Hamburg in winter is a different experience to the rest of the year. As Hamburg is located practically on the sea, the city has over 2,500 bridges (by the way, that’s more than Venice, London and Amsterdam… put together!!!) connecting all parts of the city, and so is consistently filled with a fresh sea breeze. Whilst this may sound delightful in summer, in winter it is a very cold and strong breeze, which had us bounding up in our jackets and rushing off to find the next cafe where we could warm up! The perils of travelling Germany in the deep of winter!
Germany’s second largest city located on Elbe river and the edge of the Baltic Sea, Hamburg is the second largest seaport of Europe, moving 9.8 million cargo units a year! The port is what gave Hamburg the opportunity to blossom into an international economic hub of Germany, and accordingly has many international expats in the city.
I arrived in Hamburg on December 30th 2014, staying for 4 nights. It was a chilly 0 degrees, but the wind chill made it feel significantly colder.
NEW YEARS EVE
New Year’s Eve in Hamburg was a completely new experience, and as an Australian overseas I had high expectations. As in almost every German city in December, the Christmas market was still open at Jungfernstieg, along the harbour which gave a really nice traditional yet modern atmosphere. As it got closer to midnight, we all gathered closer to the water to watch the fireworks, which was indeed quite a spectacular display.
The fireworks display was beautiful, with lots of varying colours and sizes, as well as lasting for quite a long time. After a while, we moved off as it was so cold (because of the freeeeezing wind) and the crowd had started to change. Perhaps it was just my very sheltered and strictly policed experiences in Australia, but this NYE turned quickly. In Germany, citizens are allowed to buy their own fireworks, and set them off as they like, and in Hamburg this is more present than ever as it is Germany’s second largest city. A completely foreign concept for me (as fireworks are illegal for personal use in Australia), the night turned from fun to terrified quickly, as people would set of a firework on the street a mere metre from you, which would explode in every direction. Not the kind of way I’d hoped to start the new year! Nevertheless, we endured and did not let this experience ruin out stay.
Built in 1911, the tunnel runs under the Elbe river and is still used today primarily by cyclists and pedestrians. It is 428m long and 24m under the surface, providing for an entertaining journey down the stairs or lifts. It was a nice attraction and whilst it was not warm, it didn’t have any wind!
A new district built from 2003 replaced an area filled with old, unused warehouses, now comprises of new buildings built for the future; protection from flooding. All buildings in the area (spanning 1.5km) have been built 9m above sea level to accommodate for the inevitable flooding that will occur in Hamburg. We took a bus through the area, which was a good way to see a lot. A cool spot to see, but not a must.
They mean it when they say district! The area is completely filled with warehouses of all shapes and sizes. Admirers of architecture will appreciate the varying buildings and heritage that has been upheld, red brick after red brick. On the edge of the district lies the unfinished Elbe Philharmonic Hall, which is Hamburgs ‘white elephant’ of construction. Projected to be completed in 2010 for €241 million, it is now 4 times over budget and 7 years late. Overall, a good spot for an afternoon stroll.
This has to be one of the more fascinating places in Germany given it is so unlike any other area! The Reeperbahn (or so called red light district) is literally lined with clubs, bars, discos and well… Fun! Take a sense of humour and prepare yourself for an entertaining night!
This port is absolutely huge! Spanning an absolutely enormous area, some of the worlds biggest container ships are loaded here. We took a river cruise around the port which provided nice insights into how the port is run.
Perhaps one of the biggest surprises I had in Hamburg was the church of St Michael, white and light filled giving a real different experience to a catholic church. This Protestant church even has a historic crypt which could be explored, and a tower where you can view Hamburg from above.
Located very centrally, the city hall is one of the oldest buildings in Hamburg, constructed in 1897. You can go inside and view the elaborate staircase as well as literally smell history.
Hamburg is not the foodie capital of Germany, nor are all (or even a lot) of its restaurants in one place. We had some challenges finding places to eat, particularly because of the public holiday. We did enjoy the Hamburg Hofbrauhaus, Vapiano, a roller coaster restaurant (Achterbahn Restaurant Hamburg – Schwerelos, hahaha kinda cute) and some tasty currywurst!
The absolute easiest way to get around is on the U and S bahn, reaching just about every corner of town you would need to. We even spent a good hour going all the way around the U bahn because it was too cold to be outside and at least we got to see some of the city in milder temperatures!
If travelling in a group, you can buy a 9am day ticket for up to 5 people (of any age) for €11.20, which proved to be extremely good value. As with any German hbf, there is plenty of food offerings available, just beware of pickpockets.