just too much of everything. Enjoy the contrasts!

3. Attraction on two wheels: Bike Tour

If you want to see all the good things in the span of a weekend, you should get a bike – just for a day or two. It makes it so much easier to get around and move between the nice spots. And the whole bike ride is an attraction all in itself. A must-do.

If your Hotel does not provide bikes, try the best bike rental in Hamburg: Zweiradperle. It’s a bike shop and café – close to the main train station. And Zweiradperle just opened a second shop in St. Pauli. They offer very good and solid bikes (Electra bikes!) and very well organized interesting guided bike tours (recommended). They rent out helmets, locks and give you free maps. There are also children’s bikes for rent.

Be smart and make a reservation in advance.

4. Boat trip I: Go see the Elbe & Harbour

It is a no-brainer, really. And it is not a secret, either. So, you may not be all on your own, but you can’t leave without taking a proper look at all the hustle in the harbour and all the calm a little more upstream. It is relaxing and gives you an idea of the scope of Hamburg. Once you are on that boat you will feel that the city is a lovely painting on an extra-large canvas. This is Hamburg’s best side.

If you do not want to take the tourist boats leaving from St. Pauli Landungsbrücken, you may hop on one of the boat shuttles (HVV), which function like a public transportation bus. There are nice boat stops below the Elbphilharmonie or next to the Dockland Building. There are rather inexpensive and usually less crowded.

5. Boat trip II: Enjoy the Alster

Well, this is a city-by-the-water, which means you have to take more than one boat trip. The Alster is the lake in the dead-centre of town. It is wonderfully calm and offers a lot of sunlight and green parks. You may hop on a boat at city centre (Jungfernstieg) and go as far as you can. You will see the grand old buildings roll past. Also, the new Art Museum (Galerie der Gegenwart) behind the bridges. And then there will be all sorts of green and nice residential buildings.

When you want to explore the Alster and all its canals on your own, you may rent a canoe and pack some food and drinks. Have a picnic on a quiet pond or canal. It is a classic Hamburg pastime. Boat rental places can be found up north, in Eppendorf and Winterhude. The new trend: stand-up paddling.

6. Coffee and sunsets on a pontoon: Entenwerder

This little urban escape is magic. You can sit close to the waters of the quiet Elbe, far away from the hustle. You can still see the buzzing city and the Harbour but it seems really far away. Let them be. You are sitting on a pontoon.

Entenwerder is park just outside the city, which is nice but not spectacular. However, the treat here comes from the people of the local Thomas i-Punkt store who had the great idea to redesign a pontoon on the shores of this park and opened it to the public in July of 2015. The result is a real triumph and the Café/Bar soon became one of the Hamburg hot-spots for all seasons.

You could spend the whole day here as they serve breakfast, little lunch dishes, cakes and arguably one of the best coffees you will find in Hamburg. In the evening, you might get lucky and hear a nice background DJ-set or live music, or catch a red sunset or a pale moonrise. Getting there is easy if you have a bike. Just start following the bike lane (all along the Elbe) starting at the ‘Deichtorhallen‘ near the central station.

7. Park Life in the centre: Planten un Blomen

This park is right in the heart of the city: Planten un Blomen. It spreads from the Dammtor train station to the Reeperbahn in St. Pauli. And there is a lot to see other than exotic and local plants and flowers (Planten & Blomen). There are waterfalls, a Japanese garden, small lakes, awesome playgrounds, an ice skating rink (turned roller skating rink in summer), a botanical garden, half a dozen ice cream vendors and 250 wooden chairs for you to relax in.

If you come across women who appear to be shouting at a red brick building, don’t be too alarmed. Those are spouses trying to communicate with the inmates of the nearby prison. This is a people’s park. If you don’t have the time to explore it all, visit the part which is directly under the majestic tele tower. There you will find: A lot of water, beautiful flowers and the best ice cream vendor. Also, you are close to the cool Karoviertel.

8. Alternative Lifestyle: Karoviertel

If you just have the chance to visit one neighbourhood, make it the Karoviertel. It beats the overrated Schanze/Schanzenviertel, which is just around the corner. Though it is just two streets (Marktstrasse/Glashüttenstrasse), you will experience a whole variety of alternative living. The food options are better, the shopping (small local shops) is superb and it is less crowded. On Saturdays, there is a huge flea market at the Schlachthof.

Make sure you wander around the edges of the quarter, too. You can see the huge WWII bunker and the soccer stadium (St. Pauli FC) on one side and the tele tower and the huge halls (hosting the 2017 G20 summit) on the other side.

9. Its world-famous for a reason: St. Pauli Nightlife

The Reeperbahn is the main strip in St. Pauli. And it is not what it used to be. You will find a lot of tourist traps and sex shops. But also true (modern) classic clubs like the Mojo Club, which is a celeb among the European Clubs. Make sure to check the program when you are in town. Like so often in life, you have to take the backroads to get happy.

Try the Clemens-Schultz-Strasse for good bars, small restaurants and a nice neighbourhood vibe. The Hein-Hoyer-Strasse has a great ensemble of bars. And the Detlev-Bremer Strasse is home of the best ice cream parlour in town and the best place for Tacos. On the other side of the Reeperbahn you will be able to smell the water. Try the Silbersackstrasse for exciting bars and make sure to stand on the Hein-Kollisch-Platz for a moment, then walk all the way up to the Park Fiction to take in a spectacular view and enjoy the local youth doing the same. Nightlife is around every corner, here.

10. A good neighbourhood: Eppendorf

If you have time and energy to visit another enchanting neighbourhood it should be Eppendorf. It is home to some nice houses and apartments. It is a little bit up-scale but also down-to-earth.

Walk on the Eppendorfer Landstrasse with its nice flair. Find the best fruit vendors and strangest coffee shops. Sit beneath old trees and have a wine or a cake. Or both. Go window shopping. Get lost. There are plenty of Restaurant, Cafés, Shops and Bars here.

Walk onto Eppendorfer Baum and maybe buy some fresh fish or flowers. Enjoy the niceness of this quarter. The metro (U3) is close and you can easily hop on to a train which brings you back to the City Centre, Schanze or Harbour in less than 10 minutes. You may also take your bike into the train except between 4 – 6 p.m.