As a bustling center of trade, Hamburg has been one of Europe’s most important cities for centuries. This Northern German port town still has one of the busiest ports in all of Europe, but Hamburg is so much more than a business hub. Hamburg has its own unique charm, character and energy, and it’s no wonder why locals adore their city so much. I recently had the chance to explore this German town, and thanks to some advice from friendly locals, I was able to understand just what makes the city of Hamburg so special.
Since my Hamburg adventure was rather spur-of-the-moment (as are most of my trips, if I’m being honest), I needed to find a good deal on a last-minute hotel in Hamburg. Fortunately for me, HotelTonight offers great deals on last-minute hotels in cities all over the world, so I simply pulled up my HotelTonight app and booked a hotel in the heart of Hamburg. Just like that, I was ready to explore this gem of a town in Northern Germany.
Since Hamburg is best known for being a port town, you can’t visit this city without visiting the port. One of the main reasons to wander through the port is Speicherstadt, which loosely means “city of warehouses”. As the largest warehouse district in the world, Speicherstadt is an impressive district you’ll definitely want to visit during your stay in Hamburg. Speicherstadt spans over 26 hectares and is home to warehouses that have housed goods like tobacco, tea, coffee and spices. Speicherstadt isn’t comprised of ugly, industrial warehouses, though–its buildings feature ornate brickwork and terra cotta ornaments, making Speicherstadt the prettiest warehouse district you’ll ever visit.
Whether you ask a local or consult a travel guidebook, it will say the same thing about Hamburg–you must visit the fish market. Hamburg is home to a legendary fish market that has been an institution in the city since the early 1700s. To experience the chaos and the excitement of the fish market, you’ll have to wake up bright and early. By 9:30 a.m., this fun, lively market has wrapped up.
Who said there were no good beaches in Germany? The residents of Hamburg definitely don’t buy into this myth, because they know that they have a pretty stretch of beach along the Elbe River that becomes a major hot spot during the summer months. Since I visited Hamburg in the summer, I knew I had to head to the beach if I wanted to truly experience Hamburg like a local. So I threw on my swimsuit and headed to this unique stretch of beach, which was crowded with locals looking to soak in the sunshine and take quick dips in the water. This was definitely one of the most interesting beach-going experiences I’ve had, since I’ve never sat on a beach while watching huge ships sail up and down the river just off the shore.
This neighborhood is located in the heart of Hamburg, and it’s actually one of the hippest areas in the city. Schanzenviertel (or simply, “Schanze”) is a popular neighborhood for young locals, as there are plenty of cute cafes, trendy boutiques and great restaurants throughout the district. I spent the afternoon wandering through Schanze so that I could really get a feel for what the local life and culture was like in Hamburg, and what I concluded was that Hamburg locals really know how to enjoy life.
I normally try to stay away from super touristy areas when I travel, but I had to visit the Reeperbahn at least briefly during my stay in Hamburg, just so that I could see what it was all about. The Reeperbahn is Hamburg’s red-light district, and this “Sinful Mile” is lined with clubs, discotheques, grungy bars, and sex clubs. Once the sun goes down, this strip becomes a center of chaos and debauchery, and it’s definitely a sight to see. Whether you want to party the night away in one of Europe’s most famous nightlife districts or you simply want to briefly witness the action before escaping to a quieter neighborhood, you should definitely visit the Reeperbahn at least once during your stay in Hamburg.
Since I only had two days to explore Hamburg, I certainly didn’t get to see or do all that I would have liked to. Fortunately, I know that I can always return to Hamburg in the future, especially since HotelTonight makes it so easy to book great last-minute hotels in cities all over the world. Traveling can be stressful, which is why I love that HotelTonight reduces one of the biggest stresses of traveling–finding a place to stay. For anybody who likes to keep their travel plans flexible (like me), HotelTonight will surely become one of your go-to travel resources.