Hamburg-Rügen Island Cycle Route
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Added on 25 Apr 2012,
on 09 Nov 2019
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Hamburg, Hamburg, DE (15 m NHN)
Sassnitz, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, DE (5 m NHN)
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DE-20359 Hamburg-St. Pauli
DE-20359 Hamburg-St. Pauli
The Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg (Freie und Hansestadt Hamburg) is Germany's second-largest city and, at the same time, one of Germany's 16 federal states or Bundesländer. Prior to the formation of the modern German state, Hamburg for centuries enjoyed a status as de facto independent city state and regional power and trade hub in the North Sea. Although situated over 100 kms from the North Sea down the Elbe river, Hamburg has been one of Europe's most important ports for centuries, as reflected in its full name referencing the Hanseatic League. The city was built upon a number of islands formed by the wide river and its larger and smaller tributaries, and a huge part of its southern half is still occupied by the massive port.
With a tumultous history preserved in more than just the ancient name, Hamburg grew to become one of Germany's most affluent cities, today hosting almost 1.8 million inhabitants and forming a metropolitan centre for many smaller cities and towns in neighbouring federal states. Its riverine location allows it to compete with Amsterdam or Venice with the number of canals, most of which (Called "Fleet" or "Brook") are actually former small rivers and streams regulated to allow the sprawling city to expand over their banks. And on top of that, Hamburg has more bridges (over 2,300) than Amsterdam, Venice AND London combined. There is plenty to enjoy in Hamburg, both in terms of views, culture and the general high standard of living Hamburg grew to be known for.
One of the most important harbours in Europe and the world, Hamburg takes great pride in its mercantile background, which built the city's wealth in the past centuries. From 1241 on, it was member of the Hanseatic League, a medieval trade alliance across Northern Europe. In the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, millions left Europe on their way to the new world through the Hamburg harbour. Today, the harbour ranks second in Europe and eleventh world-wide. Consequently, one of Hamburg's tag lines is "The Gateway to the World" (derived from the city’s coat of arms, showing a white city wall with a gate and crowned by three towers on a red background). Hamburg is known to be one of the richest metropolitan areas in the European Union, in the company of Brussels and London.
The harbour is the heart of the city, however, Hamburg is also one of the most important media hubs in Germany. Half of the nation's newspapers and magazines have their roots in Hamburg. And, unknown even to some locals, is the fact that, with one of the Airbus aircraft assembly plants, Hamburg is a major location of the world's aerospace industry, right after Seattle (USA) and Toulouse (France).
The mercantile background reflects in the city's architecture. The only palace in Hamburg is the town hall, which houses the citizen's parliament and the senate. Apart from that, the city still has large quarters with expensive houses and villas. These residences were home to merchants and captains, surrounded by lots of greenery. Large parts of the city were destroyed during the devastating air raids of World War II, particularly the port and some residential areas, killing tens of thousands and leaving more than a million homeless, yet much of historic value has been preserved.
Hamburg still keeps its tradition of being an open, yet discreet city. Citizens of Hamburg, just like most Northern Germans, may appear to be quite reserved at first. Once they get to know with whom they are dealing, they'll be as warm and friendly as you'd wish.
Hamburg was apparently built as a defensive castle on the orders Emperor Charlemagne back in 808 AD. Being on the frontline was a very auspicious position, and Hamburg has been then subsequently raided and destroyed multiple times by the Vikings, Danes and Poles. Despite this, it was rebuilt every time and was even afforded the title of "Imperial Free City" (Freie Reichstadt), which it proudly bears to this day, in 1189 (just in time for the Danes to invade it again).
Once Hamburg became an Imperial Free City, it established itself as one of the prime ports of Northern Europe, thanks to its favourable location up the navigable river Elbe, which prevented major storms from reaching it, and being almost equidistant from the North Sea and the Baltic. To access to the latter, Hamburg formed an alliance with Luebeck, which became the cornerstone of the Hanseatic League of ports of call and major trading centres around both seas, lasting up until the 17th century.
