Saturday, December 24, 2016

Hamburg Guide

The long-promised, long-delayed guide is here. There's a google map with major locations marked at the end.



Hamburg has a good public transport system, although a little more expensive than Berlin's. Find the map here. They have an app as well. The Hamburg card gets you transportation as well as discounts on some attractions; read more here.

I used the city bike system a lot and found it very convenient, sometimes more convenient than public transportation, but I don't know if they have short-term touristy deals or if you have to make an account. Could be worth it.

It rains a lot so bring a coat or umbrella. Even during the summer.

As in Berlin and really the rest of Germany, cash is usually better than card.

English levels are pretty high. Notice the hamburgisch accent ("jo" instead of "ja"; "moin moin" is a very common greeting).



I would like to thank REWE, falafel, and noodle boxes for feeding me this summer.

The best snacks remain Ritter sport and paprika chips. Oh, man do I miss paprika chips.

My impression is that the cuisine is less international than in Berlin, but I also cooked for myself much more so this could be just a perception issue. Since I was vegetarian this summer I replaced the sushi I would have eaten in Berlin with Indian vegetable curry.


I didn't show anyone around Hamburg systematically the way I did for Berlin. I visited twice before leaving Berlin; my sister and I had a couple days hanging around Hamburg before I started work, but that was before I knew the city; and a couple of friends visited the city and hung out with me for a couple of hours after I left work. Therefore I can't vouch for any particular itinerary that will hit all the highlights, although the major stuff is mostly in an area that's walkable from Hauptbahnhof. I'll use Hbf as a starting point and outline several possible walking tours. Pick your own adventure style.


Walkable from HBF


If you're arriving in Hamburg from anywhere else in Germany or anyplace reasonably close in Europe, chances are you'll go through the main train station. I adore Hamburg Hauptbahnhof, although to be fair I like transit centers that are destinations in general. There's a lot of food to be had, including my favorite 3-euro Gemüse-Nudeln Box. The Ritter sport chocolate advertisement banners also always amused me. It is also conveniently located for a lot of cool stuff.

To the east of Hbf you can find Lange Reihe, a hip street with lots of restaurants. I had to make a model of this street, so I like it. There are sometimes flea markets and festivals here. Some famous churches. But the exciting stuff is really in the opposite direction.

Toward the northwest you can find the Hamburg Kunsthalle, which is a big art museum with lots of beautiful art. Continuing in that direction you can walk along the banks of the Alster, beholding the fleets of swans on the water. Soon you will reach Dammtor, where iirc there is a somewhat alarming World War One monument and some counter-monuments.

Continuing northwest you can reach the University area, which has a lot of free or cheap museums. The Völkerkunde Museum, or ethnographic museum, is particularly interesting and rich and gratis after 1400 on Fridays. You can also find lots of good cheap food near the university.

Hamburg, Lübeck, Bremen

If you choose instead to walk through Planten un Blomen, a fine park with many flowers and ponds and places to buy Eis, you will reach a place where the park intersects with a plaza containing various justice-related buildings. Take special note of the statue grouping of the three Hanseatic cities: Hamburg, Lübeck, and Bremen. You will soon reach the Museum für Hambürgische Geschichte, or the museum of Hamburg, which I really really should have gone to but did not. I know. I know. You will also reach a Bismarck monument on the top of a hill.

If you continue even farther you will reach Landungsbrücke, which has touristy stuff, ferries (which are included in the public transportation network), and the Elbtunnel. Although the inside of the Elbtunnel building is cool, the tunnel itself is not too compelling and there is only industrial shipping stuff on the other side. Good for photos of a certain aesthetic but not much in the way of attractions. You can take a ferry to Oevelgonne, which is a dock with many old ships--an open-air musem--and a nice beach, or on foot from Landungsbrücke you can reach the Reeperbahn, a hip and famous street in the hip and famous Sankt Pauli district.


If instead from Hbf you go directly west you can find a big shopping district, which is nice enough. The main thing this way is the Hamburg Rathaus, which I think is one of the best ways to see what the Hamburg spirit is all about. Hamburg is still styled as a Free and Hanseatic city and that sense of civic pride really shows. Take a Rathaus tour--only four euro for adults. One thing I delight to tell people is how the Rathaus has a bust of Kaiser Wilhelm but it is placed on a relatively low pedestal so that he cannot look down on any citizen of Hamburg. #justhamburgthings, oder?

