Hamburg sightseeing is an eclectic adventure through canals, harbors, landmark churches, synagogues and mosques, and red-light districts. Below are my personal must-see sights…
Hamburg is a port city, situated by the Elbe River and North Sea, so of course its legendary harbor is a main attraction. This historic port’s beginnings date all the way back to 1189 and today it is Germany’s largest seaport. For modern travelers, the harbor offers day cruises, museums and a floating boat church (Flussschifferkirche — that’s not a misspelling! ;-).
St. Michaelis (Michel)
St. Michaelis, short the Michel, is Hamburg’s landmark. Its large steeple can be seen from all over the city. Once inside, just 453 steps will lead you to the viewing tower, where you can take in all the seaport scenery. (There’s also an elevator for the disabled or unathletic.) Michel is also a symbol of German resilience. It was destroyed twice — by lightning strike, then by fire — before this third incarnation was constructed.
Hamburg’s (in)famous red-light district has become a major tourist attraction. But while it is generally safe, prostitutes have been known to harass those who have come to sightsee without any intention of using their services. An erotic museum and plenty of sex shops are a big draw to couples vacationing here. Some shopkeepers will even offer sex advice to their patrons.
The Reeperbahn is also well-known as the place where a then-unknown group named The Beatles played several shows in the early 1960s. Beatles-Platz commemorates their time in Hamburg.
The Old Warehouse District (Speicherstadt)
One might not expect old warehouses to be a tourist sight, but Hamburg’s Speicherstadt is an exception. With quaint charm and Gothicky buildings, this is a major trade center. You’ll even find the world’s largest oriental rug shop here.
Hamburg City Hall
A major Hamburg sight is the City Hall. This century-old building is an architectural gem with its imposing clock tower and aquamarine-colored roof. You can take a guided tour of the interior or take in a session of the Hamburg Parliament.
One of the only remaining synagogues following the Second World War, you’ll find the Hamburg Synagogue in the Jewish quarter of Grindel.
Hamburg is a multicultural city with a large Muslim population. Experience this exotic side of Hamburg with a visit to the local mosque. This beautiful blue mosaic building was established by Iranian Shi’ites in the 1950s and is open to the public.
The once-majestic St Nikolai Church is a ruin today, but still remains an important part of the city. It was once the tallest building in the world, but today is a sad reminder of the ravages of war. Only its spire has been reinforced and preserved, and guests can take an elevator to the top for a panoramic view of Hamburg.
The Hamburg Canals
Hamburg is Germany’s very own Venice (or Amsterdam) with more canals than those two European tourism capitals combined! (Did you know?) Many tour boats offer cruises, particularly in the area of Speicherstadt.