Hamburg found itself constantly changing, rebuilding and expanding, both due to being constantly ravaged by either foreign invaders or more mundane fires and diseases, and to the rapid growth in its wealth and might. This provided for both the expansion of the harbour and allowed for ambitious building projects to be completed (including the almost complete regulation of Elbe's tributaries, or Fleeten), and required the constant improvement of the city's defences. The most important thereof occurred when a new line of fortifications were created at the wake of the Thirty Years' War in the 17th century, effectively defining today's city centre (Altstadt - the former old town - and Neustadt, one formed by expanding the range of the walls), not only in shape but also in the street structure preserved to this day.
Meanwhile Hamburg saw itself become a "free" city more than in just the name, first adopting Lutheranism during the Reformation and accepting protestant refugees persecuted in their home cities, and later allowing pretty much full religious freedom, becoming home to all kinds of religious minorities, including Sephardic Jews and even Catholics. The citizens have pressed against attempts to impose laws on them, and negotiated "recesses" from their rulers, which made Hamburg governed by a bicameral parliament with a relatively high degree of democracy and personal freedoms.
The last one to occupy Hamburg before the Second World War was Napoleon, driven away by the Russians in 1814. Continuing as a sovereign state in its membership of the various forms of German union, Hamburg evolved to become a modern republic. Exploding thanks to its prosperity, the city suffered a major drawback when a fire destroyed a quarter of it (yet killed only about 50 people) in 1842. Seizing the opportunities, the elders consulted architects, town planners and engineers to completely modernize the city. Among them was the British engineer William Lindley, who created a modern waterworks and sewage system for Hamburg, before going on to afford it to other cities like Budapest, Cologne, Duesseldorf, Frankfurt, Leipzig, Prague, St Petersburg and Warsaw.
Thanks to the improved living conditions, peaceful environment and economic prosperity, Hamburg boomed to 800 000 inhabitants in the latter half of the 19th century, while also becoming now a transatlantic port, home to Albert Ballin's Hamburg-America Line, the largest transatlantic line at the beginning of the 20th. Hamburg became the gate to the New World for many emigrants and at the same time served as a gateway for produce from all over the world to enter Germany and Europe. Not only free and hanseatic, the city became cosmopolitan in the strictest sense with the influx of traders and workers from all continents.
The cosmopolitan Hamburg suffered the loss of its independence under the Nazi regime (although not as much as Luebeck, whom Hitler disliked so much he had its "Free and Hanseatic" status revoked), but in turn its territory was expanded to include among others Altona and Wandsbek. During the Second World War, Hamburg was hit by devastating Allied air bombing, and the British became the last to occupy Hamburg after the War.
After the war Hamburg was hit by the last major North Sea flood in Germany in the 1960s. Helmut Schmidt, then a local politician, distinguished himself by organising the rescue efforts and - constitutionally questionably at the time - using the military to help. This jumpstarted the career of the later chancellor of the Federal Republic. As Hamburg is more than 100 km inland nowadays flood warnings are broadcast as "German coast, Hamburg and Bremen" and not only "German coast" as before the flood.
The city centre of Hamburg is formed by the districts of Altstadt and Neustadt, as well as the new district of Hafencity immediately south of Altstadt. Within the three, you will find most of Hamburg's iconic sights, including the artificial pond of Binnenalster in front of the city hall and the rows of densely packed warehouses hovering over narrow canals, called Speicherstadt. HafenCity has completely transformed the old port of Hamburg, now filled not only with striking modern architecture, but also providing brilliant views over the river Elbe.
The area is both a tourist centre and a large shopping area. It also includes the offices of major companies based in Hamburg, as well as high-end restaurants and other extablishments catering for well-off locals and tourists alike. The nightlife, however, is limited and incomparable with that of St.Pauli. You will also find more air and greenery there and in the neighbouring Altona (which features a long and varied riverbank), as well as in the city's North, which includes the large lake Aussenalster and the Stadtpark, the largest park in the city.
The five main churches of Hamburg
Central Hamburg has five Lutheran churches bearing the title of Hauptkirche, or "main church". They stem from various ages and are some of the most recognizable landmarks and orientation points, scattered across the centre with their tall steeples, easily visible from afar.
- ⊙ St. Jacobi, Jakobikirkhof. St. Jacobi has been a parish since the 12th century, when it was not even within Hamburg's then city walls. The present-day church is a reconstruction of the late medieval one from the 15th century, which was destroyed during the second world war. The reconstruction afforded St. Jacobi with a visibly modern roof and steeple.
