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Hamburg is a beautiful and successful commercial port city that has been nicknamed the Hollywood of Germany. All of the German big wigs call Hamburg their home, which is no surprise. Simply stroll though the canal region of Hamburg, dine in one of the many fabulous outdoor cafes, and enjoy a beautiful coastal sunset, and you will want to call this glorious city home as well.
To delve further into the depths of Hamburg's past, first travel back to the year 810. This is the time of its founding by Charlemagne. At the mouth of the Elbe River, this port's prime location helped aid the northern German merchant cities in their efforts to continue their shipping domination in the Baltic and North seas. Hamburg was very fortunate to have remained undisturbed by the Thirty Years War. In fact, Hamburg grew profusely as the years went on, and became one of the world's richest cities just up to the point of World War II. Today, Hamburg remains a leading port for carrying cargo.
Sadly, the Great Fire of 1842 almost burned down the entire old Hamburg. There is no need to worry, however, because Hamburg now has plenty to offer, all with its superb polish and class. There are plenty of places to explore here, for example, Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) buildings, the 14th century houses of Deichstrasse, and the Kontorhausviertel. These are some of the oldest places to visit in beautiful Hamburg.
Visit Hamburg and delight yourself with its many canals while walking along a fraction of the approximately one thousand bridges here. Take pictures of the sunset's reflection upon the water as the swans swim merrily by. Take a look at the most popular view of the five churches and the Rathaus that create the most fascinating skyline. Hamburg will not disappoint as a city that simply defines the grand charm of Europe!
Docking & Local Transportation
For cruise passengers, the port of Hamburg offers two terminals that are both located in close proximity to the city center. These two terminals are the Hamburg Cruise Center, HafenCity and the Hamburg Cruise Center, Altona. If you are unsure which terminal your ship will dock at, you can check the terminal here. The all-new Hamburg Cruise Center's Altona terminal opened in 2011. It's located a half-mile downriver from the Landungsbrucken (a long, floating pontoon landing), where the historic ships are berthed and where cruise ships used to dock.
The cruise ship docks at the Port of Hamburg (Hamburg Cruise Center E.V.), which is not too far from the center of the city. There are several ways to get there that are equally accessible and reliable.The bicycle is a great way to see the city at your own pace. Hamburg is very accommodating to this way of travel, and it has set up bicycle lanes adjacent to all the major streets. Public transportation is quite popular in this city. They have two trains, the U-bahn (underground) and the S-bahn (above-ground). Buses are timely as well, and provide customers with terrific service during the day and night. Hamburg has myriad taxis that make for a convenient way to travel around the city. They run seven days a week and can be hailed from the street or picked up at a taxi stand.
Hamburg provides its visitors with an incredible amount of sights to see and places to go, but if you had to choose only one, definitely visit Alster (U-bahn: Jungfernstieg). The Alster twin lakes provide the most beautiful scenery, as the small boats sail along their calm waters. Daydream with the locals who only wish they could live in one of the multi-million dollar homes that own the view. Bike or walk along the shoreline that runs for four miles, and envelope yourself in the friendly atmosphere.
A beautiful promenade that overlooks these Alster Lakes, and is also the prime shopping area, is Jungfernstieg. It is a very old boulevard that was laid out in 1665. Practically hidden are several passages that lead to almost a mile of shops that are pleasantly air-conditioned. Also among these shops are arcades, many of which have been there since the 19th century. In fact, Salem's Bazaar was the very first arcade and was beautifully covered by glass in 1845.
Looking for something along the lines of the French and Italian Riviera? Then discover what may just be the most beautiful part of Hamburg. A picturesque fishing village, Blankenese (ferries depart from Pier 3) is as beautiful as it was essential in the 14th century as a ferry terminal. Houses, surprisingly enough, did not turn up in this key location until the late 18th and 19th centuries. Blankenese is defined by the paths and stairs that lie between houses tightly hugging its steeply sloped hillside. Enjoy the local flare and the taste of the produce from the fruit and vegetable market there. Feel like some fresh fish and a fine view while you wait? Then hop on over to Sagebiel's Fahrhaus, (Blankeneser Hauptstr. 107, 040/861-514) a former farmhouse where Kaiser Wilhelm once enjoyed his birthday.
