Hamburg, Germany's second-largest city, also holds the distinction of having the world's third-largest port, a bustling 300-year-old fish market, and one of the most impressive collections of European art in all of Germany. If you thought Hamburg was boring compared its cousins Frankfurt and Berlin, think again. Take to the water and check out the 10 best things this port city has to offer.
Hamburg is a harbor city, and its port is the third largest in the world, after London and New York City, so unsurprisingly, there are many ways to enjoy this city's 800-year-old harbor still. Take a boat tour, stroll along the waterfront, and have an excellent seafood dinner at restaurant Rive, which offers commanding views of the port. Want an even closer look at the harbor? Climb into a real Russian submarine and experience history below the surface.
The city's most famous street is the Reeperbahn, Hamburg's Red Light District, one of Europe's most prominent. Located within the district of St. Pauli, this area is all neon, erotic theaters, and strip clubs, but don't be scared off. The area is mostly safe, and everyone is welcome from Kinder to Oma.
The eclectic mix of bars and restaurants along with strip clubs and erotic museums brought the Beatles here, who started their international career in Hamburg in the 1960s. Fans of the Fab Four should visit the Indra Club and the Kaiserkeller as well as the newly built Beatles Square at the street corner of Reeperbahn and Große Freiheit.
Fresh seafood, exotic fruits and nuts, and teas from all over the world—the Hamburg Fischmarkt is a must for every foodie or collector. Everything is for sale, from fine porcelain to live animals to spices from around the world.
The 300-year-old open-air market, right next to the historic fish auction hall, is open on Sundays between 5 and 9 a.m., so get up early to get the best buys just off the boat, or forget going to sleep. Plenty of visitors are still on their night out. The hours aren't a turn-off, as more than 70,000 visitors walk the many stands along the Elbe every day.
Between 1850 and 1939, more than five million people from all over Europe emigrated from Hamburg to the New World. The museum complex "Ballinstadt" recreates this life-changing journey on historical grounds. You can see the original emigration halls, and can even trace back the route of your own family by studying the original passenger lists and the most extensive genealogical database in the world.
Explore the Historic Warehouse District
Adjacent to the harbor, you find Hamburg's historic warehouse district, the largest warehouse complex in the word. Narrow cobblestone streets and small waterways are lined by 100-year old warehouses, which store cocoa, silk, and oriental carpets. Light projections in the evening create a magical atmosphere on buildings, bridges, and canals.
This trio of architectural gems houses one of the most impressive art collections in all of Germany. More than 700 years of European art history are represented at the Hamburger Kunsthalle, from medieval altars to modern paintings. Highlights here include masterpieces by Rembrandt, Caspar David Friedrich, and Edvard Munch.
The baroque church of St. Michaelis is the signature landmark of Hamburg. "Michel," as locals like to call the church, was built between in the mid-17th-century and is the most famous church in the North of Germany. Its white and golden interior seats an impressive 3,000 people. Climb the spiraled top to enjoy sweeping views of the Hamburg cityscape and harbor.
Shop Along Alsterarkaden
Hamburg is famous for exclusive shopping, and the elegant Alsterarkaden is one of the most picturesque places for your retail therapy. The historic arcades, inspired by Venetian architecture and lit by wrought iron lamps at night, lead you along the canals to Hamburg's main square and its richly decorated city hall.
Go to Hafencity, the Hamburg of the Future
Visit Hamburg's future in "Hafencity," the largest urban building project in Europe of the 21st century. At 155 hectares, this harbor city within a city is expected to double the population of downtown Hamburg with thousands of new waterfront apartments, gleaming high-rises, stores, restaurants and a new symphony. The ambitious project will be finished in 2025, but you can already enjoy some of Europe's most visionary architecture here.
You can relax at Hamburg's green scene, the park "Planten un Blomen." It features a botanical garden and the largest Japanese garden in Europe. Throughout the summer months, visitors can enjoy free water-light concerts, theater performances, and festivals in the park.