Germany's second largest city and principal port started out as a castle called Hammaburg which was built by Emperor Charlemagne in 808 AD as a defence against Slavic invaders. Hamburg was officially granted the status of “Imperial Free City” by Frederick I (Barbarossa) in 1189. Its location close to the North Sea and the Baltic Sea soon made the northern outpost one of Europe's leading ports. Hamburg's rise to prominence was sealed by its trade alliance with Lübeck in 1241, which marked the origin of the Hanseatic League, a powerful union of trading guilds that maintained a stronghold on trade in most of northern Europe for over 400 years. Hamburg continues to cultivate this link to its glorious past even today, often referring to itself, like Lübeck and Bremen, as a “Free and Hansa City”. It is the second wealthiest metropolis in the EU after London and a leading media, industrial, commercial and cultural centre.
Concert hall in a former harbor warehouse
Completed in 2016, the concern hall is Hamburg's new landmark. It towers 110 meters above HafenCity on the right bank of the Elbe. The former Kaispeicher A served as the base for the modern structure with a glass façade reminiscent of sails, water waves, icebergs or a quartz crystal. The Plaza is located between the old Kaiserspeicher A and the glass facade of the Elbphilharmonie at a height of 37 metres. From here you have a fantastic view over the Elbe, harbour, Speicherstadt and HafenCity. Inside, the Plaza is an architectural gem.
Striking photo motif at the harbor
The large landing bridge for passenger ships in St. Pauli is one of Hamburg's most striking photographic motifs. Today's wharf, built in 1907, consists of floating pontoons accessible from the mainland via movable bridges. The 688-metre-long pier was originally used by the passenger steamships of the overseas lines. At half the height of the tower on the Elbe side, a water level indicator is embedded in the wall at the top to provide information about the current state of the tide. The gauging tower is also a clock and bell tower. The dial is visible from afar. The bell rings at the full and half hour.
Concert programme in a baroque church flooded with light
The Michel, as the church is called by the Hamburgers, is considered the most important baroque church in northern Germany. It is dedicated to the archangel Michael, who victoriously defeats Satan as depicted by a large bronze statue over the main portal. The 52 meter long and almost as wide church room holds 2,500 visitors and is flooded with light because the clear windows allow the outside light to pass through. The front rows of benches are particularly ornate and intended for the Senate at ceremonies or funerals. The church has no less than five organs. Concerts take place almost daily.
More than just a red light district
The Reepschläger once made ship's cables and ropes here, for which they needed a long, straight track. Today, the almost one kilometre long stretch is Germany's most famous red light district, where nightclubs, bars and discos alternate with each other. These include Café Keese, the windowless pub “Zur Ritze” with its own boxing cellar, fast food and leisure clubs with billiard and table football. For the Beatles their world career began near the Reeperbahn, where they performed in the “Star-Club”, “Kaiserkeller”, “Top Ten Club” and in the “Indra”.
Largest warehouse complex in the world
The historic warehouse complex in Hamburg harbour is the largest of its kind in the world. The Speicherstadt was built between 1883 and 1927 south of the old town on the former Elbe islands and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The warehouses in neo-Gothic brick architecture are founded on thousands of oak piles and are connected to the water on one side and to the road on the other. Mostly coffee, tea and spices were stored on five “floors” one above the other. Today there are carpet traders, agencies and museums here, including the Speicherstadt Museum, the Customs Museum and the Spice Museum. The largest model railway in the world, the Miniatur Wunderland, is also housed here.