While visiting Madrid a few months ago, we met a couple of girls at our hostel who live in Hamburg. We told them that we were visiting Berlin and Hamburg soon and asked which city was their favorite.
Both girl’s immediately responded with: Hamburg.
Because it’s so “posh.“
As we walked through the Altona neighborhood where our Airbnb was located and remembered the girls description of Hamburg, I couldn’t help but laugh.
Is this really how they define the word posh…
The garage in the picture above is where the lockbox for our Airbnb key was hidden.
Later we found out that Altona is notorious for being an eclectic and artsy district within Hamburg—known as the area “where anything goes” and people of all walks of life are welcome.
It turns out that the rest of Hamburg is exactly how those two girls described it: very posh.
We ended up liking Altona quite a bit though and thought the neighborhood was very relaxing and down to earth compared to the rest of the city.
We began our first day in Hamburg with a walking tour given by Sandemans. If you’ve never heard of them, I highly recommend checking out their website here. We’ve gone on a few of their tours and have enjoyed them a lot.
The best part about their tours is that they’re free!
You only pay for a tip at the end of the tour for your guide, and if your guide is terrible, you don’t have to tip them at all. It’s a great deal and an excellent way to get a good overview of a city. They also offer a variety of other tours for a small fee.
The small plaques in the picture above are part of a Holocaust memorial. The tiny squares are engraved with a victim’s name and placed near the area they lived.
We had seen the squares in a few different European cities before this, but until we took that walking tour, we never knew what they meant.
We started noticing a prominent theme throughout our time in Hamburg: fire.
It seemed like just about every building has caught on fire at one point or another.
The picture below is of the area where the Great Fire of 1842 started. Hamburg is known for its heavy factory presence since it’s a port city. This particular fire began in a cigar factory and according to our guide, traveled to a nearby paper mill and then further down to a distillery. Once it made its way through all things flammable, the fire overtook significant portions of the city and sadly killed more than fifty people.
Because of the strong wind that day, the fire only traveled in one direction. You can see in the picture below the stark dividing line between the old buildings to the left and the new buildings to the right.
The images above and below are of a famous area called Speicherstadt. It’s the world’s largest warehouse district and one of the most photographed spots in Hamburg.
Hamburg is also known as the city with the most bridges in the world (~2,300), beating even Amsterdam.
After our walking tour, we headed to St. Michael’s church, where for a small fee you can visit the lookout tower and get a great view of the city.
The view was worth it, but the wind up there was crazy, so our photo ops were a bit of a struggle.
That night we booked 9 pm tickets to visit the best museum ever: Miniatur Wunderland.
It’s the world’s largest model railway and is the most popular museum in all of Germany—they stay open until 2 am for a reason!
Our friends recommended purchasing tickets for a later time because the crowds get so tight during the day that you can hardly see the models. The place was packed even at the late hour we were there, so I can’t imagine what it’s like earlier.
They even have an airplane themed cafeteria (pictured below), which was so cute!
Every hour or so they change the lighting throughout the building to mimic sunset and sunrise.
They even have model airplanes that fly!
Growing up, my dad built a model train set to put under our Christmas tree every year. Each building represents one of our family members (i.e. Christina’s Cantina). My dad’s train has always been my favorite family tradition—it’s also the reason I’m a bit obsessed with Christmas (like the person who starts listening to Christmas music before Halloween obsessed).
It’s such a special thing for the whole family, so getting to visit Miniatur Wunderland and explore an even bigger train model set was amazing!
Below is a picture of our Christmas tree at home and my dad’s train village that he built. Check out the theme park he added in honor of my husband, Cardin!
The next day we made a quick trip to see Beatles-Platz, which is known as the area that helped launch the Beatles to stardom. It’s next to the Reeperbahn, which is Hamburg’s red light district and is where the Beatles played at numerous venues.
We also visited Submarine U-434, which was cool, but quickly became very claustrophobic. There was a tour while we were down there, so we repeatedly got stuck in extremely cramped areas everytime they stopped.
We still had a great time though and loved getting to climb through the entry of each room!
Another unique stop nearby is Elbtunnel. Since Hamburg has one of the busiest shipping harbors in the world, they built this tunnel as a way for workers to get to the other side of the river. It’s free to walk through it and crazy to think that you’re actually under water!
On the other side of the tunnel is a beautiful viewpoint of Hamburg.
Once we finished at Elbtunnel, we headed to one of the greatest concert halls in the world: Elbphilharmonie.
It’s in HafenCity, which is known as one of the newest and most expensive areas of Hamburg.
This incredible concert hall was initially estimated to cost 200 million euros but ended up running way behind in schedule and costing around 870 million euros.
It’s free to visit the building, and you can take the beautiful escalator to a deck, which gives you a great view of the city.
On our way back to Altona, we walked through Planten un Blomen, which has a reputation for being one of the best parks in Europe.
Since the weather was so nice, the park was very crowded, but it offers lovely areas to take a break from the city and enjoy nature for a bit.
Of course, we had to end our last night in Germany the same way we started it—with beer! We found the perfect little beer garden near our Airbnb and enjoyed the beautiful weather.
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