Over the course of its history, Hamburg has steadily developed into one of the busiest ports in Europe. DW's Eesha Kheny spent two days exploring the ins and outs of the bustling cultural hub.
Hamburg is a big city well-known for its trade activity, musicals and red-light district. There is so much water nearby that the air constantly smells of the sea. On a typical windy day in Hamburg, I checked into a hostel next to the main railway station before making my way to Jungfernstieg, Hamburg's foremost boulevard.
Overlooking the gushing 60-meter-tall (nearly 200-foot-tall) fountain on Lake Inner Alster, I began a three-hour guided tour of Hamburg. Walking by the city hall, through the Speicherstadt and ending at Elbe beach, I was fascinated by the guide who explained the development of Hamburg with maps, stories and funny anecdotes.
After seeing the city from up close, it was time for a bird's eye view. But first, some food for the tired feet in the famous Portuguese Quarter of Hamburg.
Viewpoints of Hamburg
After the warm lunch of paella, tapas and delicious galão — a commonly served coffee style in Portugal with one part coffee and three parts hot milk —, I headed to St. Michael's Church which was just a stone's throw away.
A classic church with gold and white interiors, St. Michael's is popular among locals for concerts and events. While the church can be accessed for free, I paid a four-euro fee to ride the elevator to the windy top. Here a 360-degree view of red districts and blue waters lay ahead of me.
The top of this church is one of the ideal viewpoints in the city to see the harbor, the various districts of the city and the latest landmark of Hamburg: the Elbphilharmonie concert hall.
Illuminating the skyline of Hamburg since January 2017, this stunning glass structure comprises two concert halls, a hotel and a plaza. No visit to Hamburg is complete without dropping by, but I recommend going as early as at 8 a.m. to avoid the long queue of eager tourists. Especially since the observation deck can be accessed without any costs.
Another free viewpoint is the Dockland — a 25-meter-high glass building located right on the Elbe River. I took a ferry to this ship-shaped office building and climbed the many steps to the viewing platform. All my hard work paid off with a panoramic view of the main harbor with its huge pistons and storage containers all on the mighty Elbe River.
Crossing the Elbe River from underneath
More than 100 years of history: the four lifts down to the Old Elbtunnel
Curiosity took me under the Elbe River to the St. Pauli Elbe Tunnel, which opened in 1911. I walked the entire length of this 426-meter pedestrian and vehicle tunnel.
The high level of technical work that went into the project is impressive, especially considering its crucial importance for a big port city such as Hamburg. The tunnel offered a way to connect the central part of the city with the shipyard. Along with me, there were cyclists, families and groups of students all exploring the tunnel and marveling at the fact that we were all walking under the river.
Miniature wonderland of amazement
After all this outdoor activity, I spent a few hours discovering the world's largest model railway exhibition, Miniatur Wonderland.
I explored two entire floors of the exhibition, which features scenes from Germany, Italy, Switzerland, America and Scandinavia, where trains rush to follow schedules, large scale music concerts entertain crowds and planes independently taxi on the runways. I particularly loved the transition from day to night when the entire Miniatur Wonderland lit up and the snowy caps of mountains glowed.
As the sun went down that evening, I walked for one kilometre from Miniatur Wonderland to the Poggenmühlenbrücke — a bridge in the Speicherstadt — to watch the city lights.
The windy streets couldn't dampen my spirits, as I gazed upon the historical Wasserschloss. The yellow lights accentuated the Gothic revival architecture style of the warehouses, which along with the reflecting water created a stunning frame.
Happy and content as I ticked this off my list, I made my way to a nearby restaurant for some Italian food, all while wishing to return soon and experience the magic of Hamburg once again.