This is where the roots of the modern European city of Hamburg lie: the historical Speicherstadt and Kontorhaus district with the famous Chilehaus are synonymous with Hamburg's rise as a global trading power – and are today a vibrant cultural quarter. Having survived the years without damage or alteration, this historical ensemble has now been granted UNESCO World Heritage status.
You can almost smell the aromas of tea and coffee, fine spices and all kinds of delicacies as you stroll through the district. It is a miniature city in itself, a collection of warehouses built on thousands of oak piles between 1885 and 1927 in the neo-Gothic brick style. Narrow streets, bridges and canals link together the world's largest warehouse complex, which once provided over 300,000 square metres of storage space for all manner of goods at the heart of Hamburg's port.
Reminders of a golden age
Merchants didn't just need storage space, however, they also needed offices. And so they built the Kontorhäuser, the first purely administrative buildings in Europe, right next to the Speicherstadt. To this day the Kontorhäuser bear witness to the prosperity of the former trading dynasties. The most famous of them is the Chilehaus, which was built using an incredible 4.8 million hand-layered bricks. Henry B. Sloman, who had made his fortune trading saltpetre from Chile, commissioned the architect Fritz Höger to design a spectacularly tall building with angled facades to resemble the bow of a ship.
So much to see and do
Both quarters, the Speicherstadt and Kontorhaus district, hold great attraction for tourists in the area between the Elbe Philharmonic Hall and HafenCity. There's so much to see and do, with museums such as the Hamburg Dungeon, Speicherstadt Museum and Miniatur Wunderland, old-established coffee roasting houses and traditional chocolate-makers, harbourside pubs and charming restaurants. It's like it's own little world!
Speicherstadt Museum – open all year round, including Sundays and public holidays.
Speicherstadt tour 'Tradition und Wandel' (Tradition and Change) followed by tour of the Speicherstadt Museum, Saturdays at 3pm (1 April to 31 October) and Sundays at 11am (all year round). English tours by arrangement, groups only.
HamburgTours Kontorhaus district – 'Backsteinexpressionismus und Klinkersticker' (Brick Expressionism and the Brick Embroiderer) incl. Chilehaus, Messberghof, Sprinkenhof, Asiahaus and Laeiszhof
Duration: 2 hours, private group tours only
Boat tours of the port and canals run several times a day, all year round, departing from the Landungsbrücken jetties in St. Pauli.
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