Hamburg, the surprise of the year. The northern German city never gets mentioned in city trip shortlists featuring magnets like Paris, Milano, Londen, Barcelona. But you’ll guess it, Hamburg is a good pick too! The architecture mix of old and new, the absence of a traditional city center, the overt presence of the harbor in all its historical phases, and the modest offer of high standard museums. And did I mention Nivea is from Hamburg? Providing a soft touch to the end of the day. Read along for the three highlights and absolute must-sees of Hamburg.
Spotify tip while reading this post: Flightless bird, American mouth by Iron & Wine
Hamburg Rathaus – Town Hall
During the 1940s, Germany got caught up in this little self-imposed conflict we now call the Second World War. Jolly times. In the north of the country along the river Elbe, Hamburg had formed the single largest harbor since long before Germany’s birth in 1890. This fact gave Germany’s enemies, England and the US, a good reason to bomb it. They did, they bombed it to hell. That explains why Hamburg lacks a real city center and has high end shopping malls, one after the other, instead. Nice.
There is just one central building that survived the attacks and rised from the ashes: the Rathaus. The city Town Hall built in the 19th century still stands. One bomb fell right in front of it and never exploded. It gives us a stunning shelter from the rain hammering down as we book a tour and visit one amazingly decorated room after the other. So that’s DO number one, for historical and artistic reasons.
Speicherstadt and Miniatur Wunderland Hamburg
A second amazing feature of Hamburg is Speicherstadt. This area brings you back to the 19th century industrial era. It’s the old warehouses of the Hamburg harbor. What makes them unique is the size of it all: for 1,5 km these gloomy red brick buildings stretch along the canals, in long straight rows. Through 19th century eyes they must have looked the way skyscrapers do to us today. And they’re still impressive, but nowadays more because of their historical look.
In one row of the Speicherstadt warehouses you will find Hamburg’s best visited place: Miniatur Wunderland Hamburg. This is the largest miniature display in Europe featuring the longest miniature railroads. You walk through Swiss’ sublime railroad system in the mountains, see the orchestra play in the majestic Hamburg theater, travel through Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon, where you can see aliens arrive on earth, spot the secret naughty scenes in the bushes and in offices like they occur in real life. You can even follow miniature airplanes landing and departing from the Hamburg airport, which is huge in it’s miniature size! My highlight? Seeing a miniature Lindt factory produce and wrap a piece of chocolate, before it drops down for me to be eaten.
Even if you aren’t crazy about miniature railroads, you will love this. There are countless scenes and little jokes to be discovered. You will learn about how some things work. And last but not least, you will leave with a smile on your face.
Deichtorhallen exhibition center
The third place you must see in Hamburg are the Deichtorhallen if you love art. Seeing that you are reading Museologue I have reason to believe you do. If you don’t, this is a nice place to discover that you actually do. My dear boyfriend is not particularly fond of walking around looking for endless numbers of paintings, but to his surprise we spend hours here without getting bored. In fact, he was lingering at some pieces even beyond my attention span.
The Deichtorhallen are the two largest exhibition spaces of the city. One of them shows photography and the other contemporary art. We visit the contemporary art show which deals with globalization. It is amazing. The display is impressive, the hall very light, and the pieces showing are truly interesting. Honestly, some of them barely pass as art, rather as documentary. Our favorite is a video following people in China, Poland, and Mongolia in their daily work of supplying markets with goods. Selling pig heads in fly-swarmed market halls, carrying heavy bags onto ships as a day job, it is strangely fascinating to see this world so different from my own office space.