10 GOOD REASONS TO COME TO HAMBURG

 

Contrary to generally accepted ideas by people who have never been here, Hamburg is far from being a place where nothing ever happens. One only needs to open any travel guide to page « Hamburg » to discover all the positive reviews  that  the city  is credited  with. It is no coincidence

that Hamburg has been ranked most liveable city in Germany in 2017 by the Economist,  and that  it is  often  referred to as the « Pearl of the North ».

Beyond the journalists’ surveys, let me open your eyes and minds to a magical place that never quite sleeps.

Delightful Hamburg...

... is not only the title of a book written by journalists  of  the local newspaper  "Hamburger Abendblatt" but probably reflects the opinion of most hamburgers on their city, where the quality of living exceeds their expectations.

From the alsterbanks to « Altstadt », the historic centre, from St Michael’s church to Hafencity, from the stepquarter of Blankenese to the peaceful Jenisch Park, from Speicherstadt to the famous Planten und Blomen, the spirit and history of the place hide behind various landscapes and a heterogeneous architecture, which make Hamburg so special.

Whatever suits you fancy, the city has got it. No one will be left out. Along with some friends, with your family or even on your own, Hamburg is the ideal destination for a long-term getaway.

 
 

The dynamical

With its strategical position on the banks of the river Elbe, Hamburg has had a few century-long the privilege of being part of the medieval Hanseatic League, a commercial region of North Europe. From that perspective, the harbour, its logistics and the maritime economy have witnessed a significant expansion that benefited the whole city. Nowadays, the harbour that generates work to more than 40,000 Hamburgers still plays an important role in the economy of the city. 

In the course of time, the second largest city in Germany has specialized in various other fields such as chemistry, medical- and bio-technologies, electrotechnology and the consumer good industry (food products). Organic food is very popular in Hamburg and the number of organic shops has drastically increased in the course of the last 10 years.

Hamburg is also an active player in the banking sector and its stock-exchange, the oldest of its kind in Germany, is a place where values such as the reliability of a business hand-shake travel through time.  

Another profession has chosen Hamburg as their headquarters: journalism. « Die Zeit », a German national weekly newspaper  and the weekly news magazine « Der Spiegel », both printed in more than 500,000 copies are settled in Hamburg. The role of the media in general is of major importance in the economy of the city.

Hamburg is also very much involved in ecology and environmental protection and wants (along with its neighbor Schleswig-Holstein) to reach the 100% renewable energy target by year 2035.

The aerospace industry also contributes to the flourishing economy of Hamburg with one of its 2 major worldwide players, the Airbus Group. The European aircraft manufacturer employs more than 12,000 people on the south bank of the Elbe and uses its very own private runway at the Finkenwerder Airport.

 

eastern  Europe, to  ethnics or  religious  differences, to  the  two world wars and the division of Europe in the aftermath, a section of  the population flows away to migrate to the West. With the recent and still on-going events in Syria and in the Middle East, 2015 was also a year of mass migration to Europe and to Germany in particular. Hamburg becomes de facto the first multi-cultural city in Germany.

The international 

With its thriving economy and the international businesses in the city, Hamburg appeals to  a cosmopolitan crowd that decides to move here and

enjoy the Hamburger way  of living. But  we need  to look  back in  the history  of Germany, back to the mid 1950s, when a labour force agreement is signed between the Federal Republic of Germany and Italy. Similar agreements were signed later with Turkey, Spain and to some extend with Poland, inviting an international work force to come and stay in Germany as Gastarbeiter

Further back in the history, the XXth century has witnessed important migration flows in Europe, in particular from the East to the West. Due to the industrial  revolution, to  distinct  political  systems, to  violent nationalism  in

  Hamburg Fact File                       
  Area :  755 km²
  Time zone : GMT +1 hour
  Population : 1,854,000 inhabitants
  Population density : 2409 per km²
  Currency : € Euro
  Climate : temperate

The city of culture

Countless museums, old alongside modern architectural buildings, an American conductor star, trendy art galleries and the long awaited Elbphilharmonie... the plethora of options on the Hamburger cultural scene is living up to what you have been promised in the travel guides.

 

In the top 10 cultural things to do in Hamburg, you will find right to the top Miniatur Wunderland, the biggest model railway in the world, followed closely by the harbour and Speicherstadt, the warehouse district. Then comes St Michael's, the emblematic church of the city and the Rathaus or city hall. Don't miss the fascinating Elbphilharmonie, whose central Plaza can be visited for a 2€ fee and the Hamburger Kunsthalle museum, that will have you travel back in time and history of art. I personally would add to the list of curiosities a walking tour of  the city going through   Deichstraße,   one   of  the  few   Hamburger streets that made it through time and war,

stopping off in the Krameramtswohnungen, the home of the shopkeepers widows in the XVIIth century. In the evening, why not sit back and enjoy an opera at the Staatsoper Hamburg, or even a music concert at the Elbphilharmonie, if you can get the tickets? 

 

Hamburg the Green

The first thing that strikes the tourists when they come to Hamburg is the opulent vegetation, not only on the outskirts but also in the city centre. Hamburg has succeeded in providing high standards of living in the city by having put together for a long time a green policy along with an urban planning scheme. By keeping the density of population to a minimum whilst implementing an urban open space concept and developing an excellent public transport system, the city achieves astonishing results: the many water points, open spaces, public parks, green and protected areas cover 24% of the surface area of Hamburg. If you add on top of that the agricultural land of the state, half of Hamburg is green.