Miniatur Wunderland
Although billed as the world's largest model railway, Hamburg's Miniatur Wunderland is really much more than simply a toy train layout. This stunning new attraction is the world's largest model railway, boasting more than 12,000 meters of track and 890 trains. Built on a truly massive scale, it covers 1,150 square meters with more planned (it will be double this size when completed). Highlights include areas dedicated to the USA, Scandinavia, and Germany, as well as an airport with planes that actually take off, all of it illuminated by more than 300,000 lights and containing some 200,000 tiny (and unique) human figures. Avoid a long wait by reserving your ticket online. Address: Kehrwieder 2-4/Block D, 20457 Hamburg -- Official site: www.miniatur-wunderland.com
The Port of Hamburg: The Gateway to Germany
The Port of Hamburg - the Hamburger Hafen - is home to a number of the city's most important attractions. Encompassing 100 square kilometers, this large tidal harbor, known as the Gateway to Germany, is fun to explore by boat, with numerous tours departing from Landungsbrücken. A highlight of the area is the lovely pedestrian trail that takes in the old 19th-century Warehouse District with its continuous lines of tall brick buildings once used to store tobacco, coffee, dried fruit, and spices. Another landmark is the Köhlbrandbrücke, a 3.9-kilometer bridge that spans the harbor.
Kunsthalle Hamburg
In three separate but connected buildings on the Glockengiesserwall, Kunsthalle Hamburg is one of Germany's top art galleries. Highlights include numerous altarpieces, works by local artists of the 14th century, and Dutch masters of the 16th and 17th centuries. Also of note are its fine collections of 19th-century German and French paintings, plus substantial modern and contemporary art collections. Tours and fun programs for children are available. Another notable art collection is housed at the Deichtorhallen, one of the largest galleries of contemporary art and photography in Europe. Address: Glockengiesserwall 1, D-20095 Hamburg -- Official site: www.hamburger-kunsthalle.de
Hamburg Rathaus (City Hall)
In the center of Hamburg's Old Town is the Rathaus or City Hall. This large, sumptuous Neo-Renaissance building adjacent to the Stock Exchange (Börse) was completed in 1897 and consists of 647 rooms, many opened to the public for the city's annual Long Night of Museums event. Guided tours are available, as are opportunities to observe the local government in action. From here, the wide Mönckebergstrasse, Hamburg's principal shopping and business district, leads past 14th-century St. Peter's Church with its 133-meter-high tower all the way to the Central Station and the Schauspielhaus theater. Address: Rathausmarkt 1, 20095 Hamburg
St. Michael's Church
The most famous of Hamburg's many churches, St. Michael's was built in the Baroque style between 1750-62 and is one of the city's most important landmarks. From its 132-meter-high tower, familiarly known as "Michel," and accessible by stairs and an elevator, viewing platforms offer excellent panoramas of the city and port, a particular treat during their regular extended evening openings. Also of interest is the crypt where some 2,425 people have been buried. In a courtyard to the east of the church are the Krameramtswohnungen, dwellings originally built to house the widows of members of the local Shopkeepers' Guild, as well as a museum. Another nearby church of note is St. James's, a splendid 14th-century building housing medieval altars and an Arp Schnitger organ. Address: Englische Planke 1, 20459 Hamburg

Ohlsdorf Cemetery
Not only is Ohlsdorf Cemetery (Friedhof Ohlsdorf) the world's largest rural cemetery, it's one of the most important. Covering 966 acres and boasting 12 chapels, it's where more than 1.5 million burials have taken place in some 280,000 burial sites. The cemetery is also where you'll find the Hamburg Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery, where more than 400 allied prisoners-of-war are buried, along with many who died in battles on German soil. Other notable memorials include those dedicated to victims of Nazi persecution, the Hamburg Firestorm of WWII, and members of the city's anti-Nazi resistance. Don't be put off by the fact that the site is a cemetery; more than two million people each year visit its memorials, monuments, and museum while strolling through the pleasant gardens along its 17 kilometers of streets. Another important Hamburg memorial is the Bismarck Monument, the best known of Germany's many towers commemorating the country's most revered politician. Address: Fuhlsbüttler Straße 756, 22337 Hamburg
Great Lakes: Inner and Outer Alster
The focal points of Hamburg's inner city area are the Inner Alster (Binnenalster) and Outer Alster (Aussenalster), two artificial lakes connected to the rivers Alster and the Elbe. It's here you'll find Hamburg's most picturesque city squares and historic avenues, as well as its famous pedestrian areas, the passagens. The best routes take in the elegant Jungfernstieg with its cafés and landing stages used by tour boats, and the Ballindamm, with the city's largest shopping center. The lakes are also popular for sailing (or skating in winter) and are lined by many beautiful parks and gardens. Also popular is the Pöseldorf area with its galleries, boutiques, and cafés, along with the canals or "fleetes" linking the lakes with the Elbe. If you're visiting in September, be sure to attend the annual Alstervergnügen, a street fair held around the lakes with great entertainment, including numerous concerts.