- ⊙ St. Petri, Bergstrasse. St. Petri has been a cathedral in the 12th century or possibly even earlier. As with other Hauptkirchen, the present version is one of many successive, and was actually only completed in 1878 after the great fire in 1842 consumed its predecessor. In turn, however, St. Petri survived the Second World War relatively intact. Of note are the large ornate door handles in the shape of lion heads, which have actually survived both the fire and the war.
- ⊙ St. Nikolai. All five main churches of Hamburg were damaged in World War II. But in contrast to the other four, St. Nikolai has not been re-erected making it a memorial against war. The steeple is still standing and visitors can take an elevator to the top for a view of the city The price to take the elevator is €3.70.
- ⊙ St. Katharinen. Situated on an island, it traditionally served as the church of the seamen. The base of its spire, dating from the 13th century, is the second oldest building preserved in the city. The church is also famous for its centuries-old organ, played by Bach when he was visiting the city. The instrument was actually destroyed to a large extent by the wartime bombings, but has been meticulously rebuilt and is playable again.
- ⊙ St. Michaelis (Michel). The youngest and the only baroque church of the five. The current building is actually not the original St. Michaelis - the one that formerly stood in the location (built 1647-1669) was destroyed by a lightning strike in 1750 and it was not until 1786 that the present church was erected on the site. From the tower you'll have a great view over the city.
There is also another Hauptkirche St. Nikolai in the north of Hamburg, built as a functional replacement of the destroyed one. Altona, which was a separate city until the 20th century, has its own Hauptkirche as well.
- ⊙ Hulbe-Haus. dating from the beginning of the 20th century as most buildings around, but looking much older (updated Mar 2015 | )
- Radio Hamburg. Under the building you can visit the remains of the bishops tower, from the 11th century. On the other side of the road, you can currently see excavations in progress, seeking the remains of the small fortress Hammaburg, which was erected in the 9th century giving Hamburg its name
- Spitaler Straße / Mönckebergstraße. The area west of Hamburg's central railway station is mainly a shopping district
Around city hall
- ⊙ Rathaus (city hall), Rathausmarkt 1. Closed during official events. Hamburg's impressive was built in 1897 out of sandstone in neo-Renaissance style, including a 112 m tower. The square in front of the city hall is the Rathausmarkt, hosting many events especially in summer. Inside there are several magnificent halls used for representative purposes and sittings of government and parliament. These can be visited in guided tours (M-Th 10AM-3:15PM, F-Su 10AM-1:15PM, half-hourly in German, hourly in English and French Admission is €3 for adults, €2 for Hamburg Card holders and €0.50 for children.
- ⊙ Hamburger Börse (House of Commerce) (The building behind the city hall). Between the buildings, there is a little courtyard called Rathaushof with its fountain Hygieia-Brunnen
Following the canal to the right and crossing the traditional shopping road, Jungfernstieg, you quickly get to the artificial lake ⊙ Binnenalster. Boat tours take you to the even bigger artificial lake, ⊙ Außenalster, directly behind he Binnenalster with lots of sailing boats in summer.
Around St. Nikolai
- ⊙ Patriotische Gesellschaft. The building of the Patriotic Society was erected following the great fire of 1842 on the former site of the old town hall of Hamburg. Built using the most modern technology at that time, including concrete substructure, and featuring modern techology such as flush toilets, it was nevertheless kept in a style that was an interpretation of the surrounding medieval architectural heritage. Of note inside is the large hanging clock by Aloys Denoth.
- ⊙ Trostbrücke. with the statues of Graf Adolf III and Bishop Ansgar on both sides
- Zollenbrücke. Hamburg's oldest remaining bridge from the 17th century
- ⊙ Chilehaus (Chile House) (Metro U1, station Meßberg). The house, depicting the form of a ship, is probably the best example of the 1920s style of "Kontorhaus" architecture. Large office buildings are displayed in the typical, northern red brick style.
