First stop was the Rathaus area. The Rathaus is city hall. It is the seat of the local and the regional government and it just so happens to sit right on the water (as much of Hamburg does), near Alster lake (really a river but it is big enough to seem to be a lake where it passes through town). The lake is a beautiful place for a walk, a breakfast or even to head out on the water, taking a sailboat out from one of the rental groups on the shores. With the weather as nice as we had it the sailing option was tempting, but there was too much to see for such diversions. We dropped in to the Rathaus and admired the architecture and the sculpture in the courtyard and then made our way on to the next stop – the harbor area.
As I noted in the quick post I made on Saturday, water is truly the heart of the Hamburg life. Everything centers on the water, from the harbor that was the basis for the economy there to the nightlife that eventually tumbles out into the Fischmarkt in the wee hours of Sunday morning for the party to just keep rolling on.
We wandered among the warehouses of the Speicherstadt district. Many of the buildings are 100+ years old and they are still in operation, providing warehouse and distribution facilities for importers of everything from Persian rugs to silks to spices to computers. There is also a lot of modern development going on in the area, much of which is also modern in its design. That detracts from the classic beauty of the area, but time marches on.
Also on the waterfront we wandered along the Baumwall area and over to the Landungsbrücken area. This waterfront area is incredibly accessible and open for the public. It is the base of operations for just about all of the water tour options in town as well as public ferry services operating across the water. In the Landungsbrücken there is a 98 year old tunnel that passes under the Elbe river and the harbor, providing access for cars and pedestrians to reach an island in the center of the harbor. If you’ve got a bicycle the island is a great place for a relaxing ride; even without one walking the 426 meters of the tunnel is a great way to spend a bit of time. Among other things, it is the best place to get a view back onto the city of Hamburg. Access to the tunnel is via elevators rather than a ramp; it is the only time I’ve ever seen such a thing. And as a pedestrian you can walk the stairs, too, if you desire. Absolutely worth seeing!
Next up we grabbed a quick lunch near the Reepersbahn area – home of many bars and the Hamburg red light district. It was mid-afternoon so things were pretty slow at that point, but they’d pick up quite a bit later than night! Still, there were many folks out relaxing in the sun and enjoying a beer in the afternoon:
The Schanzenviertel district has been the Bohemian center of town for many, many years. It is slowly gentrifying, with the rich moving in so as to “hang out with the cool kids” which means that the cool kids are less able than ever to afford the rents in the area. Still, there are many shops, restaurants and markets in the area that cater to the hipster crowd and it is hopping, both during the afternoon and the evening. We had a great dinner at one of the many restaurants that line the streets, spilling out onto benches and tables on the sidewalks.
After a quick nap (6-9pm) we were back up and on the streets, first headed back to Schanzenviertel for dinner and a couple rounds of drinks (better and more affordable food and decent drink prices, particularly relative to the Reeperbahn). After filling up there we wandered down to the Reeperbahn, where the bars and clubs were packed and the music was pumping. More on the nightlife in my next post, but suffice it to say that at 6am when it was time to head back to the hotel and the airport, I was still running strong and I wasn’t the only one out still reveling in the evening.
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