Exploring Hamburg in a weekend is possible if you know where to go and, who better to ask, than the locals! From sailing on the lakes, exploring the historic buildings and hitting the town for a night out, this harbour city will leave you wanting more. Check out these eight highlights from our recent weekend away:
A Ferry on the Harbour
Situated on the River Elbe, Hamburg is the second largest port in Europe, so taking a ferry is a must – preferably as soon as you arrive. The Landungsbrücken (or landing bridges) in St. Pauli are a great place to start. Here, you can cruise up the river for very little cost. We climbed to the top deck of the vessel and enjoyed a wonderful view as the wind and rain blasted our faces. There is something invigorating about being on the water, open to the elements. This harbour is huge and full of ships, ferries, tugboats and sailing boats. Name a boat and it will be here, somewhere, even if its hidden in the channels. Incidentally, did you know that Hamburg has more bridges than Venice? It really is a water city!
A Beer at the Strandperle
We took the ferry up the river and alighted at Övelgönne. From here, you can stroll along the beach to The Strandperle, a restaurant situated right on the river – some of the tables are actually on the beach, so you can wriggle your toes in the sand while you sip on your beer! A nice beer to try is the Astra, with its signature love heart and anchor on the lid. It was very busy when we arrived and we had to wait for a table, so it’s probably worth phoning ahead to make a booking.
This elegant neo-renaissance style town hall stands tall in the city centre and serves as a seat of government of Hamburg. If you walk through the grand interior to the inner courtyard, you will see a beautiful fountain, surrounded by statues. Make your way here by train and get off at Rathaus Station.
Located a short walk from the Rathaus, the Binnenalster is the name of the small lake within the city limits of Hamburg. You can take guided tours through the canals here, paddle your canoes, or simply appreciate it from land. Be sure to look out for the statue of the man with the water buckets on his shoulders – he appears all throughout Hamburg, much like the Berlin Bear!
Sailing on the Außenalster
The Außenalster is the larger lake, connected to the Binnenalster via a small channel. We were lucky enough to have a friend with a sailing licence and, after paying 30 Euros for boat hire, all five of us bundled into the small, wooden vessel, being sure to stay low for fear of being wiped out by the big boom whenever the wind changed! Luckily, our captain gave us plenty of warning each time this was about to happen. We cruised along with the fresh afternoon breeze, watching the sailing regatta and basking in the sun. You can also hire kayaks or pedal boats, which look equally as enjoyable. Follow this up with a big chocolate and raspberry ice-cream in a waffle cone and you have a perfect afternoon!
St. Michael’s Church
Be prepared for a huge trek up endless flights of stairs to reach to the top of this magnificent church. I recommend climbing the tower, once you have already explored some of Hamburg by foot. That way, you can look around and spot all the places that you’ve been. It cost 5 Euros to access the clocktower and, when we reached the top, we were blown around by strong gusts of wind. However, the unlimited views of the entire city made it all worthwhile. Absolutely beautiful!
The amount of detail in this large and impressive miniature world is unbelieveable. Here, you can see tiny versions Germany, Switzerland, Austria, USA and Scandinavia, with more countries to come in the future. Not only this, every ten minutes or so, the exhibition turns into night time – the cities light up, festivals come alive and traffic lights start glowing. When daylight returns, so do other events. Sometimes, a house catches on fire and a host of fire brigades come to the rescue. They even have a miniature airport, complete with flight screen, showing when planes are due to arrive and depart. Here’s the impressive part – the miniature aeroplanes actually do take off and disappear behind the clouds! You can even see a rocket being launched. Make sure you allow plenty of time – it can get very busy and the place is huge!
Nightlife in St. Pauli
No trip to Hamburg is complete without a night in St. Pauli, the red light district of the city. The Reeperbahn is where all the action happens, though apparently, some streets here are only accessible to men! Unbelievable!
Still, I enjoyed heading out one evening to a pub called Knust, to watch the big football game between Germany and Italy. It was a nail-biting match and everyone was on the edge of their seats. After each successful goal, a huge roar erupted from the crowds, with hugs and kisses all round! When Deutschland finally scored the winning goal, we were treated to shots of vodka, before marching off in high spirits to seek out a night club!
Übel und Gefährlich is a nightclub in St. Pauli, which requires a hazardous hike up a huge spiral staircase to get to the top. The rooftop bar offers spectacular views over the city, whilst the club inside hosts various DJs. If you fancy a late night snack, head out to the entrance hall’s peanut vending machine. That’s right! A small vending machine full of at least ten varieties of peanuts. Just pop your 1 Euro into the slot and out shoots a little tin.
St. Pauli hosts a wonderful variety of street eats during the daylight hours. Kombüse is a great Mexican restaurant, with delicious Burritos and cheap beers (cheap for Australia, anyway)- a great choice after a big night out!
Have you been to Hamburg? Where else would you recommend? I’m looking forward to the next trip already!