Museum of Arts and Crafts
Hamburg's Museum of Art and Crafts (Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg) ranks alongside the Bavarian National Museum in Munich as one of the country's most comprehensive display of German, European, and Asian applied art. Founded in 1874 and modeled after London's Victoria and Albert Museum, it's particularly well known for its displays of china, furniture, and silver from northern Germany, applied art from East Asia, and a collection of works by Oskar Kokoschka. Also of interest is a large collection of keyboard instruments, as well as a fine collection of porcelain.
Address: Steintorplatz 1, D-20099 Hamburg -- Official site: www.mkg-hamburg.de/en/home.html
International Maritime Museum
A great place to discover more about Hamburg's rich maritime history is the International Maritime Museum. Housed in a massive red-bricked heritage building, the museum has many fascinating exhibits dealing with more than 3,000 years of humankind's connection to water, including many old artifacts, models, and artwork. Another marine-themed attraction is the Rickmer Rickmers, a three-masted tall ship built in 1896 that now serves as a museum. The MS Cap San Diego, a 1960s cargo ship, is another maritime museum worth visiting, with admission allowing visitors access to everywhere from the bridge to the engine rooms (overnight stays are also available). Also of interest is the former Soviet submarine, B-515, now open as a museum. Address: Peter Tamm Sen. Stiftung, Kaispeicher B, Koreastrasse 1, 20457 Hamburg
Planten un Blomen and Wallringpark
At the St. Pauli landing stages in Hamburg is the Wallringpark, a large recreational area, which includes some of the city's most popular open spaces, such as the Old Botanic Garden and the Kleine and Grosse Wallanlagen, the gardens laid out on the line of the old fortifications. The best of these excellent parks is Planten un Blomen, a 116-acre park established in 1821 with the planting of a Platanus tree that can still be seen here. It's a wonderful place to relax and enjoy a picnic, or if visiting at night, take in the famous water-light concerts or a musical performance. From Wallringpark, you're just minutes away from the 272-meter-high Heinrich Hertz Telecommunications Tower, popularly known as "Tele-Michel," which boasts great views from its revolving restaurant. Address: St. Petersburger Straße 28, 20095, Hamburg
The Hamburg Museum
The Hamburg Museum (Museum für Hamburgische Geschichte) was established in 1908 and is now a protected national monument. Highlights include the enclosed inner courtyard; its extensive collection of artifacts, including dioramas of the Port of Hamburg at various stages in its history; numerous ship models; and interesting displays relating to city events such as the great fire of 1842. English language guided tours are available. Address: Holstenwall 24, 20355 Hamburg
Official site: www.hamburgmuseum.de/en/hamburgmuseum/history.htm#.U8vPnVZ9Z0o
Museum of Ethnology
The Hamburg Museum of Ethnology (Museum für Völkerkunde Hamburg) was founded in 1879 and is one of the largest such museums in Europe, boasting more than 700,000 artifacts and documents. Highlights include a Jewish mappot, the binder used to cover a Torah, dating from 1711; an African exhibition with traditional cultural and religious items; and fun hands-on exhibits such as foosball, xylophones, and cameras. Address: Rothenbaumchausee 64, 20148 Hamburg
Official site: www.voelkerkundemuseum.com/1-1-start.html
Above the high bank of the Elbe is Hamburg's vibrant Altona district with its Neoclassical houses, many of them protected as historical monuments. It's here, you'll find Museumstrasse, which runs north from the end of the Palmaille, and the Altona Museum with exhibits relating to the geology, landscape, settlement, and economy of Schleswig-Holstein and the Lower Elbe region. Other highlights include displays of marine artifacts, including old models and preserved ship figureheads. Afterwards, be sure to explore the area around Altona, including the Altonaer Balkon, with its fine views of the river and the port, as well as the fishing harbor and fish market.Address: Museumstrasse 23, 22765 Hamburg
Museumshafen Oevelgönne (Museum Harbor)
Hamburg's popular Oevelgönne district contains the New Elbe Tunnel - a 3.5-kilometer-long tunnel running under the River Elbe - and the Museum Harbor. Established in 1977, this historic area is home to 20 old vessels still in working order, including flat-bottomed vessels and barges dating back to the 19th-century, as well as vintage tugboats. One of the larger vessels is the SS Stettin, a former icebreaker built in 1933 that's used for pleasure trips. Also of interest are the numerous pilots' houses on the Elbuferweg, and the Oevelgönner Seekiste, a small museum with a variety of displays and maritime artifacts. Address: Baron-Voght-Strasse 50, D-22609 Hamburg
