Oh Hamburg meine Perle – Oh Hamburg my pearl
Du wunderschöne Stadt – you utterly beautiful city
Du bist mein zu Haus – you are my home
Du bist mein Leben – you are my life
Bist die Stadt auf die ich kann – you are the city that gets me
Auf die ich kann – that gets me
Oh yes, Hamburg, you are loved by many. Despite your often grumpy skies, your famously reserved way of being and your sometimes impossible attitude (housing market, I am looking at you!) you are a power to be reckoned with, a glorious, wild yet sophisticated city that deserves to be seen, celebrated and cherished.
German singer Lotto King Karl, born and bread in Hamburg, is just one of your many admirers, as can be witnessed above by taking in the chorus of his iconic anthem to the Northern port-city with the telling name “Hamburg meine Perle – Hamburg my pearl”.
Germany´s second-biggest city is a place of countless canals, of willows along waterways and of oftentimes chilly, yet cosmopolitan people, a city with an intriguing and long history full of deep dramas and untold tales of bravery, and a city that draws visitors with its abundance of beautiful lush parks, world-class museums, spectacular musicals and, of course, its exorbitant, wild and raunchy nightlife.
Hamburg also happens to be the city I was born in on an early spring morning sometime in the decade of questionable fashion choices, and the city I´ve lived in the longest from the seven cities I´ve lived in up till now. All in all, it´s definitely a place I can quietly whisper a lot of stories into your ear about: funny ones, sad ones, exciting ones, and forbidden ones. But hey, we gotta start somewhere, right? So let me tell you about my favorite places to meander in, dream about and have deep belly-laughs with when in Hamburg-town!
First, I´ll treat you to an entree of delightful things to experience while visiting the so-called “Tor zur Welt” (door to the world) today – and to a fabulous main course and mouthwatering desert in a few weeks. Sounds good? Then “los gehts” (let´s do this)!
The entree – die Vorspeise: Watery relaxation à la Hamburg
Hamburg´s essence is deeply connected with its two rivers: the Elbe river, the main waterway that connects the city to the North sea, and the Alster lakes, central spots for Hamburg beings to walk around, bike around or sail, row and paddle on.
What better way then to start dipping your toes into Hamburg´s true watery essence than to explore everything that these two mischivious water ladies have to offer? Let´s focus on the mighty Elbe river for now.
Shenenigans on and around the Elbe river
Without further ado, let me introduce you to a piece of the Elbe lady´s story – because what else defines a powerful woman like her better than her equally as powerful story! Put simply, it´s thanks to the Elbe´s mighty ways that Hamburg is the economic powerhouse it is today.
Located at about 100 km from the North Sea, the Elbe has been Hamburg´s gateway to the world since the days of the Hanseatic League, a clever commercial and defensive confederation of merchant guilds and market towns in Northwestern and Central Europe formed in the late 1100´s (yep, that´s how old hunky Hamburg is!) So yeah, Hamburg decided early on that it wanted to be a multicultural and worldly hub, back when that was not even a thing for most places. As would be expected, such a trendsetter has a lot of cool things to offer – such as
Cruising the Elbe river for next-to-nothing
Take an HVV- ferry from the Landungsbrücken Piers at the harbor and you´ll get to mingle with locals on this regular public transport mode of transportation. For the price of peanuts, HVV- ferries take visitors to the industrial port as well as the picturesque Elbe river beaches and the famous musical theatres on the south bank – keen on the Lion King musical, anyone?
Mingle with locals at urban beach hangouts
Pack a picnic, get off at Elbe beach if the weather allows and make a leisurely day of it. While you´re at it, make sure to check out the trendy urban beach club “Strandperle” close to the Övelgönne ferry stop! When living in Hamburg. I used to absolutely love hanging out at the other beach clubs close to the port, such as Hamburg City Beach Club, fancy Lago Bay, Hamburg del Mar, and the more laid-back StrandPauli. Have a “Rhabarberschorle” (rhubarb lemonade) or an “Astra” (Hamburg beer) while you are there and indulge in some good old people-and river-watching.
Venture underground at the Old Elbe Tunnel
If you are a fan of out-of-the-ordinary experiences, you´ll love exploring the old Elbe tunnel. Constructed in 1911, it prides itself in being the first river tunnel on the whole European continent and a true standout of civil engineering. Hop underground for a quick and cool photo session or explore the tunnel on foot or by bicycle.
Head there on weekends, when the tunnel is closed to traffic, and do consider exploring up-and-coming neighborhood Wilhelmsburg on the other side of the tunnel.
View trendy Wilhelmsburg from a former bunker
In Wilhelmsburg, you´ll be able to enjoy a young, urban vibe, picturesque river nature and cozy pubs and restaurants. Hop on bus line 13, which bears the intriguing name “Wilde 13“(the wild 13) and allows you to check out all the major sights of Hamburg´s largest hood. For a little something different, visit the “Energiebunker“, a former WWII bunker that now serves as a power plant, dispatching renewable enery en masse. Here, you can enjoy the stunning view over Wilhelmsburg that the bunker´s cafe, located at 30 metres height, has to offer.
Hamburg being the cosmopolitan home to over 1.8 million people it is has so much to offer that it would probably take me hundreds of articles to cover them…but I hope this serves you as a delicious little entree to the endless meal-options that the port-city has to offer! Now it´s your turn: Have you ever been to Hamburg, or to other places in Germany? What did you like best about it, and what surprised you most?