It was finally time for me to go on vacation and to head towards Hamburg, which is considered by Germans the most beautiful big city of their country.
I can say now that they were totally right. I have visited all the biggest cities as Berlin, Munich, Stuttgart, Cologne, Dresden and so on, but Hamburg has become my favourite one.
It has beautiful bar, cafes and restaurants, elegant neighbourhoods and some hipster neighbourhoods – but never too hipster as Berlin – the architecture is something mesmerising, but what really stood out was all the water the city was surrounded by. After all it is the city with most bridges and canals in the world!
Public transport: I would suggest to use the day ticket for the zone A-B as it can be used on the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, bus and also on the ferry! You can purchase it at every train station for the price of 7,90€.
Days needed: I would say 4 days are enough to see all the main attractions.
I always encourage everyone to join a Free Walking Tour and in the case of Hamburg I suggest to take both the Free Walking Tour of Hamburg Historic Centre and the Free Walking Tour of Harbour, Reeperbahn & St. Pauli.
The first day I attended the Tour of Hamburg Historic Centre, that started from the Rathaus (Town Hall).
As you might notice from the picture, the Emperors are placed at the bottom of the building, which is very unusual.
The guide, Martina, explained us that it was made on purpose, as Hamburg was one of the first cities in Europe to be a Republic, so when the Town Hall was built they put the people on top and the Emperors on the bottom to make clear that Hamburg was a free imperial city of the Holy Roman Empire.
This is also reflected in the official name of Hamburg, Freie und Hansestadt Hamburg (Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg), where Hanseatic is for member of the medieval Hanseatic League.
Another thing that reflects the strong Republic pride of Hamburg is the large amount of swans you can see all around the city, as they are considered the symbol of the indipendence. They were so important that there was a person taking care of them, the “swan father”, which is one of the oldest cities job of Hamburg.
Still to these days is forbidden to eat, insult, hurt or kill the swans!
Then the guide took us near the four main churches of Hamburg and after them we visited one of the most beautiful areas of Hamburg, the Nikolaifleet.
The tour stopped not far from the Elbphilarmonie, which was just stunning.
It cost a lot of money to be built – around 870.000.000€, but it has always supported itself, differently from the Opera House, which is supported with 1 or 2 millions every year.
I loved how this building was changed by the sunset light and how the reflection of the sunset on it changed all the area around, but unfortunately due to the Coronavirus I was not able to see it inside, as everything was outbooked.
After the tour I decided to go back to the place where I stayed to get a shower, rest a bit and get changed, to then explore the street of my apartment in Reeperbahn, in the neighbourhood of St. Pauli, which is the red light district, but also the place where The Beatles became famous.
The neighbourhood is full of beautiful bars and pubs and I loved being able to hear the live singers’s voices even through the window of the apartment in the evenings.
Something that I loved about Reeperbahn, beside the bars, pubs and being so alive, was the gay friendly environment.
I saw a lot of gay people kissing, walking hand by hands and at the entrance of almost every single place there were signs saying that the access to the homophobic people was forbidden.
The more open-minded a city is, the more I will like it.
My friend Caterina finally was able to reach me after my strolling through the neighbourhood the day before and we attended the Free Walking Tour of Harbour, Reeperbahn & St Pauli.
This tour was even better than the one about Hamburg Historic Centre, as our guide Brent did not focus just on the history, but also a lot on the phenomen of gentrification, which has become a huge problem in several big cities.
When I first saw the harbour – which is the third largest in the world – I was just speechless.
I loved all the food stands, the smell of the fish, the fairy atmosphere, all the ferries and the boats and so on.
Maybe it was because I was born and raised in a sea city, but even if Hamburg harbour was on the river, I got chills admiring all that water.
After the port we went to St. Pauli, which used to be a student and a cultural neighbourhood, but due to the gentrification has become one of the most expensive ones to live in.
Then the guide took us to Park Fiction. Does the name ring a bell?
When I first heard the name I thought it was just a coincidence that it sounded like Pulp Fiction, but the name was actually chosen because at the time the park was built Pulp Fiction was very popular and they thought the name would have been perfect.
We walked to Reeperbahn and the guide focused a lot on The Beatles of course.
We stopped both at Beatles-Platz and at Groβe Freiheit, the street with all the places where they and many other musicians played in the past.
They started to play at Kaiserkeller, where they met Ringo Star and then at Star-Club.
The latter does not exist anymore and there is just a commemorative plaque in memory of this club, where some other international stars as Jimi Hendrix, Chubby Checker and many others used to perform.