Jenisch Haus
Not far from the New Elbe Tunnel, in the Klein Flottbek district of Hamburg, lies the beautiful Jenischpark, one of the city's largest and most rural open spaces. It's here, you'll find the superb Neoclassical 19th-century Jenisch-Haus with its rooms reflecting the taste of the prosperous middle classes in styles ranging from Louis XVI to Art Nouveau, all preserved in the on-site museum, a branch of the Altona Museum. The park is also home to the Ernst-Barlach-Haus with its collections of sculptures, drawings, and printed graphic art. Address: 50 Baron-Voght-Straße, Hamburg 22609
Tierpark Hagenbeck
In Hamburg's northwestern suburb of Stellingen, Tierpark Hagenbeck, the city's zoo, was established in 1907 to house a collection of exotic animals owned by a local fishmonger, Carl Hagenbeck (the zoo is still run by his descendants). This excellent facility was the first in the world to use open enclosures surrounded by ditches as opposed to cages, increasing the free-range area of the animals. It was also the first zoo to group animals by species, ideas that the zoo owners imported to other zoo parks, including that found in Rome. Another fun family attraction is Planetarium Hamburg, located in a an old water tower. Address: Lokstedter Grenzstraße 2, 22527 Hamburg
Don't Miss
Harbor & Alster Cruises: Scenic cruises are popular in Hamburg, and visitors can choose between cruises around the harbor and on the Alster lake. Rainer Abicht Elbreederei GMBH offers one-hour harbor tours with English commentary at noon daily. The route includes the Elbe and connecting canals, with views of shipyards and major city sights. Tours depart from Landungsbrucken, bridge 1 landing (S-Bahn/U-Bahn Landungsbrucken). Alsterdampfschiffahrt E.V. operates the historic steamship St. Georg (built in 1876) on 45-minutes cruises of the Binnenalster and Aussenalster and the narrow waterways that connect the two to the canal system. The sights of the city surround you, and the lakeside Japanese cherry blossoms are a riot of color in May. (Cruises depart daily 10:45 a.m. - 5:45 p.m. S-Bahn/U-Bahn Jungfernsteig.)
St. Michaelis Church: This church was built from 1751 to 1762 in a high Baroque style. Besides touring the interior and vaulted crypt, you can climb the viewing tower for a city, river and lake panorama. (Englische Planke 1a. S-Bahn Stadthausbrucke, U-Bahn Baumwall. Open 9 a.m. - 7:30 p.m.)
Hamburger Kunsthalle:The city's major art museum, housed in three distinctively different buildings spanning 150 years, exhibits collections from Hamburg artists of the 14th century, Dutch and Flemish painters of the 16th and 17th centuries, and French and German artists of the 19th century, as well as modern art. Some of the better-known painters on view are Paul Cezanne, Albrecht Durer, Paul Gauguin, Max Liebermann, Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol. (Glockengiesserwall. S-Bahn/U-Bahn Hauptbahnhof. Open Tuesday - Sunday 10 a.m. - 6 p.m., Thursday to 9 p.m., Closed Monday.)
International Maritime Museum: Housed in a beautiful brick warehouse building, this museum has 10 floors of exhibits, including the Peter Tam collection of thousands of tiny ship models; full-size ship models that include a large 25-foot Lego model of Queen Mary 2; dioramas of harbors; oil paintings of naval ships; and exhibits on navigation, communication and shipbuilding. Historic film footage shows the lively activity of pre-WWII Hamburg shipping and giant passenger liners sailing overseas. (Kaispeicher B, Koreastrasse 1. U-Bahn Messberg. Open Tuesday to Sunday 10 a.m. - 6 p.m., Thursday to 8 p.m.)
Miniatur Wunderland: The largest model railway layout in the world is spread over two floors with sections devoted to Hamburg and its port, Germany's Harz Mountains, Scandinavia, Switzerland and the United States. Scale models, apart from 800 trains winding through the landscape, include 10,000 cars, trucks and buses; numerous ships, roads and buildings; 200,000 miniature figures and varied scenery and spots of activity, such as a ship docking and firefighters attacking a blaze at city hall. The settings go through day and night cycles. (Kehrweider 2-4. U-Bahn Baumwall or Messberg. Open Monday to Friday 9:30 a.m. - 6 p.m., Tuesday to 9 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m. - 9 p.m., Sunday 8:30 a.m. - 8 p.m.)