- ⊙ Hopfenmarkt. The hop market with its fountain Vierländerinbrunnen
- ⊙ Alte Deichstraße. Ensemble of traditional half timbered merchant houses
- ⊙ Nicolai Fleet. This is the site where Hamburg's harbour was some centuries ago
- ⊙ International Baptist Church (IBC-Hamburg). Biggest English-speaking church in Hamburg. Meets 12:30-2PM on Sundays. Large Young Adult Group that meets Tuesdays as well.
At the southern end of the Alte Deichstraße, you see where the harbour moved afterwards. There is a canal called Zollkanal. Looking to the left, you see the ⊙ Speicherstadt, a large district of warehouses from 1888. Some are still in use, but others have been converted to apartments. In 2015 the Speicherstadt was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.
- ⊙ The Hamburg Dungeon, Kehrwieder 2. Is a live-action presentation of the "darker times" of Hamburg. It is probably mostly suited for a younger, easily impressed audience. But it might not be suitable for young children. Tickets € 23, kids under 10-14: € 19.
- ⊙ The Miniatur Wunderland, Kehrwieder 2. Is the world's largest model railway layout. The panoramas include parts of Hamburg, the Alps, the American west, and a Scandinavian exhibit which features automated ships on a body of water. It also has an airport exhibit with automated planes which taxi and fly. Tickets: € 12, kids under 16: € 6.
Behind the warehouse district Speicherstadt a totally new quarter, the HafenCity, is being shaped and erected on unused industrial ground, nerved by channel, docks and basins. It is Europe's largest project of city development, creating a whole new quarter from scratch in a former harbour region.
- ⊙ Elbphilharmonie. New 'architectural lighthouse' of Hamburg. On the top of a huge old warehouse a 110 metres tall modern philharmonic hall with glass façade and waveshaped roof is being built. Completion is scheduled for 2016 (but has been pushed back in the past), when advance ticket sales will begin.
- ⊙ Elbphilharmonie Information Pavilion. guided tours around €5, €3 discounted.
- ⊙ HafenCity Kesselhaus InfoCenter, Am Sandtorkai 30. open Tu-Su 10AM-6PM. Here can find information about the new buildings and whole district. The InfoCenter also provides free guided tours
- ⊙ HafenCity View Point. Look at the erecting process from an orange observation tower, which allows nice views on the HafenCity, the harbour, and the river. Free admission.
- ⊙ Magellan-Terrasse.
- ⊙ Hanseatic Trade Centre, Am Sandtorkai 74-77 (Kehrwiederspitze).
- ⊙ City und Sportboothafen (opposite of the metro station "Baumwall"). Hamburg's city and yacht harbour.
- ⊙ Feuerschiff LV 13. The big red lighthouse ship hosts a restaurant today.
- ⊙ Überseebrücke. This is where formerly big cruise liners docked when coming to Hamburg.
- Gruner + Jahr. Hyper-modern building of the publishers
- ⊙ Krameramtswohnungen (Close to the Michel, off the road Krayenkamp). The shopkeeper-office-flats are the last example of a typical 17th century housing estate.
- ⊙ Flussschifferkirche. Germany's only floating church in Rothenburgsort.
- ⊙ Reeperbahn
Sankt Pauli is one of the most populous district in Europe and a melting pot of all different people, thousands of stories and interesting histories. The Reeperbahn street is perhaps its the most defining feature, being a centre of the local nightlife and the city's "red light district". From vaudeville to prostitutes, from bars to sex-shops, you can find an assortment of attractions. Plus, it is frequently visited by a lot of travelers to go shopping for a huge variety of sex-related articles and toys. This is probably one of very few places worldwide where all shopkeepers give you serious and open advice on all kinds of sex-related articles.
Common sense and caution are advised here, as in any such area. It's relatively safe and a definite touristy place to see. A lot of people go there for dinner, live music, theatre, musicals or other non-sex related activities. It is worth pointing out however, that one is likely to be accosted by prostitutes offering their services. If you are not interested, it is best to just ignore them.
- ⊙ Landungsbrücken (landing bridges).
- Hafenrundfahrten. From Landungsbrücken, you can make boat tours into the harbour, available from various companies and take around an hour. Big ships provide more comfort, but smaller ships also go through the Speicherstadt. Both are well worth the money. Inquire about English language tours.