Hamburg was so important for The Beatles that once John Lennon said “I might have been born in Liverpool, but I grew up in Hamburg”.
The tour ended at Herbertstraβe, which I suggest to not visit if you are a woman, as it is almost a forbidden zone to us since this is the most sinful street of Hamburg – for the ones who should not know I would like to remind you that prostitution in Germany is legal.
We were able to go during our tour just because with the COVID-19 there were no sex workers in the windows, but otherwise please do not go if you are a woman! The guide told us that whenever a woman has tried to enter, the sex workers got really pissed off and started to insult them or threw stuff at them.
While my friend and I were taking pictures a middle age woman passed by and she said in German “Ihr Mädchen seid so schön, dass ihr auch für einen Job hier bewerben solltet”.
At the beginning I thought I misunderstood, but then the guide asked us if we heard what that lady told us and when he translated I felt so embarrassed as everyone was staring at us.
The translation is “You two girls are so beautiful that you should apply for a job in here as well”.
If that comment would have come from a man I would have been angry, but since it was from a woman it was ok and after all she was trying to make us a compliment in her own way.
Since the tour ended at just two minutes from our apartment, we got a shower, rested a bit and decided to see the harbour.
The sunset made the harbour even more beautiful than in the morning.
We hopped on the ferry, which is used by Hamburgers as a means of transport, just to admire the beautiful sunset and the city itself from the water.
After our marvelous ferry tour we were really hungry, so we decided to eat at a restaurant in the Portuguese quarter, called “O Pescador”.
Restaurant O Pescador
Teller nach Art des Hauses
I had Teller nach Art des Hauses, which was almost perfect and I say almost because the ham was not that good, while I loved the cream they served me along with the bread, as well the cheese, the olives and the bread itself that it was as tasty as the Italian one.
You can take the girl out of Italy, but you will never take Italy out of the girl!
We decided to see something outside the touristic centre and we headed to Blankenese, upon suggestion of the first touristic guide.
I am so glad we went there because it was so picturesque and quiet.
It did not seem to be still in Hamburg, rather in a village.
If you should visit this neighbourhood make sure to go to Treppenviertel to admire all those beautiful houses while going downstairs on the riverside.
If you do not want to come back upstairs by feet to reach the S-Bahn station because of all the stairs, just wait for the bus at the bus stop near the ferry stop (unfortunately there is no ferry taking you from Blankenese to the centre of Hamburg and vice versa).
After Blankenese we went to eat at Jill’s, as we read that this pizzeria was really Neapolitan.
When my pizza Margherita came I was so happy since being from Naples – the birthplace of the pizza – it has never been easy to please me with the pizza that I used to eat when I lived there, but this was 100% Neapolitan.
I could already tell from the look, but when I ate it I just had the confirmation. It was pure heaven!
Pizza Margherita at Jill’s
In the evening we went to Speicherstadt, the largest warehouse district in the world and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It reminded me a lot of the area around the Statue of the Genetically Modified Little Mermaid in Copenhagen.
The main attraction of the Speicherstadt is the Wasserschloss (literally water castle).
It was the most mesmerising attraction we saw in Hamburg and at night it was spectacular with all the reflections of the artificial lights combined with the orange-brown colour of the buildings around and the lights of the boats coming through.
We did not do too much on our last day, since we were tired, so we started with breakfast at “Hanging Out Café”, which had a very nice interior design and good food as well.
After our brunch we went to take some pictures at a restaurant nearby, Yu Garden, as its architecture was China inspired.
We went to the Elbphilarmonie again to take some pictures of it more closely and with the sunset.
Then we walked again on the harbour – where I had the best chips ever – to take the ferry again, but this time to reach a spot that we saw the day before from it.
After a while we hopped on the ferry directed again towards the harbour, to enjoy a cold drink before to leave the day after.
We went to Dock3, as it looked very beautiful from outside and for its view on the harbour.
It seemed to be on a real beach and the atmosphere was just perfect!
The next day we left in the early morning, but already making plans about coming back.
I was thinking to come back in Autumn or December, especially if there will be Christmas markets, also to visit all the indoor attractions that I missed due to all the places being outbooked because of the Coronavirus.
Hamburg was just perfect. It was like a mix between London, Copenhagen and Berlin, but more openminded than the first one, way more chaotic than the Danish capital and not too hipster as the latter one.
I would also say that Hamburg for a tourist is also the cheapest of all the three.