Every now and then you feel the urge to get another perspective on a city and to explore beyond the all-too-familiar places. An extended trip to Hamburg and a stay in a private holiday home will allow you to truly feel like you belong to the city but you will also need a good itinerary.
Most activities and amusements in Hamburg are intrinsically linked to the city waterways, the port, the rivers and lakes. Quite a few places, on and off the river, remain unnoticed by tourists and are well worth a visit when you feel like getting a taste of local life. Whether you are tired of the tourist side of Hamburg and feel like seeing something different or you just like to go off the beaten track, some of these places will satisfy your insatiable wanderlust.
1 Treppenviertel and Blankenese
Perched on a hill above the Elbe river, the Treppenviertel (or stairs quarter) is one of the most scenic neighbourhoods of Hamburg and part of the highly desirable and expensive Blankenese district.
Nearly 5000 stairs going up and down the hill take you on a meandering tour of a leafy neighbourhood filled with the cutest homes in the city. From traditional thatched cottages to white-washed Mediterranean-style
villas, the architectural styles are extraordinarily varied, while the winding pathways afford picture-postcard views of the neighbourhood and the river.
When you tire of your walk, hop on one of the small buses serving the district, which are somewhat humorously and also quite aptly called Bergziegen, or mountain goats. Don’t leave the neighbourhood without going for a stroll by the river or dipping your toes in the soft sand on the riverside beach. On a sunny summer day, you can get tanned while enjoying the lovely view over the opposite bank of the river.
2 The Old Elbe Tunnel
Also known as the St. Pauli Elbe Tunnel, this subterranean passageway is actually made of two tunnels, built to connect the St. Pauli, Freihafen (i.e. the free port) and the Steinwerder shipyards. The Old Elbe Tunnel is more than one hundred years old and protected as a historic landmark. It is open to both pedestrians and vehicles all year round. You can gain entrance through the southern or northern end. Take the lift, or the stairs if you dare, and descend 24 meters below ground level to a hushed, tiled subway bathed in yellow lights. It is at its most atmospheric and peaceful at the weekends when it is closed to motor vehicles. Finish your route at the shipyards and you get rewarded with the scenic view over the city and the harbour.
The Old Elbe Tunnel passes right through the free port (Freihafen) where you come across a truly magnificent part of Hamburg – the Speicherstadt, or the warehouse quarter. Built in the late 19th foundations immersed in the water.
The stern red-brick buildings surrounded by century it is a huge warehouse complex built on timber canals on all sides make the quarter look like a Venice of the north, while at night when all the buildings are brightly illumined, it makes for a truly stunning sight.
Many of the buildings have been functioning as warehouses for more than a century, yet, some are home to local attractions, like the Dungeon Museum, the Maritime Museum and the Miniatur Wunderwand, while others house theatre companies, restaurants and other exciting venues worth checking out. You can explore on foot, by taking a walk around the canal paths or by water, by hopping into a barge for a tour of the canals.
4 Niendorfer Gehege
This park in suburban Hamburg is as far from the beaten track, and civilization, as you can get without having to leave Hamburg. You get a true feel of the countryside as you walk into the park, the only other people are the locals jogging past or walking their dogs. The postcard-perfect alleys with trees forming arched tunnels above them are stunning in any season and within the park itself, you find a deer reserve where the animals graze and roam undisturbed. It’s not all wilderness, though and with a
children’s playground and BBQ areas, Niendorfer Gehege is perfect for a picnic or barbecue.
5 The Botanical Garden
Planten un Blomen is a veritable oasis in the heart of the city, and not only is it a spectacularly beautiful retreat from the urban hustle and bustle but it is also free.
There are nearly 50 hectares to explore with verdant walks, landscaped gardens, exquisite floral displays, greenhouses overflowing with exotic plants from around the world, ponds and fountains filled with water lilies.
Expect to see a huge rose garden, a traditional Japanese garden and an apothecary garden planted with medicinal herbs. From spring until early autumn, concerts are held in the evenings by a fountain which is illumined by spectacular light effects. Come on a warm summer night when the park is filled with locals and enjoy the free entertainment with them.