When planning a European vacation, Hamburg, Germany is not often the first spot suggested. But do not be fooled, just because this city may not come up in conversation as often as Venice and Paris, does not mean that it has nothing to offer its visitors. Hamburg’s rich culture and area activities are a delight for any tourist.
There is never a reason to be bored if you are in the city’s center. Although the entire area was virtually left in ruins after World War II, the city has been rebuilt with some of the most impressive modern architecture in the world. The cities’ rivers – the Binnenalster, Alster, and the Elbe, beautifully accent the surroundings.
My hotel of choice is Le Royal Meridien in Hamburg, Germany. I am not very fond of hotels, but you cannot spend a night in the Le Royal Meridien and not leave talking about it. Even if you only decide to use the panoramic lift to visit the famous French restaurant, Le Ciel, on the top floor, you will be impressed by the breathtaking view of Alster Lake and the Hamburg skyline. But be careful - the hotel’s futuristic interior design, its built-in spa and wellness facility, therapeutic beds, and latest technology may keep you indoors for the entire trip! It is a good thing Le Royal Meridien is strategically placed in the center of action. The hotel is just minutes from many of the major Hamburg tourist attractions.
If you enjoy cultural experiences, you will be delighted to discover the variety of Museums, Theaters, and Galleries in Hamburg, Germany. The Hamburg Kunsthalle Art Gallery is unique in its collection. It displays works by artists from the Middle Ages to Modern times. Hamburg also has one of the most famous galleries in Europe, The Museum of Arts and Crafts. Whether it is photography or works of East Asia that peak your interest, you can find it at The Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe.
Perhaps you would prefer being entertained by Hamburg’s oldest theater, which also happens to have one of the best stages in Germany. The Thalia Theater, built in 1912 near Alster Lake, features classical and contemporary pieces. If you are a fan of Opera, Hamburg’s centrally located Opera House, Hamburgische Staatsoper & Ballettcompagnie John Neumeier, is most definitely worth a visit. Voted "Opera House of the Year" by German opera magazine Opernwelt in 2005, you will not be disappointed by its impressive productions of ballet and opera.
History buffs will enjoy The Museum of Local History, or Museum für Hamburgische Geschichte. The museum offers an impressive array of artifacts that date back to the Middle Ages. It also documents the history of Hamburg, complete with replicas of the city and a life-size model of the steamer. The Heine Memorial Statue is a nice historical stop. It stands in memory of the famous German poet by the name of Henry Heine. The Teleman Memorial Plaque will be of interest to the music and history enthusiast. The plaque was erected in memory of the talented composer G.P. Telemann.
The Town Hall Square, or Rathausmarkt, is excellent whether you’re in love with history or not. After the first Town Hall burned down in 1842, the current sandstone structure was rebuilt in a neo-Renaissance style and inaugurated in 1897. The area is now drenched with souveneir shops, memorials, and fascinating history that is brought to life with the aide of a personal tour guide. The Rathausmarkt is presently used to host various public events – and even becomes a free cinema in the summer.
Okay, so maybe you find culture boring – well there is still reason to keep Hamburg, Germany in mind. Shop-a-holics will find sheer delight in the nearby Spitaler Strasse Shopping Centre. Whether it’s designer shoes or German Ice cream that makes your heart skip a beat, you will find it along these well-planned streets.
If you are fond of the outdoors you may enjoy renting a boat on Alster Lake (right across the street from Le Royal Meridien Hamburg, might I add). It gives you an opportunity to enjoy the view of Hamburg from the water. The lake is famous for attracting beautiful flocks of swans. So have your camera ready! Whether you are relaxing on a boat tour or taking a photo shoot of the swans, you will still be attracted to the idyllic atmosphere of the city.
Do not overlook the spots on the outskirts of Hamburg, Germany. You can hop on the Metro, rent a car, or better yet – tour with a local, to be delighted with nearby towns like Lüneberg. Lüneberg is the home of Germany’s one and only salt museum. The town reveals its history with Gothic and Renaissance buildings and a Medieval Town Hall. To enjoy a unique spa experience and be enthralled by sites of the Elbe River, Lüneberg is the place to go.
Only about 14 miles from Hamburg is Ahrensburg Castle, the Schloss Museum. With furniture and china dating back to the 19th centuries and a surrounding park perfect for family pictures, it is a tour you will not want to miss.
This is barely a taste of Hamburg, but hopefully enough to wet your appetite. Regardless of your touristic nature – museum-hopper, opera enthusiast, history buff, shop-a-holic, or outdoorsman - don’t forget to throw Hamburg into the toss up for your next vacation. If this city gets picked out of the hat, you won’t be disappointed.