Implementing a state policy that would take into account all economic, social,  environmental and energy related issues is not an easy task. But the city of Hamburg rises to the challenge and was awarded European Green Capital in 2011. The journey is not over yet. But still, you can observe the real desire of the authorities to move towards a greener future.

The city of leisure and entertainment

After a week of hard work, as some might fancy going to bed and sleeping throughout the week-end, some others cannot wait to hit the town and are lucky that as far as a night-out is concerned, the Hamburger really go to town!

For starters, you are spoiled for choice with no less than 3800 restaurants in the city. You can take your pick from local cuisine to world food, with a particularly wide choice of see-food and Italian places.

Afterwards, you might like to brighten up your evening at the theatre. Hamburg has got 25 of them with even an English theatre founded in 1976. A musical could also be on the program. The city is usually the stage for world-wide success musicals. The Lion King is no exception to the rule and has been running in Hamburg constantly since 2001.

But if you are more of a live-music person, this will raise a dilemma as you will  have to chose between the 100 different concert venues that the city has to offer. It can be  pop, rock, jazz or  any other kind of music, you are sure to find your match!

After  the show,  if  you  still  have the energy,  you  can hang out in Germany's most

popular partying quarter, Sankt Paoli, famous for its red-light district and its Reeperbahn, probably the most famous avenue in the country. To end on a positive and savory note, the Altonaer Fischmarkt (open from 5am) is the perfect location to finish the night. You can relax and browse local customs, whilst eating a delicious Fischbrötchen or fish bun at the same time.   

 
 

A good public transport

I regularly hear some friends telling me that they don't need a car in Hamburg because of the dense and very reliable network of public transport here. The transport network is indeed of long date in the city . You do not get the feeling that the walls of the buildings have been pushed apart to make place to the trains. A large number of citizens use the public transports everyday, which also explains why you do not see that many cars in the city centre. 

The HVV (Hamburger Verkehrsverbund) coordinates the public transport in and around Hamburg. You get access to a wide network of trains, buses and ferries. All strategical points of the city are well served by this network, in particular the airport that is connected to Hamburg city centre with the S1 city train line.

If you plan on using the public transports in Hamburg, you will also find some useful tips here

 

A dream for children

Hamburg and Germany in general is a place where the family life is just as important as the career: for the sake of family, people manage a good work-life balance close to the Scandinavian way of life. The children are lucky to spend a bit more time with their parents. But it doesn't mean that parents and children live on top of each other. From a young age, the Germans empower their children with responsibilities such as going to school by oneself, doing the homework alone, fend for oneself... And it is not because the children are raised in such a way that they are deprived from childhood. On the contrary, I have learnt in Hamburg that a child should be left  in the children's world for as long  as possible. It is not 

until the age of 6 when they enter school that the children learn to read. And in the early years, they do not get too much pressure from the schooling system. The children learn in an unstressed and recreational way so that most of the little Germans actually enjoy school. And the first day of school (Einschulung) is the best one! 

Life here in general is made out easier for parents with children or for children who just want to be children. You get a lot of children friendly activities and facilities, most shops and restaurants are designed to welcome children. Plus you can find a playground (Spielplatz) on every corner.

 

A paradise for bicycles

Another popular way to commute in the city is the bicycle. Cycling for fun, to go to work or as a regular mean of transport. There is more than 1000 mile bicycle path in Hamburg and you can also take your bike onboard the public transports (be careful, you have specific hours). Beware of the bike paths on the actual pavements: some pavements are split between cyclists and pedestrians and if you don't mind the markings, this may turn out to be very dangerous!  

Since 2009, the authorities have put a city bike system into place. The StadtRad Hamburg has since become the most successful city bike system in Germany.

This article on The Culture Trip gives insight into a few of the many different cycling possibilities. And if you surf on the website of the City of Hamburg, you will get additional tips and information.

... just a few steps away from Scandinavia and Eastern Europe 

 

Even if Hamburg is quite a bit north of Germany, living here also means the opportunity to visit new places and countries within reasonable reaching distance.

With its railway history (the first long-distance train line in the country first opened between Berlin and Hamburg in 1846), the city is very connected to the rest of Germany and Europe. Thanks to a mosaic-shaped railway network, many Germans enjoy commuting by train on week-ends and holiday.

North and Eastern Europe have also never been so close: with its international airport, cities like Prague and Copenhague are just an hour flight away from Hamburg. Which gives us the chance to travel to new exotic places.

  Interesting facts                                        
Carl Hagenbeck created in Hamburg the first modern zoo where animals no longer lived behind bars  Hamburg is a city-state
     Hamburg is the second largest city in Germany after Berlin               The city has over 2400 bridges  
                     The city hall called "Rathaus" has over 647 rooms                  The German language is also called "Hochdeutsch"
The Alster swans are moved every spring by their "Schwanenvater" (the swan father) to their summer quarter
                    Every ship that arrives to the city is greeted by its national anthem at the "Willkomm-Höft"
                                           The first long-distance train line in the country first opened between Berlin and Hamburg in 1846
The funfair "Dom" happens 3 times a year      Miniatur Wunderland is the largest model railway in the world
   You can tour Hafencity onboard an amphibious bus        The "Planten und Blomen" park has the biggest Japanese garden in Europe
The Beatles found fame in Hamburg after performing in various clubs there in the early 60s

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