A bustling city built on the river Elbe and famous for its huge port, media industry, design buildings and colorful nightlife, Hamburg is a must-see. This year the Speicherstadt in the port of Hamburg, the largest warehouse district in the world, was awarded the status of UNESCO World Heritage. Located within the HafenCity quarter, it was built from 1883 to 1927 and forms a picturesque ensemble of quaint buildings on timber-pile foundations made of oak logs.
Go on a boat tour around the stunning port, a combination of post-modern steel and glass and Wilhelmine brick gothic constructions with gables and turrets. There are 2300 bridges in Hamburg ( more than Amsterdam and Venice put together) arching over canals to connect the different sections of the town.
Take a look at the avant-garde Elbphilharmonie Concert Hall unexpectedly built on top of a brick building on the Kaiserkai street, glance at the Chilehaus with its roof reminiscent of a ship’s prow.
Enjoy tasting some local fish sandwiches on the docks on your way to the one of the world’s biggest fish markets — a nirvana for foodies — then walk through the Saint Pauli district in the evening. With its vibrant club scene and atmospheric music venues (the Beatles were discovered in Hamburg in the sixties) and artsy, decadent districts, there is plenty to excite your eyes and release your inhibitions.
Like in Amsterdam, there’s an atmosphere of freedom and unrestrained indulgence in Hamburg. Don’t miss the Colonnaden Strasse either, one of the oldest pedestrian sections in Hamburg to watch the local “Hamburgers” drink and smoke through the day and night.
Hamburg is the shopping capital of Northern Germany with a plethora of malls, boutiques and flea markets to please all tastes. There are also many fine hotels that range from old world classic to industrial design boutique.
A prime location to settle in for your journey is the lovely Hotel Atlantic Kempinski. Conveniently located at a five minute walk from the train station — near the major shopping centers and museums — it’s a well established, turn-of-the-century, five-star hotel on the Alster Lake, and perfect for people who value classical luxury comfort with top service.
My freshly renovated room was elegantly appointed with high ceilings, beautifully coordinated textures and colors, a king size bed and fine, stylish furniture. It offered a marble modern bathroom with glass partitions and a bath tub/shower. There were also full length and make up mirrors, a mini bar, a coffee machine, a private safe, huge closets and air conditioning.
In the morning, breakfast was offered in a palace-like banquet room with high bay windows, offering spectacular views of the Alster Lake. Bright natural light created a serene atmosphere. On one side of the room, breakfast included top gourmet options such as several types of salmon, seafood salad, charcuterie and French cheese, cereals, an American hot breakfast, fresh juices and kombucha. Champagne was also available in an ice bucket. If you love a chic, old world European atmosphere, try the Atlantic Kempinski in Hamburg — you will not be disappointed!
Like Berlin, Hamburg hosts an active community of creatives that influences its progressive philosophy of sustainable living.The Rote Flora neighborhood of squatters helped develop in the eighties an awareness for building transformation and re-use. With the Hafen City waterfront development and its conversion of former warehouses into apartments, Hamburg is setting a benchmark in the world for urban design and ecology. One hotel near downtown on the S1 subway line, the Gastwerk Hotel, is a former power station reconverted into a luxurious environment that integrates upscale design elements in a raw industrial frame.
Think of the Chelsea Market turned into a loft hotel. A combination of space and texture creates a striking and artful environment. My small loft on the second floor was beautiful and stylish, displaying an original brick wall and arched factory windows.
I found a broad bed with wall rests and eider down duvets in crisp cotton covers, contemporary furniture with an iPhone charging station, espresso machine, strategic lightening. There was also a separate closet area containing huge drawers, a safe and mini bar. The bathroom was stunning with its marble and fine polished stone, designer sink and towel rack reminiscent of art than functional pieces. I also enjoyed the make up mirror and organic toiletries of the highest quality. Full size mirrors are present not only in the bedroom but in the hallway.
Watching the people who come into Gastwerk is as interesting as exploring the building itself. A mix of hip locals and out-of-town visitors meet in the L Bar for unique cocktails or at the renowned Mangold Restaurant. You’ll love chatting with the staff and other guests in a relaxed, convivial atmosphere. In the morning, expect a feast in the soft light of the restaurant. The hotel offers a full suite of all luxury breakfast options imaginable, including Kambusha, the various cereals, mûsli, bran, local breads, croissants, fine cheeses, meats and fish, yogurts and various fresh fruit salads.
Don’t forget to visit the spa, which is a Zen-inspiring oasis. There you’ll find a sauna, foot and body massages, facials and manicures. My foot massage was a blessing after a day of walking in the city. If you love contemporary living spaces that reconcile life with art and vision with utility, make a stop at the Gastwerk hotel. A member of the Design Boutique Group, it is also a leader in contemporary industrial design hotels in Germany and the world. For more information on this incredible place, visit http://www.gastwerk.com
Increasingly more, Hamburg is widely regarded as Germany’s new alternative capital. Come and feel the buzz in the air that makes this port city one of the most exciting in Europe.