The 160-hectare lake, split into the Inner and Outer Alster is popular with locals and visitors alike, who come in search of peace and quiet on and beside the water. Hire a sailing boat or a kayak from the companies right on the water's edge and drift away – past the luxurious mansions by the Outer Alster, past grand boulevards and past oases of green.
There are also ample opportunities to enjoy the tranquil green spaces on dry land. Kick back and relax on a blanket or in a deck chair, take a walk, or play frisbee or boules – and, of course, there are plenty of cafés and restaurants around the Alster where you can grab a bite to eat or quench your thirst while enjoying the lakeside view. Some winters bring with them a very special experience. When the Alster freezes over, you can cross the lake to the opposite shore without getting your feet wet, and admire the wintry scenery over a mug of piping hot glühwein.
Lombard Bridge, which separates the larger Outer Alster lake from the Inner Alster, has an undeniably quaint maritime charm. From the Jungfernstieg boulevard on the Inner Alster, you can set off on a boat ride on the lake, a canal cruise or a tour of the fleets – all of which offer great views of the landside greenery.
The Jungfernstieg is the heart and soul of the city centre, forming a vibrant connection between the Inner Alster and the surrounding shops and sights. A short walk from here is the old town hall, plus the many city centre shops. The elegant shopping arcades and streets dotted with sophisticated boutiques are always popular, as are the designer furniture stores and delicatessens. Those with a taste for luxury should head to Neuer Wall. From Armani and Bulgari to accessories by Montblanc or Louis Vuitton, the biggest names in the fashion world can be found here.
Even the accommodation on Alster lake has a touch of luxury about it. Hamburg's traditional grand hotels are the Atlantic Kempinski Hotel, an establishment with imperialist charm in a central location on the Outer Alster, and the Fairmont Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten, which has been providing guests with impeccable service since 1897. Luxury hotels like the Grand Elysée and the InterContinental also boast lakeside views and leave nothing to be desired: from limousine transfers to champagne on arrival, they cover all aspects of an exclusive stay.