Having survived the years without damage or alteration, this historical ensemble has now been granted UNESCO World Heritage status.
The famous Speicherstadt district is a city in itself – a unique ensemble of historical warehouse blocks where the red-brick architecture of the Wilhelmine era bears witness to the wealth of the Hanseatic traders and dock workers. Construction of the warehouse complex, the world's largest, began in 1883. The warehouses are built on oak supports, and the quarter is criss-crossed by canals known as fleets, which allow boats and ships through by flooding at certain tide levels. At high tide you can explore the narrow fleets on small launches to see the architecture in detail. A fleet cruise aboard a historical 'barkasse' is an experience you'll never forget.
A sightseeing tour will also take you to some idyllic spots, the likes of which you wouldn't expect to find in an international port. Especially notable on St. Annenufer is Speicherstadt town hall, a spectacular neo-Renaissance building, or the quaint Holländischer Brook where the fleet's edge is lined with trees. From the bridges at the eastern end of Speicherstadt you can get the best view of the 'little water castle', an ornate building set charmingly upon the tip of a peninsula running between the fleets.
Once you've admired the architectural highlights, there is a wealth of fascinating museums to be discovered in the warehouse district. Top of the list has to be Miniatur Wunderland. It is home to the world's largest model railway, whose lovingly created landscapes and intricate details have to be seen to be believed. More than 800 trains rattle through miniature versions of America, Scandinavia and Switzerland and day turns to night every 15 minutes in this scaled-down world. Meanwhile, at Spicy's, the world's only dedicated spice museum, smelling, tasting and touching are expressly encouraged. With well over 900 exhibits on display in the heart of Speicherstadt, it's a great opportunity to delve into the mysterious world of spices. Enthralling tales of smugglers and their tricks are revealed inside the German Customs Museum located at the former customs barrier.
When it comes to art exhibitions, Hamburg does not disappoint. The Deichtorhallen and Hamburg Kunsthalle art galleries to the north of the warehouse district are a must-see for anyone passionate about art. An old market hall, Deichtorhallen is among the largest and most beautiful indoor art exhibition spaces in Europe. The venue provides the perfect setting for major international exhibitions of modern art with its cavernous, open-plan layout beneath skylighted steel roofs. The city's Kunsthalle is one of Germany's most important art galleries. Its collection is second to none, featuring works ranging from Impressionist painters to the big names of the contemporary art world. The main building is an attraction in itself with its ornamental red-brick facade.