A Quick Guide to Hamburg, Germany
Visit the Elbphilharmonie
Few cities have as many fresh architectural symbols as Hamburg. The new philharmonic, or Elbphilharmonie became a symbol of the city even before opening its doors. The building was designed by Herzog & de Meuron, and its glass wave is visible from a great distance.
The Elbphilharmonie is on the site of what was once the port’s largest warehouse. The historic Neo-Gothic building was completely destroyed during the Second World War but was built anew in 1963. It kept its old function even into the 1990s, storing tea, coffee and cocoa. The former structure is now blended into the new philharmonic, which appears to be constructed on its roof, retaining a simple cubic silhouette.
Two seemingly different worlds now come together in a single ensemble—one in weighty brick, rooted in the earth, its piles driven into the riverbed of the Elbe; the other reflecting the sky and the clouds. The new glass wave’s highest point reaches 110 meters, while a panoramic terrace beckons at 37 meters above ground level. With 4,000 m2 of space, the terrace could easily compete with Hamburg’s Rathaus Square.
The Great Hall is acoustically among the best in Europe and is located 50 meters above the water level. The entire project far exceeded its original budget, costing 789 million euros instead of the planned 241 million. Besides the concert halls, the complex includes a hotel and residences.
Have a Drink at the Schanzenviertel
During a night out, my usual destination is the Schanzenviertel district. The central street, Schulterblatt, is a perfect blend of bars, clubs, and architectural spectacles.
The street is especially lively during summer. For drinks, I usually go to Saal II and Vier Fäuste. However, the best Moscow Mule in the city is served at Luba Luft just off the northern end of the famous street called Große Freiheit.
Enjoy the Sun at Karo Beach
As soon as the first signs of summer arrive in this chilly, northern German city, beach oases along the Elbe River invite urban vacationers to enjoy the sun, music, and refreshments.
The numerous beach clubs near Hamburg’s waters are perfect places to cool off, but this season a special newcomer has appeared. Located in the artistic neighborhood of St. Pauli, Karo Beach—Germany’s first zero-waste beach establishment—is a place for calm relaxation or an afternoon of beach volleyball.
It’s a spacious, white square of sand outside the gastronomic hotspot of Rindermarkthalle with a bar, deck chairs, and palm trees that offers sustainable leisure, food, and drink, all whilst generating minimum waste. Get used to straws made of real straw, because there are no plastic drinking straws here!
Visit the Spice Museum
On a rainy day, you can head for the Hafencity quarter and more precisely, Speicherstadt, the largest harbor warehouse district in the world. It's here in the heart of this immense architectural complex in Hamburg, recognizable by its long rows of red-brick buildings, where you'll find the Gewürzmuseum, the spice museum.
As you open the doors, you're surrounded by the aroma of dozens of exotic spices and culinary herbs. The guides encourage you to touch and taste them. They'll teach you all about their history and how to store them and use them in your cooking. What's more, they'll reveal which ones have beneficial effects for your health.
As you explore this old, rustic-style warehouse, be sure to check out the dozens and dozens of ancient tools on show. The museum brings five centuries of growing and processing spices to life.
Enjoy The Canals Of Speicherstadt
Vertiginous'—this is the word that comes to mind when walking the streets of Speicherstadt (‘City of Warehouses'). Bordering the canals and near the Elbe, the building complex was built between 1885 and 1927.
Behind the facades of Neo-Gothic and Neo-Romanesque brick, coffee and spices were stored along with other goods. In the summer of 2015, the 370,000-square-meter district was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site alongside the nearby Kontorhaus District, built in the 1920's and 1930's.
A place of commercial port transactions it was, according to UNESCO, the first business district in Europe. It includes the Chilehaus (the ‘house of Chile'), an architectural curiosity that recalls the prow of a ship.
The architect Fritz Höger designed it for the ship owner Henry Sloman, whose fortune came from Chilean saltpeter. Push open one of its doors and have a peak at its fascinating interiors.
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© 2019 Jeremy East