A true city of water, effortlessly cool Hamburg is an outward-looking city, with a unique flow of its own. Nestled snugly between the Baltic and North seas, Germany's second-biggest city is intersected by a frayed network of rivers and canals, spanned by hundreds of pretty bridges. The comparisons are obvious - but Hamburg's reputation as the 'Venice of the North' is a little wide of the mark. This quirky, heritage-filled city has a distinct character and open outlook all of its own, and continues to relish its role as Germany's gateway to the world.
The water brought Hamburg its wealth, and vast redbrick warehouses stack up against the waterfront in the Speicherstadt district - now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. They linger from the era when the city was a Hanseatic League trading capital and the warehouses essentially formed a city unto themselves, with goods brought and exchanged from distant shores. Elsewhere, the Reeperbahn is a notorious and unabashed street of nocturnal mischief, with shifty neon-lit nightclubs, in amongst the city's famous red-light district.
Hamburg has a much more wholesome side too, however, and is a powerhouse of museums, theatre and culture. It’s littered with over 100 music venues and the city played a crucial role in The Beatles’ early story. The spectacular Elbphilharmonie concert hall, with its wavy, surrealistic interior, is a work of art in and of itself. The city has been named a European Green Capital, and the vast Lake Alster adds to the airy, pleasant atmosphere, providing a spacious oasis of tranquillity. Planten un Blomen is another burst of zesty colour, where fountains fan out, and lilypads float on rhododendron-lined lakes.