Berlin and Munich have been hogging the stage for too long. It’s time for Germany’s classiest harbour-town to step into the spotlight.
Hamburg’s long been a gateway to the world, thanks to its bustling harbour, and flights to Hamburg continue the tradition. It’s a city where commerce and art, the past and the future, rub along beautifully together in a symphony – in a neighbourhood where the shouts of traders still compete with the cries of the seagulls.
The richest city in Germany is having a bit of a moment. The Elbe Philharmonic’s new home, being built among the atmospheric nineteenth-century warehouses of the Speicherstadt, is rumoured to rival the Sydney Opera House. What’s more, the development of the HafenCity means that the historic port area is once again at the centre of the city’s life.
But now that the sleazy Reeperbahn – where the Beatles honed their craft – has been cleaned up, has Hamburg lost its grit? Not according to the inhabitants of Karolinenviertel, where the narrow tenements and tiny squares are now home to squats and collectives, as well as a lively mix of students, artists and immigrant families.
There’s also great international food to be found in the glossier St Pauli and Schanzen quarters. Here the uber-cool cafes, bars and art installations wouldn’t look out of place in Berlin’s coolest neighbourhoods.
Munich may have the Englischer Garten, but Hamburg has the Außenalster, a huge artificial lake around which Hamburg’s high society built their villas. For more down-to-earth fun, join the locals on the Elbe’s artificial beaches, and raise a beer to a city that’s got respect for its past, and a quiet confidence about its future.