A Weekend in Germany tend to mean a visit to Berlin, one of the many beautiful spa towns, or a trip along the Rhine or Baviera, but it’s not so often that you hear someone say that they are going to spend some time in Hamburg. This is where the masses get it wrong, as Hamburg is one of Germany’s best-kept secrets. The second biggest city in Germany, Hamburg is located in the north and has a long and interesting history, which gives it its own distinctive personality. Full of architectural marvels, centuries of art, and plenty of outside attractions to enjoy, there is something for everyone in this stunning city.
One of the most appealing things about Hamburg is that almost everyone either walks or cycles everywhere. Due to the relatively flat nature of the area, the city had more than 1,700km of cycle paths installed in 2006 and introduced a bicycle sharing system that allows users to borrow communal bikes at subway and railway stations for a very small fee. The city is also on the route of three major cycling tour routes through Germany such as the Vattenfall Cyclassics, which attracts more than 800,000 spectators and over 22,000 participants, including some of the best cyclists in the world to the shores of the Elbe River.
If it’s the romance of waterways and canals that you’re after, you may want to head to Venice or Amsterdam, but you might be surprised to learn than Hamburg has more canals and bridges than these two cities put together. The city is surrounded by two lakes with the River Elbe flowing straight through the middle to the North Sea and has managed to build its distinctive character on the foundations of the harbor trading that took place on these waterways. Take a ferry around Hamburg Harbor, which happens to be the third largest in the world, to take in the sights or cruise along the River Elbe at sunset.
Of course, Hamburg’s close proximity to water has meant that the fresh seafood here is on another level. The legendary St. Pauli Fischmarkt has been a hub of market trading activity since 1703. Open on Sunday mornings, locals and tourists alike converge to enjoy a breakfast of fresh fish sandwiches while perusing the fish, fruits, flowers, clothing, and souvenirs on offer.
While the waterways hold their own appeal, no trip to Hamburg would be complete without a visit to the stunning botanical gardens of Planten un Blomen. Featuring a tropical greenhouse and the largest Japanese garden in all of Europe, this freely accessible recreation area is used by the public for picnics and barbecues on sunny days. If you visit during the summer months, you could even catch the water light shows, which take place at 10 p.m. every day from May through September. Bring your blanket and a bottle of wine and soak up in a romantic weekend escapade in Hamburg.
While there is already so much to see and do, to really make the most of your time in Hamburg, it is always worth coinciding your weekend in Hamburg with one of the huge events that take place in the city. The Hamburg Film Festival usually takes place at the beginning of October, screening over 140 feature and documentary films and attracting international stars such as Clint Eastwood, Jodie Foster, and Ewan McGregor. Professional players and fans alike are also headed to the city for the PokerStars Festival in November, while others will spend Oktoberfest in Hamburg rather than its southern Bavarian counterparts due to the distinctive atmosphere and great music on offer. For a real taste of tradition and Hanseatic heritage, though, you would be hard pushed to beat the Christmas markets. Filled with hand-crafted gifts, carousels, parades, and Christmas magic, even Scrooge would find it difficult to not enjoy himself!
There are so many fun things to do in Hamburg that you may find yourself thinking you should stretch your weekend in Hamburg. From tasting the world-famous beers to visiting the many art museums to learning about the vast heritage and history, just make sure you leave enough time for franzbrötchen and fresh coffee! As you can see, Hamburg is definitely a happening place.