There's more shopping past the Rathaus and then you run into Platen un Blomen.

Going south from Hbf is the best choice, in my opinion. First you pass the beautiful Central Library (Zentralbibliothek). Then you pass Deichtorhallen, an art museum that I never entered but which bears in front of it an inscription that really resonates with me. Two phrases form a cross. One, in German: EIN BISSCHEN ZEIT + GANZ VIEL EBBE. The English translation: TIME + TIDE.


From there cross over to Der Spiegel's building and you are in the harbor area--Speicherstadt, to be precise. The neighborhood is beautiful, all warehouses (half of which were rebuilt after being destroyed in the war), and has raised walkways that I swear are straight out of a vaguely steampunk YA adventure novel dream I had. Some major attractions in this area include the Miniatur Wunderland, which is an astonishingly large collection of miniatures. Markthalle has you covered for food (Chutney is an Indian food chain whose curry is incredible, at least to me).

A little farther south in HafenCity is the International Maritimes Museum (Maritimes, not Maritime, because of German Adjektivendungen): ten floors about all things relating to ships. The Elbphilharmonie is a gorgeous building with a very chaotic construction history, but the visitor center is neat and has places where you can listen to recordings, as well as a model that you can look into. Other buildings in the neighborhood have interesting architecture that quite charmed me the first time I visited; some have off-colored bricks that I think are meant to represent rain.

The Miniatur Wunderland and IMM are both on the expensive side and also very large, so make sure you leave enough time to visit both. My sister and I had a day where we basically just went to those two things, and we regretted not doing so on a rainier day when it would make sense to be indoors all the time instead of walking around outside more.

You can go farther south in HafenCity, and will find parks and people and the HafenCity University. I did not actually spend a lot of time there, but HC is being built up and growing as a neighborhood.


Farther afield

I lived in the northeast of the city in Barmbek. We have some cool stuff too. The Stadtpark is great and has a lot of concerts and events. Go there in the summer and every damn couple in Hamburg is there with their dog. The Planetarium was closed during my entire time in Germany, is set to reopen early next year, and I am sure it will be great. We also have Frau Larsson, the most amazing Swedish cafe, with cakes that I dream about. The Museum der Arbeit is very close to the Barmbek station and although I, er, never actually went there, the museum campus (complex?) is cool to walk around.

Museum der Arbeit

Between Barmbek and the city center there are some patches of commerce. Hamburger Meile is a big shopping center, Wandsbeker Markt and Wandsbeker Chaussee stations bookend a street with lots of shops...nothing really mind blowing here, although there is a neat memorial to the poet Matthias Claudius just past Wandsbeker Chaussee.

Farther north of Barmbek is Friedhof Ohlsdorf, a huge cemetery with lots of statues and plants. I never explored it properly since I always went fairly late in the day when the sun was already starting to set. On one weekend I walked along the Alster for several hours, ruminating on life, and made my way to the Alstertalmuseum. Going the other way, one arrives at the Fuhlsbüttel Concentration Camp memorial. Part of the complex is still used as a prison, about which I still do not quite know how to feel. The volunteers at the memorial were very kind and answered all my questions. Very close by is the airport, which I only interacted with on my way to and from Rome.

In the south is the neighborhood of Harburg. I ventured there only twice, to measure apartments. The secretary, with whom I was working, said that it is a lower-income, working-class neighborhood and that there is not a lot to see there. I am not sure if I should take her at her word but I did indeed not spend a lot of time there.

Schloss Bergedorf

In the extreme southeast of Hamburg you will find Bergedorf, which has Schloss Bergedorf and some other historical sites. The quarter around the castle is quite quaint-looking too. I saw some kids playing Pokemon Go around the castle and its moat, so if that is your thing, go for it. I tried to cross the border into Schleswig-Holstein via a nature park but did not succeed.

From Bergedorf you can also take a bus to the Neuengamme Concentration Camp memorial. I went on my last weekend in Hamburg and spent quite a few hours there. The concentration camp site is located directly across the road from peaceful, bucolic fields, and walking down a country lane in late summer thinking about all the horrors perpetuated there made me feel as if the world was not quite real. But of course it is.


Google map. Go wild.


Related: Berlin Guide


I spent a good deal of the summer comparing Hamburg to Berlin, which was patently unfair. Die Freie und Hansestadt Hamburg is a great city and I was very lucky to live there for three months this summer.

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