Museum Ship Cap San Diego: This is a classic, 1960-built, refrigerated cargo ship belonging to the Hamburg-Sud (Hamburg South America Line). View the passenger cabins, officer and crew quarters, main lounge and bar, crew mess, bridge, decks, cargo holds and engine room. A snack bar serves light meals. (Uberseebrucke. U-Bahn Baumwall; S-Bahn Landungsbrucken.Open daily 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.)
Rathaus: The Neo-Renaissance City Hall, built between 1886 and 1897, houses some 647 rooms with varying decorative styles and serves as the administrative center for the State of Hamburg. It's open daily at widely varying hours with English language tours beginning hourly at 10:15 a.m. It also houses a Rathauswienkeller (city hall wine cellar), which is open to the public. The square out front is used for civic event and festivals. (U-Bahn Rathaus)
Outdoor Activities
Biking is a fun and healthy sport that can help you explore all of Hamburg's secret spots. Another fun mode of transport, in the more traditional sense, is horseback riding. Hamburg is very fond of horses and the derbies held in the city. A good place to rent a horse would be at Gut Wendlohe (Oldesloerstr. 236). It is unfortunate that swimming is not allowed in the Elbe or the Alster Rivers because of the health hazards, but swimming is still a favorite activity in Hamburg. Stop at the Bartholomaus-Therme (Bartholomäusstr. 95, 040/221-283), where there are two indoor swimming pools in this 19th century spa. If being outdoors is more appealing, one can go out on the Alster by renting a sailboat or rowboat. Many places hire them out at a reasonable hourly rate.
Eating Out
The dining has to be good to satisfy the selective tastes of those wealthy professionals who help make Hamburg such a first-class city. Restaurants vary from the very chic to the down-home taverns that define it as a harbor town. If neither extreme suits your taste, there are plenty of cozy in between restaurants with wonderful menus. The Ahrberg (Strandweg 33, Blankenese, 040/860-438) has a warm atmosphere that fits perfectly with its traditional German menu and seafood dishes. Nightlife can be found in abundance at The Reeperbahn (St. Pauli district). Here you can catch any show you can possibly dream of and have a nice drink to accompany it. One of the most popular dance clubs is After Shave (Spielbudenpl 7, 040/319-3215). It is often packed with the trendiest people, and every night promises a lively scene. Birdland (Gärtnerstr. 122, 040/405-277) is also one of the most popular bars and clubs, specializing in the jazz scene. The live music can vary from New Orleans traditional sounds to avant-garde electronic beats.
Hamburg is a highly sophisticated city with many of the better-known stores and designers you'd find in other major European and American cities. The shopping galleries are very attractive, so you might find yourself doing a lot of looking and little buying. The principal shopping street is Monckebergstrasse (the Mo), which runs from the main railway station (Hauptbahnhof) to the city hall market square (Rathausmarkt). Alsterarkaden, an Italianate arcade, parallels the Alsterfleet and offers smaller specialty shops and outdoor cafes and restaurants. Also parallel is Neuer Wall, the most upscale street for famous designers, such as Gucci, Ferragamo and Vuitton.
For women, the best souvenirs are leather purses, bags and fashion clothing. Specialty items, such as handbags, are found near the railway station end of Monckebergstrasse (the main shopping street) at Nadelheim. Another shopping district surrounds Gansemarkt (go to the U-bahn station of the same name), where Tate offers fashionable clothing items and Bethge sells leather bags, briefcases and purses.
The best gift for men and boys is a Marklin set of model trains. The Marklin train store sells the world's best model railroad items -- passenger and freight cars, locomotives, stations, villages and accessories -- from its location adjacent to Nadelheim. Hamburg, Germany's design capital, has the intriguing Stillwerk, a complex of shops and studios near Hamburg Cruise Center's Altona terminal. It features a wide array of sophisticated boutiques, from household names to emerging artists and designers.
Hamburg offers its visitors quite a magnificent array of merchandise, which makes it one of the best shopping spots in Germany. It has elegant boutiques that feature Germany's premier designers. Included in Hamburg's many malls are arcades, movie theatres, and fine cuisine. A wonderful shopping district where you can stroll down streets filled with boutiques, restaurants, and cafés is Poseldorf (North of downtown). The key streets here are Milchstrasse and Mittelweg, so be sure to go and visit them first. Looking for antiques? The best place to go is Antik-center (Klosterwall 9-21, 040/326-285). A combined thirty-nine shops are located in this old market hall, and it is the perfect place to find antiques from any time period. Fine jewelry can be found at Wempe (Jungfernstieg 8, 040/3344-8824).

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