- HADAG Ferries. A low-budget alternative for a boat tour on the river Elbe. A part of Hamburg's public transport system (HVV). If you have already bought a HVV day ticket, the ride is free. Most tourists take the number 62 from Landungsbrücken to Finkenwerder, via Neumühlen with the museum harbour Oevelgönne. The whole ride to Finkenwerder and return takes about an hour. In Finkenwerder, you can continue with another ferry to Teufelsbrück (Line 64 which is also part of the HVV) or just walk around on this island, which is a quarter of Hamburg. It has nice old houses, some places to eat and a great view of the harbor business as it is close to the container terminal. Another route from Landungsbrücken is the ferry line number 72 in the Hafencity to the station Elbphilharmonie. You have a good view to the harbour with the Überseebrücke and Sandtorhöft.
- ⊙ Alter Elbtunnel (St. Pauli Elbe Tunnel) (You find the tunnel at Landungsbrücken in the building having the biggest green dome. Signs to "Aussichtspunkt Steinwerder" also point to it). Completed in 1911, it links both sides of the river Elbe. A lift or stairs bring you the 24 metres down into the tunnel. You then walk through one of its two 427 metre long pipes having 12 metres of water over your head. At the other side, you again walk up the stairs or take a lift. The tunnel is decorated with ceramic arts of maritime motifs (e.g. fish, mussels, seals, old boots). For pedestrians and bicycles it is free and open all day and night, every day. Even cars can pass though the tunnel (only Mo-Fr, 5:30AM-8PM for €2) being brought down with four lifts.
- Aussichtspunkt Steinwerder. Great views on Landungsbrücken and the sights behind.
- ⊙ Kunsthalle (art museum), ☎ +49 428 131-200. Glockengießerwall north of Hauptbahnhof. Open Tu-Su 10AM-6PM, Th 10AM-9PM. The museum houses an important collection of paintings from the 19th century with works from Max Liebermann, Lovis Corinth, Philipp Otto Runge, Caspar David Friedrich, Adolf Menzel, and modern arts. It rises on both sides of a paved court. The Baroque building on one side has the older works. The areas under the courtyard and the other, modern looking building house an extensive collection of very modern art. There are some extremely fine pieces, but the quality is uneven and the curacy curious at times. For instance, in a far back corner with minimal climate control and no observation are four or five gorgeous French Impressionist paintings which are among the finest in the museum. Adults 12 €, Concessions 6 €, Family Day Ticket 18 €, under 18 free admission.
- ⊙ Deichtorhallen. The Deichtorhallen is one of the best known exhibition galleries worldwide. The historical buildings are divided into an exhibition hall for contemporary art and the "House of Photography". Together the two buildings organize a highly diverse program of changing exhibitions.
- ⊙ Hamburg Museum (former: Museum für Hamburgische Geschichte). Holstenwall, close to Underground station "St. Pauli". This is the museum of city history, bringing the past to life with a lot of models showing the development of the harbour and the city. The club "MEHEV" is showing a 40-year old and one of the largest scale model railroads here.
- ⊙ Maritimes Museum. Privately owned museum in HafenCity near Speicherstadt district houses a collection of thousands model ships, construction plans, uniforms and photographs on ten floors in the oldest preserved warehouse in Hamburg (from 1879). Normal ticket € 12.50, discounts apply.
- ⊙ Speicherstadtmuseum (Dockland Museum). branch of Museum of Labour located in docklands warehouse. History of the district and tea and coffee trade. Entrance: € 3.60, discounts apply.
- ⊙ Traditionsschiffhafen (Sandtorhafen in HafenCity).
- ⊙ Museum cargo ship MS Cap San Diego. Museum cargo ship moored at the port of Hamburg. Hosts temporary exhibitions. Accommodation in cabins is possible.
- ⊙ Museum sailing ship Rickmer Rickmers. Museum sailing ship (three masted bark) from 1896 moored at the port of Hamburg.
- ⊙ Automuseum Prototyp, Shanghaiallee 7 (HafenCity). Open 10AM - 6PM, Mondays closed.. Museum of car prototypes, nice shop inside. Tickets €9, kids
- ⊙ Spicey's Gewürzmuseum (Spice Museum). Located in the Speicherstadt. They claim to be the world's only spice museum.
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