Explore the far corners of the globe and return via Hamburg – travel itineraries don't get much better than that. Gateway to the world, beautiful seafaring hub, maritime capital of the north – even the normally reserved locals find it hard to conceal their pride in their home city, its ambience and its cosmopolitan charm.
How do you like the sound of a port sightseeing tour followed by a stroll through the old town before heading to HafenCity, Hamburg's new city centre? Or perhaps the other way around… ? There are countless ways to discover the beguiling character of this Hanseatic trade centre that is at once steeped in tradition and at the forefront of modernity. That said, no visit to Hamburg would be complete without a boat trip around one of Europe's biggest ports. Sightseeing boats launch from the Landungsbrücken jetties and weave their way through huge container vessels, majestic steam-powered ocean liners and elegant yachts; an experience that can only be described as unforgettable. Make your visit all the more memorable with a leisurely stroll through the old town, where noble merchants once traded coffee, tea and spices. Today it's an inviting scene of residences and grand corner buildings from the 17th to the 19th century, quaint restaurants and laid-back bars. Another reminder of Hamburg's heritage is the historical Speicherstadt, home to the world's largest single complex of traditional brick warehouses, resting on thousands of oak supports and intersected by narrow waterways, the Fleets. Or if you want to discover the Hamburg of today and tomorrow, head to HafenCity, one of the largest inner-city construction projects in Europe and a contrast between seafaring heritage and cutting-edge architecture in the heart of the Überseequartier. Nestled between Speicherstadt and the port, this maritime world of discovery and shopping paradise stretches all the way to the Hamburg Cruise Center along a broad boulevard.
If this place doesn't give you a taste for cruises, then nothing ever will. After seeing some of the world's biggest and most spectacular cruise ships sailing in and out of Hamburg's port, you're sure to leave with aspirations of sailing the seven seas. The people of Hamburg are especially fond of the Queen Mary 2, a vessel for whom the city has become something of a second home. Every time the majestic ocean liner comes into port, thousands of well-wishers line the Elbe to welcome her – often accompanied by a huge fireworks display and always with great exuberance.
There are many places to enjoy spectacular views of the city's maritime goings-on, such as the viewpoint at the Cruise Center, or from the Perlenkette along the banks of the Elbe with its luxurious residences and exclusive restaurants, or from the Magellan Terraces that give an unparalleled view of Hamburg's latest landmark, the Elbe Philharmonic Hall on the western tip of HafenCity. One of the best places to see Hamburg in all its glory is the public viewing platform at the futuristic Dockland office building, which rises up from the Elbe at a height of 40 metres. Views of a very different kind are on offer in the lively, slightly flipped-out alternative quarter of St. Pauli with its famous red light district the Reeperbahn. Or there's the fish market in Altona, where fresh fish (and much more besides) is auctioned every Sunday at the crack of dawn – a shopping experience like no other. And speaking of shopping, Hamburg has something for everyone, including on the Jungfernstieg, the city's chic centre of shopping and finance that begins at the Inner Alster. Even here, in the heart of the city, you can take a gentle stroll along the riverside promenades. The same is true of the Outer Alster, the perfect place for a spot of leisure and recreation within easy reach of central Hamburg. And if you get the impression that the people of Hamburg simply can't get enough of the water, then you'd be absolutely right.
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