Hamburg has a well deserved reputation as Germany's gateway to the world and it has the biggest Port in Europe. It is connected to the North Sea by the Elbe River and is crossed by hundreds of canals, and also contains large areas of parkland. Near its core, Inner Alster lake is dotted with boats and surrounded by cafes. It has an a Scandinavian vibe and is our favourite German City.

🙂 Lakes. Bridges. Sunday Fish market. Favourite German City!

🙁 Nothing negative to report.

Things we did not know about Hamburg:

  1. Every arriving ship receives a special greeting….Downriver from Hamburg, in the town of Wedel, lies the Willkomm-Höft – a “welcome point” for ships arriving at, or leaving the port of Hamburg. Every day more than 50 ships are welcomed here by playing the national anthem of the country where the ship is registered, or bid farewell by hoisting the signal flag UW to wish departing ships bon voyage. The six welcoming captains who man the welcome point can choose from a collection of 152 national anthems and recorded greetings in the language of every seafaring country in the world.
  2. It has more bridges than any other City in the world… No one actually knows exactly how many bridges there are but it is estimated to be between 2,300 and 2,500. Among these are road, rail, and footbridges, bridges stretching across rivers, canals, and roads. Some of the most picturesque bridges be found in the Speicherstadt warehouse district and along the Lake Alster and the nearby canals.
  3. Lake Alster Swans have a Father…The beautiful Lake Alster in the heart of Hamburg is known for its game of over 100 swans. These birds are looked after by the Schwanenvater – literally, “the swan father.” This gamekeeper position has existed since the 17th century and is among the oldest government agency posts in the world. One of his main tasks is escorting the swans from their summer quarters on the Lake Alster to their winter quarters in the smaller Eppendorfer Mühlenteichthat is protected from freezing over. For over three centuries the return of the swans to the Alster marks the beginning of spring in Hamburg.

My cousin had recently emigrated from South Africa to Germany with her Partner. He comes from a long line of Mariners and his heritage is an old and distinguished shipping family from Hamburg. This City is an easy 1hr35min flight from London with regular flights on all major airlines.

What an amazing City – even though the first time we visited in April 2018 it rained! We started our day with a delicious breakfast at Leinpfad cafe which is a short walk from their lovely home on the canal. We then took a water taxi to Jungfernstieg to join a Canal tour. A great way to view the suburbs from the warmth of the cabin.

We then enjoyed some time window shopping – astronomical prices for shoes in one arcade where flip flops were over EUR1500!! Then time to warm up and another coffee and some more exploring…to St Michael’s Church. It is definitely worth the climb up the stairs of the tower for a view of Hamburg. This church has been rebuilt 3 times over and is replicated in nine different cities in the World!

The small side streets are worth the diversion…

Having a street food snack is simply a Humburgen way of life!!

After a rest it was time to head off Rive, a Michelin star restaurant right on the Port. We enjoyed cocktails on arrival and the food was excellent – Roland selected a traditional German dish for us to sample. The ambiance was great and watching the ships entering port an added bonus.

We were highly excited for Sunday morning’s ‘Fischmarkt’ …. You can either stay up late or get up early to attend! Vendors scream at the top of their lungs to advertise fish, fruit, vegetables and flowers. In the adjoining market hall, you can dance to live music and/or enjoy a traditional raw herring fish sandwich accompanied by the first or last beer of the day. Finished off with a Reggae coffee! A MUST DO!

It is also worth doing a harbour tour – The harbour tours through the port of Hamburg start from the Landungsbrücken. The captains entertain you during the trips with numerous informative and sometimes funny stories. Find out more about the sights and the importance of the port of Hamburg as an economic sector and in the history of the Hanseatic city. Your harbour tour in Hamburg will take you on modern passenger ships or traditional barges with which the dock workers used to get to their workplaces on the other side of the Elbe.

Back to the cousin’s for a rest while the boys played with their toys and went for a little paddle on the canal…

The following year in August 2019 we had better weather which meant cycling throughout this vibrant City. Donkey Republic use to offer a bike rental service that you could pick up from any station and drop off using their app. This has been suspended in Hamburg since Covid, but will hopefully be back in operation as really easy and convenient.

Followed by exploring the waterways… The Canale Cafe Bar always has a queue of floating vessels waiting to sample their beverages. There are also numerous spots to stop off and enjoy a beer whilst traversing the canals… pure bliss…

Sailing on the Lake is a real treat. It is fairly reasonable to hire a small sailing boat and enjoy a picnic on the water.

Hitting the night life in Hamburg offers many options. The Beatles played 48 shows at the Indra Club in 1960. The Reeperbahn is a street and entertainment district in Hamburg’s St. Pauli district, ) and also the city’s major red-light district. In German, it is also nicknamed die sündigste Meile (the most sinful mile). The street is closed off by a gate that is monitored by police to keep minors and women from entering. Generally, only men over the age of 18 will be allowed to enter. Technically, there is no law against women entering, but sex workers are rumoured to be hostile towards women.

So pleased that I have family here which means I will continue to return – truly my favourite European City. Covid prevented us from visiting the Christmas Market s- but that leaves something to look forward to!

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